One of the country’s leading equality and disability campaigners has added her voice to the criticism of Kingston Council’s care charge increases.

Charities have written to the leader of the council criticising the consultation on plans to charge disabled and elderly people more for help dressing, washing and preparing meals.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who was given two years to live when she was born with spinal muscular atrophy, will be a difficult woman to ignore.

Jane Campbell, 51, was apppointed an MBE in 2000, became a Dame in 2006 and a cross-bench life peer in 2007.

From her electric-powered wheelchair she co-founded the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), which has helped thousands of people gain more control over their lives.

She co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Disability Group.

She lives in a bungalow in Tolworth and has five assistants to help her.

She said: “I understand the need for disabled people to make some manner of contribution to their care at a time when we are in an economic downturn.

"However, I have always opposed a means-testing approach.”

She criticised proposals to take into acccount life savings under the means-testing.

Baroness Campbell said: “When it comes to raiding people’s savings, especially young disabled people who haven’t had a life yet, you are effectively saying no disabled person with any high degree of care needs can ever accrue enough to buy a house or save to get married on the same terms as non-disabled people.

“This new charging system is going to make disabled people second class citizens who will never rise above a very minimum standard of living.

“I think it is sad a council that pioneered independent living more than 15 years ago has now undone all that work by making unreasonable charges.”