Being disabled in Britain– new EHRC report highlights continued inequality

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a comprehensive report assessing the state of equality and human rights for disabled people in Britain. While recognising that progress has been made in some areas, it is clear in its assertion that ‘[i]t is a badge of shame on our society that millions of disabled people in Britain are still not being treated as equal citizens and continue to be denied the everyday rights non-disabled people take for granted…’.

Public & Regulatory

The report sets out the EHRC’s findings across what it considers to be six key areas of life:

  • Education – disabled pupils have much lower attainment rates at school than non-disabled people, are ‘significantly more likely’ to be excluded and disabled young people aged 16-18 are at least twice as likely to not be in education, employment or training than those who are non-disabled.
  • Work – the report questions the effectiveness of the reforms to UK Government employment support programmes, stating that non-disabled people are more likely than disabled people to source employment on the ‘Work Programme’. More generally, less than half of disabled adults were in employment in 2015/16. The disability pay gap also continues to widen with a median wage of £9.85 for disabled people compared to £11.41 for non-disabled.
  • Standard of living – the report asserts that the Government’s programme of social security reforms have had a ‘disproportionate, cumulative impact on rights to independent living and an adequate standard of living for disabled people’. For example, the so called ‘bedroom tax’ has affected a higher proportion of disabled people than non-disabled people – at least 47% of housing benefit claimants affected by the bedroom tax have a disability, according to the report.
  • Health and care – the report acknowledges the difficulties in assessing health inequalities amongst disabled people due to the limited data on outcomes for disabled people collected by the NHS. It recognises that overall disabled people are more likely to experience health inequalities and major health conditions and are likely to die younger than other people.
  • Justice and detention – the reform of the legal aid scheme have, according to the report’s findings, negatively affected disabled people’s access to justice across a number of key areas, such as housing, debt and employment. People with disability also report feeling less safe. Mental health care in prison is also highlighted as an area of concern, with the report citing the statistic that 70% of prisoners that died from self-inflicted means between 2012 and 2014 had an identified mental health need.
  • Participation and identity – the report highlights continued negative attitudes towards disabled people in society and a lack of digital accessibility. It also points to a need for section 106 of the Equality Act 2010 to be implemented, which requires political parties to publish diversity data about their candidates, to help to address the under-representation of disabled people in political and public office. Under section 104 of the Equality Act 2010, political parties can reserve places on the shortlists they use to choose candidates to stand for office for people with a specific protected characteristic such as ethnicity or disability.

The report explains the significant challenges to securing equality for those with disabilities in Britain.

Together with setting out recommendations, its conclusions also highlight opportunities for the providers of key services and for employers to strive for best practice in the policies and procedures that they adopt and implement. We recognise that this is by no means an “easy win”. The lack of funds and other resources available to make the required adaptations to give effect equal opportunities are severely limited in many sectors, which can mean that adjustments are rendered unreasonable and measures designed to eliminate indirect discrimination may become disproportionate in context in many cases.

A challenge remains for charities and campaign groups to continue to bring these issues to light and to pursue the underlying change that will have a real impact on the equality of people with disabilities.

An easy read version of the EHRC’s report is available here.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of April 20, 2017.