DPAC have had an odd kind of non-relationship with DRUK. We’ve disagreed about many things. For example, DPAC is for saving ILF, DRUK’s Sue Bott suggests this is something we should probably forget about, and that ‘Whilst the ILF has benefited many disabled people, claims that it has been at the forefront of independent living are a little exaggerated’. This is not the view of ILF users. See their stories, their lives, their experiences It is amazing that anyone can believe that passing ILF to local authorities who already say that without ring-fenced funding many ILF users will lose support and/or be institutionalised is something we need to accept while we all get together to talk about ‘new visions’.
The DRUK conference dedicated to a ‘new vision’ for independent living is also a confusing affair, not only are they embracing Simon Steven’s approach ( He who accused DPAC of murdering disabled people and was dropped from Leonard Cheshire’s sponsor program because of his outright abuse to other disabled people), but one of their advertised partners for this conference are Craegmoor .
Craegmoor are part of the Priory Group owned by Avent International which is a US Equity Company- changing times you may say-and you’re right. Maybe that’s what these new visions are about: capitalising on the market, private equity companies taking public money, and disability organisations getting in on the act- maybe neo-liberalism rather than disabled peoples’ rights and equality now make up ‘new visions’ of independent living
Craegmoor ‘s target market are those labelled with autism, learning difficulties and mental health issues. They take 85% of their funds from public funds. Craegmoor’s web site boasts of its residential homes:
We provide understanding and support for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems in a variety of settings based on the individual’s abilities and needs. Our nationwide residential care services support people to develop the skills they need to live as independently as possible’.
Wait, since when were residential homes part of independent living? Weren’t these the very oppressions that early activists fought to get out of, and current activists (and ILF users) are fighting to stay out of?
Their brochure goes further:
Craegmoor is part of the Priory Group of Companies. From education to hospitals, care homes and secure facilities, the Priory Group of Companies offers individually tailored, multidisciplinary treatment programmes for those with complex educational needs or requiring acute, long-term and respite mental healthcare’.
Treatment programs? Not sounding very independent living or social model. As well as residential homes, secure ‘hospitals’ and segregated schools. It all sounds very daunting.
But there’s much more on the Priory group of companies too which is even less palatable concerning cover-ups and abuse. Until July 2013 Phillip Scott was Chief Executive if the name isnt familiar, he was also the Chief Executive for Southern Cross. Itself a subject of inquiry on institutional abuse and 19 unexplained deaths Craegmor say they transform lives, but in what way?
In May 2013 there was Melling Acres, ‘where inspectors reported major concerns about the care and welfare of its seven residents – care plans were poor, with scant information about physical health needs, there were limited activities and a lack of advocacy to enable people to express concerns about their care’. In September 2012 ‘following an anonymous tip, inspectors found residents at risk of abuse in Lammas Lodge, a home for young adults. There were not enough staff and what staff there were, inspectors found, were not properly trained to meet residents’ complex needs. There were six major areas of concern, including care and welfare, medication and safeguarding. The home, which was warned it must improve or face closure, has since been given a clean bill of health by the regulators’. Both homes were registered under Parkcare Homes’ so neither Priory or Craegmoor got the fall-out despite ownership.
This was not the case in 2012 when concerned relatives hid CCTV cameras in the room of Highbank hospital in Bury Manchester to reveal abuse by staff, not so with the Bentley Court home in Wolverhampton suspended by the council for what it called ‘safeguarding issues’ in 2010, a council that stopped sending those with dementia to Bentley Court, and not so in 2012 when what was described as the ‘Priory mental hospital’ in Windes on Bennet Lane was closed due to not meeting 10 standards of Government quality and safety including: Patients not being fully protected from the risk of abuse and their privacy, dignity and independence not being respected, staff not receiving necessary training, a lack of systems to assess and monitor the quality of the service provided, care plans did not always cover patients’ needs. There were also reports of patients attempting to escape during supervised visits into Widnes town centre.
So as said definitely NOT independent living.
In 2004 the then CEO of the Priory group Chai Patel said ‘My view is, if there is ever a conflict that involves choosing between care and profit, then we should not be involved in that environment,’ Given the examples above it seems profit is the defining factor.
It didn’t take long to find this information, it didn’t take long to realise that these are not the partners who should be with any organisation claiming to support independent living, even ‘new visions’. So maybe the question that needs to be asked is what exactly do DRUK support?
There are a few clues, in a recent blog piece by DRUK (dated 16th July) mentioning a very good Guardian piece by independent living activist John Evans, an ILF user, the last paragraph says: ‘Sue Bott, Director of Policy and Development at Disability Rights UK, has written a new blog which also discusses the role of the ILF but proposes that disabled people should concentrate their campaigning towards achieving a single integrated system that assesses people’s needs and allocates assistance and support based on the outcomes people could achieve in their communities and contribute to society’.
John Evans says everything we need to know-we have a vision for independent living and we already have a model forged by international independent living activists. There is nothing wrong with that model. There is no reason to stop fighting for it, abandon it or develop ‘visions’ or hallucinations of lesser systems in which we divide disabled people by perceived contributions to society-all disabled people are of value, all deserve to be supported. It is the ILF model that needs to be built upon and expanded to all-something that promotes real independent living.
The fact that a so-called user led organisation is putting forward anything different with the spectra of institutionalisation added to the mix is a tragic condemnation of all that disability activists have ever worked and fought for. We are appalled that DRUK are willing to sacrifice disabled people’s futures in this way and sadly can only assume this is to ensure on-going funding from the government.
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