A council has been told by disabled campaigners that a “discriminatory” draft policy that could force people with high support needs into residential care is “fundamentally flawed” and “rides roughshod” over its obligations under the Care Act.
The grassroots group Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) has told Bristol City Council (BCC) that its draft Fair and Affordable Care Policy breaches the Care Act, the Human Rights Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The council’s own figures suggest that 162 disabled people in the city have home care packages that cost more than a care home placement and so could be at risk of being forced to move into residential care if the policy is implemented, says BRIL.
In its response to a council consultation, which closed this week, BRIL says the policy is “fundamentally flawed, likely unlawful, and would cause misery to many disabled people and their family and friends in Bristol”.
It says that many disabled people have experienced “significant worry and distress” since BCC published its draft policy last year, when Disability News Service first reported BRIL’s concerns.
The council is Labour-run under a Labour mayor, although the Green party has the most seats.
The latest version of the draft policy (PDF) says that disabled people could be offered a “residential or nursing home placement” if “a care package to remain at home would substantially exceed the affordability of residential care”, and it warns that “exceptions” to this policy “are likely to be rare”.
If no agreement is reached with the disabled person, the council will only offer funding for direct payments up to the cost of the residential care option, with the disabled person needing to make up the difference themselves to cover the rest of the support they need to continue living independently at home.
In its response, BRIL dismisses the council’s claim that its policy was co-produced with disabled people, and it says there is “deep concern” about the implications of the policy across the country.
It accuses the council of “discriminatory” behaviour by suggesting that “a small number of people receiving care above the cheapest option is unfair on the majority”.
It questions how meaningful the consultation process has been, pointing to the lack of alternative policies and flaws in the easy read version of the document.
It also accuses the council of “selectively quoting” statutory guidance.
And it calls for the draft policy to be withdrawn and for a “fundamental review of the way the Council assesses needs and allocates resources”.
BRIL also includes comments made by disabled people from Bristol and across England who took part in an online meeting earlier this month.
BRIL members told the meeting they were “very worried that putting what Bristol City Council is calling cost-effectiveness above what people actually need will have a major impact on the independence and quality of life of thousands of Disabled people”.
The meeting also heard that the policy would “set independent living for Disabled people back 40 years”, while autistic people and people with learning difficulties living at home and in the community “could be put at serious risk of harm and trauma”, and the policy could also harm disabled people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act.
BRIL’s response to the consultation includes a legal position based on advice from barristers at Doughty Street Chambers, Oliver Lewis and Alice Irving, who have acted pro bono.
They conclude that the council’s draft policy fails to comply with its public sector equality duty, under the Equality Act, is incompatible with CRPD’s article 19 – on the right to independent living – and “rides roughshod” over its obligations under the Care Act.
Bristol City Council had not commented on the BRIL response by noon today (Thursday).
Picture: City Hall, Bristol
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