Making the right to live independently in the community a reality – a new way forward?

Disabled people in the UK have a right to live independently and to be included in the community.  The government has an obligation to make that right a reality.

Sadly, while we have seen glimpses of good practice and some positive developments, progress overall in England appears to have stalled since the 2008 Independent Living Strategy, as Jenny Morris sets out in this new report Independent Living Strategy- A review of progress (which is also available in Word).

A recent report from the organisation Just Fair concludes that the UK is in breach of its legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of disabled people to live independently and to be included in the community as a consequence of the cumulative impact of legislative reforms and spending cuts across a range of benefits and services.

The abject failure to achieve the post Winterbourne view target of a drastic reduction in the number of people with a learning disability in hospital style settings and the 107 Days campaign following the death of Connor Sparrowhawk in one such unit in Oxfordshire in July 2013 have highlighted how institutionalisation very much continues to blight the UK’s ‘care’ landscape for some groups of disabled people. At least 35000 people with a learning disability live in local authority-commissioned residential care.

Over the past year a loose group of people and organisations have begun to discuss ideas about how to restart and move the independent living agenda forward in England.  We know we are not alone – a hunger for real change is in the air.  Recent proposals from others such as those of Chris Hatton, Mark Neary and Simon Stevens offer exciting, radical but realisable ways to break free from the past while confronting the realities of ongoing public spending constraints.  We are aware that we do not have a monopoly on good ideas.  What we share is a belief that the significant resources still at our disposal could be used far more effectively and in a manner which actively promotes disabled people’s rights.

In setting out the ideas below we do not claim to represent the views of disabled people. What we share here are ideas for discussion and development with disabled people and their allies.  We hope to open up a dialogue for how things could be changed for the better and in keeping with the mission of this blog to ‘make hope possible rather than despair convincing.’

We believe we need to build on some important innovations, such as direct payments, personal budgets, disabled people’s user led organisations and self-advocacy. We also believe that we need to learn from what hasn’t worked as well, or from the barriers that good ideas have experienced during implementation.  For example, that different statutory bodies appear only to cooperate where mandated to do so by law, that too many personal budgets are managed by local authorities and often fail to deliver greater choice and control to individuals as a consequence, that where people do take a direct payment local authorities place far too many restrictions on how it can be used, or that some people have not been able to secure the assistance they require to take advantage of the opportunities such developments offer.  We also felt it important to look beyond the ideas and approaches that have dominated the independent living agenda over the last decade.  In particular, we believe it is important not just to look at support for individuals but also at how to build inclusive communities, connecting people together to build supportive relationships.

We have decided to propose a ‘big idea’ for discussion which we believe builds on success, while addressing some of the gaps and shortcomings that have emerged in our approach to independent living.   We are sharing this idea for discussion

We have called this the ‘Access to Living Scheme’, which is set out in the following slides:

You can leave your comments on the proposals below, or use the contact form to send them in private should you prefer.  We will also be presenting the idea at the forthcoming Independent Living Conference on 18 July and would be happy to come and do so at other events if people are interested.

We look forward to developing the idea with you.

Best wishes, Neil Crowther on behalf of the Independent Living Strategy Group.

 

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