Now UN sparks fury after launching human rights investigation into Britain’s disability benefit reforms
UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has opened probe
- Will check if there has been ‘grave violations’ of rights of disabled people
- MPs tonight branded the investigation ‘politically motivated’
- Earlier this year a group of UN ‘ambassadors’ attacked UK welfare reforms
The United Nations sparked fury today after launching an unprecedented inquiry into Britain’s treatment of the disabled.
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities launched a formal probe into whether this country has committed ‘grave or systemic violations’ of the rights of disabled people.
Tory MPs tonight branded the investigation ‘politically motivated’ and said Britain’s record on help for disabled people was among the best in the world.
A spokesman for Iain Duncan Smith’s Work and Pensions department said the UK spends £50 billion a year on disabled people
The focus on Britain for the latest inquiry raised eyebrows given the other countries represented on the committee. Its members include Uganda, Kenya, Thailand, and Tunisia.
The investigation is the latest in a series of interventions into British domestic policy by the United Nations, which have provoked fury among ministers.
Earlier this year a group of UN poverty ‘ambassadors’ attacked Government welfare reforms, and last year the UN’s controversial Brazilian housing ‘rapporteur’ Raquel Rolnik, a former Marxist dubbed the ‘Brazil Nut’, criticised cuts to housing benefit.
Tory MP Michael Ellis said: ‘This politically motivated loony left decision brings the UN organisation in to disrepute.
‘At a time when there are grave international crises around the world and when in dozens of countries around the world there are no benefits available, this absurd decision is made to attack our country which rightly does more than almost any other to protect the rights of disadvantaged people from all walks of life.’
Brazilian UN poverty ambassador Raquel Rolnik criticised the British government’s ‘bedroom tax’ earlier this year – sparking anger among Tory MPs
Fellow Conservative Philip Davies said: ‘These people at the UN are idiots, frankly. There’s no other way to describe them.
‘This country has led the way in the support and rights that we give to disabled people – such as through the Disability Discrimination Act which was passed by a Conservative government in 1995.
‘If the UN drew up a list of countries in the world showing how much they gave to disabled people they would find the UK was the highest in the world.
‘They are exposing the UN for the completely useless organisation that it is.’
The investigation is officially confidential, but a former member of the committee confirmed its existence in a video posted on the internet.
Professor Gabor Gombos told a conference in Galway, Ireland: ‘Where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation…it is a very high threshold thing, the violations should be grave and very systemic.’
The existence of the inquiry, which was reported by Disability News Service. The committee did not respond to requests by the Mail for comment, but Jorge Araya, the committee’s secretary, told DNS: ‘Inquiry proceedings…of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are confidential.’
Miss Rolnik sparked a furious reaction from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith after she criticised the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’.
She also signed a letter from a group of poverty ‘ambassadors’ criticising other welfare reforms designed to cut Britain’s huge benefits bill and encourage unemployed people back in to work.
Another UN inspector, South African feminist academic Rashida Manjoo, was crticised after she claimed Britain had a culture of sexism worse than any other country in the world.
The Department for Work and Pensions also refused to comment on the inquiry, but pointed out the UK spends around £50billion a year on disabled people.
A spokesman said: ‘All United Nations inquiry processes are confidential. MUST
‘This Government is committed to supporting disabled people and we continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services.’
WHAT’S NEW?: CHANGES TO BENEFITS FOR DISABLED PEOPLE
For those aged between 16 and 64, the disability living allowance (DLA) – benefits given to disabled people to help them with daily activities and moving around – has now been replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP).
Unlike the previous payment, PIP includes a face-to-face consultation with a heath worker to assess people’s ability at tasks such as washing and cooking, before scoring their abilities on a chart.
This chart is then used to work out how much money they can receive, and regular check-ups are scheduled to ensure this is kept at the right level.
In 2012, there were over 3 million DLA claimants in the UK, but the Government estimates 600,000 fewer disabled people will qualify for PIP by 2018.
The Work Capability Assessment was also introduced for those claiming Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support on the grounds of illness or disability.
This meant that almost two million people were assessed by health workers to see what sort of jobs they could perform and whether they were fit to work.
Those ruled unfit for work were then moved on to the new Employment and Support Allowance and were given another exam, again using a points-based system, to decide how much support they qualified for.