Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Disability: A Voice For Change

FOUNDED in 2005, the Huffington Post is an online publication which acts as a news aggregator – collecting syndicated web content sybdicated web content such as online newspapers, blogs, podcasts and video blogs (vlogs) in one location for easy viewing.

One British blogger who regularly posts on the Huffington Post site is West Midlands-based Simon Stevens.

According to his blogs, Simon is ‘a leading independent disability issues consultant, controversial inclusion activist and trainer, and social change agent, with vast experience and expertise in a wide range of fields including disability equality, independent living, social care, lifestyle advocacy and secondlife.

My website is www.simonstevens.com
My email is simon@simonstevens.com

I have worked with many organisations of all types over the last 15 years locally, nationally and internationally including Scope, Warwick University, Channel 4, Department of Health, Council of Europe, National Housing Federation and eBay. I have also been a trustee of Skills for Care as someone who uses services I am the founder and owns of, Wheelies, the world’s first disability themed virtual nightclub, and star of Channel 4′s disability prank show, I’m Spazticus. I am also a regularly blogger from the Huffington Blog.

Born in 1974, I have cerebral palsy which affects my speech, balance, hand control and continence in a significant manner, as well as providing mw with a very good sense of humour in a positive way. I also have asthma, acute neuropathy which means I am in constant nerve and muscle pain, and a mild form of bipolar, making my life interesting to say the least. Despite my difficulties and the level of everyday discrimination I have faced that has assisted me to help others by my willingness and openness to discuss my experiences.

I have had a vast range of life opportunities and experiences. I have travelled widely around Europe and the world for work as well as for fun, and taken part in many sports and especially water sports. My mission in life is to make an active contribution to supporting disabled people and others to maximise their life opportunities and experiences through all my activities.’

Please note that there is no official link between the National Liberal Party and Simon Stevens. Thus, it should not be taken that Simon endorses the NLP or that we unconditionally support everything that he writes. We reproduce his blog – from June of last year – in the interest of sparking debate relating to disability issues.

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Political Battles Between Inclusion and Welfare

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. His March budget – which included a £1.3bn cut to disability benefits - has brought the issue of disability into sharp focus.

I WOULD like to suggest that when the coalition government came into power in May 2010, there was a major shift in the way many sick and disabled people have organised themselves to protest against ‘welfare reforms’. Most people will not see any problem with this, regarding this as something quite natural. This is because they may not be aware of the political history of disabled people over the last 40 years, which has dominantly been focused upon the pursuit of our full inclusion into society, trying to move away from a negative portrayal of sick and disabled people as merely objects of welfare.

But the historic inclusion movement has been overshadowed by a new welfare based ‘sick and disabled’ people’s movement, which is fashionably fuelled with its trade union roots, and its left-wing rhetoric. Its message that sick and disabled people are ‘the most vulnerable’ who are dependent on the state under the remit of ‘compassion and fairness’ is easy on the eye and enables unwavering public support.

For myself, watching the inclusion of disabled people being flushed down the political loo has been frustrating to say the least, as I read endless pity stories that makes my blood boil! It is very complex to explain why what most people lap up as ‘the right thing to think’ in terms of ‘not forcing disabled people to work’ is actually a very wrong thing, that is damaging to disabled people’s inclusion within society.

This is why I have just published a paper on the Political Battles between Inclusion and Welfare and I am presenting it this week at a disability studies conference at Liverpool Hope University. This paper aims to explain the political landscape between inclusion and welfare, hopefully in a more successful way than I have tried with some of my Huffington Post articles, and many of my infamous Twitter rants.

At over 8000 words, the paper is admittedly not light reading but I believe it is an easy read if you have an hour to spare. With over 50 references, I have tried to keep an objective overview of what is happening from the viewpoint of the many players involved. I believe the paper is a good attempt to clarify the issues and viewpoints that separates how disabled people can be seen as needing social protection, and how they can be seen as included equal members of society.

I believe there is the potential to reach a compromised position between welfare and inclusion, recognising that social protection is needed, especially for disabled people who contributions to society does not equate to earning a living wage, while at the same time ensuring disability related payments are not passive, but are instead directed to support the meaningful inclusion of disabled people. It never helps where the left wing media daily reports how immoral it is to consider anyone with any kind of impairment as able to work, unconsciously adding fuel to the legal killing of unwanted disabled people. While the public laps up this pity press, it just makes me angry at how this seen as acceptable.

The political battles between inclusion and welfare are complex and the passion from activists on both side is huge, as it is often regarded as a ‘life or death’ issue. This makes any attempts to negotiate a compromise something can could make achieving world peace look easy, especially since many activists do not even acknowledge there is a debate to be had.

The paper is my attempt to start a discussion in what is the greatest challenge the political direction of disability related social policy has had for a generation, but whether anyone will want to engage is another matter.

Follow Simon Stevens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simonstevens74

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