Diminishing opportunities for independent living, says report


newslatestDisabled people are experiencing “diminishing opportunities” for independent living under the coalition, according to a new report by one of the architects of the last government’s independent living strategy.

Dr Jenny Morris – who helped write Labour’s 2005 Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People white paper, and led the review which developed its 2008 Independent Living Strategy – said she believes that “for the first time in the history of modern social policy things are getting worse for disabled people”.

Her report – supported by In Control and Disability Rights UK – follows her meetings with other campaigners over the last year, aimed at discussing whether it was possible to “salvage anything from the Independent Living Strategy”, and how to campaign for a legal right to independent living.

The group is now working on a new vision for independent living, which is set to be published in the autumn.*

Labour’s Independent Living Strategy received all-party support and included a commitment to measure progress each year against a set of outcomes, and to consider legislation on independent living if enough progress was not made by 2013.

But the coalition made no attempt to assess progress in 2013 – instead producing its own Fulfilling Potential strategy – so Morris decided to do the job herself.

She looks in her report at outcomes such as choice and control; access to information and advice; employment; poverty; housing; and transport.

Her report says there has been “no evidence of significant progress in disabled people’s experiences of choice and control in their lives since 2008”, while there is evidence that people who need support in their daily lives are “experiencing diminishing opportunities to participate in family and community life”.

Morris also says that disabled people with high support needs are at “increasing risk of institutionalisation”, while the gap in the rate of employment between disabled and non-disabled people remains at 30 per cent, the same level as in 2010.

She says: “Unless there is a change of direction we are going to see more institutionalisation, more unemployment, more poverty, more prejudice and abuse.

“Opportunities for full citizenship amongst the current generations of disabled people are diminishing, and will only worsen for future generations unless urgent action is taken to reverse current trends.”

She concludes: “In these really difficult times, it is hoped that the evidence presented here can be used to alert government (national and local) that action is needed if we are not to see continuing serious reversals for independent living after decades of sometimes slow but positive improvement.”

The report was discussed at a Disability Rights UK independent living conference in London on Friday (18 July).

Among the themes that came up “again and again” from conference participants were the right to choose where you live; the need for “real accountability” of local authorities and commissioners; the need to move towards a “single pot of money for support”, including funding from social and health care, education and employment; the importance of universal design; calls for an end to segregation; and the need to enable disabled people to participate fully in society.

*To contribute to their discussions, email Disability Rights UK at: enquiries@disabilityrightsuk.org

24 July 2014