UN Calls for Transformation of Services

UN Special Rapporteur calls for a transformation of disability support services in order to protect human rights.

News | 15.02.23

The United Nations has published Transformation of Services for Persons with Disabilities, a key report providing a critical international overview of the progress of national systems to support the rights of people with disabilities. The report's author is Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.

This is an important document and some of its main conclusions include:

“…the Special Rapporteur outlines how traditional service and support models often perpetuate dependency and lack of agency by focusing on impairments and considering persons with disabilities as passive recipients of care. This approach is at odds with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is grounded in personhood, autonomy and community inclusion.”

The 3 key principles that should guide policy-makers include the need for:

  1. A new paradigm based on human rights and the right to freedom for all
  2. New systems to support self-direction
  3. New services that respect the rights of people with disabilities

The report recognises that rights to support and self-direction are currently insufficiently advanced. The report reinforces the need for “devolved budgets (with support) to be granted to individuals and more to be done to broaden the range and types of services on offer.” It also points to the failure of typical procurement systems to shift power to people and develop the kinds of support people really need.

It was especially encouraging to see the report reference work by Citizen Network Fellow Jan Walmsley on the importance of belonging and the UNIC Project for which Citizen Network Research provides technical advice:

“The project of the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities entitled 'UNIC: Towards user-centred funding models for long- term care' shows much promise.”

The report also notes the importance of a key issue which has been a constant theme in the work of the SDS Network:

“Minimising the management burden is especially important to ensure that personalisation is available to all social groups.”

Another key issue the report highlights is the need to remove the poverty traps created by some systems of disability support. This problem occurs when means-testing is used to make disability support conditional upon poverty. The report also notes that some systems, for example Australia's NDIS, have successfully moved away from such means-testing.

The report also points to the central important of the family in the achievement of human rights and gender equality:

“…families had been taken for granted by States to make up for gaps in services, which had a disproportionate impact on women who typically took time out of the labour market to care for a family member with a disability, in turn potentially affecting their life goals and pension rights… States should recognise the intersection of gender in the service paradigm and the largely unpaid role that women and girls play, and create more equitable policies.”

The report calls for much more thoughtful debate on how best to integrate the rights of women, the family and of people with disabilities and the need to find progressive policies respectful of all perspectives.

The report titled: A/HRC/52/32: Transformation of services for persons with disabilities is available to read in multiple languages at:


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