Independent Living – making hope possible

January 17, 2018

To coincide with the Disability Rights UK independent living conference, In Control, Disability Rights UK and others have published a review of the Independent Living Strategy authored by Dr Jenny Morris and have put together some ideas on how to restart and move the independent living debate forward.

Over the past year a group of disabled people and allies from a range of organisations have been meeting to discuss concerns about the present state and future of independent living. The first meeting was chaired by Baroness Jane Campbell who chaired the Expert Panel advising the Independent Living Strategy during 2007.


The informal group includes disabled people who were part of the independent living movement from the 1970s as well as younger activists and others concerned with the future of independent living. The group has been discussing what we and others might practically do to help protect people's access to independent living.


To inform activity and facilitate wider debate we decided to undertake a brief review of review of evidence about the impact of the 2008 Independent Living Strategy.


In summary, the review found that:

  • There is no evidence of significant progress in disabled people's experiences of choice and control in their lives since 2008.
  • There has been an increase in numbers receiving personal budgets for social care, and when delivered well, they improve outcomes.
  • However, there have been significant limitations to effective delivery of personal budgets. Most have taken the form of council-managed services and there is evidence that inadequate funding and restrictions on how personal budgets/direct payments may be used can inhibit choice and control.
  • Disabled people who need support in their daily lives are experiencing diminishing opportunities to participate in family and community life.
  • Older people are finding it more difficult to access support and are experiencing fewer options and opportunities for independent living.
  • People with high levels of support needs are at increasing risk of institutionalisation.
  • Mental health needs are increasing, but access to mental health services is becoming more difficult.
  • One in four people using social care services say information is fairly or very difficult to find, and there have been significant reductions in advice and advocacy services, particularly those funded by legal aid.
  • The employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people remains at 30 per cent - the level it was in 2010.
  • There is no evidence that current policies to support disabled people into work are improving employment opportunities: only five per cent of disabled people on the Work Programme have found a job.
  • The reported success rate for the Work Choice Programme is much better but only one per cent receive this form of support.
  • There has been a 16 per cent decline in the numbers of disabled people receiving support from the Access to Work Programme between 2009/10 and 2012/13.
  • Large numbers of disabled people have experienced a reduction in their household income since 2010.
  • Disabled people are experiencing a reduction in housing opportunities and an increasing number are living in accommodation which is not suited to their needs.
  • There has been a small decrease in the percentage of disabled people experiencing difficulties with transport, but a large increase in transport difficulties experienced by unemployed or economically inactive disabled people.
  • There have been significant reductions in expenditure on important programmes intended to increase transport opportunities


In addition to this paper, the group has also been exploring how to make the right to live independently in the community a reality and have put some ideas together for discussion and development.


The group believes that we need to build on some important innovations, such as direct payments, personal budgets, disabled people's user-led organisations and self-advocacy. It also believes that there is a need to learn from what hasn't worked well, or from the barriers that good ideas have experienced during implementation.


These ideas for the 'Access to Living Scheme' have been published on the 'Authors of our lives' blog. The report by Jenny Morris can also be accessed here.


Elsewhere, John Evans, a disability rights and diversity consultant has written this excellent blog post for Guardian society on why we can't give up on independent living. And Sue Bott at Disability Rights UK has written this provocative blog post on the need for a new vision for independent living.