AMs back proposal to enshrine disability rights in law

(Tile Image: Independent)

AMs unanimously backed a proposed backbench Member’s Bill from Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) to enshrine the UN Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons in Welsh law.

She said 26% of people in Wales have some form of disability and nearly 40% of them live in poverty compared to the national average of 22%. The UN has found that the UK is failing to live up to its responsibilities towards the disabled, particularly funding cuts and welfare reform in the midst of rising hate crimes against the disabled.

“I submit….that it is time to legislate to fully incorporate the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled persons into Welsh law. Incorporation would require the consideration of disabled people’s rights in all policy and legislation proposals brought forward by Welsh Ministers. It would raise the profile of disabled people’s rights across the Welsh Government and, indeed, across the whole public sector and the wider community in Wales.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) bemoaned the lack of progress already in light of “well-meaning legislation” – like the Social Services & Wellbeing Act 2014 – which has largely ignored clauses which require public authorities to engage with service users when designing services. He believes it was time to enshrine the rights of the disabled in law.

Replying on behalf of the Welsh Government, Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) said the government have “high regard” for the rights of the disabled.

“We are taking steps to promote the convention rights in Wales. Our new action on disability, the right to independent living framework and its accompanying action plan, which will be published for consultation later this month, will set out how the Welsh Government is taking forward the principles of the convention, taking account of the UN committee’s 2017 recommendations where appropriate.”
– Leader of the House, Julie James

The Welsh Government wouldn’t explicitly support a new law and were willing to explore opportunities to support the disabled, short of legislation. It was also said to be difficult to determine how human rights would be incorporated into UK law after Brexit.

“I’m very grateful also to the Leader of the House for suggesting that we meet to discuss how to take this forward, and I fully concur with what she has to say about the human rights landscape after Brexit: we simply do not know what that might look like. I fear that in terms of UK legislation we might see provisions weakened. That, of course, would be an argument for us to take stronger action here in Wales.”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

The approval doesn’t mean a law will actually be introduced, just support for the principle.

See also: Bridgend Coalition for Disabled People give evidence to the Petitions Committee in support of access certificates.

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