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Disability Rights UK Conference 2017 report published

07 December 2017

DR UK’s Annual Conference and General Meeting.

Venue: the King’s House Conference Centre, King’s Church, Sidney Street, Manchester M1 7HB

Time and date: Thursday 9th November from 10.30am. to 4pm.

Twitter hashtag: #OurRightsToday

The Conference theme was the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

This event was an opportunity to discuss how we make the UN Convention on the rights of disabled People come alive and work for us in UK.

This year, the UN committee on the Convention has been examining how well the UK has been doing in implementing our rights. As part of DR UK’s preparation for this we held events around England to get your views. Our findings were put together in a report that was published in March. Representatives of DR UK and other disabled people’s organisations outlined our views at a session of the committee in Geneva. The UN committee on the CRPD has now concluded its examination and made recommendations to the UK government.

The voice of the north will be heard

This year our conference took place in Manchester where we were welcomed by the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, and Jackie Driver, Chair of Manchester based disabled people’s organisation Breakthrough UK.

Andy gave a very positive address letting everyone know that there would be plenty of opportunities for disabled people to influence devolution in Manchester.  He was already working closely with the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People and welcomed other disabled people’s organisations coming on board.

He was committed to a rights based approach to developing and implementing policies in Manchester including in health and social care.  In particular, he was looking forward to new powers that he would have next year to sort out the public transport system.  He was keen to learn lessons from Transport for London and make Manchester’s transport fully accessible.

And he threw out a challenge to national government – give us the DWP budget for the Manchester region and we will make a better job of supporting people.

He completed his remarks and answers to questions by stating ‘The voice of the north will be heard!’.

In her welcome, Jackie talked about the history of the disability movement in Manchester and the North West and the inspirational activists who had been a part of it including the late Lorraine Gradwell MBE and Sir Bert Massie CBE.  Their approaches were different but both played essential roles.  She went on to say that one of the most important lessons she had learnt from Lorraine was that ‘we only find ourselves in getting lost, in uncertainty is the room to act.  We are in uncertain, difficult times now as the concluding comments of the UN committee on implementing the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) have observed, so this is the time to campaign for the change and outcomes we want.  You can read the full presentation here

The importance of the UNCRPD to disabled people

Sue Bott, Deputy Chief Executive DR UK, gave a presentation on the history of the Convention to disabled people.  She outlined how the convention had been drawn up with the involvement of disabled people and our organisations, which was a first for a UN treaty.  She concluded it was important because it had been influenced by us and its articles set the standard for how our rights should be realised.  You can view the presentation here

Results and recommendations of the un committee on the CRPD following the examination of the UK

Rachel Fox, Senior Associate Treaty Monitoring Equality and Human Rights Commission, gave an overview of the recommendations.  She explained how the examination process worked.  The next examination of the UK will take place in 2023.  Before then the UN committee has asked the government to produce interim report on right to work, independent living, and living standards by October next year.  She concluded by stating that the power and potential of the UN committee’s concluding observations depends on how we use them for change for disabled people.  You can see the full presentation here

How to use the UNCRPD to realise our rights

Chris Fry of Fry Law, gave a presentation on how the UNCRPD can be used in UK law.  The UNCRPD has not been incorporated into UK domestic law but was ‘hard’ law in the sense that the UK Government has signed up to its international obligations.  He outlined a small number of cases where the Convention has been used.  One of the issues was that many lawyers were not that familiar with the Convention.  You can view the presentation here

Disability Rights UK will be doing more work on promoting the UNCRPD, talking to government about implementing the observations of the UN committee particularly improving engagement with disabled people, and arguing for the Convention to be taken into account in reforming the Mental Health Act in the coming months.


Andy Burnham speaks at our 2017 Conference
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)