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The development of direct payments in the UK: implications for social justice

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Direct payments have been heralded by the disability movement as an important means to achieving independent living and hence greater social justice for disabled people through enhanced recognition as well as financial redistribution. Drawing on data from the ESRC funded project Disabled People and Direct Payments: A UK Comparative Perspective, this paper presents an analysis of policy and official statistics on use of direct payments across the UK. It is argued that the potential of direct payments has only partly been realised as a result of very low and uneven uptake within and between different parts of the UK. This is accounted for in part by resistance from some Labour-controlled local authorities, which regard direct payments as a threat to public sector jobs. In addition, access to direct payments has been uneven across impairment groups. However, from a very low base there has been a rapid expansion in the use of direct payments over the past three years. The extent to which direct payments are able to facilitate the ultimate goal of independent living for disabled people requires careful monitoring.

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