Is the Equalities and Human Rights Commission failing children?

In April, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s disability rights committee ceased being statutory, writes Chris Goodey. How effective will its newly advisory role be?

If it wants to assert itself, it can revisit a still unresolved dispute about mainstream schooling. In January 2014, according to Disability News Service, the EHRC endorsed the inclusive education clause in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But it then went on to say that for “some
children with very severe learning disabilities … this is neither possible nor appropriate” – a statement immediately challenged by disability activists.

Impossible? Since some children with whatever degree of difficulty are in some ordinary schools, it clearly is possible. When a school refuses a child, it is a case of won’t, not can’t: exactly the sort of structural discrimination the EHRC should be demolishing instead of actively defending.

And inappropriate? The UN’s criterion for having rights is not competence but ‘membership of the human family’. Logically, the EHRC seems to be saying
that some children are not really human at all.

Having repeatedly refused to retract, perhaps the committee’s current role – and the recent arrival of a new EHRC chair – makes it a good time to reconsider.