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Support for young disabled people has ground to a mighty halt and is now regressing

3 min read

In 2018, we should expect disabled citizens to be included equally in society to their non-disabled peers says Baroness Campbell of Surbiton.

I have been involved in developing strategies to support disabled people to live safely as active, healthy, citizens, within their communities, for over three decades. I have seen some remarkable advances in social care services, which have delivered choice and control to many disabled people below retirement age. People who were trapped in institutions and hospitals or isolated at home. Direct payments, personal health budgets, Putting People First and "personalisation" all contributed to the emergence of Independent Living, campaigned for by disabled people themselves.

Today, half the overall social care budget, is spent supporting young disabled people. So why, I ask myself, is the current forthcoming Government “Green Paper on Social Care for Older People”. With "a parallel process of work looking at social care for working age adults”, which in their words, “is not clear at this stage if there will be a Green Paper covering this group”?

Surely, this is the perfect opportunity to remodel and cost integrated support for young disabled people, fit for the 21st century, in a Green Paper, leading to a long-awaited and much needed White Paper? It's even more urgent because all the advances I mention above have ground to a mighty halt and are now regressing.

In 2018, we should expect disabled citizens to be included equally in society to their non-disabled peers. The Government announced 1 million more disabled people will be in work by 2027. Disabled people want this too, but if you can't get out of bed and travel to work without support, for a nine o'clock start, it won't happen!

Important as it is, the Government's fixation on the "problem of caring for the elderly," has left half of social care users to muddle along with support from providers who are defaulting to traditional, cost-ineffective services which take control back from the user. Two recent survey's carried out by, the charity Scope, make for sober reading. For example, 2/3rds of disabled people who approached their local council for help in 2016-17 did not receive support. Nearly 36 % of these were unable to eat, wash, dress or get out of the house. 47% of disabled people said they are withdrawing from society because the services they receive did not enable them to take part in community life..

In another detailed study last year by Prof Shakespeare, (University of East Anglia), 12 service users, who once enjoyed independent living support from the government ring-fenced Independent Living Fund, spoke about how the budgets were immediately cut when transferred to their local authority, with rigid rules on how they should use their payments. The ILF was seen as responsive and flexible, with a clear commitment to independent living. A stark contrast to local authorities, who are seen by users as rigid, bureaucratic, distant and “ignorant” about independent living.

Jeremy Hunt, emerged from the recent reshuffle with a new Health and Social Care title. If it's going to be more than just a new shop sign, the portfolio must address the social care support needed by both old and young equally. It's an opportunity for him to invest in disabled people's integrated support, which will deliver his Government's ambition to close the employment gap between disabled and nondisabled people and transform the life chances of everyone in society.

Tomorrow, I will be asking the vital question, what are the government plans for younger disabled social care users, post new title? I hope the answer isn't another experience of Groundhog Day!

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton DBE is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. 

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Read the most recent article written by Baroness Campbell of Surbiton - Assist disabled people to choose life, not death


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