Socialist Worker

Court justifies councils’ race to bottom for disability assistants

by Mark Dunk
Issue No. 2571

Luke Davey has been left without assistance that would let him live independently

Luke Davey has been left without assistance that would let him live independently


The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal against an earlier judgement allowing Oxfordshire County Council to cut Luke Davey’s social care package by almost half.

The cuts to his support have left Luke increasingly stuck in his home. The dedicated team of Personal Assistants (PAs) who support him to live independently may break up.

The decision is a disgrace. It allows councils to wash their hands of responsibility for maintaining levels of social support for disabled people.

This echoes a judgement on access to wheelchair spaces on buses earlier this year.

It allowed bus companies to largely avoid responsibility—leaving drivers, disabled passengers and parents travelling with pushchairs to fight it out.

Supported

The recent decision supported letting “local market conditions” decide the level of support based on the average wage for a PA in the area.

But “local market conditions” are determined in large part by how much councils make available for disabled people to employ PAs.

The ruling is a licence for local authorities to reduce the level of disabled people’s payments under the false pretence that the support provided will remain unchanged.

It takes at face value the low wages paid by profiteering PA agencies with no consideration for the level of skill and training required to be a PA.

Councils want to drive down PAs’ wages, and they are shifting the responsibility to do that onto disabled people who have had the status of employer thrust upon them.

These disabled people don’t have adequate funding or support to exercise any true degree of choice and control.

Conditions

In order to try and maintain their support hours with less money disabled people are left with little option but to reduce the pay and conditions of their PAs.

This then reduces the local average wage and provides the councils with a ready made excuse to further reduce payments the next time someone’s support is up for review.

The judgement enshrines in law a system based on a race to the bottom.

This will inevitably cause distressing conflict between disabled people and the skilled workforce who support them in living independently.

Trained and experienced PAs could be forced out of the profession, leading to deskilling.

This will be particularly damaging for those with high and complex support needs which require skilled PAs to provide a level of support that does not override the disabled person’s autonomy.

There is not an ounce of justice in the decision.

Disabled people and PAs must stand together in a fight to restore the social provision decimated by Tory cuts.


Millions are hit hard by shake-up and freeze

Benefit cuts and “reforms” will leave over two million households in Britain more than £50 a week worse off by 2020.

More than 84 percent of them are households with children.

That’s the finding of a report commissioned by the council leaders’ Local Government Association, published last week.

Almost two thirds of those losing more than £50—some 1.34 million households—are in work.

For many, switching over to the new Universal Credit (UC) benefit brings “significant loss in income” and “raises the risk of working poverty”.

A freeze on the rates of key working age benefits hits even larger groups, as their payments shrink in the face of inflation and higher rents.


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