The House of Lords has today published a scathing report on the treatment of disabled people. The report , by the Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, found that the Government is failing in its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to the 11 million disabled people in Britain. In commenting on the findings of the report, the chairman of the Committee, Baroness Deech, stated that:
"The Government bears the ultimate responsibility for enabling disabled people to participate in society on equal terms, and we believe it is simply not discharging that responsibility. Not only has the Government dragged its heels in bringing long-standing provisions of the Act into force, such as those requiring taxi drivers to take passengers in wheelchairs, but has in fact repealed some provisions which had protected disabled people. Intended to reduce the regulatory burden on business, the reality has been an increase in the burden on disabled people.”
The report also identified that Government spending cuts were having an adverse impact on disabled people.
This comes less than week after Ian Duncan Smith resigned from the Government over purported concerns about the budget proposal to save £4.4 billion through disability benefit changes. The report recommends that a Minister for Disabled People is appointed to the Cabinet and that the Government carry out an analysis of the effect of spending cuts on disabled people.
The Committee was appointed in June last year and during the course of their inquiry heard evidence from a range of people and organisations, including Leigh Day. Leigh Day act on behalf of disabled people in claims under the Equality Act 2010 against government bodies, as well as employers and private companies. Leigh Day’s evidence was based on the experiences of it client’s and those experiences very much echoed the findings of the report.
Leigh Day’s evidence also highlighted the difficulties in bringing claims for disabled people under the Equality Act 2010 because of the confusion about whether or not they would be protected from paying the other side’s cost if they lost the claim. Happily, the Committee addressed these difficulties in their report and accepted Leigh Day’s recommendation that it should be made explicit that claims brought under the Equality Act 2010 are afforded cost protection if they are lost.
In commenting on the report, Benjamin Burrows, a discrimination lawyer who acts for disabled prisoners, stated that:
“The findings of today’s House of Lords report make for sad reading. The Equality Act 2010, like the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 before it, was intended to protect and enforce the rights of disabled people. However, the Government has undermined this intention, mainly by failing to comply with its obligations and then making it harder to hold them to account for doing so. Nonetheless, the report should be welcomed for bringing the Government’s inaction to public attention, and for, hopefully, taking positive steps to bring it to an end.”