Independent living inquiry: Welsh government ‘must sign up to independent living’


The Welsh government must join the rest of the UK and draw up its own national strategy for promoting independent living, a parliamentary committee has been told.

The joint committee on human rights was hearing evidence from disabled people’s organisations from Scotland and Wales as it began its inquiry into the implementation of disabled people’s right to independent living.

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Wales appears to be the only country in the UK that doesn’t have an over-arching strategy on independent living. We feel that is a huge loss for disabled people in Wales.”

She said the “stumbling block” was that the push for independent living in England tended to focus on the “personalisation” of services, which was seen by Welsh politicians as “privatisation by the back door”, with concerns over the dismantling of the welfare state and social services.

Davies said the debate in Wales was “about social care and not about rights” and although there were “pockets of good practice”, resources were not pooled and there was “no over-arching vision, no sense that disabled people have the right to live in their own homes”.

She said: “I hope the message is going back down the M4 that we urgently need to address this issue. What we want from the Welsh government is a right to independent living.”

Pam Duncan, policy officer for Independent Living in Scotland, said there was a “shared approach” to independent living between the disabled people’s movement, local authorities and the Scottish government.

But she said there were “some concerns about the shared understanding”, with “considerable patchy provision”, and doubts over whether this vision was shared by those working at lower levels of government.

She said disabled people had been the “hardest hit” in Scotland by the UK government’s spending cuts and welfare reforms, with the loss of public sector jobs, cuts to benefits and increasing charges for care services.

She said: “There is also a double whammy. We are facing it in our pockets but also facing it in our services.

“It is leaving disabled people very, very cash-strapped. The cumulative impact will be such that disabled people will not enjoy the right to family lives, the right to community living.”

She said there needed to be a national framework of entitlements to independent living, “seeing them as the human rights they are”.

25 May 2011