WELCOME TO ALL FELLOW CAMPAIGNERS for DISABILITY RIGHTS - a pan disability blog connecting my work with, EQUAL LIVES, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and the Survivor History Group.

Protest, Norwich Job Centre

Protest, Norwich Job Centre
Fatso Gets Militant!

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Sinking Agenda

Dame Jane Campbell is Chair of the EHCR Disability Committee. Guardian Society today published a feature by her which is essential reading. For years I have known her as one of the ‘goodies’ and my admiration and respect for her says that she would not betray her role.

I have then written to her in response to her speech:

Dame Jane Campbell,
EHCR Disability Committee,
3 More London,
Riverside Tooley Street,
London, SE1 2RG

Hello Dame Jane.
This letter is in response to the extract from your Cambridge speech printed in Guardian Society today.
I would like to say at the start that since, as a then active member of the BASW Mental Health Special Interest Group, I heard you speak at a BASW AGM fringe meeting at Malvern many years ago, you have been something of an icon for me and your words encouraged and stimulated my broader interests in disability rights and independence and greatly reinforced my belief in the value of service user involvement.
In the Guardian Society article, talking about the the merger of the gender, race and disability commissions, you say: “...as chair of the commission’s disability committee, I feel a tremendous responsibility not to lose all we have gained.”
From early retirement in 1999 (after successfully taking my employer to an Employment Tribunal for failing to make reasonable adjustments under DDA), as a disabled service user myself, I have done much voluntary work in mental health and disability rights and service user involvement. However, dismayed and disaffected yet again by yet another example of double talk by a public authority I wrote in pplog on 24th April:
“I’ve taken several steps back to have a proper think: weary of the vacuous and sometimes downright deceitful words of government and their QUANGOS and angry at public body tokenism which cynically exploits the good will of volunteers and service user involvement...there are many indications that some local authorities, PCTs and hospital trusts are also doing the absolute minimum to comply the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Having published their Disability Equality Schemes they are conveniently forgetting they exist or burying them in amongst generic policies under the name of “diversity.”
All this really makes mugs of those people who in good faith give their time, skill and knowledge in a voluntary capacity.”

Yes, this is happening in Norfolk and the disability agenda is sinking out of sight in the sea of generic diversity. All done in the name of organisational convenience - paraphrasing what you said in your speech it is: “...a politics aimed at erecting barriers that prevent all individuals, families and communities participating as full members of society.”

The reality is that disabled people and their carers have varieties of needs different and distinct from those of the no less important issues of gender and race (just a glance through the pages of research findings by the Norfolk Police Authority in preparation for their Disability Equality Scheme underlines this). Additionally, there are differences in the legislation which can become obscured by this lumping together, e.g.:

the requirement that organisations commissioned by public bodies to carry out their functions must observe the Disability Equality Schemes which should be in contracts;

the requirement that the “involvement” of disabled people must not just be “consultative” or “advisory”: “This involvement must be planned, structured and significant. It will not be acceptable for public authorities simply to consult disabled people. The involvement with disabled people will need to be a much more active process.” (Bert Massie, Chairman, Disability Rights Commission, in the introduction to ‘The Disability Equality duty and Involvement’ 31.08.06.)

The same dilution and blurring applies indeed to the merger of the DRC with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (onomatopoeically ERK). My own experience with this new conglomeration has been dismal. In November 2007 I contacted EHRC (via their helpline e mail form) and as well as another query asked: “I am of the opinion that the use of eligibility criteria for the provision of services may also be a breach of the Disability Equality Duty. Can you also please advise on this.”

I received nothing in reply. I tried again, and again. Nothing. I had some correspondence with an ERHC lawyer but who still didn’t answer my query. I sent a Freedom of Information Act request. Nothing. I haven’t referred the matter to the Information commissioner because it would take too long for it to be dealt with. I would not have had this tardy treatment from the DRC.

So all in all, this is one very disaffected service user who is giving up the battle to lose myself in music and family history.

Heddwch. Mike Llywelyn Cox.

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