I would like to suggest that when the coalition government came into power in May 2010, there was a major shift in the way many sick and disabled people have organised themselves to protest against ‘welfare reforms’. Most people will not see any problem with this, regarding this as something quite natural. This is because they may not be aware of the political history of disabled people over the last 40 years, which has dominantly been focused upon the pursuit of our full inclusion into society, trying to move away from a negative portrayal of sick and disabled people as merely objects of welfare.
But the historic inclusion movement has been overshadowed by a new welfare based ‘sick and disabled’ people’s movement, which is fashionably fuelled with its trade union roots, and its left-wing rhetoric. Its message that sick and disabled people are ‘the most vulnerable’ who are dependent on the state under the remit of ‘compassion and fairness’ is easy on the eye and enables unwavering public support.
For myself, watching the inclusion of disabled people being flushed down the political loo has been frustrating to say the least, as I read endless pity stories that makes my blood boil! It is very complex to explain why what most people lap up as ‘the right thing to think’ in terms of ‘not forcing disabled people to work’ is actually a very wrong thing, that is damaging to disabled people’s inclusion within society.
This is why I have just published a paper on the Political Battles between Inclusion and Welfare, and I am presenting it this week at a disability studies conference at Liverpool Hope University. This paper aims to explain the political landscape between inclusion and welfare, hopefully in a more successful way than I have tried with some of my Huffington Post articles, and many of my infamous Twitter rants.
At over 8000 words, the paper is admittedly not light reading but I believe it is an easy read if you have an hour to spare. With over 50 references, I have tried to keep an objective overview of what is happening from the viewpoint of the many players involved. I believe the paper is a good attempt to clarify the issues and viewpoints that separates how disabled people can be seen as needing social protection, and how they can be seen as included equal members of society.
I believe there is the potential to reach a compromised position between welfare and inclusion, recognising that social protection is needed, especially for disabled people who contributions to society does not equate to earning a living wage, while at the same time ensuring disability related payments are not passive, but are instead directed to support the meaningful inclusion of disabled people. It never helps where the left wing media daily reports how immoral it is to consider anyone with any kind of impairment as able to work, unconsciously adding fuel to the legal killing of unwanted disabled people. While the public laps up this pity press, it just makes me angry at how this seen as acceptable.
The political battles between inclusion and welfare are complex and the passion from activists on both side is huge, as it is often regarded as a ‘life or death’ issue. This makes any attempts to negotiate a compromise something can could make achieving world peace look easy, especially since many activists do not even acknowledge there is a debate to be had.
The paper is my attempt to start a discussion in what is the greatest challenge the political direction of disability related social policy has had for a generation, but whether anyone will want to engage is another matter.