Inclusion Now 61

Scrutinising Government performance: The UN Treaty Shadow Report

By Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s Campaigns and Policy Coordinator

This year, the UK Government is due to have their performance in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) scrutinised by the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee. The Monitoring Committee will consider the UK Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations set out in the UNCRPD’s concluding observations report (2017). Overall, the United Nations concluded that there has been “systematic and grave violations” of Disabled people’s human rights by the UK Government.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – England Civil Society Shadow report

Inclusion London has taken the lead in preparing the UK’s UNCRPD England Civil Society Shadow Report on behalf of the Disabled People’s Organisation sector, which will inform the UNCRPD committee’s list of issues and areas of concern to raise with the UK Government.  The Alliance for Inclusive Education is taking the lead for reporting on the Government’s implementation of UNCRPD’s Article 24 recommendations. In doing so, we have held a number of consultation events with different stakeholders, Disabled people, parents, and education professionals, alongside conducting an online survey.

In relation to the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee’s observations and recommendations, and as many of you expected, ALLFIE failed to find any evidence of the Government’s progression in the implementation of UNCRPD’s Article 24 recommendations. On the contrary, ALLFIE concluded there has been further regression and violation of Disabled people’s rights to inclusive education.

What did ALLFIE say in its report to the UN?

ALLFIE made it clear that there had been no evidence of the Government making any attempt to either remove the reservation or interpretative declaration from Article 24.

ALLFIE’s submission highlighted the unacceptable continuation of the Government’s major legislative and policy attacks on Disabled people’s rights and access to mainstream education. We have thus identified the issues that have had the biggest negative impact upon Disabled people in England:

  • The dual education system includes an ever-expanding segregated education provision.
  • Education law does not include an unequitable human right to inclusive education.
  • No legal definition or guidance on what constitutes inclusion or inclusive education practices underpinned by the social model of disability
  • No commitment to develop an inclusive education system that includes the infrastructural support that Disabled people require to flourish in schools, colleges, and universities.
  • No co-production in developing an inclusive education system with Disabled people and organisations protecting the rights thereof.

ALLFIE emphasised the following issues that would be incompatible with promoting Disabled people’s human rights to inclusive education, to be raised at the next scrutiny under Article 24:

  1. Despite there being an obligation to engage with Disabled people and their organisations, the Government has decided to work with big charities not run by Disabled people and who are paid to maintain the status quo. Unlike ALLFIE, education and children’s charities lack a strong human rights approach to their SEND engagement work.
  2. The Government has increasingly moved from a social model to a medical model approach of disability in their misguided attempts to support Disabled people within educational settings over the past decade. Educational institutions are being increasingly encouraged to focus on Disabled people’s specific SEND interventions rather than the whole school approach to inclusive education practices. The Department for Education has strengthened their zero-tolerance policy towards so-called ‘bad’ behaviour and discipline that has ultimately created a child-blaming culture where school disciplinary sanctions, exclusions, and segregation have become normalised.
  3. Furthermore, neither the Children and Families Act 2014 nor the Equality Act 2010 include an unqualified right to inclusive education. As a result, Disabled students still do not have an absolute right to a mainstream education placement, education course, or any form of assistance. We have provided various case studies on how Disabled students lack the necessary access to inclusive education despite being within mainstream education settings. We have also highlighted how the Government has resisted their duty to provide a definition of what constitutes inclusive education practice, as set out in Article 24’s General Comment 4.
  4. Similarly, the Government have done nothing to remove the infinitely harmful Children and Families Act clause that allows a Disabled child to be placed in a special school if their presence is not compatible with the efficient education of other children, despite the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee making a specific recommendation for its removal. As a result, the provision of segregated education continues to be permitted under UK legislation. Furthermore, the UK Government’s education policies, such as those concerning school exclusions, education funding arrangements, education inspections, and public examination regulations, have all had a further negative impact upon Disabled people’s right to inclusive education.

Education policy trends, under this Government in particular, have long been at odds with developing a comprehensive inclusive education system with a universal, streamlined, and integrated approach to supporting Disabled people’s learning throughout life in various mainstream education settings. Disabled people’s entitlements to disability-related support criteria is institution, age, and course based. Similarly, there are different criteria for inclusivity within public examinations, depending on the type and nature of the qualifications, and government Higher Education reforms are a current concern.

The UK Government’s education funding policy has been influenced, not by austerity, but by an ideological drive towards increasing the segregation and institutionalisation of Disabled people. The Government’s school capital funding schemes have been geared towards the establishment of the construction and expansion of existing special schools that will have the space to provide on-site education, health, and care provision, which is more difficult to accommodate for within mainstream schools. In recent years, new types of segregated education have been formulated, such as secure schools in which criminal courts can sentence young people; in practice, however, they are schools for children who are neuro-divergent.

We have also highlighted that the UK education system and education policy are not intersectional. For many Disabled people, gender, race, and sexual orientation issues are not sensitively reflected in UK education policies, which promote exclusive rather than inclusive  education practice. Amongst our case studies included Black Disabled people’s and racially minoritized communities’ experiences of systematic discrimination around the implementation of behaviour and uniform policies.

What’s next?

Inclusion London will be holding a launch of their shadow report in March. Further information can be found here.

Since going to press, the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee have now delayed the UK Government’s scrutiny until 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.