Shadow Reporting – First Steps

After writing this post I started looking into who was writing the UK’s Shadow Report(s) for the UK’s initial 2011 ODI (Office of Disability Issues) report to the UN.

As far as I could tell there was one being co-coordinated by the UK Disability Rights Council under the banner of UK Disability Rights Watch (UKDRW) and I’ve not been able to find that any others are being produced.  After having a chat with the super folks from Disabled People Against the Cuts we decided that it would be a good thing to form a working group to look at producing another Shadow Report.

At the moment there is a small group of us (unpaid, unfunded, volunteers) going through everything that needs to be done and trying to get our heads around the process. Once we have a good idea about what exactly it is we need we are hoping to open up the process so that lots of people can get involved.

Below the cut is a little more about what we are doing for those who are interested:

What are we trying to achieve?

The UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009. This means the Government now has certain obligations with respect to disabled people;

  • To work to make the rights outline in the CRPD a reality in disabled peoples lives
  • Ensure disabled people have protection from all forms of discrimination including failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Pass new laws and make policies where appropriate
  • Abolish or change laws and practices that discriminate against disabled people
  • Take account of disabled peoples’ human rights in its practices and programmes in advance, not retroactively (sometimes called ‘mainstreaming’)
  • Collect and disseminate data and statistics in accordance with article 33 (this is to act as a qualitative measure of progress and to aid in improved policy development)
  • Ensure public authorities comply with the convention
  • To report to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva every few years to update them on it’s progress and any problem areas. The first report was done in 2011 and the next is due in 2015, then one is due every 4 years.

The reports to the UN Disability Committee are written by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As I am sure you can imagine these reports can be skewed to show the Government in a very positive light. The UN Disability Committee recognises this risk and to counter it they invite groups to produce “Shadow Reports”. These Shadow Reports are supposed to show how disabled people view the changes implemented by the government, to highlight problem areas, to celebrate successes, make suggestions for improvement and to help the UN Disability Committee scrutinise the government reports.

We don’t agree with the 2011 report and we hope that by putting together a Shadow Report we can use the UN Disability Committee to hold the UK government to account over the way it treats it’s disabled citizens.  This process won’t be a short one, it may be a few years yet until the UN Disability Committee gets around to reading the UK’s 2011 report but I hope that won’t phase us.

What can it achieve?

In the past strong condemnation from the UN Committees has forced the Government to change laws, policies and practices. The UK has a strong interest in looking good internationally and as such international pressure can really help to strengthen our campaigning, legal challenges*, complaints, lobbying and activism.

* If you want to bring a legal challenge against a violation it will have to be under the Human Rights Act or the Equality Act. You can’t bring a legal case under the CRPD, but you can use it to strengthen your case.

How I can I help?

The report needs to show the reality of life in the UK for it’s disabled citizens. To do that in a clear manner that will stand up to scrutiny we need to collect as much relevant information as we can. You can help primarily by helping us gather information or suggesting themes we should search for information about. You can post up suggestions or links to papers/articles in the comments section below or tweet me on twitter if you’d like.

With regards to the Shadow Report the UN Disability Committee is only interested in violations of the CRPD, so we need to make sure that the data we gather ties into one or more of the specific articles of the CRPD. Once the data is collected we will need to sift through it to work out which articles of the CRPD/ Thematic Areas (e.g. Welfare Reform or Access) they correlate to.

Once that is done we will need to compile the data into a report which will need to be proof read by interested parties before being sent off.

What do we need to collect?

Statistics – Statistics can be used to clearly highlight disadvantage and discrimination (e.g. in employment, post 16 education, hate crime) which makes them invaluable. We need to be able to cite where all our statistics come from so we will need to find sources which can relate to the CRPD. These statistics also need to be as recent and up to date as possible from reputable sources. The Government has a duty to collect data about the areas covered by the CRPD, so any areas where data is missing (e.g. lack of cumulative impact assessments, lack of data on violence against disabled women) is also of interest.

Case Studies – Statistics often don’t really show the effect of disadvantage and discrimination on groups and individuals This is where case studies can become very useful. We need to collect any array of case studies from the media, groups and individuals to highlight the effects of the UK’s disability policies on a local, regional & national scale.

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