DISABLED people in Britain are being left behind, a new report suggests, and there are widening gaps in their education, work, housing, health, and poverty levels.
The report Being Disabled in Britain: A journey less equal, by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, concluded that disabled people were still being treated like second-class citizens, and that, in many aspects of life, opportunities for disabled people in Britain have gone backwards over the past 20 years.
David Isaac, who chairs the commission, said: “It is a badge of shame on our society and successive governments that this has happened.”
The report found that more disabled people were in poverty than non-disabled. Food poverty affected 18.4 per cent of disabled people aged 16-64, compared with 7.5 per cent of non-disabled people.
A third of families where one member is disabled are living in deprived households. Disabled people are also less likely to be in employment, and less likely to get support into work from the Government.
At school, disabled pupils have lower attainment rates than their non-disabled peers, and are more likely to be excluded from school. They are more likely to die younger and experience health inequalities, and the report gives examples of the putting of “Do not resuscitate” notices on disabled patients’ notes 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.
Mr Isaac called for an urgent “national focus” on the rights of Britain’s 13 million disabled people. “They must not be treated any less favourably than any other citizens. Britain must be a fair and inclusive society in which everyone has equal opportunities to thrive and succeed. To achieve this, we must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society.”
The Christian disability charity Livability said that the report was a “call to action” to society and the Church.
The head of communications and campaigns at Livability, Janet Miles, said: “It is indeed a ‘badge of shame’ on our society that millions of disabled people are still not being treated as equal citizens. From Livability’s work on the front line, we see first-hand how so many disabled people are struggling with disabling barriers every day. Whether it’s loss of benefits, poor accessibility, lack of vocation and employment prospects, or lack of support — the pressure points are numerous.
“As a charity, Livability is particularly concerned at how the barriers to disabled people’s participation and inclusion can have a detrimental impact on their health and life outcomes. That’s why our charity’s work is getting increasingly focused on tackling social isolation amongst disabled people.
“Every day, through Livability’s disability services, and church and community work, we are working to create more joined-up opportunities for the people we support to participate in community life. We know that when people are more connected, their health and well-being does so much better.
“As a charity with a broad Christian ethos, we see the role of local churches and other faith groups as being key in working for this change and inclusion. Often at the heart of their locality, they have an essential part to play in tackling injustices, and providing practical ways to overcome disabling barriers in their communities.”