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LOCAL GOVERNMENT FAILING TO DELIVER ESSENTIAL AIDS, SAY DISABLED PEOPLE

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Disabled people are today calling on local authorities to overhaul the system that provides aids and equipment for ...
Disabled people are today calling on local authorities to overhaul the system that provides aids and equipment for everyday life following the findings of a survey showing delays are causing 'prison-like' lifestyles.

They will be presenting the 68-page report 'Equipped for Equality' by leading disability charity Scope, to ministers and MPs, at a reception in Westminster.

Respondents identified the main problems as bureaucracy, biased, confusing or incorrect information, delays, financial problems, as well as poor communication and relationships with professional staff.

Many said they were angry and frustrated over attempts to obtain information, as well as the low standard of the equipment received.

- A young disabled woman claims that she is a prisoner in her house, because she cannot sit up without extensive support or use her wheelchair outdoors

- A four year old girl with severe cerebral palsy had to wait nearly a year to get a wheelchair, and when it finally arrived she had outgrown it

- A woman who cares for both her husband and 18 year old son recalled how all three of them could not leave the house for four days until the Wheelchair Service arrived to fix her husband's chair.

The report, based on responses by nearly 500 disabled people, parents and carers, found three out of four of those surveyed faced serious problems obtaining equipment essential for their daily life and independence.

Social services and health auhtorities were noted by fifty one per cent of respondents who use daily living aids as not providing the correct equipment.

And the human result of inter-departmental disputes over organisational responsibility and budgets, is that disabled people suffered doing without prescribed items.

Olivia Marks, the report's author, said:

'We urge the government to review the system. Just by cutting the bureaucracy and setting national quality standards would save a lot of time and resources which could be used to improve the system.

'The report is not about luxury items. It is about aids for eating and drinking, wheelchairs and communication aids. Lack of access to appropriate aids can lead to dependence, injury and stress for disabled people and carers, as well as increase costs to health and social services.'

Findings:

- 76% reported problems with equipment

- Problematic information sources: 19% social services; 18% health authority; 12% professional staff

- Financial problems indicated by those using daily living aids - 62% for eating and drinking aids, 55% for bathing aids and 48% for toiletting aids

- 51% of all users of daily living aids felt that social services/health authority had not supplied the correct item

Recommendations:

1. National guidelines should be issued to local authorities to give clients a clear indication of length of time for assessments and for items to arrive.

2. Central government should give more resources to local authorities for prompt assessment and provision of equipment

3. Central government should ensure a national centralised information source about quality standards, regulations, Centres for Independent Living, available grants.

4. Central government should ensure that each local authority includes a statement within its community care plan, outlining how it will provide information on equipment, equipment trials and equipment itself.

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