Welsh government’s independent living plans ‘could boost disability movement’


New Welsh government plans to promote independent living could provide a significant boost to the disability movement in Wales, according to the country’s leading disabled people’s organisation (DPO).

Equalities minister Jane Hutt today (Thursday) launched a consultation on the Framework for Action on Independent Living for Disabled People.

The launch took place on the 40th anniversary of a letter appearing in the Guardian from the disabled activist Paul Hunt, which led to the founding of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, and was a defining moment in the history of the UK disability movement.

Now Disability Wales (DW), which played a major part in the development of the new framework, is hoping it will lead to an expansion of the movement in Wales.

A DW independent living campaign led to its Manifesto for Independent Living in 2011, which identified six priorities: information, advice and advocacy; accessible housing; personalised support; person-centred technology; accessible transport; and access to the social, economic and cultural life of Wales.

Rhian Davies, DW’s chief executive, said they were pleased the government had used the manifesto – and these priorities – as the basis for its new framework, although she had not yet examined the document in detail.

Davies said: “It is the first over-arching strategy we have had in Wales which has looked at all disabled people as a whole, and it is very much based on the social model [of disability]and the UN Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities].”

But she said the “key challenge” was ensuring that the “cross-departmental approach based on equality and human rights” of the national strategy was reflected at local level, where most services for disabled people were delivered.

She said it was vital that local DPOs were able to influence the strategic equality plans of local public bodies and hold those organisations to account.

A key section of the document calls for more and stronger DPOs, and Davies said she hoped this would provide “a real opportunity for those to grow and develop in Wales”, where the disability movement had never flourished as it had in other parts of the UK.

The consultation launch took place at the DEWIS Centre for Independent Living (CIL) in Pontypridd, one of the few Welsh CILs.

Hutt, the Labour minister for finance, and Gwenda Thomas, the Labour deputy minister for children and social services, said that the impacts of the UK government’s welfare reform agenda on disabled people had “strengthened the case for this framework”.

Thomas said the framework was “a major cultural and policy shift in support of the social model of disability”, and that it recognised disabled people’s right “to self-determine their lives and increase their independence”.

20 September 2012