Disabled people 'are deprived of help for lack of resources'

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTIGATION of 700 complaints from disabled people living at home has revealed a catalogue of delays and local-authority services made inadequate by lack of resources.

The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (Radar), which looked into the complaints, says in its report, published today, that while it found 'clear evidence of good intentions' these were 'not necessarily translated into good practice'.

Radar says: 'Many local authorities are failing to provide disabled people with the essential services to which they are entitled under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.'

It found that 91 per cent of the complaints came down to the provision of equipment or adaptations to people's homes to enable them to live independently. Others related to help with domestic tasks.

Cases included the withdrawal of support when people reached retirement age and were 'transferred' to other parts of the local authority services, and of waiting lists of up to two years for occupational therapy assessments.

The authors of the report Disabled People Have Rights say their evidence suggests that the cases represent the tip of an iceberg. Many complainants found themselves entangled in bureaucratic divisions between social services and housing departments and difficulties in obtaining the Disabled Facilities Grant.

A disabled man said he had been subjected to emotional blackmail over his request for a stair lift. 'If I had a stair lift costing several thousand pounds, this would deny other disabled people things they need,' he reported to the Radar researchers. Since then he had fallen down the stairs at least three times, the report says.

It points out that Government policy on community care contained in the 1989 White Paper Caring for People stresses the importance of special equipment and home adaptations 'which will be essential to enable people to live in the community'.

The report criticises as inequitable the means test that precedes any allocation under the Disabled Facilities Grant. A woman who applied for a stair lift was told her contribution would be pounds 1,200, which she and her partner did not have. They had to borrow the money from a bank and repay it, with interest, at pounds 30 a month.

When disabled people are assessed for the provision of services they face delays and sometimes insensitivity.

Fifteen per cent of the complaints to Radar were about problems in getting an initial assessment.

A woman who was unable to bend down without losing her balance had burnt herself several times getting food out of the oven. 'In addition she was unable to extend her left arm . . . She requested a split-level oven and adaptations to the existing kitchen units.

'Mrs Jones was asked to 'perform' on several occasions before social services agreed . . . This was extremely distressing for her and she would have given in had she not received support from Radar and local campaigners,' the report says.

Disabled People Have Rights; Radar, 12 City Forum, 250 City Road, London EC1V 8AF; pounds 5.

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