Campaigning disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) have set out their demands for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.
The Independent Living for the Future document has been developed over the last 14 months under the banner of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), whose members include Disabled People Against Cuts, Inclusion London, People First (Self Advocacy), Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, The Alliance for Inclusive Education and Shaping Our Lives.
ROFA will now seek support for the document from its members, political parties, disabled people, DPOs and other organisations.
Independent Living for the Future is based on principles laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Article 19 of the convention describes how countries signed up to the convention – like the UK – must recognise the right of all disabled people “to live in the community, with choices equal to others”.
The new document describes how the rights in article 19 could be upheld through a new national independent living service, which would build on “what was most successful” about the former Independent Living Fund.
The new service would be “co-created between government and disabled people, funded through general taxation, managed by central government, led by disabled people, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people”, says the document.
It would be free, non-means-tested and “provided on the basis of need, not profit”.
There would also be funding for DPOs to deliver local services, ensuring a range of options to support disabled people to live in the community and exercise choice and control over their support.
Priorities would include setting up a new independent living taskforce, led by disabled people, to develop plans for the service; and agreeing how to introduce a legal right to independent living, including an independent living bill of rights.
There would also be a need, says the new document, to educate the public about the benefits of investing in independent living support for disabled people.
The document also calls for the government’s Office for Disability Issues to be moved out of the Department for Work and Pensions and placed within either the Cabinet Office or the Government Equalities Office.
And it says there should be a strategy for investment in local user-led services alongside the closure of institutionalised, segregated settings including long-stay hospitals and assessment and treatment units.
The document points out that government austerity cuts have had “serious adverse impacts” on the rights contained in article 19, with the social care and mental health systems in crisis and disabled people’s rights being taken “dramatically backwards”.
It says that grassroots campaigning by disabled people since 2010 has focused heavily on the right to independent living, partly because activists are so proud of the independent living movement and its achievements.
It adds: “At a time when discrimination continues to exist legally, structurally and within many parts of society, daily living conditions are deteriorating and the odds against us seem overwhelming, it is enormously important to be able to draw on a source of pride that sits at the core of our shared identity.”
The ideas behind the document began to be discussed several years ago with disabled activists involved in the campaign set up in 2011 to stop the planned closure of the Independent Living Fund.
More recently, there have been discussions at the National Disabled People’s Summit in November 2017, the Independent Living Campaign Conference later that month (pictured), and a ROFA round table event last May.
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