Charging disabled people for essential life and limb support is contrary to “article 19 of the UN convention on the rights of disabled people to live independently and be included in the community”
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Disability Rights Convention) builds on existing human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Its purpose is to:
“Promote, protect and ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”
The Disability Rights Convention is the newest treaty in the UN human rights framework. The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on 8 June 2009. It has at its heart the principles of equality and independent living, which are designed to ensure that disabled people enjoy their rights on an equal basis to others. The first principle of the Convention provides that there shall be:
“Respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons.”
Public authorities have specific duties to promote equality for disabled people in the Equality Act 2010. These duties broadly reflect the obligations of the Government in the UN Disability Rights Convention. That Convention recognises that disabled people have a right to access community life without discrimination. For example, Article 19 provides:
“State Parties to this Convention recognise the equal right of persons with disabilities to live in the community with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the Community”
Kingston Council was one of the first London boroughs to support and put into action independent living services including direct payments, for disabled people. The councillors and the then director of social services Roy Taylor pioneered alongside local disabled people for our right to have control over our lives in the same way that non-disabled people enjoy. They developed services for independent living and it was believed that these should be provided as of right, in the same way as health care. No one was expected to pay for something they had no choice over. They understood that assistance to eat, drink, go to the toilet, keep clean and safe were activities essential to life like mending a broken leg or getting an education. These fundamental principles are now being threatened by those who control the purse strings. So we find ourselves appealing to the leaders of Kingston Council not to row back on these independent living rights.
If we begin by agreeing that disabled people should pay anything over and above their disability living allowance care component, then we are undermining the human right to independent living we fought so hard for. So I would urge us not to respond to the council’s accusations that by not paying for our care support, we are somehow denying others. This is a spurious and manipulative way to make us feel guilty and get the public to collude with their misrepresentation the truth. Government guidance does not force councils to charge – it simply gives them the power to charge. If and how they enforce this power is left to each and every council.