Baroness [Jane] Campbell said she and fellow campaigners had “made a little history” after the government agreed to make key changes to its new care bill, alterations that should finally provide true “portability”.
The government had already agreed to introduce portable support packages in the bill, to make it easier for disabled people who wanted to move to a new local authority area.
But Baroness Campbell and others had argued that these plans would not provide true portability, and they continued to push for improvements to the legislation, to bring it closer to measures laid out in her own private member’s bill.
Speaking after the government agreed to the changes, the crossbench peer told Disability News Service (DNS): “Maybe disabled people will soon feel free to venture beyond the local authority boundary to seek out their dreams or personal goals.”
She had earlier told the House of Lords: “It is a basic human right to move freely within one’s country, whether to pursue education or employment opportunities, to improve one’s family life or to seek personal support.”
She said she wanted the care bill to ensure – as nearly as possible – that a disabled person who moved to a new local authority area could secure “equivalence of outcomes” with their new care package, or the ability to do “the same kinds of things in their day-to-day life as they currently do”.
And she said she also wanted there to be a “safe and seamless transition” in the move from one authority to another.
The government agreed to put its weight behind an amendment Baroness Campbell put forward on equivalence of outcomes.
But instead of backing a second amendment on seamless transitions, the government suggested an alternative change that would mean the first council had to stay in touch with the second council – and the disabled person – until the move had taken place.
Baroness Campbell said: “While this is not the solution I favour, I recognise that it will help to strengthen the process by bolstering the degree of collaboration and coordination between the authorities.
“That would go a long way towards reducing the risk of an interruption in care and support. It would also reassure and empower the person moving.”
Although she was not able to persuade the government to extend this contact between the two councils until the new care package was actually in place, she did secure the promise of a review of the new portability arrangements after three years.
She said: “Moving house is one of the most stressful days of your life. Let us give disabled people the confidence to move and, hopefully, improve their circumstances.
“To do that, they require three things: first, knowing that support is there; secondly, the knowledge about the process to reassure them during a time of potential anxiety; and, thirdly, the certainty that they can live their lives in the same way with the same outcomes in their new environment.”
She added: “If we get this right, I will feel free to chase my dream of moving to the Cornish coast when I eventually retire, which will not be yet.
“Do not forget, we were tied to our local authorities since time began and this is the first time that disabled people will have the right to freedom of movement if they require support.”
The Labour whip Baroness Wheeler said that Baroness Campbell’s “tenacity and determination will mean that many people will now be able to make the move to different parts of the country, to be closer to their families or to care and support that they have not previously been able even to contemplate”.
Earl Howe, the Conservative junior health minister, said that Baroness Campbell’s private member’s bill on portability had been “a template for the provisions in this bill”.
Baroness Campbell told DNS after the vote that she felt “huge relief” after spending five years lobbying both the Labour and coalition governments on portability.
She said the new measures were “not as watertight as I had hoped” but that “we will have achieved portability – freedom of movement for those with care and support packages”.
And she praised other campaigners who have worked on the campaign, all of whom felt “a great sense of achievement”, including lawyer Jenny White, social care and local government expert Don Brand, Marije Davidson and Agnes Fletcher from Disability Rights UK, and Jon Glasby, a health and social care professor at Birmingham University.
17 October 2013