Equality and Human Rights Commission highlights employment, adequate healthcare and independent living among areas of particular concern
Disabled people are being left behind and are living in poverty with very poor life chances, a damning report has concluded.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission report, billed as the most comprehensive analysis of the rights of disabled people in Britain, also found that changes to benefit rules have had a particularly disproportionate, cumulative impact on their right to live independently.
David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, called for a new national focus on the rights of Britain’s 13 million disabled people. “They must have the same rights, opportunities and respect as other citizens,” he said.
“We must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society. We cannot, and must not, allow the next twenty years to be a repeat of the past.”
According to the report, published on Monday, the proportion of disabled people with no qualifications was nearly three times that of non-disabled people. Fewer than half of disabled adults are in employment (47.6%), compared with almost 80% of non-disabled adults – and the gap between these groups has widened since 2010-11.
Food poverty affected 18.4% of disabled people aged 16-64, compared with 7.5% of non-disabled people.
Obtaining adequate healthcare is a challenge for many disabled people and the report says that do-not-resuscitate notices are being put on patient files without their knowledge or consent.
“Negative attitudes toward disabled people remain prominent in Britain and people with a mental health condition, learning disability or memory impairment remain particularly likely to be stigmatised,” the report says.
Isaac said the report, titled Being Disabled in Britain: A Journey Less Equal, should be regarded as a “call to arms”. He said: “We cannot ignore that disabled people are being left behind and that some people – in particular those with mental health conditions and learning disabilities – experience even greater barriers.
“We must have a concerted effort to deliver the changes that are desperately needed. Vital improvements are necessary to the law and policies, and services must meet the needs of disabled people.”
Andrew McDonald, chair of the disability charity Scope, said it was shameful that many disabled people faced prejudice and inequality on a daily basis.
“The impact of recent reductions and restrictions to benefits and inaction on social care threaten to make life harder for many disabled people,” he said. “Urgent action is needed.”
Scope called on the government to set out a cross-departmental strategy to tackle the injustices disabled people face.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said concrete plans were needed, with outcomes measured regularly, to ensure progress.
The chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, Robert Meadowcroft, said the report put hard numbers on the extreme difficulties those with muscle-wasting diseases experienced in finding a job and a safe place to live and accessing the opportunities many of us take for granted.
“We can collectively check our own attitudes to make sure that the EHRC has better news to report in 20 years’ time,” he said. “This alarming report is a wake-up call that needs to be heard.”
A government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that a disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life. The UK is a world leader in this area and we are proud of the work we do to support people with disabilities and health conditions, to increase opportunities and tackle inaccessibility.
“Not only do we spend over £50bn a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more of our GDP than Japan, Canada and France – we also offer a wide range of tailored and effective support. Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst providing support for those who can’t.”