Portability ‘breakthrough’ delights campaigners


Delighted campaigners have hailed a “breakthrough” in the battle for disabled people to be able to bring their support packages with them when they move to a different part of the country.

The breakthrough on “portability” came during the committee stage of the government’s personal care at home bill in the House of Lords.

The bill would provide free personal care at home for an estimated 280, 000 disabled and older people with the highest needs from this October (although this figure includes 170, 000 people who already receive free personal care).

Baroness [Jane] Campbell introduced an amendment – backed by RADAR and the Equality and Human Rights Commission – that would make the new care entitlement “portable” if a disabled person moved to a new area.

She said: “People who qualify for free personal care in one local authority area would be entitled to move to another in the certainty that they would continue to receive that free care without anxiety, disruption or delay.”

The new local authority would assume funding responsibility for their free personal care for a “transitional period” until a new assessment could be carried out.

Baroness Campbell told peers that “social care portability” was “fundamental to the basic human rights of disabled and older people” and many disabled people she knew were “too terrified to move for fear of their support falling apart”.

She said: “If they do move, they face huge stress and hardship as they struggle to renegotiate vital care and support.”

Baroness Campbell said such a “momentous opportunity” to “make a start on portability” would “send a strong message of hope to thousands of disabled and older people in England that they may move without fear of reprisals”.

Baroness Thornton, for the government, agreed that – instead of Baroness Campbell’s amendment – the transitional entitlement would be included in the bill’s regulations.

Baroness Campbell withdrew her amendment and said she would meet with the government to discuss their proposals in more detail.

The bill’s committee stage is due to continue on 1 March.

Caroline Ellis, joint deputy chief executive of RADAR, described the proposals as “a real breakthrough in our long campaign for portable support packages”.

And she said RADAR would campaign after the election to extend portability to all disabled people who qualified for social care support.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said his party would use the money the government plans to spend on the personal care at home bill to help pay for a week’s respite every year to the one million carers who provide more than 50 hours of care a week.

Ellis described Clegg’s plans as “a sticking plaster” and said she would be concerned if resources were transferred from disabled and older people to carers.

She said: “The resources need to be in the hands of disabled people, so you wouldn’t have people caring for 50 hours or more unless it was what disabled people had chosen.

“It’s a sticking plaster rather than addressing the fundamentals.”

23 February 2010