As WOWpetition enters the home straight my thoughts have turned to things other than how do we get people to sign our e-petition nbr 43154 http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154 and onto how best can we deliver on phases 2 & 3 of the strategy.
To remind you, the 3 phase WOW strategy is:
: Gain 100,000 signatures to give our demands democratic legitimacy in seeking parliamentary redress.
: With a caucus of supportive MP’s gain as much as possible in the democratic & parliamentary process to stop the human rights abuses against us and restore our health and social security systems. Including debate, free votes, Cumulative Impact Assessment and independent inquiry.
: Where parliament and inquiries fail us we will pursue justice through the courts both national and international for the human rights abuse perpetrated by the UK government and its associated corporate allies.
As you can see, phases 2 and 3 both rely in part on highlighting the alleged Human Rights Abuses being perpetrated on disabled people in the name of fairness.
At Amnesty International UK's AGM this year a consortium of grass roots disabled peoples organisations, I think it fair to say led by WOWpetition, presented a resolution as follows which was overwhelmingly passed.
• Children's Human Rights network
I personally am disappointed by the lack of urgency in taking this resolution forward by Amnesty UK, who I believe intimated that they did not have the skills, experience or funding to pursue this vigorously.
Finally, you may have heard of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which has been ratified as "soft law" in the UK. Not being a lawyer my understanding of this is that this allows the courts to consider the UNCRPD but they are free to ignore it.
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities
Article 3 - General principles
The principles of the present Convention shall be:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
- Equality of opportunity;
- Equality between men and women;
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
With all this in my mind I went last night to a Seminar on the Integration of National Equality and Human Rights Bodies hoping to become better informed.
- The point was made over and over again that where Equality and Human Rights had been integrated the budgets allocated were not sufficient to allow it to carry out a full and comprehensive service and choices had to be made. I had visions of John Cleese saying "Pregnant women step forward - you can have your human rights now. Terminally ill step forward - yes, no time to waste. Disabled people - sorry, maybe next year". Surely the point is that human rights are universal and anybody involved in the rationing of them to "deserving" cases could be interpreted as committing a human rights abuse by denying those rights to others. I was not personally aware there was such a crisis of funding in these bodies although on reflection it does not surprise me. Why wasn't I aware? The UK Disabled Peoples Council also lost their funding this year. Is there a pattern emerging?
- Following on from this, it was suggested that the EHRC was severely underfunded and was having to make operational choices about who it supports. You will remember that the EHRC is responsible for monitoring Government compliance with the UNCRPD. Has the EHRC the money to do its monitoring job properly? I have been told not expect the EHRC to be 'shouting' about these issues as being a publicly funded body and cannot be seen as politically partisan or as attacking the government in such a way. Whilst appreciating the politics and diplomacy called for, at some point if you are not being provided with sufficient resources to deliver the minimum acceptable service you either choose to accept you will be delivering a sub-optimal service or you lobby for a change or you try to publicise what is happening or you resign. Why don't they just say we haven't got enough money to do this job properly? The situation is so bad and it can only get worse. I think we have reached a tipping point.
- Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur visited the UK in September and was critical of the impact of the bedroom tax. Also, 2/3 of the families affected by the bedroom tax have a disabled member. She drew the fire of the Conservative Party who called her a "loopy Brazilian leftie". Grant Shapps also asked the UN, "Were representations received from the British Labour Party, and from groups actively campaigning against the introduction of the policy?". Does that mean the policing of Human Rights, Equality or the UNCRPD can only be carried out by people sympathetic to the Tory Party?
- I referred to a decision by Worcestershire County Council who "adopted a policy (on 8 November 2012) under which – absent exceptional circumstances – the maximum weekly expenditure on care in the community for an adult under 65 years of age would be “no more than the net weekly cost…of a care home placement that could be commissioned to meet the individual’s assessed eligible needs”. This is in my opinion, in breach of the UNCRPD's right of autonomy. I was told that the EHRC had been involved in fighting this case alongside WeAreSpartacus and whilst the Judicial Review was lost (a judicial review only looks at the procedure followed, not the legal validity of the legislation) the Judge commented on Worcester Council's obligations, stating “It will also be required to take into account its assurances during the consultation period – and in the course of this claim – that no individual will be forced into living in residential care, as a result of this policy alone.” That's OK then, as long as you remember that the law is still on the statute book, could still be used and is a continual worry to the people of both Worcester and the UK. How can such a law exist? The strain on disabled people when threatened with life in a care home could be such as to lead to them taking the decision that life is not worth living.
- I was honoured to speak at the 10,000 Cuts and Counting Service of remembrance in Parliament Square on the 28th September 2013. Also speaking were the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral The Very Reverend David Ison, Michael Meacher MP, John McDonnell MP, and other Campaigners for Disability Rights. More than 10,000 people have died within 6 weeks of being forced to submit to a Work Capability Assessment. Did it kill them? In some cases that is likely and has been mentioned in Coroners reports as a causal factor. Even in cases where it wasn't identified as a causal factor, is it right that in the last weeks of your life you are made to submit to an obtrusive vile test. The has to be a better fairer way! Not just Campaigners for Disability Rights, not just MPs but the Dean of St Paul's is connecting these deaths with this ConDem and the previous Government's Welfare reforms. Why can't the EHRC speak up about the Human Rights of potentially 10,000 people being abused. How many more have to die?