November 15, 2010
One of DPAC members, Bob Williams-Findlay, will be writing commentaries on issues arising from the budget cuts and the spending review. This is the first one on the DLA mobility component and people in residential care homes.
Unexpectedly, George Osborne announced as part of the comprehensive spending review (CSR), that after four weeks inside a residential care home those who are state-funded residents would have their DLA mobility component removed. How has the Government sought to justify this policy change and would it be lawful?
The Department for Work and Pensions began by offering a two part rationale for this policy change. Firstly, they sought to argue that this would bring residents in line with hospital in-patients. This absurd argument demonstrates a high degree of both ignorance and prejudice; the mobility needs of the majority of people who live in residential homes can in no way be compared with those of hospital in-patients. It also indicates that the DWP want to impose ‘the sick role’ on certain groups of disabled people in order to paint others “economically active” when it suits the Government’s needs.
The DWP’s second argument, as equally absurd and bankrupt, suggested individual residents didn’t need the DLA mobility component because their needs were already being met by local authority funding for transport for care home residents. Let us consider what this really means. To begin with there is firm evidence to suggest that many care homes simply integrate the money into a single pot and therefore each home determines how much is spent on ‘days out’ or ‘necessary travel’ for residents. This implies that individual residents should have little or no control over their mobility needs; the expectation is to be totally ‘dependent’ on the home and more often than not have no independence in terms of going outside the home. This is to treat disabled people like convicted criminals and must call into question disabled residents’ rights under Articles 14,19, 20 and 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, *see below) because it is a form of ‘house arrest’ and among other deprivations, denies them the right and opportunity to associate with whom they please. Are we going back to the days of ‘warehousing cripples’?
Disability minister Maria Miller said: “Local authority contracts with care homes are designed to cover services to meet all a resident’s assessed needs, including any mobility needs. So an individual’s care, support and mobility needs should be met by residential care providers from social care funding.”
Everybody knows that local authorities aren’t meeting these needs at present and with huge budget cuts, rises in VAT and petrol duty, it will be disabled people who are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in residential homes; people with minimum or no direct contact with the ‘outside world’, who are going to be punished. John Nawrockyi, from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, acknowledges that, ‘With councils facing a 28% cut in government funding over the next four years they will struggle to maintain existing services, let alone fund new ones.’
In hard cold cash terms this policy change will result in saving £135m a year or in percentage terms just 0.2% of the public spending cuts announced in the CSR. Is this really a “fair price” for the loss of independence, freedom and choice of those on the end of state funding? This policy flies in the face of the approach found within the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – it supports institutionalisation rather than independence, it is both callous and ill-liberal. Back to Victorian values and I’m in no doubt Osborne, Duncan Smith and Miller would’ve made ideal characters in a Charles Dickens’ novel.
- Bob Williams-Findlay
* UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Liberty and security of the person
1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others:
(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;
(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.
2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of this Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation
Living independently and being included in the community
States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;
(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;
(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.
States Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:
(a) Facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;
(b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;
(c) Providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities;
(d) Encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.
Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport
1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities:
(a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats;
(b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats;
(c) Enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.
2. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.
3. States Parties shall take all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.
4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.
5. With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:
(a) To encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels;
(b) To ensure that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and, to this end, encourage the provision, on an equal basis with others, of appropriate instruction, training and resources;
(c) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sporting, recreational and tourism venues;
(d) To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system;
(e) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to services from those involved in the organization of recreational, tourism, leisure and sporting activities.