first_imgOne of the architects of the last Labour government’s “life chances” strategy has described how “broken promises” by successive governments have shattered disabled people’s hopes of a genuine right to independent living. Dr JennyMorris, who led the independent living section of Labour’s Improving the Life Chances ofDisabled People strategy, said its publication in 2005 had been a “moment of hope”.But shedescribed how that sense of optimism “seemed to disappear almost overnight”,following the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the 2010 election, which led to aTory-led coalition government.She saidthat she and others working on Life Chances had made a “fatal error” by notstressing the need for a nationally-funded independent living system “based onthe principle of entitlement”, and had not paid enough attention to the growingfocus within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on “getting people offbenefits”.Morris wasdelivering the first Lorraine Gradwell MemorialLecture, in memoryof one of the key figures in the disabled people’s movement, who died in September 2017. It is hoped the lecture will becomean annual event.She wasunable to attend in person but a film of her delivering the lecture – whichMorris called Broken Promises: Looking Backon “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People” – was shown inManchester on Friday (8 March), followed by a question and answer session.Two disabledpeople’s organisations (DPOs) that Gradwell founded or co-founded, Breakthrough UK and Greater Manchester Coalition ofDisabled People, helpedorganise the lecture.Morrisdescribed how DWP’s emphasis on cutting the number of benefit claimants hadbeen demonstrated by the employment chapter in the 2005 Life Chances report,which spoke of work being “a component of good health” and emphasised the“beneficial health effects of work”.In the sameyear, DWP released research that would form the basis of the work capabilityassessment (WCA), which she said focused on “getting people off benefits”,“scrutinising whether people are ‘fit for work’” and “people’s supposedattitudes and motivations”, instead of workplace barriers and equalopportunities for work. Worse than that,she said, was “the denial of people’s own experiences of illness and/orimpairment”.In the lastdecade, the greatest challenges to the WCA and the introduction of personalindependence payment, she said, had often come from people with chronic illness,such as members of the Spartacus network, and, more recently, the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project.Morris saidthat she and others working on the Life Chances report had made a “fatal error”in their proposals by failing to recognise that the Independent Living Fund“had more potential to deliver a right to independent living than any reform tolocal authority social care”.  Althoughthey had “floated the idea” that independent living should be funded nationallyand “taken away from local authorities”, they did not challenge thegovernment’s insistence that this would undermine local accountability.Instead, theIndependent Living Fund was closed by the coalition government, and the“self-determination” promised by the introduction of personal budgets hadmostly “failed to materialise”.The currentsocial care system, said Morris, was incapable of delivering the right toindependent living set out in article 19 of the UN Convention onthe Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  What wasneeded, she said, as proposed by the Reclaiming OurFutures Alliance, was“a national independent living service, funded from general taxation, free atthe point of delivery, and delivered locally in co-production with disabledpeople”.She alsowarned of the failure to realise one of the key proposals of Life Chances, for thereto be a national network of user-led disabled people’s organisations (DPOs),modelled on centres for independent living.This, shesaid, “was never fully realised” and since 2010 many local DPOs had had theirfunding cut and had “found it increasingly difficult to hold onto existingcontracts to provide direct payments support services”. She added: “Suchlocal organisations are a vital part of any nationally-funded independentliving service.”And she said: “It’s at the local level and amongst disabled people ourselves that we will develop innovative ways to enable people to live ordinary lives.”Picture: Some of the audience in Manchester after the lecture, with a picture of Lorraine GradwellA note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img

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