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Right of Disabled People to Independent Living

"Rights of disabled people may be at risk", says Human Rights Committee. Committee takes on board issues raised by Breakthrough and local disabled people.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published its report on the implementation of the right of disabled people to independent living (01 March 2012). This links to Article 19 in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) which is about disabled people living independently and being included in the community. The Convention was ratified by the UK in 2009.

Their Report draws attention to a number of significant human rights issues, including:

  • the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law,
  • the effect of current reforms to benefits and services on the ability of disabled people to enjoy independent living,
  • the role played by the UNCRPD in policy development and decision making at all levels of government,
  • the use of equality impact assessments,
  • the effects of devolution on implementation of the UNCRPD, and
  • hate crime

Key findings include:

  • reforms to benefits and services risk leaving disabled people without the support they need to live independently.
  • restrictions in local authority eligibility criteria for social care support, the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and changes to housing benefit risk interacting in a particularly harmful way for disabled people.
  • some people fear that the cumulative impact of these changes will force them out of their homes and local communities and into residential care.

We submitted evidence to this Inquiry last spring, following two focus groups with local disabled people. Our Chief Executive, Lorraine Gradwell MBE, then went to the Palace of Westminster to give face to face evidence to the Committee.

Breakthrough is quoted six times in the report. For example in the section about access to information and advocacy:

“Breakthrough UK told us of one person who, on initial assessment for Employment Support Allowance, was deemed ineligible, and was subsequently deemed eligible when she had received professional assistance. They argued that it was difficult for disabled people to access their entitlements without such support. They argued that "advocacy, advice and information, provided by other disabled people […] is a cornerstone, without which independent living cannot become a reality".

and: “local disabled people who are trying to influence what is happening in the locality and trying to be a part of the Big Society and so on, previously had a way of taking local statutory bodies to task if they were not doing proper consultation. That has been removed”.

We made the point in our written submission that the lack of a requirement to involve disabled people in the public sector equality duty was a big weakness. We made points about the negative impact on disabled people of reforms to benefits and services (e.g. employment support and social care services). Disabled people we spoke with feared being moved out of their homes and communities. Participants also made points about bullying and hate crime impacting on their ability to live independently.

The JCHR report is at the link below on the Parliament website:

Our written evidence can be downloaded here (Word document)

And a video of Lorraine Gradwell giving evidence can be seen here:

Many thanks to all who contributed to this.