The Simon Heng column

One theme of the adult services green paper is the inclusion of
service users in their communities. This includes the enhancement
of working and voluntary opportunities, and access to universal

If social isolation is to be reduced, universal issues –
particularly housing, transport and poverty – need to be

There is an increasing reliance on the private car in this
country. Public transport is a shadow of what it once was,
particularly in small towns and rural areas. What is available is
often inaccessible to wheelchair users and the rail system is, to
say the least, unreliable.

Dedicated schemes such as Dial-a-Ride are often so
oversubscribed that journeys need to be booked a week in advance,
and they are usually limited by local authority boundaries.

By the very nature of their incapacities, service users are less
likely to drive or afford their own transport even with the
provision of the mobility component of the disability living
allowance. The only solution, a fully accessible public transport
system that meets everyone’s needs, has not been thought

If people are to have a right to live independently, there has
to be an improvement in the provision of housing appropriate for
people’s needs in location and accessibility. An element of choice
would be good, too. I spent five years living in a hostel for
disabled people, waiting for appropriate accommodation for myself
and for my family. I haven’t noticed that housing provision has
improved recently, and there is no clear mention of it in this
green paper.

Poverty is one of the greatest contributors towards social
isolation. There are sources of help, from the independent living
fund to Supporting People and direct payments. But these do not
cover the extra costs and are means-tested. Why? Extra financial
support is promised for people who are unable to work, but it is
not as simple as that: the present system fails to take account of
the fact that people’s conditions vary, in that they may be able to
work for short periods, or for one day but not the next. The
poverty trap hasn’t been addressed.


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