What are you currently working on?
I work at the Alliance for Inclusive Education which is a Disabled People’s Organisation that campaigns for all disabled learners to have access to mainstream education, no ifs, and no buts. Our current campaign is to fight the government’s continued attacks on inclusive education, as if disabled people ever had the right to inclusive education in the first place. Disabled learners are the only group of people who can be lawfully discriminated against when accessing mainstream education despite the government’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Article 24 which states that disabled people should not be “excluded from general education system and receive the support required. Moreover we mustn’t forget that in terms of accessing 16+ education there is not a squeak on segregated education.
We are campaigning vigorously against the Government’s plans to remove the bias towards inclusive education through increasing segregated and education provision in both schools and colleges that is being proposed in the Government’s proposals for young disabled people in their draft Children and Families Bill.
We have been fighting against the outright attacks on disabled people’s right to mainstream education through the government’s academies programme and their attempts to weaken the special educational needs legal framework. Additionally we have been campaigning against the Government’s attack on local authority’s role in providing coordinated specialist SEN services that are available free of charge for all state funded schools. Such services may include behaviour support, educational psychologists, occupational psychologists, dyslexia therapists which can make a real difference in supporting mainstream schools capacity to support inclusive education practise for a whole range of disabled kids.
ALLFIE were successful in ensuring academies complied with the SEN framework and generally required to be have an intake of pupils of all abilities. This doesn’t get away from the covert discrimination that disabled people and parents face in accessing mainstream education through admission procedures.
Please see ALLFIE’s website for on-going campaigning activity: www.allfie.org.uk
What do you see as the biggest threat to disabled people at the moment? The Government’s
Disregard for the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, European Human Rights Convention, Human Rights and Equality Acts duties in their responsibility for promoting inclusion of disabled people in mainstream
Constant attack on anyone relying on the state for any kind of support, welfare benefits, housing, social and health care and so on. Individualism, capitalism, competitiveness and productivity are the driving force of Government policy. They are wrecking any kind of collective responsibility for supporting each other in times of need.
Plans linking duties to being entitled to state funded support – i.e. requirement to be looking for work whilst having a social housing tenancy or being in receipt of employment and support allowance.
Then we have disabled people being seen as scroungers when accessing benefits when time and time again it has been shown there is little evidence of fraud.
State’s responsibilities and Public sector’s duties being privatised by commissioning such services to the private sector such as profit making organisations, ‘social enterprises’ and charities. This will undermine the integrity and democratic accountability for decisions that will have a huge impact upon disabled peoples’ lives. ATOS is an example where the Work Capability Assessment should be under the direct supervision of the Department for Work and Pensions as opposed to a private company that is only interested in meeting the Government’s targets of getting disabled people off benefits so they get their contract renewed. Simarily, private companies are involved in determining whether job seekers are doing enough to find work and if not they can contribute to the decision of withdrawing job seeker’s benefits.
Market determines what services will or will not be made available for disabled people. Just because disabled people need services does not mean that the market will deliver – as it depends on whether a profit can be made by the provider.
The idea of objectivity and assessments without recognising the whole move towards carrying out individual assessments is based on a universal application of ideas. There is an assumption in the work capability assessment that an ability to read, write, use a computer, lift objects and so on at home is an indicator of a disabled person’s ability to do paid work. An ability to concentrate in a work setting is assumed if a disabled person has the ability to watch Eastenders.
The Big Society Bank where we are going to have the elite deciding who will be deserving poor or ‘needy’ and who will be providing those services. As the bank will be providing loans instead of grants, only companies that can pay back the money will be considered – Disabled peoples organisations are unlikely to get any assistance.
Another major threat is the bio-psycho-social model replacing the good old social model of disability in terms of understanding the barriers that disabled people face.
What can disabled people do in the face of all these threats?
I think disabled people need to get together and think through what needs to happen in order for things to change. Reconceptualising how we understand disabling barriers in today’s society in order to challenge our most pressing threats, for example the bio-psycho-social model.
We need to work together in developing an ideal world that promotes inclusion, both in theory and in practise.
In terms of campaigns we need to link to wider anti-capitalist campaigns because we are affected differently but equally. Capitalism is there to divide us, it is about squeezing out the resources from the many (disabled people, women, Black and Minority Ethnic groups, the working poor and so on) for the benefit of an elite. We need to stand firm to this continuing threat to our freedoms.
What is the best action you have ever taken part in?
Anti-discrimination, Apprenticeships and the Jodie and Mary’s Equal Right to Life campaigns.
Throwing stink bombs into a Leonard Cheshire Ballroom which stopped a charity ball and throwing false shit and sitting on a very doggy toilet outside the Department of Health against cuts to social care campaign.
Is there any message you would like to give DPAC members?
Kick some butt!