It is no secret that I am not a fan of the current range of benefits for people with impairments and for reasons that are very different to the normal concerns from other activists. As opposed to helping people improve their quality of life, I believe the current range of benefits feeds passivity and dependency, reinforcing notions of poverty and disempowerment.
This stance makes me appear callous and cruel because I don’t conform to the dominant exclusion agenda, but I do believe people with impairments should have a better type of support that actually supports people in their unique journey of life. I believe fundamentally that people with any form of additional difficulty to what would be expected from the norm should get the exact support they require when they require it within the realms of reasonableness.
There are three important points here that makes my system very different and hopefully better than the current system. The first point is that labels will be irrelevant but rather the focus should be what the impact is in creating barriers towards someone achieving their immediate and long term goals. This means that labels like cerebral palsy, diabetes and so on have little meaning in describing how the condition affects an individual, which is unique to them. It is therefore better to focus on the specific impact any condition creates in terms of everyday life as well as fulfilling longer term goals.
The second point is the determining and agreeing the individual goals of a person, and the support they may require, it is important to compare what is a reasonable lifestyle amongst their peers. This means that their reasonable outcomes will be determined to some degree by their peer group, so students will be compared with students, those in work, people in a specific career and so on. This could mean it will acceptable for a student to have support to go back packing for a gap year in the same way as their peers and offers intercultural learning, but the same request could not be made by someone in their 40s. This fits into an idea of a right to equal opportunities as opposed to specific rights to access activities without question.
The final point is that support should meet the specific extra costs a person has in performing activities in comparison to their peers without additional difficulties. Importantly, they need to be able to afford the activity as if they did not have any additional costs, as well as the activities being reasonable in comparison to their peers. This means that in the spirit of fairness, unless framed in terms of education or meeting specific mental health issues, the support for leisure activities for someone out of work is going to be less then for someone in work because leisure is a reward of work as well as a method of managing the stresses of work.
I believe my system will be fairer and stop the idea of winners and losers that the current system provides. It will be unpopular for many who feel they should be compensated for how they feel being impaired, or are reluctant to acknowledge their additional costs are not as high as they would like others to believe. But this is the only way we will ever move away from the victim culture of current system of benefits.