Disabled people in Wales are calling on the next Welsh government to introduce a legal right to independent living, as one of five major “calls to action” in a new manifesto.
The Disabled People’s Manifesto has been produced by Disability Wales, after months of consultations with disabled people and their organisations across the country.
It suggests an independent living bill modelled on the one proposed by the late Lord [Jack] Ashley in the House of Lords in 2006.
Such legislation would enable disabled people to have choice and control over how they live their lives; secure a good education and qualifications; access employment and develop social networks; look after their children and have a good family life; participate in community life; enjoy sport, arts, shopping or hobbies; and choose the support they need to do all of these things.
In a briefing on the new manifesto, Disability Wales says: “A duty on public bodies to protect disabled people’s right to independent living would help create a culture of collective responsibility, ensuring that relevant legislation and regulations [were] understood correctly, as well as making more effective use of resources.”
The manifesto also calls for the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the eradication of disability poverty in Wales by 2030; and for a new “determination” by political leaders to tackle disability hate crime.
And it calls for a commission of inquiry to be set up to examine how to enforce disabled people’s rights, equality and independence in Wales.
The manifesto was launched today (Thursday) at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, ahead of elections to the assembly on 5 May 2016.
Disability Wales hopes its manifesto will persuade political parties to demonstrate their “full commitment” to disabled voters in their own election manifestos next year.
Rhian Davies (pictured at the launch), chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Disabled people make up over 20 per cent of the population in Wales, which has a higher proportion of disabled people than other nations and most regions of the UK.
“Disabled people across Wales tell us that the lack of enforcement of their rights, together with the impact of UK government welfare reforms and cuts in public services, have led to a loss of independence and an increase in poverty.
“This has left many feeling isolated and fearful for the future.”
Davies added: “Political parties in Wales must recognise all five calls to action as vital to disabled people to truly experience their rights and equality in Wales and reflect these in their own manifesto commitments.
“The next Welsh government must continue to build an Enabling Wales [set out in the Welsh government’s Framework for Action on Independent Living] – a society where disabled children, young people and adults enjoy the right to independent living and social inclusion in a barrier-free environment, and are able to contribute fully to the social and economic success of the nation.”
Picture by Natasha Hirst Photography