A Private Members Bill aimed at tackling the growing social care gap and to ensure greater choice and support to disabled people and carers, completed its legislative passage through the House of Lords today.
The passing of Lord Ashley of Stokes’ Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill coincides with the publication of new Government research which finds compelling evidence that significant savings can be made to public finances by providing support to disabled people that maintains their independence.
The Bill, which gained support from carers and women’s equality groups including Carers UK and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) as well as cross party endorsement, will now proceed to the House of Commons. Earlier this year over 150 MP’s signed an early day motion in support of its provisions.
Lord Ashley’s Bill was introduced in the House of Lords in November 2006 against a backdrop of increasing scarcity of social care support to millions of families. Last year seven out of 10 local authorities admitted to only offering support to people whose needs were judged to be ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’, with 8 in 10 of the same authorities anticipating further tightening this year.
If enacted, Lord Ashley’s Bill would provide a right for disabled people not to be placed in residential care against their will. The Bill would also safeguard the health and well being of carers and reduce dependency on social care provision by placing duties on local authorities and the NHS to increase opportunities for independence. Crucially the Bill would eliminate the post code lottery in the quality of social care and require agencies to pool funds to ensure better co-ordination of resources and cutting back on red tape.
Current arrangements for providing social care are an expensive and inefficient way of providing support to even fewer people. The costs of the reforms will be met by redirecting the savings gained by moving from a current costly method of social care to more individual choice based alternatives. New research from the Office for Disability Issues provide the first justification that cost savings can be found by providing independent living-based solutions to social care
The ODI research found that:
Delivering independent living type support to disabled people is more cost effective than traditional care provision. A saving of £10 million a year, with incremental increases each year, could be made by enabling disabled people to leave residential care and move into independent living, and this is after housing and adaptation costs are allowed for.
The higher cost of traditional care delivery was evident in the NHS and institutional provision compared to independent support mechanisms such as direct payments. Investment in adaptations and equipment has seen savings of £40 million to the NHS in Wales.
Cost savings in the order of £5 billion could accrue in the form of increased tax revenues and reduced benefits payments from investing in independent living support.
Satisfaction, health, and participation in society and self esteem were more in evidence from an evaluation of independent living type support than they were for conventional forms of support. 90% upwards of adaptation recipients report improved quality of life following adaptations.
Commenting on the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords, Lord Ashley said:
‘This Bill represents a fundamental recasting of the relationship between disabled people, carers and the social care system. By placing new duties on public authorities and conferring new rights on disabled people, it provides a blueprint for a future where disabled people are truly independent. Every single organisation connected with disability who has commented on the Bill has offered warm support.’
Sir Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, said;
‘This is a historic moment. Disabled people’s, women’s and carer’s ambitions for an alternative future based on independence, choice and dignity have received legislative backing. A historic opportunity to reform our threadbare social care system and to liberate millions of families into active, participating and contributing citizens, now exists and should not be missed.’