EHRC report says disabled treated like ‘second-class citizens’

Published Date
Bobby Ancil
Sulaiman is in bed using his laptop

A new report released yesterday by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that despite new legal protections, 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act disabled people are facing more barriers to an equal life.

The report compiles research in 6 key areas of life:

  • Education
  • Work
  • Standard of living
  • Health and care
  • Justice and detention
  • Participation and identity

The research found that disabled people were facing barriers and falling behind in every aspect of these key areas of life.

David Isaac, Chair of the Commission, commenting on the damning and shocking new state of the nation report into life for disabled people, said:

Whilst at face value we have travelled far, in reality disabled people are being left behind in society, their life chances remain very poor, and public attitudes have changed very little.

This evidence can no longer be ignored. Now is the time for a new national focus on the rights of the thirteen million disabled people who live in Britain. They must have the same rights, opportunities and respect as other citizens.

We must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society. We cannot, and must not, allow the next twenty years to be a repeat of the past.


They found that young disabled people aged 16-18 were at least twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to not be in education, employment or training.  Perhaps most shockingly, almost three times more disabled people had no qualifications compared to their non-disabled peers.  While fewer disabled people have degrees than non-disabled people, 60% of disabled people with a degree had a job within 6 months, compared to 65% of non-disabled people.

In our University Challenge report, we found that disabled people face many barriers to accessing higher education, including difficulties with care packages and access to lecture theatres.  We believe that being able to go to university to pursue a degree, live independently and enjoy all the thrills of becoming a young adult should be an equal, easily available opportunity for those who wish to do so.


35% of non-disabled people got into employment through the Governments’ Work Programme, compared to 18% of disabled people.  Less than half of disabled adults are in employment compared with almost 80% of non-disabled adults, and this gap has widened since 2010.  Shockingly, the report also found that the disability pay gap – the difference in pay for work between disabled and non-disabled people – is continuing to widen.  Average hourly earnings for disabled people is £9.85 compared to £11.41 for non-disabled people.  Disabled young people aged 16-24 and disabled women had the lowest average hourly earnings.

In our Right to Work report, we found that 1 in 7 disabled graduates, with an average age of 26, have never been in paid employment.  We know that disabled people offer employers a unique set of skills, and they should be in equally paid employment.  More must be done to reduce the employment gap and the disability pay gap.

Standard of living

The report found that more disabled people than their non-disabled peers are living in poverty or are materially deprived.  Perhaps most chilling is that almost 20% of disabled people aged 16-64 were found to be in food poverty compared to just 7.5% of non-disabled people.  In England and Wales, at least 47% of housing benefit claimants affected by the bedroom tax have a disability.  They also found that of councils in England with a housing plan, less than 17% have set out a strategy to increase the availability of accessible homes for disabled people.

In our Locked Out report, we found that disabled people were unaware of the help available to them, while a lack of information from estate agents, local authorities or other providers has prevented or deterred half of this group of young disabled people from living independently.

Health and Care

Disabled people were found to be more likely to experience health inequality, major health conditions and are likely to die younger than non-disabled people.  The EHRC found it difficult to assess the extent of health inequalities experienced by disabled people.  However, they did find that disabled people were more likely to report a negative experience in accessing health and care services.

Justice and detention

The EHRC research found that disabled people in Britain are more likely to have experienced crime than non-disabled people.  Disability hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales increased by 44% in 2015/16 on the previous year, which could indicate improving reporting and recording of these crimes.  However, a joint inspection from a coalition of justice service inspectors found that criminal justice agencies do not always understand the forms disability hate crime can take, and that more needs to be done to understand how disabled people experience hate crime.  In Scotland in 2014/15, crimes reported with disability as a motivation for the crime increased by 20% on the previous year, and 86% of these went to court.  The EHRC also found that across the UK, there has been a 54% drop in employment tribunal cases on grounds of disability discrimination.

In our Under Investigation report, we found that 8 out of ten young disabled people have been harassed, humiliated or embarrassed by a person’s attitude to them being a disabled person.  We also found that 62% they have or may have been a victim of a hate crime.

Participation and Identity

The EHRC say that disabled people continue to face barriers in exercising their right to vote, and are under-represented in political office and public appointments.  We support and back the EHRC call for the commencement and implementation of section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, which will require political parties to publish diversity data about their candidates.  45.3% of disabled people reported difficulties accessing services in health, benefits, tax, culture, sport and leisure compared to 31.7% for non-disabled people.

In response to the report, Trailblazers Manager Lauren West said:

We are shocked and saddened to hear that despite the changes to law in the UK, disabled people are still so disadvantaged in every area of their life.

Through our work at Trailblazers we hear of the difficulties faced by young disabled people, whether it be struggling to get a job interview, difficulties in arranging the appropriate care packages so that they can move away to university or being able to enjoy a night out with family and friends.

We know that progress has been made in some areas, and more needs to be made in others.  We call on all agencies involved to work with groups of disabled people, like Trailblazers, so that we can work together to ensure that the next 20 years move us forward, towards an integrated, inclusive society for all.

Are you passionate about making things better for young disabled people in the UK?  Join Trailblazers today!  For more information about our work, get in touch at

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