Independent living – UK Government assessment
There are persistent barriers affecting disabled people’s right to live independently as part of the community. The UK Government has introduced proposals to overhaul the funding of adult social care. However, increasing numbers of disabled and older adults are unable to get the support they need at home or within the community. There is a shortage of accessible homes and, despite numerous commitments, rates of detention for people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism remain high. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disproportionately affected disabled people and has created additional barriers to disabled people’s equal participation in society. The National Disability Strategy included a range of commitments intended to improve disabled people’s everyday lives, though it is too early to assess the impact of these commitments.
- There is a chronic shortage of accessible homes. In 2019, 91% of homes in England did not provide the four features required to make them ‘visitable’ for most people, including wheelchair users.
- Detentions under the Mental Health Act (MHA) increased between 2017–18 and 2019–20. The UK Government’s white paper on reforming the MHA includes proposals to improve choice and control, which, if properly implemented and resourced, could result in a significantly more human rights-focused approach.
- The UK Government has failed to meet targets set in its 2015 Transforming Care programme. In August 2021 there were still 2,040 people with learning disabilities or autism in inpatient units in England and 56% of them had been detained for over two years. The UK Government has established a minister-led delivery board to oversee progress and committed to publishing a detailed action plan.
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, adult social care was already under significant pressure due to rising demand and substantial reductions in government funding. Requests for adult social care in England increased by 6.6% between 2015–16 and 2019–20, but 13,680 fewer people received support during this time.
- Although Care Act easements were not widely used in England, there is evidence that social care provision has nonetheless significantly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with increasing demand, this has wide-ranging implications for enjoyment of the right to independent living.
- The UK Government has announced new funding arrangements for adult social care, which will reduce the amount that some people have to pay in care costs. However, it is too early to assess the implications of these reforms on long-term social care funding.
- During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a disproportionate number of COVID-19 related deaths among people with learning disabilities or autism who access care.
- In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people struggled to access food and other essentials on an equal basis with others, with concerns about the failure of supermarkets to provide accessible services, both in store and online.
- Commitments in the UK Government’s National Disability Strategy include requiring landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of properties, introducing audio-visual announcements on buses, and reviewing the way that government engages with disabled people. However, it is too early to assess the impact of the strategy on the realisation of disability rights.
- There is an ongoing judicial review about the UK Government’s failure to formally consult on the development of the national disability strategy.
- The right to independent living is not currently fully incorporated into domestic law in England.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on independent living.