Labour activists are pushing their party for a stronger commitment to plans drawn up by disabled people that would solve the social care crisis by setting up a co-produced National Independent Living Service (NILS).
A motion based on the NILS plans became party policy at last autumn’s Labour conference, but it was not included in Labour’s general election manifesto.
Keir Starmer told Disability News Service (DNS) in February, before he became party leader, that he supported the motion, which was based on a document – Independent Living for the Future – drawn up by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA).
This week, Fran Springfield and Kathy Bole (pictured, left and right, at a previous Labour conference), co-chairs of Disability Labour, took part in a policy debate on the future of social care as part of Labour’s online party conference.
But they told DNS afterwards that they were disappointed at the failure of Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft, to back the Independent Living for the Future document during the debate.
Although Foxcroft spoke of the need to listen to service-users, and give them the “opportunity to live decent independent lives”, she focused in the debate on care workers and their need for a “real national living wage”.
Springfield said afterwards: “I did hope for a stronger commitment from Vicky on NILS.
“This is a key issue for disabled people. It’s vital that it becomes a given for MPs and council leaders to support us on this, instead of just talking about a National Care Service.”
She said the right to independent living is a key part of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the party has pledged to implement into UK law.
Bole added: “I would have liked that Vicky would have fleshed out what the thinking was from the front bench.
“It would be helpful to know what her take is on NILS. Keir hasn’t allowed us time he promised we would have when he was campaigning.”
Springfield and Bole said they also expected more meetings with Foxcroft and Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister.
Labour has spoken of the need for a new National Care Service, but Springfield told Sunday’s debate that the key for any such scheme would be “to give disabled people control over their lives and allow them to live in their homes independently”.
She said the Independent Living for the Future document – which calls for all social care to be provided free, to be person-centred and to be funded by progressive taxation through a national service designed through co-production with service-users – was “extremely important”, as it offered a “new way of looking at social care”.
She said: “We have got to stop focusing just on care homes.
“Most disabled people who have been disabled for quite long periods of their lives don’t when they get into their 60s and 70s want to go into a care home.
“We want to be able to live in our own homes independently with the right level of care.”
Bole, a Labour county councillor in Suffolk, added: “The biggest thing I have seen is that no social care system works the same as any other throughout the country.
“Disabled people are certainly not put at the centre of any process.”
Asked about Labour’s commitment to the NILS plans, Foxcroft told DNS: “With four years to go until the next general election, we’re not writing our manifesto yet.
“But the National Independent Living Service is an important part of ensuring disabled people live independent lives with dignity, and we fully intend to work with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to get this right.”
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