Disabled People Excluded From Human Rights Review, MPs and Campaigners Warn
Posted on 01 Mar 2022
- Disability groups given just 12 days to consult on future of the Human Rights Act
- ‘Easy read’ document ‘insufficient to the point of being insulting’
- Groups and opposition parties urge Government to extend consultation deadline
Liberty and a coalition of disability and human rights groups alongside opposition parties, have called out the Government for failing to include some disabled people in its Human Rights Act consultation.
The groups said the Government made it ‘virtually impossible’ for some people to respond, after the Government belatedly published an ‘easy read’ version of the document with just 12 days left of the 12-week long consultation process.
In a letter sent yesterday, Monday 28 February, to Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, the group also states that the content of the ‘easy read’ document – which are normally designed to make the complex 123 page consultation more accessible – is ‘insufficient to the point of being insulting’.
The Labour Party, Green Party and Scottish National Party all condemned the Government’s failure to support disabled people from participating in the consultation, and criticised the review itself.
The groups also warn that simply publishing a text document and not an audio file excludes those with visual impairments, and the delay in releasing an audio version of the consultation gives people even less time to respond.
The more than 140 signees have called for an extension to the consultation because of the oversight. The consultation is set to close on Tuesday 8 March. The letter states that ‘refusing to extend the deadline is refusing to enable people to take part’.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called the Government’s approach to the rights of disabled people “staggering” adding “Human rights are precious and affect each and every one of us – the deadline needs to be extended so disabled people’s voices can be heard.”
The Labour Party vowed to oppose the Government’s plans, with Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed MP saying it came as “no surprise” that the Government had excluded disabled people from the consultation. Plans to reform the Human Rights Act would “take away hard-won rights protections,” he said, while SNP MP Anne McLaughlin called the Government’s behaviour “discriminatory” toward disabled people, adding that “democracy is universal not just for the select few who are able to navigate the Government’s consultation process.”
This news comes just days after the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) wrote directly to Dominic Raab to request an official Government response to their report published in July 2021 that found there was ‘no case for changing the Human Rights Act’. The Government had been due to reply to the JCHR by September, but have still not responded nearly six months later.
Liberty is among many concerned by Raab’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, which had been initially framed as an ‘update’ but is now a wholesale replacement of the Act with a new Bill of Rights.
Among the changes are plans to lower the threshold for ‘positive obligations’, which are the legal obligations on public bodies to protect rights, and new amendments to human rights law that will make it much harder for people to challenge the Government and public bodies when injustices occur. This will be felt strongly by disabled people, as well as young people and children, who are more dependent on the services of public bodies, and for whom these changes will create larger barriers to challenging unlawful actions.
Martha Spurrier, Liberty director, said: “This is a complex and hugely important consultation which will affect everybody’s human rights. To publish the ‘easy read’ document with just 12 days left is insulting to all those living with disabilities. It is now virtually impossible for many disabled people to respond, including those with learning disabilities who may need to arrange extra support to access and respond to the consultation.
“This is typical of a Government that is desperate to push through these plans without a proper and inclusive conversation, having already completely ignored the findings of a nine-month long independent report. The fact the Government have also not even taken into account the JCHR’s report makes this whole exercise appear like a sham.
“I urge the Justice Secretary to extend the deadline so that all disabled people have a full 12 weeks, not 12 days, to respond to this consultation that will have a huge impact on their basic human rights.”
Contact the Liberty press office on 07973 831 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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