Disabled People reject new ‘tick box’ national disability strategy.
Disabled people and our organisations[i] across the country have expressed outrage at the Government’s decision to go ahead with the launch of a national disability strategy[ii] that is not a strategy, does not address key problems, does not reflect the issues and priorities of Disabled people and was not developed with Disabled people organisations[iii].
We have been waiting for 10 long years for a strategy that will tackle the growing poverty, exclusion and discrimination we face and set out a transformative plan for social justice, equality and inclusion. This so-called strategy does neither of these things.
The lack of meaningful engagement with Disabled people and our organisations in the development of this so-called strategy has been so bad that a group of Disabled campaigners are taking the Government to court on the grounds that consultation was so poor as to be unlawful[iv]
A spokesperson for the DPO forum said:
“Disabled people have been ignored yet again by this government. We know Disabled people have been disproportionately harmed by austerity, cuts to public services, cuts to benefits, a broken social care system and the Government’s on-going failure to protect and support Disabled people through this pandemic[v] . Working with Disabled people and our organisations to develop a disability strategy able to tackle these deep inequalities was an opportunity this Government has chosen to ignore. Instead, its pressed ahead with a tick box exercise producing a non-strategy not fit for purpose and that has limited credibility with Disabled people.”
Unlike the big disability charities that claim to speak for Disabled people, but do not represent us, Disabled peoples’ organisations are united in our opposition to this so-called strategy and once again call on the Government to start working with Disabled people, not against us.
Disabled people make up 20% of our population with many more people becoming disabled as a result of long covid. A key part of this governments ‘levelling up’ and ‘building back better’ agenda must be a disability strategy that embeds the Convention on the rights of Disabled people (UN CRPD)[vi] into domestic law and addresses the complex and deepening inequalities we experience. We call on the Government to put this tokenistic non-strategy aside with its raft of re-hashed policies, random actions and vague promises for future consultations, and start really working with us so we can get our equality and inclusion back on track.
[i] Names of DPO Forum England members: Alliance for Inclusive Education, Chronic Illness Inclusion, West of England Centre for Independent Living, Disability Sheffield, Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), Equal Lives, Disability Rights UK, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Disability Positive, Equality Together, Choices and Rights (Hull& East Riding), Breakthrough, Spectrum CIL, National Survivors Users Network, Sisters of Frida, Disabled People Against Cuts, Liberation, Inclusion London, People First, Shaping Our Lives, Disability Stockport
John Darvall, BBC Radio Bristol: Let’s go to Mark. Mark, who is from Bristol, he is from BRIL, which is Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living. They’re a group who campaign for improvements in social care and the right to live independently. Mark is disabled, he has a personal assistant who helps him with his care, and acts as his speaker. So we’ve recorded this for you to hear. Mark Williams, BRIL: So what we’d like to ask Bristol City council is, First of all, can they ensure there will be no cuts to Adult Social Care? Secondly, we ask that the council use powers that all local authorities already have, to end all charges for Adult Social Care, as they have done in Hammersmith and Fulham. These charges are discriminatory attacks on disability that causes debt, and are a major barrier to choice and control.
John Darvall: Mark there, with the help of his assistant who was speaking for him. Helen Holland, Mark alluded there to the how, you had mentioned a little bit earlier, you talked about how councils are doing things differently, and you’re looking at different ways of doing things. Do you think Bristol could ever get to the point where it abolishes extra charges for Adult Social Care?
Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council:
Well the first thing to say is I know Mark very well, and so it’s great to hear him. I think, as I said, that I’m happy for Bristol to be seen as a high spender, but I would like that to also mean that we’re a high performer. So, part of it is about trying to spend the money better and do things that more people, either with disabilities or older people, that they want us to do so that it’s the solutions that they, that they want. And that’s about transforming the services. It’s also about giving those people more say in how we commission the service, and also about more say about how they spend their money. So a lot of people now are on direct payments and they can choose how they employ their carers, how they spend their money.
You know one person, what they wanted was to have the membership as a national trust so that they could get up to Tyntsfield, and and go and enjoy the space out there. And that’s fine, so long as we can justify that that’s helping with their wellbeing. So there’s all sorts of things that we are doing. And I think that what that boils down to, is people having more say and more choice. But can I just come back very briefly to the point about making decisions in a crisis, because that might not only be for older people might not it, it might be for younger people with long term conditions.
And I think that that’s the value of talking to you John today, and doing programmes like this and how it’s being more on people’s radar. But you, really uncomfortable though it is, you really do need to sit down with people and say, What do you want further down the line? So that you’re not making those decisions, at a crisis, and that you’re more aware of what the options are.
BRIL would like to know what you think about this.
This event is a chance for Deaf and Disabled people to have their say on what has happened to them during the Covid-19 pandemic, learn about other people’s experiences and share ideas about what the right to Independent Living means, during and after COVID-19.
In 2019, a group of people in Bristol got together to talk about what the idea of ‘Independent Living’ means.
Independent Living can mean different things, to different people.
But the group agreed it should include:
● Having equal choices and decisions,
● Having support that meets our needs,
● Being fully included in the community.
We also agreed that Independent living does not mean being in institutions, being left your own, or having to fend for yourself. In other words, the ideals fought for by Disabled people over the last 50 years.
However, some of us felt that these ideas were being taken over, and being mis-used to mean something totally different.
Disabled people in the group had faced cuts to their support, and then been told that this would ‘encourage independence.’ We knew people in supported living, Disabled school children, asylum seekers and people in the mental health system that were having their support taken away. Again, the excuse from authorities was that this would ‘teach’ them to not need any support.
In the summer of 2019, Daphne Branchflower, one of founders of the group that became BRIL, died. Daphne had been part of the Disabled people’s movement for many years, fighting for our rights until the very end.
The group felt that we needed to do something.
At an event called ‘Untold Stories’ about Disability history at the Arnolfini in Bristol, Mark Williams talked about these ideas and whether a new group might be needed. After a few months of planning, BRIL was launched in September 2019.
Since then, BRIL has grown into a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO), run by and for Disabled people, autistics, people with chronic illness and people who experience mental illness / distress.
Some of us have been involved in campaigning for many years, while others are new to disability groups. But what we all share is a commitment to changing things, to being honest and to making decisions as a group.
However, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit us, and some of plans had to be postponed… So we agreed straight away to focus on: ● Holding regular online peer-support meetings, ● Making accessible and EasyRead information, ● Fundraising so we can help isolated Disabled people including asylum seekers and older people to get access to the internet, ● Campaigning for our rights during Covid.
We have been in contact with Disabled people’s organisations, user-led groups and migrants rights groups in Bristol, the South West and across the country.
We have also joined two national networks who have supported us to grow: ROFA (Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance) and NSUN (National Survivors and Users Network.) It was through NSUN that we secured funding to build this website and expand our online peer-support meetings.
For many years, people in Bristol have discussed different ways of bringing together the different Deaf, Disabled and mental health user-led groups in our area.
We were then very pleased to hear at WECIL’s annual general meeting the Deputy Mayor for Bristol, Councillor Asher Craig, give her support for the idea of a Disabled People’s Commission for Bristol. This is something that many of us have talked about, and we know that people really want this to happen.
Until then, BRIL will carry on campaigning for our rights, being a place to share experiences and ideas… and reminding everyone thatwe all depend on each other!