Disabled people have asked the United Nations to investigate the government’s decision to shut down the Independent Living Fund (ILF).In a written complaint lodged this week, they say the decision to close ILF to new members in December 2010 – apparently without proper consultation – was a breach of disabled people’s rights under five separate articles (17, 19 20, 30 and 31) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).They say disabled people’s life chances have “dramatically fallen” as a result of this decision, while the government failed to monitor the impact of the closure of ILF, a government-resourced trust which helps about 16,500 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.Because the UK has signed up to the UN convention’s optional protocol, individuals can take complaints to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), as long as all domestic avenues of appeal have been exhausted.The government’s decision to close the fund has been the subject of a series of legal actions, protests and direct actions (including an occupation of the grounds of Westminster Abbey, pictured) over the last four years, but the government has continued to argue that the care and support needs of ILF-users are better met within a single care and support system, run by local authorities.From July, the fund will close for good, and the UK government will pass the non-ring-fenced funding to English local authorities and the Welsh and Scottish governments.The Scottish government announced last year that it would set up its own ILF, for both existing and new users, while the Welsh government has opted to transfer the funding and responsibility to local authorities, but with conditions attached on how it should be spent, protecting the budgets of existing ILF-users for at least the first nine months.In England, though, the ILF money will not even be ring-fenced for social care. The UN committee only has powers to make recommendations to the UK government – if it decides to investigate the complaint – and will not be able to force it to reopen ILF.The complaint has been submitted on behalf of two disabled women – Nicky Baker and Dr Melanie Wilson Jones – who were both unable to claim support from ILF after the coalition decided to close it to new members in December 2010, without any apparent consultation or impact assessment.Wilson Jones relies on her husband and her 16-year-old daughter to make up the extra hours of support she needs for evenings and weekends but cannot obtain from ILF.She originally received ILF support after a brain injury, but that was removed when the progress she made meant her needs decreased.Her support needs increased again after she sustained a further brain injury in a road traffic accident in 2011, but by then ILF had closed to new members.Baker, who is a disability equality trainer with Harrow Association of Disabled People and is studying part-time for a degree, would have been eligible for ILF support, but the fund closed the day after she telephoned for an application form in 2010.The social care package she receives from her local authority does not provide the support she needs to live an independent life.She told Disability News Service that the fund’s closure was “a real blow”.She lives with her parents and eventually wants to live independently, but she said: “On the level of support the council would be able to fund, without the support of ILF, the only option would be residential care, which doesn’t appeal to me.“I can’t look forward and think about moving away from my parents without that level of support. I couldn’t do it. It almost makes me feel I have come to a bit of a stop in my life.”If she goes on a date with her boyfriend, her parents have to come with her, which she says is “not very cool”.She also does not have all the support she needs as a member of the Villa Rockets powerchair football team, which plays in the national league premiership division.The UN complaint has been written by Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, and the case has been financially supported by members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), with help from the PCS union, and pro bono advice from lawyers, including solicitor Louise Whitfield, from law firm Deighton Pearce Glynn, and barrister Catherine Casserley.Jorge Araya, secretary of the CRPD, said he could not comment on the Inclusion London complaint because the information was “confidential”.The committee is also believed to be carrying out a wider inquiry into “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people by the UK government, but that is also being conducted “confidentially”.Lazard said: “The closure of the Independent Living Fund signals the end of independent living for disabled people.“It took many years for disabled people to fight their way out of the institutions and to have the same chances as anyone else to live in the community alongside family and friends. “At the current time, local authorities are simply not able to provide the level of social care support required to uphold disabled people’s fundamental human rights.”Sophie Partridge, a current ILF-recipient, said: “The ILF has played a huge part in supporting me to have equal access to an independent adult life and a level playing-field alongside non-disabled people.“Without the ILF being re-opened to new applicants, I worry that young disabled people will never get the same life chances as I have had.”Linda Burnip, co-founder of DPAC, said the complaint had only been possible because of “pooling of resources and collective solidarity”.She said: “Since the closure to new applicants in December 2010, disabled people who missed out on the ILF have suffered dramatically worse outcomes than existing ILF-recipients with equivalent support needs. “We are not just talking about disabled people no longer being able to go to work, or ever have a holiday or go to university, we are talking about people unable to leave their homes, left without access to food or water, unable to go to the toilet and unable to wash more than a couple of times per week.