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First ever UN disability probe heaps shame on the Tories

Our government faces the ignominy of having its cruel policies scrutinised internationally. It’s about time, argues LINDA BURNIP

NEVER in our worst nightmares did we imagine that the government would behave so shamefully it would be investigated by the UN because of its actions towards disabled people. But that is exactly what is happening now.

Eventually after two and a half years of submitting reports and responding to responses from the government, the long-awaited UN inquiry into Britain has been launched and a team of rapporteurs and staff have arrived here to conduct it.

The fact that this is the first ever inquiry into any country using the optional protocol in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities simply illustrates how obscene the government’s stance towards disabled people has been.

You might expect such an inquiry in some other less industrialised nations but here in the 21st century it leaves us asking just what has gone so badly wrong and how this shameful situation has been reached in just over five years of Tory mismanagement.

Throughout the lengthy run-up to this investigation the secrecy surrounding the process has verged on the paranoid.

After Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) made its first submission to the UN we were threatened that if we made anything public the inquiry would immediately be stopped — or that we might cause a diplomatic incident.

While we’re not averse to causing a diplomatic incident, the desire to have this historic inquiry go ahead prevented DPAC from saying anything until it was recently leaked and became common knowledge — at which time remaining silent seemed counterproductive to our aims.

Being very honest, we’re not sure just what this inquiry can achieve for disabled people: but at the very least it is an unprecedented and historic activity. In total DPAC initially raised concerns about more than 30 aspects of government policy which were negatively affecting the lives of disabled citizens, and since then many more attacks have followed.

We hope that as well as shaming the British government internationally this inquiry will provide a formal record of the many atrocities disabled people have endured over the past five years, and will be a lasting testimony to the many thousands who have been driven to their early and unnecessary deaths.

The UN team will be in Britain for two weeks and will be visiting all three countries plus Northern Ireland and several major cities during that time. Already attempts have been made by certain scurrilous and government mouthpiece media outlets to discredit the inquiry and launch a personal attack against one of the rapporteurs: the Costa Rican lawyer Catalina Devandas Aguilar.

Important testimonies will be collated from disabled people affected by the cuts — particularly those relating to the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) and work capability assessments.

Closure of the ILF is already leading to care packages being savagely cut by some councils, leaving disabled people who are unable to get out of bed without help alone overnight, or having the physical help continent disabled people need to go to the toilet replaced by incontinence pads so that they “are not dependent on human support.”

In some cases people have lost half of their previous care funding, even though George Osborne announced on television during the general election that the closure of the ILF was not a cut but simply a transfer of how funding is made.

Experts, academics, legal professionals, government and opposition politicians will also be asked to give evidence to the inquiry. All will be asked to pledge to a confidentiality agreement continuing the supposed secrecy surrounding this inquiry.

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