Five areas have begun piloting a new scheme that should give disabled people more control over the support they receive from central and local government.
The Right to Control (RtC) aims to put money from funding sources such as disabled facilities grants the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the Access to Work (AtW) programme, and council-funded support packages into single pots of money for disabled people to use as they wish.
But concerns have already been raised that the government’s programme of spending cuts could undermine the scheme before it has begun.
Under the RtC scheme, local authorities, Jobcentre Plus and disabled people’s organisations will work with disabled people to develop their individual support plans.
They will then be able to spend their allocated funding on whatever they think meets their needs, whether through direct payments or services commissioned on their behalf.
Five of the eight “trailblazing” areas – in Essex, Leicester, the London boroughs of Barnet and Newham, and parts of Surrey – started piloting the scheme this week. The other three will launch next year.
Ellen Clifford, interim director of the user-led Newham Coalition, a partner in the Newham trailblazer, welcomed the increased choice and control it would give disabled people in the borough.
Clifford added: “Through RtC we have been able to introduce the concept of co-production beyond social care to Jobcentre Plus and a broader range of council departments, which feels like a positive step forwards.”
But she warned that RtC’s potential benefits were being “overshadowed and seriously undermined” by government spending cuts.
When Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, visited the coalition’s offices for the RtC launch, she was warned that the job opportunities given to young disabled people as a result of the trailblazer were only possible through “proper investment in on-going support”.
Clifford said the government was “setting up Right to Control and the whole personalisation agenda to fail” by neglecting the “critical role” of state-funded support in protecting the rights of disabled people.
And she said the impact of RtC on people’s day-to-day lives could be “meaningless” if there was “nothing left to control”.
Essex Coalition of Disabled People (ECDP), which has been working on RtC in Essex, said the scheme should allow disabled people to access support without having to “keep telling other organisations the same details” by sharing their assessments, support plans and reviews.
Rich Watts, ECDP’s director of policy and development, said RtC would be of “great benefit to the individual and a benefit to the way in which services are provided”.
But he added: “The wider environment around cuts and the way in which the government is approaching disabled people risks undermining what is actually a very good idea.”
16 December 2010