Labour conference: Labour peer will fight for portability


A senior Labour peer has pledged to fight for the rights of disabled people to move to different parts of the country and take their packages of support with them.

Baroness Thornton, Labour’s shadow health and social care minister in the Lords, promised to push for “portability” of support at the “earliest possible opportunity”.

She told a fringe event at the Labour conference in Manchester that portability was “so important”, particularly for disabled people at university and those moving jobs.

She said: “It seems to me it is a fundamental right for young disabled people – all disabled people – that they should be able to move to another part of the country and take their package with them without having to start again with their assessment.”

Disabled activists – such as the crossbench disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell – have long argued for a right to portability, as disabled people currently have to go through a new assessment of their support needs every time they move to a new local authority area.

Baroness Thornton said it was Baroness Campbell who had persuaded her of the need for portability, which was to be introduced as part of Labour’s Personal Care at Home Act until the coalition government said it would not allow the legislation to come into force.

Rupy Kaur, disabled students officer of the National Union of Students, said the assessment process for being funded to live independently in university halls was “extremely difficult” and that many young disabled students who need support “feel that their voices are often neglected”.

She pointed to a new NUS report on the experiences of disabled students who need personal care. Among its recommendations, it calls for a national advocacy service to help disabled students take advantage of the services available.

The report, Life, Not Numbers, also calls for portability of support between a student’s home authority and where they attend university, and improved information and advice.

Kaur added: “It is not a luxury to be fed or being able to use the toilet. It is a necessity.”

Richard Currie, a member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People and a Labour party member, told the event that he believed there was a “disconnect” between national policies and the work of social workers, who failed to understand personalisation and put it into practice.

28 September 2010

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