So here we are with another week underway!! Some of you will have been amazed to see a large orange thing in the sky last week! Known as the “sun” it might reappear this week!! My garden could certainly do with a little warmth. As always I hope these stories are of interest and contact me if you have any comments.
Personal care bill receives damaging setback
Peers have delivered a damaging blow to government plans to introduce free personal care at home for disabled and older people with the highest needs.
An amendment added to the personal care at home bill during its report stage in the Lords means implementation would be delayed until after April 2011, rather than the planned date of 1 October 2010.
The disabled peers Baroness Wilkins, Baroness Masham, Lord [Colin] Low and Baroness [Jane] Campbell all backed the amendment, which received support from all parties and was easily passed.
Three other successful amendments – including one to force an independent review of the costs of the bill – would also delay its implementation.
The bill would provide free personal care at home to an estimated 280,000 disabled and older people with the highest needs (although this figure includes 170,000 people who already receive free personal care).
There have been widespread criticisms from opponents who say the bill will be far more costly than the government has estimated, will have “unintended consequences” and will cause “administrative chaos” in councils.
But the bill has received widespread backing from disability, older people’s and carers’ organisations, many of which see it as a first step towards the goal of free universal social care.
The government said the amendments could “jeopardise the timetable of the legislation” and delay the promised support.
Commentators were doubtful that there would be enough time for the government to overturn the amendments in the Commons and force the bill through under its original timetable, because of the imminent election.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government was “determined to make this a reality for those people in most need and secure this bill as a first step in the transformation of the care and support system”.
When asked whether the government was hoping to overturn the amendments and complete the bill’s progress before the election, she said: “We will consider next steps in due course.”
If the bill is lost, it would also mean the loss of a breakthrough in the battle for “portability” – allowing disabled people to bring their support packages with them when they move to a different part of the country.
Regulations agreed by the government would ensure that those receiving free personal care would be “guaranteed seamless support in the event of moving from one local authority to another”.
Baroness Campbell told fellow peers that the bill would provide an “opportunity to test how we can deliver portability in practice”, and detailed negotiations between herself, the disability charity RADAR and the government had led to “clear and robust enforceable regulations and directives”.
Parties back key measure on disabled MPs
The three main political parties have all backed a proposal to set up a fund to make it easier for disabled people to become MPs.
The proposal was a key recommendation of the speaker’s conference on parliamentary representation, which reported in January on how to increase the number of disabled, female and minority ethnic MPs.
In its final report, the conference said there was “overwhelming evidence that shortage of money and the necessity of additional expenditure to support disabled people through candidacy, make finance a particularly significant barrier to elected office for disabled people”.
In their official responses to the report, all three parties backed the idea of a ring-fenced fund to support disabled parliamentary candidates, an idea first proposed by the disability charity Scope.
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) said it would consult widely on the proposal and other measures to support the development of “talented individuals from under-represented groups”.
There was slightly weaker support for proposals for each party to publish regular reports on how many of their potential parliamentary candidates identified as disabled people, as well as information on their gender and ethnicity, and possibly their impairment and sexual orientation.
Although all three parties backed the idea, the Liberal Democrats and Labour raised some concerns about right to privacy and data protection, while the Conservatives said they did not believe information on sexual orientation should be published.
The GEO said an amendment it had added to the equality bill committed it to discussing how this proposal would work with political parties, the Electoral Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
There was also cross-party backing for proposals to publish a statement after this year’s general election on how many of each party’s MPs were disabled, female or from an ethnic minority.
But the Conservatives suggested they might not favour going further and publishing targets for how many of their MPs they would like to see in each category by 2015 and 2020, as it was “impossible to predict accurately the future make up of any parliamentary party”.
The Liberal Democrats said it was far more difficult for them to make “commitments” on future representation because they had no “safe” seats.
But the Labour Party said it believed targets were “important benchmarks against which to measure progress and provide an incentive to faster, more effective action”, although it suggested it would only publish them if other parties also agreed to do so.
Abigail Lock, head of advocacy and campaigns at Scope, said: “It is very encouraging that all the main political parties recognise the need for extra financial support for disabled people wishing to enter public life.
“Scope first recommended an access to public life fund three years ago – to help cover the additional costs faced by disabled candidates. We hope all parties will work towards introducing this much needed support as soon as possible.”
Campaigners demand next of kin rights for singles
Disability rights campaigners are calling for new laws to make it easier for single people to choose a person to speak up for them if they become too ill to make their own decisions.
The campaign by Regard – which represents disabled lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered (LGBT) people – follows the death last month of a woman with ms, whose friends spent two years trying unsuccessfully to enforce her wishes and her right to independent living.
Regard says the Mental Capacity Act treats a person’s nearest relative as their next of kin if they are not married or in a civil partnership. This can mean their wishes are not respected if there is a dispute over their care or treatment.
Regard says this is a particular issue for LGBT people, as they are more likely to experience physical or mental health problems because of homophobia and HIV, are less likely to live in traditional family units and are more likely to live far from their relatives.
Using a lasting power of attorney is too complex and expensive, says Regard, particularly for disabled and older people, and is designed for situations where people have advance warning of poor health.
The Sue’s Law campaign has been named after Sue W, who died this February.
She was estranged from her family and had no long-term partner. After being treated in hospital for an infection at the age of 50, she was moved to a care home for older people, against clear instructions she had made in a living will.
Despite having appointed a friend to make decisions on her behalf, the authorities refused to contact her friends – who had no legal status – and passed responsibility instead to her estranged father.
Her friends then failed with an application to the court of protection, because they could not afford legal representation.
Regard and Sue’s friends campaigned for two years to move her to the hospice of her choice, but this only happened last September when her father finally dropped his opposition.
Regard said the case shows the law should be changed to allow single people to name their next of kin via a simple legal declaration.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council and a Regard member, said Sue’s friends were “totally distraught” at what happened because “not only was Sue rendered powerless but they were as well”, even though she had “taken meticulous care to ensure that she could determine her life choices as her impairment progressed”.
She said: “The UK needs to make good the rhetoric about a fair and equitable society.
“It is neither fair nor equitable to place people against their will into situations which ultimately amount to incarceration.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that every adult should consider making a lasting power of attorney, to choose someone to act for them if they ever become unable to make decisions for themselves. She said new, simpler forms were launched last October.
And she said that decisions regarding the appointment of a deputy to make decisions about a person’s property and affairs were “entirely a matter for the courts, based on the individual circumstances”.
But Newman said the new forms were still “quite complex” and “very costly” and applying to the court of protection was impossible for those who were seriously ill or did not have much money.
She added: “The errors that occurred in managing Sue’s case are not unique. Surely it is in everyone’s best interest to have a standard, affordable way of designating who is empowered to make critical decisions during life threatening events.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com