“We know there is also an urgent need to address this inequity, but do not believe that the right answer is to level everyone down to the lowest levels of support.”One disabled activist and ILF-user criticised the decision to lodge a complaint with CRPD.Disability issues consultant Simon Stevens said he thought the complaint was “unlikely to result in any change” to the government’s decision to close ILF, particularly as the Labour party was not committed to keeping it open.He said: “I think at this stage, DPAC and other organisations should be supporting users to engage effectively with local authorities for a smooth transfer.”He has written an article, shortly to be published by Access Magazine, which offers advice to ILF-users on negotiating assessments for their new local authority-funded packages.He said: “I am openly inviting other users and families to contact me if they have specific questions and concerns that I could help with.“I am not suggesting I have all the answers or I am super special but I genuinely wish to be a listening ear for users who are less confident about the process.”A DWP spokesman said: “In December 2014 the high court dismissed an application for judicial review and upheld the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund.“This government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and we continue to spend around £50 billion a year on disabled people and their services.“The way disabled people are supported to live independent lives has changed significantly over the last 20 years.“The government’s decision, which means that all the care and support needs of ILF-users will in future be met within a single care and support system, reflects these advances in the mainstream adult social care system.“That is why we are transferring more than £260 million of the ILF’s budget to local authorities and the devolved administrations to ensure disabled people get the targeted support they need to live independent lives.”Meanwhile, a prominent ILF-user is to “celebrate” the 61st birthday of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith on 9 April by travelling the 14 miles from the House of Commons in her powerchair to deliver a “very special birthday card” to his constituency office in Chingford, east London.Mary Laver, an ILF-user for 25 years and a member of the Conservative party, has previously travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her powerchair.She wants to deliver the card, with the help of her support team, to Duncan Smith, because she says he is the man who is “going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal” by closing ILF, which has helped her live an independent life for the last 26 years.
A disabled crossbench peer has called on the government to introduce a “comprehensive” scheme that would provide the kind of “wraparound” support that would allow disabled people to live an independent life.Baroness [Jane] Campbell called for a radical and comprehensive “access to living scheme” to replace the current system of support that divides disabled people into “unwieldy boxes of social care, continuing healthcare, housing or employment support”.She told fellow peers that in the 13 years since a Labour government committed to a policy of promoting independent living and integrated support, progress had “ground nearly to a halt”, and in some areas was “regressing rapidly”.She pointed to a combination of austerity measures, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, the introduction of personal independence payment, and “a lack of progress in the realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.Baroness Campbell (pictured) told peers of proposals developed by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG)*, which she chairs, which include incorporating article 19 of the UN convention – on independent living – into UK law.Such a move would provide a legal right to independent living for the first time.ILSG wants to see a national access to living fund, bringing together the various sources of support into one pot, with the government reinvesting in user-led regional organisations such as centres for independent living, and helping to fund new co-operatives, social enterprises, community businesses and other charities.Baroness Campbell said: “This would enable a hundred flowers to blossom, making for a strong access to living culture, and enabling all disabled people – all, no matter what their medical condition – to maximise their life chances.“An access to living investment would foster the transformative social capital we have yet failed to realise under current outdated systems, which, in social care support alone, now offer only the top-down, survival safety-net services.”Responding to the debate on behalf of the government, the Tory peer Baroness Barran said she would be “absolutely delighted” to meet the ILSG.They were taking part in a Lords debate secured by the Tory peer Lord Borwick on the issues facing disabled people and the “potential for improved treatment and outcomes in the next 50 years”.Another crossbench disabled peer, Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, spoke of the continuing problems she faced with the inaccessible rail system, including “getting on and off trains”, the booking system and the frequent lack of accessible toilets.She also highlighted the failure of the new Caledonian Sleeper – which has received more than £100 million in public funding from the UK and Scottish governments – to include any accessible showers, as reported last week by Disability News Service.She told peers: “I am looking forward to a time when I book such a journey and push through the station in my pyjamas looking for an accessible shower that may or may not be in the station. I am not sure that anyone is ready for that.”And she criticised the rail industry’s failure to consult with disabled people, describing it as a “travesty”, and called on the government to look again at rail regulations so that disabled people “can have the same miserable experience as everybody else”.Baroness Barran said she would raise the points made by Baroness Grey-Thompson with the Department for Transport, “particularly regarding design regulations and co-production”.The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas said it was “shocking” that the government had still not published its adult social care green paper, and she said that “far more attention” needed to be paid to the provision of accessible, adaptable and wheelchair-accessible homes.She also said she wanted to see more accessible restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels, and “far more disabled people not just in employment but in positions of power and influence as local councillors, school governors, mayors, CEOs, MPs, peers, judges and, yes, government ministers”.She said: “In 50 years’ time, life may well be better for all disabled people, but only if those in positions of leadership always involve disabled people themselves in what they really need and what really works for them.”Lord Borwick suggested that campaigners were “winning the argument” for all new homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard.Baroness Thornton, for Labour, said there had almost been a “perfect storm” of failed public policy on disability, including £7 billion taken out of adult social care budgets because of reduced funding since 2010, four-fifths of local authorities saying there was not enough provision of social care services, and a social care system that was “in crisis”. Baroness Barran accepted that key indicators still showed “multiple disadvantages for disabled people, from poverty to educational outcomes, employment, discrimination, isolation and a lack of opportunity”.But she said the government was “committed to addressing this across a range of key policy areas including, to name but three, employment, healthcare and transport”.*ILSG has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights to independent living in England since 2013. Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living. A 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…
TWO games with Leeds, two defeats… it’s time to right the wrongs says Saints centre Jordan Turner.And what better time to do it than in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Semi Final this Friday.“A Cup Semi Final is new territory for me and a few of the other players and we are excited about it,” he said. “We have some wrongs to put right from the last two games with Leeds and we’re looking forward to doing that.“They have been great lessons for us but we won’t know if they have been learnt until the final whistle on Friday. The last two times we haven’t turned up and let the fans, coaches and ourselves down. It’s time to put that right.“We know what we have done wrong – that has to be put into the play on the pitch.“We are a young side but gained a lot experience from the play-off run and the Grand Final last year. You can only look forward to playing in games like these and we need to make sure we turn up.“Leeds are a champion side and previous form doesn’t matter. But we need to learn the lessons.“We know they will turn up. We are always confident we can do the business on the pitch but we haven’t done it against them and this is the time we have to.”Tickets for Friday’s Semi Final remain on sale from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.
New NRL signings Lachlan Coote and Kevin Naiqama started at full-back and centre respectively with Joseph Paulo coming on from the bench.It didn’t take long for Naiqama to get his name on the score sheet as he flew in on the right edge in just the second minute, Mark Percival adding the conversion.It was 12-0 after 15 mins when Jonny Lomax touched down close to the sticks, after a brilliant break through the middle of midfield by Dom Peyroux.Saints continued to put pressure on Wigan until they turned the tables and backed Saints up on their own line. It was the first example of what would be repeated and resolute goal-line defence from the Saints throughout the match.Lachlan Coote read the game brilliantly in defence and was the man on the spot defending a number of probing short kicks from Wigan.Tommy Makinson nearly opened up a wider advantage after he powered in at the corner, after a great break from Regan Grace, but he was left agonisingly short and the try was ruled out.Wigan themselves were denied a try of their own minutes later when they barged over only to called for a forward pass.However, they did register their first points after 28 minutes when Ben Flower crashed over from close-range, Hardaker converted to pull the score back to 12-6.Coote again was the right man in the right place in defence as he came up with the ball after it bounced off the post pad from a Wigan grubber.Despite some good play from Saints to again push Wigan back, they came up with an interception gift to Liam Marshall an 80m try after a mis-timed pass from Lachlan Coote, which meant the game was tied at half-time 12 apiece.The second half started with more resolute defence from Saints and, on 50 mins, they managed to open up their advantage further with a beautifully worked try for Regan Grace after some lovely passing from Lomax and Percival on the left. Percival missed the goal to give Saints a 16-12 lead.On 60 mins, Saints got the Totally Wicked crowd roaring with a huge defensive set that saw Wigan pinned in their own 20.As the tension mounted and both teams had chances, it was time for the Saints Captain to deliver the killer blow with a short range try in the 74th minute to give Saints breathing room and, in the end, it was the finishing score of the match.Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Grace, RobyGoals: Percival (3 from 4)Wigan Warriors:Tries: Flower, MarshallGoals: Hardaker (2 from 2)HT: 12-12 FT: 22-12REF: Robert HicksATT: 16,508,New NRL signings Lachlan Coote and Kevin Naiqama started at full-back and centre respectively with Joseph Paulo coming on from the bench.It didn’t take long for Naiqama to get his name on the score sheet as he flew in on the right edge in just the second minute, Mark Percival adding the conversion.It was 12-0 after 15 mins when Jonny Lomax touched down close to the sticks, after a brilliant break through the middle of midfield by Dom Peyroux.Saints continued to put pressure on Wigan until they turned the tables and backed Saints up on their own line. It was the first example of what would be repeated and resolute goal-line defence from the Saints throughout the match.,Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Grace, RobyGoals: Percival (3 from 4)Wigan Warriors:Tries: Flower, MarshallGoals: Hardaker (2 from 2)HT: 12-12 FT: 22-12REF: Robert HicksATT: 16,508,Match Summary:Saints:Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Grace, RobyGoals: Percival (3 from 4),Wigan Warriors:Tries: Flower, MarshallGoals: Hardaker (2 from 2)HT: 12-12 FT: 22-12REF: Robert HicksATT: 16,508