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Disability Horizons investigation shows some councils may be limiting disabled people’s choice of where to live

January 31, 2020

A press release.

An investigation by Disability Horizons into Adult Social Care choice policies has uncovered that a number of councils may be breaching disabled people’s human rights by arbitrarily restricting opportunities to live independently.

Disabled journalist Fleur Perry made a Freedom of Information request to more than 200 councils. Her findings are concerning and, in some instances, potentially unlawful.

Last June (2019), a Freedom of Information request was made to councils who provide social care, asking: “Please could you send all current policy documents relating to Adult Social Care and choice over in which setting care is to be provided to a person.” 172 replied. Of these:

·         137 didn’t give a clear answer or said they followed current guidance

·         14 seemed to promote choice or Independent Living

·         21 seemed to restrict choice or oppose Independent Living.

All notes can be found in the Adult Social Care choice policies responses database attached.

An example of a most transparently concerning policy came from Bedford Borough council: “The maximum weekly cost to Bedford Borough council will be no more than the net weekly cost to Bedford Borough council of a care home placement that could be commissioned to meet the individual’s assessed eligible needs.”

This seems a lot like a cost cap, although Bedford Borough Council claims it isn’t. If it follows this policy, people could be automatically placed in care homes, even against someone’s choice to stay in their own home. We don’t think that’s OK.

There were also issues around hospital discharges, the way that Personal Budgets are set, and the eligibility criteria for Adult Social Care.

Read the full Who Chooses Where You Live? report attached, which contains analysis and recommendations for councils and Government.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a decision-making body moving away from Independent Living.

In 2017, the Disability Horizons team investigated Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) – NHS bodies that fund care – and spoke out about possible Human Rights breaches caused by cost-caps.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission took up the issue and wrote to 44 CCGs asking them to explain themselves, make certain their policies were lawful, or face legal action. Policies changed.

We’re going to be writing to the councils concerned, and reporting back, as well as writing to the Department for Health and Social Care to ask some legal questions.

We cannot help but wonder: would the policymakers themselves be satisfied in a situation where they were subject to their own policy? Is this the best we can do?

We think we can do better. ROFA, an alliance of Disabled People and their organisations in England, is calling for an Independent Living Act.

A legal right to Independent Living would prevent so many of these arguments, and would strengthen protection of disabled people’s right to choose where and with who they live.

These are choices that non-disabled people make at key points throughout their lives without asking permission or defending their human rights – it’s automatic.

Disabled people deserve to be able to make those key choices without undue pressure or restriction, and instead of being able to focus on the important stuff – friends, family, and real-life lived in your own way.

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