The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, the Convention) is the newest treaty in the human rights framework, and was ratified by the UK in 2009. This Report examines the UK's implementation of the right to independent living for disabled people, as enshrined in Article 19 of the UNCRPD.
Despite the UK having ratified the UNCRPD, independent living does not currently exist as a freestanding, justiciable right in UK law. This Report argues that the existing matrix of human rights, equality and community care law, while instrumental in the protection and promotion of the right to independent living, is not sufficient. The right to independent living should be added as an outcome in any forthcoming Bill on adult social care in England.
It also recommends that all interested parties, governmental and non-governmental, immediately start work on assessing the need for and feasibility of free-standing legislation to give more concrete effect in UK law to the right to independent living. The Government should publish their assessment of the need for and desirability of such legislation in the light of the forthcoming first report of the UN Committee on Disabilities.
The Government have characterised the obligations assumed by under the Disabilities Convention as “soft law”. This Report regards this as indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments. The UNCRPD is hard law, not soft law, and the Government should fulfil their obligations under the Convention on that basis, and counter any public perception that it is soft law.
While the report recognises the exceptional economic circumstances facing the UK, itconcludes that there is a risk of retrogression of the UK's obligations under Article 19 as a result of the cumulative impact of spending cuts and reforms. There has been particular concern about the effects of reductions in funding for local authorities, changes to Disability Living Allowance under the Welfare Reform Bill, caps on housing benefit and the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and the way in which these might interact to restrict enjoyment of the right to independent living.