Bill changes ‘will empower disabled people’


Changes to a government bill that should give disabled people more control over the support they receive from the state will deliver a real boost to their independence and inclusion in society, according to a disabled peer.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell was speaking during the Lords report stage of the welfare reform bill, which includes measures to create a “right to control” for disabled people.

Right to control (RTC) will put state funds from programmes such as access to work, the independent living funds and disabled students’ allowances into personal budgets – single pots of money – for disabled people to use as they wish.

RTC will be piloted by a small number of “trailblazing” councils, before the government decides whether to roll it out nationally.

But thanks to amendments proposed by Lord McKenzie, the junior work and pensions minister – following discussions this summer with Baroness Campbell and the disability charity RADAR – the pot of money will now also include funds from local authority care services.

And further government amendments, proposed by Baroness Crawley – again following discussions with Baroness Campbell and RADAR – mean disabled people will be more firmly at the centre of the RTC process.

Councils will have to tell a disabled person of their “right to control” and how much money is available for their support, and work with them to ensure their support plan “reflects their individual needs and ambitions”.

Baroness Campbell, who was praised for her role in helping draft the amendments, said RTC “has the potential to empower disabled people to become more active socially and economically by putting them in the driving seat of their support”.

She said: “There are hard times ahead for everyone who needs extra support to engage in their communities.

“More than ever, we need the right to control that support so that every penny is spent on what we know – what disabled people know – will make us independent and ready to take our part in society.”

She said both sets of amendments “take us towards that goal”, and she praised Lord McKenzie and his officials “for showing not only how co-production can be done, but actually genuinely doing it”.

The disabled peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, a Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman, said the amendments “herald a real shift in power from the state to disabled people and pave the way for the right to control to become the genuine one-stop empowerment shop that we all want it to be”.

The amendments were also backed by Lord Freud, for the Conservatives.

28 October 2009