House of Lords Library

Disability in the UK: Rights and Policy

Published Thursday, June 21, 2018

This House of Lords Library briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Baroness Thomas of Winchester (Liberal Democrat) on 28 June 2018 “that this House takes note of the different challenges facing disabled people in the United Kingdom in 2018”. It provides an overview of the legal framework governing disabled people’s rights in the UK both in domestic law, in the Equality Act 2010, and in international law, in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It also examines some possible implications for disabled people of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Jump to full report >>

There are a wide range of challenges that disabled people can face. A number of recent select committee reports and briefings from the parliamentary Libraries examine some of the challenges faced by disabled people across a wide range of policy areas such as accessibility, housing, benefits, employment, education and transport. A reading list is provided at the end of this Briefing. This Briefing covers the legal framework governing disabled people’s rights in the UK both in domestic law, in the Equality Act 2010, and in international law, in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The Equality Act 2010 is the primary piece of legislation governing disabled people’s rights in the UK. This Act makes provisions for people with nine protected characteristics, including disability. In 2016, the House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee found that “combining disability with the other protected characteristics in one Act did not in practice benefit disabled people” and that disabled people’s rights were better protected under the previous legislation. The Government disputed this conclusion.

The UK has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Since 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities has published two reports examining the UK’s provisions for disabled people. In both reports the Committee expressed serious concerns that the level of protection and support provided to disabled people was not adequate. The Government disagreed with the Committee’s conclusions, but stated that there was more that could be done to help disabled people.

Concerns have been expressed that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU could lead to negative outcomes for disabled people. Possible routes by which this could occur are: weakening of legislative protections; lack of recourse to the Courts of Justice of the EU; and no longer participating in EU programmes which provide funding for projects for disabled people. The Government has stated that it does not intend to weaken disabled people’s rights and will preserve funding for existing projects.

Lords Library notes LLN-2018-0071

Author: Emily Haves

Topics: Disability discrimination, Human rights, International law, United Nations

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Lords Library notes

House of Lords Library

The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.