Years of lobbying by Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs), backed by research and evidence, appear to have persuaded a local authority to take a new rights-based approach to tackling the protection crisis social.
A report from Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Future of Adult Welfare Commission (FASCC) includes a series of recommendations that, if accepted by the council and its partners, could transform the provision of adult social care in the borough.
They include a call to mainstream policy co-production across the board; review the pricing of adult social care, including the basis for these charges; increase the number of people with disabilities receiving direct payments; and provide training on disability, equality and inclusion to all its staff.
Earlier this year, the council confirmed, in response to a freedom of information request, that it had billed almost 2,500 people for non-residential social care in 2020-21, with the council receiving more than £5.4million in fees.
The response also revealed that as of January 2022, 916 of the council’s service users were subject to debt collection action in 2021-2022.
The figures were obtained by Cheshire Disabled Against the Cuts (CDPAC) and Inclusive Londonwhose research showed that tens of thousands of disabled people across England were the subject of debt collection action brought against them each year by their local authorities for unpaid childcare costs.
This information was passed on by CDPAC and other members of the Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel (CDPP) to the council.
Now, the Social Welfare Commission has recommended that the city council adopt an approach to debt collection that is “responsible and responsive to the financial and social vulnerability of residents”.
It also invites the municipality to review its application of the minimum income guarantee (MIG) and the allowance for personal expenses (PEA), two key elements of the social pricing system.
The commission included six cross-party advisers and representatives from the NHS and the voluntary sector.
Among those who gave oral evidence to the commission were disabled people from the CDPP and a local DPO, Disability Positive, as well as Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and Greater Manchester Disability Group (GMDPP)who have both carried out pioneering work on the co-production of public policies by people with disabilities.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has already approved a movement – proposed by Labor adviser Val Armstrong, who chaired the committee – to “adopt” the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and work with people with disabilities to implement its articles in the work of the advice.
It is now hoped that the council and its partners in Cheshire West and the Chester Health and Wellbeing Board – which includes local NHS bodies, Cheshire Police and Healthwatch Cheshire West and Chester – will implement the commission’s recommendations.
Cheshire DPAC said the council’s commitment to implementing the UNCRPD was “a really important development” for its residents with disabilities.
A Cheshire APAC The spokesperson said: “We and our colleagues from the Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel are ready to work with the council to make ‘nothing about us, without us’ a reality.
“DPOs have lobbied authorities over the past two years, calling for better conditions for people with disabilities – in particular, for low-income residents with disabilities, especially those who cannot earn an income and those who have legal care needs.”
She said: “The central government shamelessly allowed the two statutory rates [MIG and PEA] lose their real value for years, and we call on all local authorities to mobilize and do much more to defend the principle of the well-being of users of local services.
“The report does not go far enough on these fronts, but CDPAC is pleased with the policy recommendations in the FASCC report to undertake a review of adult social care pricing, including the fee basis, as well as the MIG and PEA. »
And she said Cheshire DPAC has “cautiously” welcomed the council’s commitment to a “responsible” approach to recovering care debts.
Cllr Armstrong, a cabinet member of the Council for Adult Health and Social Care, said the commission’s aim was ‘to bring together advisers, colleagues from the health and voluntary sector and those who support on or provide care to ask how we can best enable people to live the life they want.
“Understanding each other’s perspective is key to creating the kind of lasting, responsive support and care we would want for ourselves, our families, friends and neighbors.
“The final report was warmly welcomed by the cabinet two weeks ago and since then we have moved quickly to adopt the [UNCRPD] to the council.
“We have shared the report with our health and wellbeing council partners, all of whom will be reviewing how it can be implemented within their organizations over the coming months.
“The next step is to create and implement an action plan that will bring the report’s recommendations to life for the real benefit of our residents.
Lynne Turnbull, Executive Director of Positive Handicapsaid: “As members of the Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel, we have provided the council with some key recommendations, and I am really pleased to see the report commit to implementing some of them, including the integration of the social model of disability and membership of the UNCRPD, as well as working in co-production with people with disabilities across Cheshire.
“We look forward to working with the council to help them deliver on these commitments and make further improvements, particularly in relation to the social care pricing review; the orientation of disability-related expenditure; think locally; supporting Cheshire-based DPOs; and provide simple and clear information and communications.
Rick Burgess, head of advocacy and development for the GMDPP, who testified before the commission, said the panel welcomed the report and its “emphasis on co-produced, rights-based social care “.
He said: ‘We have supported the Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel in passing on the message to the commission that the [UNCRPD] and the social model should be the frameworks within which local authorities design, deliver and review social care and support services – and indeed all services used by residents with disabilities.
“This report is a tangible demonstration of what disabled people’s organizations can achieve through the practice of sharing skills and knowledge.
“We look forward to further strategic collaborations on the UNCRPD and the social model in our regions.
“Watch this place!”
Image: (From left to right) Councilor Val Armstrong, Rick Burgess and Lynne Turnbull
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and enable it to continue to produce independent, carefully researched reporting that focuses on the lives and rights of people with disabilities and their user-led organizations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford it, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It has been managed and owned by disabled journalist John Pring since its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for all you can do to support the work of DNS…