Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods
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Without European intervention, equality for disabled people in Britain would be a distant dream

15th March 2017

woman-791541_1920_CC0 Public Domain.jpgResearch by WISERD Co-Director, Professor Paul Chaney, reveals the institutionalised ableism of parliament. In his recent article on The Conversation, he emphasises that without the EU’s help, the situation for disabled people could become even worse than it already is.

“The representation of disabled people in government has never been more important. In 2014, 19% of British residents said that they were disabled. The country also has an ageing population and 42% of state pension age adults – 5m people altogether – are living with disabilities.

“Even at the very start of policy and law development, disability is a very low priority. Looking just at early day motions (EDMs) – which allows MPs to voice their opinions on certain issues with no expectation to toe the party line – disability ranks behind gender and age among the protected characteristics that will get attention from lawmakers.

“Though there was some increase in the number of EDMs that were proposed for the benefit of ‘disabled peoples’, the rate of change has been slow. When you compare the number of disability/disabled people’s EDMs in the 1992–97 parliament with the 2005–10 parliament the growth is negligible – just 3.5 percentage points.

“It’s clear just from these motions that disability issues are far from a mainstream policy priority for most MPs. Even though each constituency would have a significant number of disabled people, less than a third of MPs put forward a specific disability EDM between 1990 and 2012.

“The 2010 Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by the UK in 2009) and EC Directives on equality require the promotion of equality for disabled people in the exercise of public functions – including parliamentary representation, policy and law-making. It is in this context that Brexit is revealed as a wholly negative development for disabled people.

“European legislation has been a key driver of equality for disabled people and others with protected characteristics in the UK. Going forward, vigilance will be an absolute necessity to ensure there is no reduction in disabled people’s rights and protections when the UK leaves the EU, and the Conservative government moves forward with replacing the European Convention of Human Rights with a domestic bill of rights.”

Read the full article on The Conversation.

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