Disability History Month 2013

Post from Alice Maynard, Chair of Scope

Disability History Month begins this week. Recently a fantastic and timely BBC documentary charted some of the big milestones in the struggle for independent living.

It’s clear society’s attitudes to disability have come a long, long way.

But it wouldn’t have happened had disabled people, like Paul Hunt, who led a care home revolt and became one of the Movement’s founding fathers, not looked around and said “this isn’t good enough”.

It’s got me wondering if this month could go down in disability history.

Hear me out…

Columnist Frances Ryan recently did a great job of summing up what life is like if you’re disabled in 2013. For too many people it’s a real struggle to live independently.

But could November 2013 go down as the month when we once again made our voices
heard?

At the beginning of the month five disabled activists waited nervously outside the court of appeal for the outcome of their challenge to the way the Government has gone about closing the Independent Living Fund. They won.

Following on from Labour’s promise to scrap the bedroom tax and news that the Government have had to slow down the roll-out of personal independence payment, have we hit a point when it’s dawning on the public that with living costs spiralling and incomes dropping that the answer to disabled people’s living standards crisis isn’t to take away financial support?

Also this month MPs are preparing to debate the Care Bill. There are positive moves in the bill – the role of advocates is now enshrined – but plans to restrict council-funded support to only those with the highest need, will force too many disabled people to have to pay for their own support to live independently. At a time when disabled people are struggling to make ends meet, that is support they simply can’t afford.

Disabled people have for too long sat outside a debate that focused on making sure middle England baby boomers didn’t have to sell their homes to pay for their parents’ care. But again it feels like disabled people are starting to make their voices heard. With disability now a mainstay in the social care debate, could the Government be forced to re-think its plans and genuinely make history by guaranteeing council-funded independent living support for everyone that needs it?

Making sure disabled people can get support is one side of the coin. The other is what that support looks like. Does it genuinely promote independent living?

This is the month that we at Scope tackled this question head on. Again disabled people’s voices have played a big part. For a long time activists have been urging Scope to transform its more old-fashioned residential homes. Not long ago they protested outside our offices.

This month we begin work on proposals to close or significantly change 11 care homes. It’s the right thing to do. But we also need to do it the right way, which means making sure disabled people who live in these homes have choice and control over where they live in the future. I don’t think we’ve done anything radical. But hopefully we’ve given the sector a bit of a jolt.

The message for Disability History Month 2013 is ‘Celebrating our struggle for independent living: no return to institutions or isolation’. Let’s remember some big milestones. Let’s not forget that we have a long way to go. But let’s be optimistic – disabled people continue to speak out and continue to make society think differently.

UK Disability History Month runs from 22 November to 22 December.
Visit the UK Disability History Month website

2 thoughts on “Disability History Month 2013”

  1. I am sorry to have to put a less than positive spin on your celebrations but I fear you again speak on the behalf of the most able, disabled people. Scope considering the closure of 11 residential homes where primarily very severely disabled people live, with no clear statement of reassurance that those who wish to remain in a residential type environment will have this option, is and remains a significant worry and is actually ensuring the most vulnerable do not have a choice or a voice. Where are the consultations for families and service users? What will you do with the people who want to remain in residential care and for who their institution is their community and rightly or wrongly, is how they are choosing to live. Thus far, we see no reassurance or plans for modern Scope residential homes being built and furthermore these small community homes that apparently give ‘greater independence and choice’, are in reality, nothing more than mini prisons. Resources are significantly fewer than in bigger homes and the use of pre-existing buildings which have been badly adapted to try and make them fit people’s needs, only adds to the problems. People are having to get by in far less desirable environments than the current large spacious environments offered by the larger residential homes. Come on Scope, discuss the needs of all your members, not just the articulate and able few. You have to know that there are just not places in the community available for purely people with profound physical disabilities. We have contacted over 50 establishments that advertise caring for people with physical disabilities. In reality, none of these have tailored services for people with cerebral palsy and all lacked day care facilities or access to community activities anywhere near comparable to the level of stimulation currently on offer and being obtained in Scope’s larger residential care home facilities. You tell me how this move to independent living and closure of 11 homes can ever be good news for your most vulnerable service users? I look forwards to being convinced.

    1. Hi Fiona, we have only just made these proposals and are now just starting to plan next steps. We want to talk and listen to everyone in this very early stage before we start doing anything. We will consult with people who live and work in each care home, before making any decisions. Once we’ve made a decision, we will work with each person and the people closest to them, to find out what kind of support and where they would like to live in future – whether that’s residential care home, shared living or in their own place with the right support.

      In future we want to do things which support disabled people to live with more choice and control, rather than in large segregated care homes separate from the rest of society. We are fully committed to working with their local authority at the right time, to make sure each person gets the support they need.

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