Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are to boycott a review set up by two of the big disability charities into one of the most controversial parts of the government’s welfare reform bill.
Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) and Mencap announced this week that they were launching a new “independent review” into how the mobility needs of people living in residential care are met and funded.
The review will provide recommendations to the coalition by the end of October, running in parallel with an “internal review” being carried out by the government. The charities’ review will also be used to brief peers as they debate the bill this autumn.
The bill currently gives the government powers to stop paying the mobility element of the new personal independence payment – which is set to replace disability living allowance – to people in state-funded residential homes.
But DPOs have raised concerns about the independence of the charities’ new review and have questioned why no user-led organisations were told about it or asked to take part.
The review will be led by the disabled crossbench peer Lord [Colin] Low, former chair of RNIB and now its vice-president and also president of Disability Alliance.
The members of the review’s “steering group” are a disabled resident of a Leonard Cheshire residential home, the governor of a special school, a local government expert, the director of a think-tank, and an expert in care provision.
Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said he was only told about the review this week and was “surprised that there is no DPO involvement on the steering group and DPOs have not been approached to be involved or to comment”.
He said DPOs would need to consider “very carefully” whether to take part and that it was “unlikely” that UKDPC would do so, although a final decision would be made by its trustees.
Dhani said he was concerned that the review could be used to promote the need for residential services rather than disabled people’s right to live in the community.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said he was “angry” with the decision to set up the review, which he said was “typical behaviour from two disability charities that are for disabled people, not of disabled people”.
He said the two charities had yet again “violated” the disability movement’s principle of “nothing about us without us”.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said NCIL would also not be taking part, while she was “struggling to see what this independent review will achieve other than to try and raise the profile of the two organisations involved”.
She said the important question was whether the minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, was “really listening” to the evidence already provided by the disabled people and DPOs she had talked to.
Guy Parckar, LCD’s acting director of policy, campaigns and communications, said: “If the DPOs are not happy with the process, there is absolutely something we should learn from that.
“We did set this up rather hurriedly to make sure we had long enough to get people involved. We did rather rush it.”
But he said he “cannot remember” when the decision was made to launch the review or how long Mencap and LCD had been discussing the idea.
He added: “We wanted to encourage people to get involved and contribute whatever evidence they had on this because they didn’t have the opportunity through the government’s internal review. There was no attempt to try and exclude anyone.”
He said the intention was for the review to be “independent”, which was why members of the steering group were “people who were directly involved in this particular issue, which obviously relates to residential care”.
Disability Alliance said the review would be “genuinely independent” and had been launched because of charities’ “dismay and frustration with the secrecy shrouding” the government’s internal review.
Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, said that disabled people and DPOs should “all be engaged and make sure the Low review is more robust, more evidence-based and delivers strong recommendations to the Department for Work and Pensions that cannot be ignored”.
21 July 2011