Independent living – UK Government assessment
Enjoyment of the right to independent living faces serious challenges. Adult social care is under-funded, with increasing numbers of disabled and older adults unable to get the support they need at home or within the community. It is likely that levels of unmet need will increase further in response to the coronavirus pandemic. There is a real shortage of accessible homes and, despite numerous commitments, rates of detention for people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism remain high. Recent social security reforms have had a disproportionate cumulative impact on the rights of disabled people. Some positive measures have improved disabled people’s access to services, transport and employment in recent years, but the pandemic has created additional barriers to disabled people’s full inclusion in society.
- Before the pandemic, adult social care was already under significant pressure across the UK and only those with severe needs received support.
- The number of requests for adult social care in England increased by 2% between 2015-16 and 2018-19, but real-terms local authority spending on social care in England was £700 million lower in 2018-19 than in 2010-11.
- The UK Government has not yet published promised proposals to overhaul funding of the social care system.
- There is a chronic shortage of accessible homes. In England, only 10% of homes in England offer minimal accessibility features and few local authorities across Britain set targets for accessible housing.
- There has been an ongoing increase in the rates of detention under the Mental Health Act 1983. Despite stated commitment from the UK Government, the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, aimed at reducing the rates of detention, have yet to be implemented.
- The UK Government has failed to meet targets set out in its Transforming Care programme (2015): in February 2020 there were still 2,170 people with learning disabilities or autism living in inpatient units in England and 58% of them had been detained for over two years.
- The number of disabled people in employment increased by 404,000 between 2017 and 2019, but a number of social security reforms since 2010 have had a disproportionate cumulative impact on disabled people.
- The pandemic has created new threats to the realisation of the right to independent living.
- Although the Care Act Easements have not been widely triggered in England, there is evidence that social care provision has nonetheless significantly reduced – coupled with increasing demand, this has wide-ranging implications for human rights.
- There are concerns about the safety of those in detention: during the pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of deaths among people detained in mental health, learning disability and autism settings in England.
- Disabled people have struggled to access food, medicine and necessities during the pandemic on an equal basis with others, with concerns about the failure of supermarkets to provide accessible services, both in store and online.
- The right to independent living is not currently incorporated into domestic law in England.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on independent living.