Independent living means “disabled people of all ages having the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens at home, at work, and in the community. It does not mean living by yourself, or fending for yourself. It means rights to practical assistance and support to participate in society and live an ordinary life.”
For many of its users, community care is an example of the essential, practical assistance needed to ensure they can participate in society and lead an ordinary life. Without it, they could not enjoy the human rights they are entitled to on an equal basis to others – as set out in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights, live free from discrimination and harassment as the Equality Act 2010 promotes, nor contribute to a wealthier and fairer, healthier, safer and stronger, smarter and greener Scotland .
This relationship between social care, equality and human rights is recognised and underpinned by various international and domestic laws and as such, its provision is a crucial aspect of fulfilling these, including for example:
Section 1A of the Self Directed Support (SDS) Scotland Act, which recognises the role of social care in supporting disabled and older people’s rights to dignity and participation in society.
The Equality Act 2010, which recognizes the importance of public bodies and the supports/services they provide, in the:
•elimination of discrimination, harassment and victimization,
•advancement of equality of opportunity
•promotion of good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
All of the human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), in the Human Rights Act and in subsequent human rights conventions – which belong equally to disabled and older people. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People (UNCRPD) strengthens and contextualises these rights and recognises the role of community care in doing so: Article 19 of the UNCRPD states that to ensure disabled people equally enjoy the rights laid out in the ECHR states must ensure that; “disabled people have a right to live in the community, with the support they need and can make choices like other people do”.
Public bodies must not act in ways which are incompatible with the rights set out in these laws and conventions. As outlined above, for many, without social care these laws and conventions could never be the reality.
Social care is an equality and human rights issue. It is an essential part of the infrastructure of a fair and equal society that respects, protects and fulfils the human rights of its citizens – it must be treated this way.
Charging those people who use social care does not do this – it merely asks them to pay more money than anyone else, to achieve their basic human rights on an equal basis to those who don’t use social care. In some instances it can lead to people doing without essential care and support – denying themselves their human rights and putting themself at risk because they use what money they have to pay for heating or food, and have nothing left to pay their care tax .
In addition, the Scottish Government have the power to abolish charges – but they currently allow LAs to choose whether and what to charge – equalities and human rights are not issues that can be left to ‘discretion’.