Victory For Independent Living Rights In English Appeal Court

Statement by Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper and Stuart Bracking

As three of the Independent Living Fund users who have challenged the
legality of the government's decision to close the Fund, we welcome the
Appeal Court's unanimous ruling that this decision should be quashed.

Given the Government has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, the
new Disabled People's Minister Mike Penning will now have to reconsider
the Government's approach to the future of the Independent Living Fund
and its users.

Rather than being the 'privileged group' referred to in the High Court
judgement, the Appeal Court has acknowledged the potentially very grave
impact the closure of the Fund would have on its users, putting
seriously in peril the ability of a large number of people to live
independent lives in their own homes, and pursue activities such as
employment and education.

They concluded that when Disabled People's Minister Esther McVey made
her decision in 2012 to finally close the Fund by April 2015, she did
not properly consider the need to advance our equality of opportunity,
minimise the disadvantage we face, encourage independent living, and
promote our participation in public life and other social activities.

For a generation, the Independent Living Fund has provided funding to
support disabled people with complex conditions who need personal
assistance to live in the community.

Twenty years ago, Disabled People's Minister Nicholas Scott who founded
the Fund in 1988 explained its importance to the House of Commons
(25/2/1993): "It has helped those severely disabled people who did not
want to go into residential care but who could not live in the community
without a considerable degree of domiciliary support to maintain their
independence. That is something that we can all applaud and welcome."
This is as true today as it was then.

In the same speech, Nicholas Scott also acknowledged there were limits
to the financial support local authority social services could provide
some disabled people: "If it is necessary for extra help to be
provided....it will be open to the social worker who assesses the needs
of disabled people to say, 'We can provide services up to this level but
we believe that a further level of care is necessary,' and then to turn
to the Independent Living Fund."

The Independent Living Fund has provided a platform for social
opportunities to be pursued by severely disabled people in large numbers
for the first time in history.

The careers, family life, friendships, social activities and roles
people have built for themselves could be undermined and in many cases
dismantled if the Fund closes.

Although the Appeal Court ruled the consultation which preceded Esther
McVey's closure decision was lawful, we believe there is now an
opportunity to reflect on our society's responsibilities towards those
who rely on the welfare state to keep them safe, healthy and free of
distress.

Last year, 2000 individuals and organisations responded to this
consultation, but the Court of Appeal held the real substance of the
consultation responses were not conveyed to Disabled People's Minister
Esther McVey. An opportunity for an open, democratic debate was lost.

By responding to the World Health Organisation's recommendation in the
World Report on Disability that countries should provide services in the
community and not in residential institutions or segregated settings and
plan how to achieve this, the human and civil rights of disabled people
of all ages could be respected, not just those of Independent Living
Fund users

Until a decision is taken to save the Independent Living Fund and open
it to new applicants with adequate funding to meet people's individually
assessed needs, the fear many disabled people have expressed about their
future will not disappear.

This fear stems from an understanding of the impact limited support in
the community will have on people's life chances, or for some of us the
low standards and rigid approaches to personal care found in residential
and nursing homes which place people at risk of skin conditions, sores
and sepsis.

Many Independent Living Fund users are also acutely aware that, as
long-term employers of personal assistants, if they are forced into
residential care their knowledge of the law and care standards will
bring them into collision with poor management and abusive cultures
where they exist.

There is also a significant risk for people with learning difficulties
and/or autism of physical and emotional abuse in segregated settings
where restraint and drugs are used to control behaviour that is defined
as 'challenging' rather than being approached with patience, compassion
and kindness.

The fear of residential care that exists among Independent Living Fund
users with 'round-the-clock' needs also exists among large layers of the
general public.

When reconsidering the Government's approach to the future of the
Independent Living Fund, the new Disabled People's Minister Mike Penning
could give the Fund a long-term future under the democratic control of
its users, but also commit the Government to respect existing rights to
an individual assessment of need.

His Government could give disabled people of all ages the right to live
in the community throughout their lives with the personal assistance and
professional services they need, rather than the artificial and
segregated environments found in residential care.

We urge Mike Penning to grasp this opportunity and remove the
uncertainty many thousands of severely disabled people and their
families have experienced for several years.

We would like to express our sincerest thanks to: our fellow claimants
Paris L'amour and John Aspinall and his parents Evonne and Paul
Taylforth; the tireless work of solicitors Louise Whitfield of Deighton
Pierce Glynn, Kate Whittaker and Diane Astin of Scott-Moncrieff and
Associates, and our barrister Mr David Wolfe QC; the supportive
intervention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission; and
Independent Living Fund user Kevin Caulfield's networking and guidance
during the case.

We also acknowledge those Independent Living Fund users who have
highlighted the impact closure would have on their lives, particularly
Penny Pepper, Sophie Partridge and Mary Laver, which is not easy given
the privacy most Independent Living Fund users and their families strive
for.

We would also like to thank: Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion
London for the campaign coordinated by Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly,
Tracey Lazard and Ellen Clifford; other users of the Fund and disabled
activists who have attended protests and vigils and supported the
campaign; the two thousand organisations and largely anonymous
individuals who responded to the Independent Living Fund consultation a
year ago; the support of the PCS union and the workers at the
Independent Living Fund; our personal assistants; the work of
campaigning journalist Kate Belgrave; and the consistent reporting of
this issue by John Pring at the Disability News Service.

The future is ours to shape, but only if the personal assistance we need
is present. 

2 thoughts on “Victory For Independent Living Rights In English Appeal Court

  1. so please to see that the disabled have finally been taken into consideration and the fact that they deteriorate at a worse rate than most able-bodied people. thank you for the insight into the longevity of the disability and the extent of extra care when really needed, this not only provides decent care but also the dignity afforded to all.

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