This paper was the submission from the Campaign for a Fair Society to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and its inquiry on independent living. The paper argues that there is a strong moral and practical case for a radical reform of the current welfare system.
The current welfare system is not designed to support the rights of older and disabled people - particularly the right to independent living. Many people find that they lack essential supports or, if they are entitled to any support, they find themselves constrained in ways that undermine independent living.
The current government has imposed spending cuts in a way that targets older and disabled people - more than 25% of the planned cuts are likely to fall on 3% of the population - those with the most significant disabilities. It is unfair that these cuts target older and disabled people; but moreover the way in which these cuts are being made will also promote dependency and institutional solutions and is further evidence of the fundamental inadequacy of the current welfare settlement.
We need to reverse the current situation. In a decent society cuts would not fall first on those with the greatest needs. As a society we are failing this critical moral test. It is time to change course, time to build a fair society that ensures citizenship for all; so the Campaign for a Fair Society proposes:
- A commitment to human rights: this means embracing the European Convention on Human Rights and building the UN Convention on Rights of Disabled People into UK law. This reform will involve a fundamental redesign of the obligations of government at every level to secure citizenship for all.
- A commitment to make the right to support an objective right established in law: this will remove the dependency of older and disabled people on ‘gifts’ from professionals. Instead our entitlement to support and the level of that support will be established as a fundamental aspect of our shared citizenship.
- A commitment to provide families and individuals with early support: this will prevent crises, reduce the need for expensive interventions, and end the indignity of severe eligibility thresholds.
- A commitment to put people back in control of their own lives: this will enhance personal autonomy and dignity by restoring people’s right to control both their lives and any essential support that they need.
- A commitment to good housing: this will give people the right to live in their own accessible homes, with a choice of the full range of different types of tenure. This will involve reform of the housing benefit and mortgage interest relief systems.
- A commitment to a guaranteed minimum income free from means-testing: this will create the necessary incentives for people to work and make contributions to civic life. Older people and disabled people will be able to avoid poverty and dependency.
- A commitment to end the current super-tax on older and disabled people levied through local authority charges: this will end the indignity of older people having to spend or give away all their savings just to get minimal support. The right to essential on-going support will be put on the same footing as our rights to healthcare and education.
The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
From Unfair Cuts to a Fair Society © Simon Duffy 2011.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.