A leading disabled activist has told a parliamentary meeting of the need for a “new approach” to supporting disabled people that focuses on the promotion of independent living.
Bob Williams-Findlay, a former chair of the British Council of Disabled People and a director of Being the Boss, a user-led organisation which supports disabled people who employ PAs, told the meeting that the system of social support for disabled people “has not ever been fit for purpose”.
He said a new approach to supporting disabled people should draw upon both the last Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy and demands by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) for a new national independent living support service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support.
ROFA wants a legal right to independent living, and a national independent living service funded by general taxation and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.
The meeting was organised by the Reclaim Social Care (RSC) campaign, which itself was born from Health Campaigns Together, a coalition that brings together organisations fighting to defend the NHS.
RSC aims to develop a parallel campaign to Health Campaigns Together, for a “properly funded and publicly accountable” social care system.
RSC wants a universal social care service, free at the point of use to all who need it, fully funded through progressive taxation, and locally provided, locally accountable and designed as far as possible by service-users.
But Williams-Findlay (pictured) told the meeting that managing the RSC campaign would not be easy because there were groups and individuals who viewed the social care crisis from different perspectives or felt the need to champion specific groups.
It is believed that only two MPs attended the meeting – Labour’s Eleanor Smith and Rachael Maskell – and Williams-Findlay said afterwards that engaging MPs on the subject was “proving difficult”.
He told Disability News Service that ROFA’s plans were not about reshaping the “existing monster” but “a complete transformation” that would end the “neoliberal market-facing services and commodification of service-users”.
He said: “It’s hard to sense the support from mainstream campaigners for the kind of approach we are suggesting because of the diversity of opinion.
“Supporting the Reclaim Social Care campaign is challenging as many of the campaigners are from traditional health backgrounds or are carers; therefore, they are not coming from the perspective we advocate.”
He said the RSC campaign needed to “acknowledge that the majority of the public have no idea what ‘social care’ is and accept stereotyped views”.
He said the campaign should “try and educate everyone about the different reasons people have for requiring social support” and “how this shapes the type of service delivery that needs to be offered and the consequences involved”.
And he warned that simply “reclaiming or reinventing” social care was not good enough because “the current crisis means we’ve gone beyond seeking urgent reform, and therefore a full transformation of the system is required”.
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