Stronger portability laws ‘would be fitting tribute’ to disabled activist


theweeksubA campaigning peer has asked the government to honour the memory of a much-admired disabled activist by making crucial changes to its plans to introduce “portable” support packages through its new care bill.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell has fought for five years to persuade the government – both under Labour and the coalition – to introduce new laws that would ensure continuity of support for disabled people with care packages who move to new local authority areas.

During the latest session of the care bill’s Lords committee stage, Baroness Campbell told fellow peers that the need for “portability” was illustrated by the experience of her late friend Dave Morris.

Morris had moved house after being appointed as a senior policy adviser to the mayor of London.

But even though his new local authority had been given three months’ notice of the move, a support package had not been arranged by the time he moved in.

For the next five months, he had to rely on friends such as Baroness Campbell to pay for the personal assistants he needed for his 24-hour care, while the council argued over the details of his support package.

Baroness Campbell said: “He nearly lost his job and he could easily have ended up in hospital. He was a clever and articulate man—so what hope is there for those who are not?”

She said it was vital that the government ensured there was a “safety net” in place to provide continuity of support if the process was “not as seamless as it should be”.

She suggested in an amendment to the bill that the first local authority should continue to meet a disabled person’s needs until it was sure the second council had put its own arrangements in place.

She added: “It is too risky to assume that nothing will go wrong. Dave Morris’s story gives the lie to that.”

She also put down three other portability amendments: to ensure that the new local authority paid “due regard” – rather than just “regard” – to a disabled person’s existing care plan when it assessed them; that service-users should be kept informed on how their cases were progressing; and that the new local authority should aim to secure the same end result as the existing care plan.

She added: “I have done my homework and have consulted local authorities and service-users on this issue for nearly five years. Please let us honour Dave Morris’s memory by getting continuity of care just right.”

The disabled Labour peer Baroness Wilkins, who supported the amendments, praised Baroness Campbell’s “tenacity” in pursuing the issue of portability.

She said: “We all know that there is huge stress in moving home and, if you are a person in need of care, that stress is beyond words… it is a monumental risk.”

The Liberal Democrat peer Baronness Northover, for the government, argued that there “should not be a gap” when a disabled person moved from one council area to another, under its new plans, while there would be guidance for local authorities.

She said the government would clarify in guidance how someone should be kept informed about their new support package, and insisted that changes made to the bill would ensure that a disabled person would be “fully involved in the development of their care and support plan, and as such, can ensure that this continues to meet the outcomes they want to achieve”.

But Baroness Campbell said that “clarifying in guidance” did not yet reassure her and she was “still deeply concerned that the Dave Morris example will happen again and again”.

She said that she did not feel that there was yet an “adequate safety net allowing the disabled person and their carer to be confident that the bills will be paid on day one”.

Although she withdrew her amendments, she asked for the government to continue to work with her on the portability issue.

Meanwhile, the coalition has allocated more than £120 million to be used to build homes for disabled and older people across the country.

It is the first part of a £300 million fund that has been set aside to boost the supported housing market.

The Department of Health said it was issuing £92 million to the Homes and Communities Agency, which will work with 86 organisations to build 2,875 new homes across England, and £29 million to London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who will work with 35 agencies to build 669 homes in the capital.

25 July 2013