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If you reflect on the past twenty years the Disability Movement has achieved substantial gains in the fight against discrimination. Direct Payments was conceived by Disabled People and later became the Direct Payments Act; the DDA came about through proactive campaigning, these are just 2 examples. Lately there have been rafts of Green Papers, White Papers, Prime Minister Strategy Reports etc. etc. and more recently a private members bill tabled by Lord Ashley the “Independent Living Bill”. However the current reality of Social Care, which as you should be aware is regrettably completely unsatisfactory, and contrary to the original spirit of the “Chronically Sick and Disabled Act 1970”.
The ideals framed in the above mentioned Papers, Reports and Bill are admirable words, but they lack substance, and in reality is just empty rhetoric. In recent years we have made very little substantive progress; we are still in fact facing regular discrimination and Disabled People are being treated as third class citizens condemned to a third world quality of life, with few aspirations or opportunities to be fully included in society. This is not only a national disgrace, but a sad indictment of our Government’s record when you consider the nations wealth, and that we are a modern, allegedly progressive democratic state which holds itself to be an example to the world. This abysmally poor record is reflected by numerous statistics. For example: 1/3 of Disabled People are living in/on the margins of poverty; 1/3 having no qualifications and twice as likely to be unemployed; 80% of DLA claimants have never used a computer; this is just a sound bite (as we seem to live in a sound bite age) and if you look more in depth at our governments record and the effect it has, is having IT IS SHOCKING!! The situation is set to become far worse when you consider nearly all Local Authorities are only providing the absolute bare minimum of services to those who manage to satisfy the inconsistently applied Department of Health’s “Fair Access to Care Guidance” eligibility criteria, and subsequently apply harsh charging policies to those with any income above circa £78/week (Income Support + 25%), savings, or home owners. To put it in simple terms either we are not eligible for services or if we are eligible we then have to pay for them, therefore there is seemingly little point in a duty being conferred on Local Authorities to Assess and Provide services.
Recent and amended current legislation are still founded on the principles of 1948 National Assistance Act and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Act of 1970 which are weak, vague, ambiguous and often therefore open to perverse interpretation, I cite the “Gloucester Judgement 1997” (Law Lords) and the “Sefton” Judgement”.(Court of Appeal). Though the DDA is generally speaking a good thing it could do with being tougher with greater enforcement and sanctions for breaching it, as it stands it lacks teeth and in many instances is still being flouted. ‘Social Care’ is just one dimension of the numerous facets of the disadvantage and prejudice faced by Disabled People.
In many ways the Politicians have taken on board our language and ideology, have exploited it and now use it in a cynical manner. To some extent we have been duped, and seduced by the rhetoric; caught resting on our laurels and the pendulum has swung back the other way. Now more than ever Disabled People need to rally to the cause of equality and speak up. No more rhetoric, we want real, tangible and meaningful change.
We have to force the change if we want a country that is genuinely committed to equality and social justice.