Disabled activists have said they are “very frightened” by council plans that could force people who rely on social care into residential homes against their wishes, and which they believe breach equality and human rights laws.
Bristol City Council this week blamed cost pressures, reduced government funding and increased demand for social care for its proposed Fair and Affordable Care Policy.
The policy, which is now out for public consultation, would allow the council to force a disabled person into a residential or nursing home if “a care package to remain at home would substantially exceed the affordability of residential care”.
It also warns that exceptions to the policy “are likely to be rare” although “each person’s situation will be looked at individually”.
The policy says that if the council and disabled person cannot reach agreement, the service-user could be offered a direct payment “up to” the amount of a residential care package but would then be expected to meet the rest of their needs themselves.
The council claimed it was taking “pre-emptive measures” to ensure it met its duty to have “sufficient resources to meet the needs of all persons who require care and support in its area”.
In its equality impact assessment of the proposals, the council admits: “Applying this policy could therefore have an impact on some citizens with protected characteristics who previously may have had their care and support needs met in a different or less cost-effective way.”
It also admits that the policy “could have an impact on the percentage of individuals who receive care in their own home and an increase in number of older people who are accommodated in residential or nursing care”.
The consultation was launched this week and closes on 30 October.
Campaigners warned earlier this year that a draft version of the policy could have “catastrophic implications for disabled people’s independence”.
There were concerns then that the policy could breach the Care Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The version put out this week for consultation has not changed substantially.
The grassroots disabled people’s organisation Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL), which first raised concerns about the draft document with Disability News Service (DNS), said this week that it was “very frightened” by the policy paper.
A BRIL spokesperson said: “Our message to disabled people throughout the country is if Bristol bring this policy in, your area may be next.”
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) has written to the Labour mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, and the leader of the council’s Green group – the largest political grouping on the council – to express its “deep concern” about the policy.
Kamran Mallick, DR UK’s chief executive, says in the two letters: “It is absolutely unacceptable that the draft policy talks about overriding the option to receive care and support in the home if the council decides this would not be ‘cost-effective’.
“We understand that in the round, councils need to have regard to their wider obligations to the public.
“However, at no point should this strategic consideration mean that individual Disabled citizens are refused care and support at home because it is more expensive than residential accommodation.”
He says the policy is incompatible with the Care Act and is “nowhere near strong enough in setting out the council’s Care Act duties to promote well-being, provide person-centred support and meet eligible needs”.
He adds: “We see no way to make this policy workable and would ask that it is withdrawn.”
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “The Fair and Affordable Care Policy is currently out for public consultation until 30 October 2023.
“This proposed policy was co-developed with the Bristol City Council Adult Social Care Equalities Forum, which includes representation from disability advocacy groups, and people who draw on care and support, as well as a number of third sector organisations across the city.
“We will consider all the comments and feedback received during the consultation period before any decisions are made and would encourage people to share their views with us here: www.ask.bristol.gov.uk/fair-and-affordable-care-policy-consultation.”
In its equality impact assessment of the policy, the council describes the meetings of its equalities forum that “co-developed” its proposals.
As a result of those meetings, and other engagement work, including with local disabled people’s organisations, the council said it had “expanded and amended some of the wording of the policy to make it more accessible” and now plans to “add some other examples of what best value might look like”.
Picture: City Hall Bristol
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