The United Nations has launched an investigation into whether changes to the British benefits system have violated disabled people’s human rights.
It emerged last week that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was examining whether the changes had breached international law.
The unprecedented inquiry is in response to radical reforms, led by the Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
The investigation has come under fire from Conservative backbenchers, who believe the UN is interfering in domestic policy without justification.
Tory MP Michael Ellis said: “At a time when there are grave international crises around the world and when in dozens of countries around the world there are no benefits available, this absurd decision is made to attack our country which rightly does more than almost any other to protect the rights of disadvantaged people from all walks of life.”
However, others are likely to welcome the intervention, having already expressed concern about the impact of sweeping welfare forms.
Just a couple of months ago a report by Just Fair – a consortium of 80 national charities – warned that the changes were causing disabled people serious hardship.
Aoife Nolan, professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham and a trustee of Just Fair, said that the policies had sparked considerable anxiety.
While the committee has not been drawn on the details of the investigation, if it finds reliable evidence that human rights violations have occurred, it has the power to progress to a formal probe.