Bouyed by Laurie’s letter and the statements in it (see last post) I’d printed it out and showed it to a couple of the group members early on. They seemed somewhat cool at my enthusiasm, commenting it didn’t change anything WE were doing.
I tried, when Peter asked for any introductory questions, to bring Laurie’s letter to the attention of the group but before I could get very far I was stopped by Peter. I sensed this was when I made mention of ‘mental health.’ I sensed, too, that I was being singled out for gagging - as other group members were allowed to speak at length about their issues. A little later I tried to bring the letter to Peter’s attention by passing it to him. He pushed it one side and ignored it. I decided to wait for the afternoon session which was set for specific attention to terms of reference.
In the afternoon we were split into small working groups. In our small group of four I explained the letter and it’s implications. I was very very saddened to hear the hostility expressed by these disabled people, service users, to mental health being included in our functions and I was ashamed at their insularity. “We have been the Cinderellas of services for years and years and we deserve to have special attention for just physical and sensory disability” was one cry.
Dismayed and disheartened I’m afraid I attended the group reporting session seething with anger. My group reported we had done little work because of me and invited me to explain. I began to do so but as soon as I mentioned ‘mental health’ I was told to shut up by Peter De Oude - verging on skilled dismissal of free speech. I could feel the hostility of most of the group. I told them I could not be complicit with their attitudes and quit the Strategy.
This ‘Joint Strategy for People with Physical and Sensory Impairments’ is being held up as a flag waver for Norfolk. Laurie says in his letter below: “...this is nationally a groundbreaking piece of work.” My opinion is that it is a shameful piece of anachronistic prejudice.
I remain a member of the Coalition and continue to work with the Focus Group for Personal Health Plans/Budgets and communications with Norfolk LINk. Mr DeOude and I have crossed swords before - over tokenism that time. I will keep a close and wary eye on him!
The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People has, just before the general election, published its “Disabled People’s Manifesto 2010 - Equality for Norfolk.” it says:
- The DDA came in 15 years ago. Nevertheless, disabled people still face discrimination in employment, education, transport, access and more.“
- ”We want a national campaign to raise awareness about mental health.“
- ”One in four people are affected by mental health problems. They are too often the victims of stereotypical assumptions, social exclusion, discrimination and even unjustified imprisonment.“
- By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities the UK has formally agreed to implement almost all the demands...”