Wales’s most disadvantaged groups of people are being left even further behind the rest of society, Britain’s equality body has warned in the largest ever report on the state of equality and human rights in Wales and across Britain.
The ‘Is Wales Fairer? (2018)’ report is the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s most comprehensive review of how we, as a country, are performing on equality and human rights. Looking across all areas of life, including education, work, living standards, health, justice and security, and participation in society, it provides a picture of people’s life chances in Wales today.
The report finds that recent progress for certain groups in some areas of life is being overshadowed by deepening inequalities faced by those including disabled people, ethnic minorities including Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, and children from poorer backgrounds. It also finds pervasive levels of violence against women that limits the lives of women and girls.
The Commission has warned that inequality risks becoming further entrenched for generations to come, unless urgent action is taken by the Welsh and UK Governments.
Ruth Coombs, Head of Wales at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“In particular, our report finds that disabled people are being denied the right to independent living. Gender stereotypes in education, barriers in employment and the prevalence of harassment and violence continue to limit life chances for women. Racially and religiously motivated hate crime is still prevalent in Wales.”
Disabled people in Wales
The report finds that disabled people are “falling further behind” In Wales, while gaps in educational attainment and employment for disabled people are widening rather than narrowing.
The report states: “One in five pupils with additional learning needs (ALN) will achieve five GCSEs at grade A*–C (including English or Welsh first language and mathematics), compared with two-thirds of pupils without ALN. There are also high exclusion rates for pupils with (ALN).
“Early disadvantage flows through into later life. As well as being seriously under-represented in apprenticeships, disabled people’s employment rates in Wales are less than half of those for non-disabled people. For people whose impairment means they are unable to work full-time, disability benefits are a lifeline, but benefit sanctions disproportionately affect disabled people, who have also been among the hardest hit by tax and welfare reforms since 2010. This has lowered many disabled people’s living standards even further, and they are more likely to be living in poverty.”
Findings around housing showed that “disabled people are demoralised and frustrated by the housing system and living in homes that do not meet their right to live independently. There is also a shortage in the number of accessible and adaptable homes available in Wales, as well as long delays in making existing homes accessible.”
Health and disabled people
The report raises major concerns about the health of disabled people in Wales. “Disabled people can experience serious deterioration in their mental wellbeing due to living in unsuitable accommodation. Nearly three times as many disabled people report poor mental health than non-disabled people. There is evidence that disabled people have poorer access to health services. For many deaf people and those with a hearing impairment, this can include difficulties in making initial contact with health services due to a lack of interpretation or communication support.”
The review has also found that “most people with learning disabilities are not receiving an annual health check.”
The EHRC report points to these factors as impacting on disabled people’s ability to participate fully in society, stating that “few disabled people are in positions of power in Wales,” while “closure of courts and inaccessible transport networks further restrict disabled people’s ability to participate.”
Recommendations to the Welsh Government, UK Government and others are included within the report. There are serious risks that inequality can become further entrenched for generations to come, unless urgent action is taken.
The report is available to download on the EHRC website.