Disabled people in Northern Ireland suffering from devolution collapse
Plans for a Northern Ireland disability strategy and a Disability Forum aimed at improving the lives of persons with disabilities have not been able to move forward because of the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive.
The lack of progress in a wide range of areas has been highlighted in a joint submission published today by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, in their role as the Independent Mechanism for NI (IMNI).
The submission is in relation to an inquiry by the Committee on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) of progress made on their recommendations from a previous inquiry into the UK in 2016.
Further IMNI recommendations are made around addressing the disability employment gap, support for independent living, as well as accessible and affordable housing for persons with disabilities and a number of other areas.
Alyson Kilpatrick, chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, issued a joint statement following the publication of the report.
They said: “We remain very concerned about the lack of progress in addressing the committee’s recommendations from 2016, compounded by the lack of a Northern Ireland Executive and functioning institutions. The UK has obligations through the UNCRPD, as well as Windsor Framework Article 2, to uphold rights and equality protections for persons with disabilities.
“It is imperative that we introduce a disability strategy and a Disability Forum so that disabled persons and their representative have their voice heard and we can move forward with policy and initiatives to realise their rights and equality entitlements as set out in the UNCRPD.
“Our submission recommends that the Independent Living Fund is reopened for new claimants; steps are taken to tackle barriers to housing and the right to live independently; and that we need an effective Disability Employment Strategy that aims to reduce the disability employment gap in Northern Ireland.
“We hope that by providing this submission, recommendations and engaging with the UNCRPD committee inquiry that we can highlight the need for urgent action to remedy the pressing issues that are preventing persons with disabilities in Northern Ireland from being empowered and realising their rights as laid out in the UNCRPD.”