Independent living under threat

 

Some of the most vulnerable people in the UK will become worse off if Government proposals to reduce the number of people claiming disability benefit go ahead.

This week, (31 August), was the end of the UK Government’s Consultation on the assessment criteria for Personal Independence Payments (PIPS).  PIPs will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as part of the Welfare Reform Bill and the Government has already stated that it hopes to save £1.45bn per annum on DLA/PIP expenditure.  This can only realistically be achieved by reducing the number of people who can claim for the benefit.

Capability Scotland: Scotlands leading disability organisation, Support for disabled people and carers, influencing legislation

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2 Responses to “Independent living under threat”

  1. Kevin Says:

    In 2009 the UK Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Article 19 of the Convention (http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=279) concerns the right of disabled people to live independently in the community and requires government to put in place legal and practical measures to enable disabled people to exercise choice about where and with who they live and to overcome isolation through increased participation in community life. Clearly DLA/PIP as a key plank in the means by which the UK meets its obligations.

    Personal mobility is not an end in itself. It is the means to a wide number of other ends. Having control over one’s own mobility is not simply about visiting family and friends. It’s about being in control, being spontaneous and free. Its about coming and going as one pleases. It’s about pursuing a life rather than just living. Its about having the flexibility to go to work, to go for a drink after work and to stay out all night if you want to. It’s about liberation. It’s why young people aspire to own a car. It’s why Thelma and Louise was such a popular film.

    It’s also about being safe. Does government not recognise the relationship between power and what happened at Winterbourne View? Does it not understand that taking the power of free mobility away renders people vulnerable to abuse by dent of the simple fact that their tormentors know they cannot escape?

    Hence, if we look at the proposed reforms through the lens of the UNCRPD, then our question concerns the effect of any proposals on enjoyment of the rights set out in the Convention, to which the UK is bound in international law. In doing so we should look beyond Article 19 at the effect on the enjoyment of other rights, whether general principles such as the right to dignity, autonomy and to full participation and inclusion in society or specific articles including freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse, personal mobility, access to education, health and employment, adequate standard of living and social protection and participation in cultural life, leisure and sport.

    Those living in residential care generally face the greatest barriers with respect to the enjoyment of such basic freedoms by virtue of the fact that the support they require for daily living itself lacks mobility, is located in one place, behind closed doors and very often without the means to access the outside world freely.

    Hence, justice dictates that those living in such situations have the greatest case to receive the support they need to overcome such barriers and to redress the lack of power they face.

    This point is not simply a matter of having the means, it goes to the heart of how one accesses the means. Replacing a nationally defined entitlement to the mobility component of DLA for those living in residential care homes with a 21st Century form of Parish Relief can only be considered retrogressive. Mobility without choice and control is a dead end, not the means to the end it should be to accord with the rights set out in the UNCRPD.

    Further, it is unclear how the government proposes to square its commitment to localism with a guarantee that disabled people living in residential care homes will receive mobility support from their local authority, especially when all evidence indicates that local services will soon resemble a skeleton at best. And if such a guarantee can be given, then why does it matter where the money comes from? Surely the (not negligible) costs of reform are then avoidable?

    A key principle of international human rights law is non-regression. This does not mean that the UNCRPD prevents government from reforming public policy – indeed their may be aspects of the PIP proposals which accord more closely with the UNCRPD than the present DLA. And at a time of fiscal retrenchment such as now it also doesn’t prevent government reducing the amount it spends on particular programmes or benefits. What the UNCRPD does demand however is proportionality and transparency. Why is the proposed reform a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim? What impact will it have – both positive and negative – and what mitigations will be put in place in relation to any negative effects?

    The Low review has been launched precisely because the government has failed these tests. Hopefully the review itself can draw on the Convention as a key point of reference in its deliberations.

    http://lowreview.org.uk/#comments

  2. Anon Says:

    Two useful & informative links http://www.justice.gov.uk/lawcommission/publications/1460.htm and http://www.dilnotcommission.dh.gov.uk/our-report/

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