Independent living inquiry: Baroness Campbell says government must act


The government must act quickly to avoid destroying disabled people’s hard-earned right to independent living, according to the disabled peer who has played a key role in a year-long parliamentary inquiry.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell was the member of the joint committee on human rights who suggested that it should hold an inquiry into disabled people’s right to independent living.

Under article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UK government must take steps to ensure disabled people have an “equal right” to “live in the community with choices equal to others”.

But the committee’s report, published this week, says these rights are being put at risk by the government’s welfare reforms and cuts to disability benefits and services, with little evidence that it has been taking article 19 into consideration when drawing up its plans.

Baroness Campbell, herself a founding member of the National Centre for Independent Living, said the coalition could avoid this risk if the committee’s recommendations were “taken on board quickly and seriously”.

She told Disability News Service the committee believed that if the government acted now “we can avert the loss of all we have gained in this country in terms of getting disabled people out in the community, contributing and taking control of their lives”.

She said the report “simply, clearly illustrates why our progress on independent living in the UK, that has been so instrumental in taking disabled people from passive recipients of care, to active contributing citizens, has run into trouble”.

She said: “Disabled people who gave evidence to us expressed real fears about the future.

“People who live in their own homes and hold down jobs fear having to give up work and move into residential institutions. Couples fear that they will be forced to live apart because they will lose the support that enables them to live together.”

But she said the committee had been keen not to “hector” the government and instead wanted its report to show “what the government, and all those involved with supporting disabled people to live, can do about it”.

Baroness Campbell called on disabled people to take the report and push it “everywhere and anywhere”, in an effort to convince the government to accept its recommendations.

Baroness Campbell has played a key role in the inquiry, offering suggestions for potential witnesses, key pieces of research and experts able to brief committee members on article 19.

She added: “I think I also helped the committee to understand the complexity of what it means to enjoy independent living in the same way that the rest of the community take for granted.”

1 March 2012