Ok, i know that I’ve been quiet, but hopefully that’s over.
The recent Disability Employment conference led me to write this: love to know what you think.
So the government has a new strategy on employment and disabled people – this is to be welcomed, of course. At the Disability Employment Conference in July the ‘Disability Confident’ campaign was launched, and in principle this is ‘a good thing’. The way to success in this life is to be confident, aware of your talents, practiced in ‘selling yourself’ and well networked.
Oh, wait, no, sorry; it’s the employers who are to become disability confident so that they’re not worried about employing us. Because, you know, it’s a risky business taking on disabled people: except, the research says this is not true, and disabled people tend to be loyal (we don’t think anyone else will have us) and take less time off sick than others.
Still, it’s got to be better if employers become more confident about employing us, hasn’t it?
Many years ago when I was first introduced to disability as a political, rather than a medical issue I learnt about how society ‘builds’ disabled people – the first bricks are laid when a disabled baby is born: it’s generally not the same joyful occasion as when a non-disabled child is born, and the parents are whisked into disaster-land before you can say ‘congratulations’ or introduce them to peer support. As the child grows it becomes surrounded by ‘special’ provision, and indeed becomes a ‘special needs’ child through nursery, through school and into teenage years. On leaving school the teenager – or they may be in their twenties before they leave, special you see – may go to a special college, or maybe a work placement or a ‘valued occupation’. Or maybe whatever passes for day centres these days.
And who appears at the end of this process? A disabled person, that’s who, someone who generally has been so isolated from the cut and thrust of day to day life that they don’t have a hope in hell of taking part in the mainstream.
Okay, granted this is a bit simplistic, not least because the majority of people become disabled later in life: but the point is that these things do happen, this process does exist. It’s amplified by the constant rhetoric about disabled people being vulnerable, needing care. Add to this mix the way disabled people are currently demonised and portrayed as scroungers, and then wonder just how much difference it is going to make to exhort employers to be ‘disability confident’.
This campaign is launched as the government’s controversial welfare reform agenda tightens, and measures as diverse as the end of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and the under occupation penalty (or ‘bedroom tax’), are predicted to significantly reduce the support available to disabled people.
And the advice from one of the disabled ‘role models’ at the conference? “Don’t whinge: have a ‘can do’ attitude.”