Lawyers and Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) have come together to find new ways of using the legal system to defend disabled people’s rights, inclusion and quality of life against public sector cuts.
The Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations Legal Network aims to identify and launch important test cases against public bodies, and raise awareness among DDPOs of how they can use the legal system to fight for their rights.
The network, which was launched this week, is a joint venture between Inclusion London and the Public Law Project, and will provide a way of sharing “strategically important” legal information among DDPOs and make it easier for them to link up with leading lawyers specialising in public law.
The launch meeting focused on possible social care legal cases, with several DDPOs suggesting areas to focus on, such as the quality of public consultations carried out by local authorities, the right to free care, care charges, and local authorities’ duties to commission services under the Autism Act.
The meeting came just a day before a landmark social care case was heard by the Supreme Court.
The case of KM, a disabled man with high support needs, against Cambridgeshire County Council, will clarify whether a council can take its own resources into account when assessing people’s needs.
If KM’s appeal is successful, every local authority in England and Wales will have to reconsider how it assesses the needs of disabled people.
It is the latest in a series of court cases taken against public bodies in the wake of the government’s spending cuts.
Last week, the UK Disabled People’s Council – which was represented at the network’s launch meeting – told Disability News Service that it and other organisations would probably be forced to take legal action against the government once the welfare reform bill becomes law, because the coalition was continuing to “ignore the potential threats to disabled people’s independent living”.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said hundreds of thousands of Deaf and disabled people were now going without “vital support”.
She pointed to the likely closure of the Independent Living Fund, the tightening of eligibility criteria, “downward pressure” on care packages, “massive increases in charges”, as well as cuts and closures of support services, many of which are run by DDPOs.
She said: “The purpose [of the network]is to bring DDPOs and lawyers together to make more effective use of the legal system so we can protect and uphold the quality of life, rights and inclusion of Deaf and disabled people.”
Lazard said she hoped to secure funding for the network to enable it to expand its work and make it easier to share information among members.
For information on the network, contact Lazard at Tracey.Lazard@inclusionlondon.co.uk or tel: 020 7237 3181.
For initial legal advice on public law issues, voluntary and community groups can contact Public Law Project’s advice line on 020 7697 2198, Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm, although this service is not available to the general public.
8 February 2012