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
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