Tory council set to force disabled people into residential care to cut costs

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Disabled people are to be forced into residential homes against their will by a Conservative council’s new cost-cutting adult social care policy, campaigners have warned.

Barnet council wants to save more than £400,000 in 2019-20 by creating more “cost effective support plans”, such as using residential care rather than funding support packages that allow disabled people to live in their own homes.

The north London council says it wants to consider “the full range of care options to meet eligible needs (eg residential care), rather than offering community-based placements (eg supported living) by default”.

This means a new “assumption that new clients are placed in cheaper accommodation settings where appropriate”.

Michael Nolan, a trustee of the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Barnet, told Disability News Service yesterday (Wednesday): “The Inclusion Barnet board are extremely concerned about these proposals, which we fear could leave some disabled people confined to residential care when they might otherwise have been able to live independently. 

“We believe that this could impact people least able to self-advocate, and is also against the spirit of the Care Act.”

Inclusion Barnet wrote to the council in January to warn that the “misconceived” plans risked “disabled people with high support needs being confined to residential placements against their will” and breached article 19 (on independent living) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The council has failed to reply to the letter.

A council document [PDF] also shows that it has not consulted on the plan and will only discuss it with disabled people as part of the “assessment and support planning process”.

It admits that “some clients” and their families “may consider this change unfavourable if they have a preference for a community placement”, which it says “could have an impact on customer satisfaction”.

The council – long seen as a flagship Tory local authority – has carried out an equality impact assessment of the new policy, which concludes that “it is possible that not having the option of a council-funded community placement will be seen as negative”, but claims that the negative impact on “some equality strands” will be “minimal”.

Cllr Reema Patel, who leads on adult social care for the Labour opposition in Barnet, and is a former member of the executive committee of Disability Labour, said: “Due to austerity, there is more incentive for councils to offer people with high support needs residential placements because it is cheaper.

“However, this runs counter to established principles around disabled people’s rights, principles that support the right to independent living, choice, agency and control.”

Fleur Perry, a disabled campaigner who raised concerns about similar policies in NHS clinical commissioning groups two years ago, said: “This policy seems to be designed to push disabled people into residential care, putting financial pressures above people’s own choices about where and who they live with.

“They highlight that people may consider this ‘unfavourable’; I’d be livid!

“Placing somebody into residential care against their wishes without exploring how they could be supported to stay in their own home may be unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1998 (article eight: private and family life).

“I’d ask Barnet council not to put themselves in a position where they could be legally challenged, and instead follow a policy that respects the right to independent living and for people to have choice and control over their own lives.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission claimed it had “concerns about the erosion of services and support to enable disabled people to choose where they live and who they live with” but has so far declined to look at what is happening in Barnet.

Barnet council refused to say how it justified putting people in institutional care when they wanted to live independently in the community; and refused to say how many extra disabled people were likely to end up in residential care in 2019-20 as a result of its policy.

It even refused to confirm that the new measure was now council policy.

But Cllr Sachin Rajput, chair of the council’s adults and safeguarding committee, claimed in a statement that his local authority remained “firmly committed to delivering high standards of care and support for those in need across Barnet, particularly our most vulnerable residents”.

He said: “We will carefully consider the range of accommodation options available to meet the particular needs of our residents, whilst also considering the limited resources that will be available to us as a council.

“Every person will be assessed individually, with their views and the impact on their wellbeing carefully considered.

“For the small number of people that will be offered a residential care placement, satisfaction levels and outcomes will be carefully monitored.

“Barnet council will continue to comply with all of its duties under the Care Act (2014).”

Picture: Barnet council’s Hendon town hall

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