back to top

Here's Why Disabled People In Britain Are Being Left Behind In Society

A report published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for the UK, Scottish, and Welsh governments to place a new national focus on disability equality.

Posted on

A report published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that disabled people are being left behind in society and called for them to have the same rights, opportunities, and respect as non-disabled citizens.

“Whilst at face value we have travelled far, in reality disabled people are being left behind in society, their life chances remain very poor, and public attitudes have changed very little," said David Isaac, chair of the EHRC.

“This evidence can no longer be ignored. Now is the time for a new national focus on the rights of the 13 million disabled people who live in Britain. ... We must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society. We cannot, and must not, allow the next 20 years to be a repeat of the past."

The report covers key areas of life – education and employment, transport, health services, housing, access to justice, and welfare reform – and sets out vital areas for urgent improvement. It also calls for the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to place a new national focus on disability equality.

These are some of the key findings from the report:

Advertisement

1. In England, the proportion of children with special educational needs (SEN) achieving at least 5 A*–C GCSEs is three times lower than for non-disabled children (20.0% and 64.2% respectively).

Although the educational attainment gap between disabled and non-disabled children has reduced since 2009-10, the performance of disabled pupils in England, Wales, and Scotland is still much lower than non-disabled ones.

2. Disabled children are also significantly more likely than non-disabled children to be permanently or temporarily excluded from school.

The report shows that the exclusion rate for children with SEN is more than five times that of children with no identified SEN. In Wales it was around seven times higher in 2014-15.

3. Disabled 16- to 18-year-olds in Britain are around twice as likely to be NEETs (not in education, employment, or training) as non-disabled children.

Although the qualification gap between disabled and non-disabled people has narrowed, the proportion of disabled people with no qualifications is nearly three times that of non-disabled people, and the proportion of disabled people with a degree remains lower.

Advertisement

4. Although more disabled and non-disabled people overall are in work in Britain now compared to figures from five years ago, the report shows that only 47.6% of disabled adults are in employment, compared with almost 80% of non-disabled adults.

However, this is not the case across all impairment types, and for those with "mental health conditions" or "physical disabilities" the gap between them and non-disabled people has narrowed.

5. The disability pay gap in Britain also continues to widen. Disabled young people aged 16-24 and disabled women had the lowest median hourly earnings of all. And more disabled people than non-disabled are living in poverty or are materially deprived.

6. Families in the UK with a disabled member are more likely to live in relative poverty than non-disabled families.

Across the country 18.4% of disabled people aged 16-64 are considered to be in food poverty, compared with 7.5% of non-disabled people. Disabled people over the age of 65 are twice as likely as non-disabled people in the same age group to be in food poverty.

The report says that some of the issues include a shortage in accessible housing – for instance, the amount of wheelchair-adapted local authority housing for physically disabled people in Scotland has decreased.

Advertisement

Changes to legal aid in England and Wales have negatively affected disabled people’s access to justice. Across Britain, there has been a 54% drop in employment tribunal claims on grounds of disability discrimination following the introduction of fees in July 2013.

9. In England some people have waited over 90 days for psychological therapy, despite the waiting time target being 28 days.

And in Scotland the majority of health boards are failing to meet the target for all patients of 18 weeks from referral to treatment.

10. The report also shows that prisoners are more likely to have mental health conditions compared with the general population, and 70% of prisoners who died from self-inflicted means between 2012 and 2014 had an identified mental health condition.

Detentions in health and social care settings under the Mental Health Act 1983 are continuing to increase in England and Wales. The number of detentions in hospitals increased from 46,600 in 2009-10 to 63,622 in 2016.

11. The report also showed that changes to legal aid in England and Wales have negatively affected disabled people’s access to justice.

Across the country, there has been a 54% drop in employment tribunal claims on grounds of disability discrimination following the introduction of fees in July 2013.

12. Disability hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by 44% in 2015-16 on the previous year. The report says this increase possibly reflects improved reporting and recording practices.

Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Fiona Rutherford at fiona.rutherford@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.

Promoted