A new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found that disabled people in the UK are being let down right across the board.
The EHRC report, which was published on 3 April 2017, looked at six key areas: Education, Work, Standard of Living, Health Care, Justice and Detention, and Participation and Identity. In every single one of these areas disabled people were found to be disadvantaged. Here is a brief summary of the main findings:
- Disabled young people aged between 16 and 18 are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET).
- The proportion of disabled people with no qualifications at all was almost 3 times higher (18%), than non disabled people (6.4%).
- Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are more likely to be excluded from school.
- Only 47.6% of disabled people are in work compared to 80% of non disabled people.
- Disabled people are paid less on average than non disabled people. The median hourly pay for disabled people was £9.85, compared to £11.41 for non disabled people.
Standard of Living
- 18.4% of disabled people are in food poverty compared with 7.5% of non disabled people.
- There is a shortage of accessible housing in the UK. Less than 17% of councils with a housing plan had strategies for building accessible homes.
Health and Care
- Do not resuscitate notices are being placed on disabled patients’ files without their knowledge or consent
- Spending on mental health services has been cut by 25% between 2011 and 2013
- The adult care centre is under pressure due to significant cuts in funding
Justice and Detention
- Disabled people are more likely to have experienced crime than non disabled people
- Disability hate crimes increased by 44% in England and Wales in the year 2015/16
Participation and Identity
- Poor access to transport and leisure services which impedes disabled people’s ability to interact with society, and increases isolation.
- Negative attitudes towards disabled people remain prominent in Britain, especially towards people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.
These statistics show that there is still a long way to go to get true equality for disabled people. Even though it’s been over 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), and seven years since the Equality Act (2010) there is still a lot of work to be done. The EHRC report clearly shows that this legislation is not good enough.
The Equality Act is not even enforced by the government. It is left up to the public to complain to service providers when they are discriminated against. Not everyone does complain because they may not want to make a fuss, or get caught up in a lengthy potential legal battle. But why should it be up to disabled people to make sure service providers are obeying the law?
If there were government inspectors, whose job it was to randomly inspect service providers to make sure they are not discriminating against anyone, then I think the world would be a much more accessible place.
It is unacceptable that disabled people are still treated as second-class citizens in so many areas. The UK is the fifth wealthiest country in the world so surely there is no excuse for 18% of disabled people to be in food poverty. I can think of something right now off the top of my head that could help solve this particular problem – STOP TARGETING CUTS AT DISABLED PEOPLE.
It’s not just the legislation that is a problem though. It is also people’s attitudes towards disabled people. The report found that negative attitudes towards disabled people remain prominent in Britain. According to a study by the disability charity Scope 38% of respondents believe disabled people are less productive and 13% believe they “get in the way” some or all of the time.
I think more disability awareness is needed. Everybody is aware of racism or homophobia, but how many people are aware of disability discrimination? In the study by Scope 43% of respondents said they did not know anyone who was disabled so these people’s attitudes could easily be shaped by stereotypes or misinformation.
If everybody was more aware of the needs of disabled people that would go a long way to helping to solve the problems we face in society. If these statistics were referring to black people then everyone would quite rightly be outraged. It would be unacceptable to treat black people as second-class citizens just because of their skin colour.
So why aren’t we outraged that disabled people are being treated as second-class citizens, in every area? I don’t think it’s because people don’t care, I think it’s more because they are not aware the problem exists. So, like I said there needs to be a lot more disability awareness in this country to make people aware of the problem.
Once everyone is aware of the needs of disabled people than we can start working to meet those needs, and hopefully the statistics will start to change for the better.