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Don’t follow me, I’m lost too
As children, my sister and I used to carry blue army style satchels that we decorated with felt tip pen pictures and phrases. One favourite phrase was “don’t follow me I’m lost too” which was further enhanced with little eyes drawn into the ohs! Having recently attended a talk on how the charity sector is faring in the age of welfare reform I was, in part, reminded of the phrase again.
With so much rapid change occurring in the sector, and with over 22 welfare reforms since 2008, mainly in housing and tax credits, perhaps it’s no surprise that one could lose one’s way in trying to piece together what is becoming a highly fragmented approach to welfare, with the service user being the most vulnerable: the effects of Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, disability allowance and housing benefit caps, localisation and personalisation were all debated.
Something that really opened my eyes was a talk about the Social Model of Disability, something I’ll admit I’d not heard of before. Put very simply society is the main contributory factor in disabling people. If, for example, every building had ramps and elevators then being in a wheelchair would not define that person’s ability to work and be fully integrated within society.
As an able bodied person whose only minor gripe is to be left handed in a right handed person’s world, I don’t really challenge these perceptions in everyday life either; I just exist. This change in perception is something that Andrew Marr very recently discussed in an interview since returning to work after he suffered a near fatal stroke earlier this year. He said he "simply didn't see" people suffering with disabilities before.
It is this lack of perception that has led to the Atos fiasco where assessors have used the ability to pick up a box as a basis to judge whether or not someone is “deserving” of disability benefits, even for those with mental health problems. If it wasn’t true you would laugh at the utter absurdity of it all.
Rebecca O'Connor, Consultant
Rebecca is a Consultant in the Charities Practice.