A local authority’s draft care policy could have “catastrophic” implications for disabled people and see them forced into residential homes against their will, disabled activists have warned.
Bristol City Council (BCC) has released a draft version of a new Fair and Affordable Care Policy, which says disabled and older people could be pushed into residential care instead of receiving support in their own homes if that is “better value to BCC”.
The draft policy states: “We wish to make it clear that this policy will be invoked particularly where an option is available that represents better value to BCC than providing you with the necessary level of care in your own home.”
It suggests that the council “will usually look to choose the option which delivers the outcomes desired for the best value” and that exceptions to this rule will be “rare”.
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 such a policy could have “catastrophic implications for disabled people’s independence”.
BRIL said this “could see people placed in institutions rather than live independently in their own homes, something the disabled people’s movement has been fighting against for over 40 years”.
BRIL accused the council of “duplicity” and the “marginalisation of disabled people”, and it also highlighted the lack of consultation.
BRIL founder Mark Williams told DNS the document was “very alarming”.
He said: “It’s terrifying for people that they could be pushed out of their homes. We are very worried.”
He said the move breached disabled people’s right to independent living under article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and he added: “We will fight it all the way.”
The Bristol City Council document is based on an existing policy drawn up by Devon County Council, which dates back several years.
The Devon policy is even more explicit than the Bristol version, and says: “We will identify the best value support plan that can be delivered to meet your eligible needs.
“This could include where a residential care service can meet your needs at a lower cost than the cost of care and support that would enable you to remain in your own home.”
Four years ago, there was outrage among independent living campaigners when Barnet council in north London produced a similar policy, which stated that it would “no longer prioritise offering community-based care and will instead adopt an assumption that disabled people are placed in cheaper accommodation settings”.
WECIL (West of England Centre for Inclusive Living), which is based in Bristol, said it was also “very concerned” about BCC’s draft policy.
Alex Johnston, WECIL’s head of commercial and social enterprise, said: “All our disabled staff, trustees and staff who are working to support disabled people with independent living, we all feel the same way about this policy.
“We are frightened about what this could mean for the independence of our community.”
He questioned whether the policy would comply with the Care Act and the Human Rights Act.
He said: “We understand the limited financial resources of our local council; it is a national problem kicked down from national government for local councils to try and solve.
“But we constantly see that disabled people are the one group whose rights are viewed through the lens of affordability.”
He said the policy could have a “dramatic impact on disabled people, taking away choice and control over how their care needs are met.
“It is a set back to the independent living movement, particularly if disabled people will be forced into residential care, if this is determined to be the ‘best value’ option.”
Bristol City Council was contacted last Friday (17 February) about the draft policy and had still refused to comment by noon today (23 February).
Among the questions it has refused to answer are whether it is concerned about the idea of disabled and older people being forced into residential care against their will; whether it has any estimates of how many disabled and older people are likely to be forced into residential care against their will every year because of the policy; whether it accepts that the policy might breach the Care Act; and whether it has carried out an equality impact assessment of the draft policy.
Devon County Council had also failed to comment by noon today.
Picture: City Hall, Bristol
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…