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Independent living is about disabled people having the same level of choice, control and freedom in their daily lives as any other person. Everyone will need assistance or equipment of some kind, although many people with learning disabilities, physical and/or sensory impairments, mental health support needs, long-term health conditions or who experienced frailty associated with old age, will have additional needs for assistance. Although these additional needs for assistance and equipment may be met, it is not always giving people choice and control over the matter, others will decide on behalf of them which can lead to segregation and social exclusion. It is necessary for everyone, whatever their impairment, to express preferences and therefore express choices about their needs and how they should be met.
What evidence is there that it is an issue?
With reference to Christensen, K. (2010), ‘The late 20th century rhetoric about empowering people by providing them with more independence in their lives has recently emerged within developed welfare states and led to the introduction of cash for care systems in many European countries. These systems allow local authorities to pay people cash instead of providing care if they are assessed as eligible for community care services and are willing and able to manage the payments alone or with assistance’.
What evidence is there that different policy options will affect the issue?
The Prime Ministers Strategy Unit produced their final report on, ‘Improving life chances of disabled people’, in January 2005. Within this report it sets out an ambitious programme of action that will bring disabled people fully within the scope of the “opportunity society”. By supporting disabled people to help themselves, a step change can be achieved in the participation and inclusion of disabled people. This report sets out a strong vision for improving the life chances of disabled people, which is needed to help disabled people face fewer disadvantages. It is never going to happen straight away so they give themselves a 20-year vision:
‘By 2025, disabled people in Britain should have full opportunities and choices to improve
their quality of life, and will be respected and included as equal members of society’.
This report plans to have big changes as a result of this strategy, to make these changes the strategy will ’empower and involve disabled people, personalise the support they receive and remove the barriers to inclusion and participation’. Reference!! The centrepiece of this strategy is the promotion of independent living. Independent living is more than about being able to live in their own home, it’s about providing disabled people with; choice, empowerment and freedom.
For the government to give disabled people more choice and control over their care ‘The Community Care (Direct Payments) Act was introduced in 1996. With reference to the Directgov website, ‘Direct Payments are local council payments got people who have been assessed as needing help from social services, it gives the individual the chance to arrange and pay for their own care and support services instead of receiving them directly from the local council’.
Direct payments and individualised budgets are central to the UK government’s independent living strategy for disabled people ‘to live autonomous lives, and have the same choice, freedom, dignity and control over their lives as non-disabled people’ (ODI, 2008:27).
While Direct Payments have delivered important choice and control for some people, they are not suitable for everyone. Furthermore, the fragmentation of people’s needs across different budgets means that Direct Payments are not always sufficient to deliver a personalised and holistic response to individuals’ needs. The report, ‘Improving life chances of disabled people’, therefore suggests proposes that ‘different sources of funding should be brought together in the form of individual budgets – while giving individuals the choice whether to take these budgets as cash or as services. The overall aim would be to enable existing resources to be allocated and services delivered in ways that personalise responses to need, and give disabled people choice over how their needs are met’.
The Independent living strategy was published in 2008 and its aim was to ‘ensure that all disabled people, including those with significant learning disabilities or other forms of cognitive impairment (including dementia), are enabled to have choice and control over how their support needs are met, and also to have greater access to housing, education, employment, leisure and transport opportunities and the participation in family and community life’. REFERENCE!! Of paper. Within this strategy it includes; ‘Putting People First, a shared vision and commitment to the transformation of adult social care, introducing personal budgets and help gaining information, advice and support, ‘Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbours, a national housing strategy for an ageing population’, the development of a national employment strategy to enable individuals to remain in employment when they become disabled or when an existing condition gets worse. Therefore the strategy covers all aspects of a disabled individual’s life.
Why is this an important issue?
What should we do about the issue?
Disabled people themselves, employers, health professionals,
educators, local communities, and providers of goods and services all have a key role in improving the life chances of disabled people. Disabled people’s experience of government support and services needs to change. Too often disabled people feel that they are fighting a system which is fragmented, complex and bureaucratic, and
which does not put the needs of disabled people at the heart of service provision. Public service reform and investment has not yet benefited disabled people to the extent it should. REWORD paper improving life chances of disabled people.
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