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• Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Last week, The Guardian’s Social Care Network published a blog written by Shairaz, a member of United Response’s Campaign’s Panel, to mark the publication of United Response’s Our Future report on the Government’s plans for disabled people and how those most affected feel about them. The Campaigns Panel was set up to ensure that people United Response supports are given a platform to speak out in their own words and on their own terms.

This week, the campaigners behind the Spartacus Report also illustrated how important it is to give disabled people a chance to be heard. Their report is called “The People’s Review Of The Work Capability Assessment” – and is, as the title suggests, built upon the views of disabled people who have been failed by the controversial assessments. It is a powerful and hard hitting document recording how some people at the sharp end of welfare reforms are being treated.

Both reports are part of a drive to ensure that disabled and vulnerable people are no longer excluded from public debate on issues which have profound impact upon their lives.

In his blog, Shairaz spoke passionately about the support that he felt disabled people should receive and why he believes the Government should be doing more to listen to people with disabilities:

“Many of us had not heard about the changes that the Government was going to make to social care, before we took part in the report. Those of us who did know about the changes were worried about our benefits as we knew that funding was being cut.  For me, I think that if I was Prime Minister, I’d make sure that everyone had better support and funding. I’d make sure that disabled people are always cared for and that they’re not neglected and I’d want people to have the facilities and things that suit them; for example someone might need a wheelchair or things changed in their home to make it easier to live there.  It’s really important that people’s living environment is right, because it helps people to live a good life.”

Along with other members of the Campaign’s Panel, Shairaz welcomed Government plans to introduce a national minimum standard of care and to provide disabled people with greater assistance at times of transition. Shairaz is concerned, however, by the levels of support currently available to people with mild and moderate needs and to people with multiple disabilities.

“Some of us had bad experiences when we moved from one sort of service to another and so we think its good that the Government is going to help people more with change and to set a minimum standard of care. But we also think that there should be more support for people who only have a few needs.  Just because someone has a disability that’s under the surface, it doesn’t mean they don’t need help. Disabilities are not all the same and they’re not just about physical difficulties.  Things can go wrong inside your head too. People can be like apples or eggs – they look fine on the surface, but you don’t know what’s going on underneath.  Disabled people shouldn’t all be classed as the same. People need to see the human underneath and see that everyone had been born with differences.”

In The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment, one person comments on the WCA: “It’s like doing a crime. I am a human being who needs additional support but here I am facing a panel who are making a decision on my life. I am tired of fighting officials who seem to think they know more about my disabilities and needs than I do. It now makes me feel ashamed of who I am. I am being punished for being disabled and feel powerless.”

Shairaz believes that decision makers must consult more with disabled people and that this is a vital part of getting social care right in the future. He said:

“For things to be better in the future the Government must listen more to disabled people. All politicians should meet disabled people; just sit down and have a chat. Once they understand us, they can support us better.”

The Coalition Government pledged when it came to power that fairness would be at the heart of its reforms. We must hold it to that promise and will only consider it to have been met when disabled people are properly consulted in decisions that shape their futures. The Government can start by reading these reports and then reaching out to disabled people across the country.

Jaime Gill, head of press and public affairs

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