People with learning disabilities need positive public duty

The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for public authorities to have a public duty to promote human rights, after its inquiry found people with learning disabilities still face high levels of discrimination despite legislation.

It found that the children of parents with learning disabilities were more likely to be taken into care, inmates with learning disabilities were less likely to secure equal access to parole and voting rights were under utilised.

Kick start
The committee urged the government to introduce a positive human rights duty to “help kick-start a change of attitude” and “encourage individual authorities to take a more proactive approach”.

The inquiry’s report, published today, revealed that the human rights of people with learning disabilities were being generally neglected despite the Disability Equality Duty, the Disability Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act being in place.

MP Andrew Dismore, chair of the committee, said: “It is extremely depressing to see, 10 years after the introduction of the Human Rights Act, the way people with learning disabilities are treated when using our services. There is a real gap between the government’s policy and everyday experiences.”

Weak monitoring
The committee raised particular concerns over the government’s search for levers to ensure that local authorities and government departments ensure the human rights of people with learning disabilities are respected.

It also criticised proposals for monitoring progress in Valuing People Now, the revised learning disability paper, as being “particularly weak” and lacking “precision”.

Partnership boards
The committee urged the Department of Health to increase the responsibilities of Learning Disability Partnership Boards to ensure that public authorities abide by binding duties, set out in the Disability Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act.

Boards would have to report to the DH annually with data on the number of children taken into care, the number of services commissioned to support parents, and the number of parents supported by community teams.

More information

Joint Committee on Human Rights

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