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Welsh politicians urged to act over ‘second-class treatment’

Disabled people in Wales have called on politicians to do more to “make independent living a reality” and stop them being treated as “second-class citizens”.

The call for action came in a Manifesto for Independent Living, launched at the Welsh Assembly this week by Disability Wales (DW), the national association of disabled people’s organisations.

The manifesto calls for better information, advice and advocacy, a centre for independent living in every local authority, and a national online “information and advice hub” for disabled people.

It also says the Welsh Assembly Government should commission research to discover the national shortfall in accessible housing, while there should be an accessible housing register in every local authority.

Other priorities include improving access to aids and equipment; ensuring the provision of genuine choice and control in the delivery of personalised care and support; and improving access to transport, particularly to buses, trains and taxis.

DW wants the Welsh Assembly Government to introduce a national independent living strategy, similar to those introduced in England and Scotland, that would see a “joined-up approach” across national and local government, with more effective use of funding and support tailored to people’s needs.

The assembly’s petitions committee is considering a DW petition that calls for a national strategy and has been signed by more than 700 people.

Rhian Davies, DW’s chief executive, said there was support for the principles laid out in its manifesto from assembly members who attended the launch.

She said provision of services was “fragmented” and “very varied”, with disabled people in Wales treated as “second-class citizens” and constantly having to fight for their right to independent living.

Davies said a national strategy would address the “inefficiency and lack of co-ordination of existing services”.

She also said there was a need to change “street-level” attitudes towards disabled people and the “institutional culture where it is just seen as acceptable to say ‘these are the services we provide, take it or leave it’”.

DW is now hoping political parties in Wales will incorporate elements of its independent living manifesto into their own manifestos for this May’s assembly elections.