Government cuts have caused ‘human catastrophe’ for disabled, UN committee says

Wheelchair picture taken from the independent

Government welfare cuts have created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people in the UK, the chairwoman of an influential United Nations committee has said.

Theresia Degener, who leads the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), said the UK Government has “totally neglected” disabled people.

Ministers are also accused of misleading the public about the impact of Government policies by refusing to answer questions and using statistics in an unclear way.


The criticism came after the CRPD spent two days grilling UK government officials in Geneva.

Ms Degener told them: “Evidence before us now and in our inquiry procedure as published in our 2016 report reveals that social cut policies have led to a human catastrophe in your country, totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.”

The CRPD has previously said the Government’s welfare cuts have resulted in “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people – a claim opposed by ministers but backed by UK courts.


Judges have ruled that three of the Government’s flagship welfare policies are illegal because of the impact they have on disabled people and single parents.

In January 2016, the Court of Appeal declared the so-called “bedroom tax” unlawful because of its consequences for disabled children, as well as victims of domestic violence.

Sanctions imposed on people who refused to take part in the Department for Work and Pension’s “back to work” schemes were also thrown out by Court of Appeal judges in April 2016.

And in June 2017 the High Court said the Government’s benefit cap is unlawful and causes “real misery for no good purpose”

The committee is now conducting a much wider investigation to assess the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review all nations signed up to the convention must go through.

Stig Langvad, the CRPD’s rapporteur for the UK, said he was “deeply concerned” about the Government’s failure to act on the committee’s previous report.

“I could provide a long list of examples where the state party does not live up to the Convention,” he said.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK is a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality, which is why we supported the development of the UN convention.

“Almost 600,000 disabled people have moved into work over the last four years and we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions, more than ever before.

“This first periodic review will help build on our progress to empower disabled people in all aspects of their lives.”