Over the last two years at Breakthrough we have watched, with both admiration and some curiosity, the developing debate and activities around challenging austerity and the cuts directed at welfare and services for disabled, and ill, people. We were puzzled in part by the apparent reversal of the position of some in the disabled people's movement towards Remploy, whose abolition we always supported, believing segregated employment to work against disabled people's best interests. We have, admittedly, been slow to make best use of social media and are learning from the skills of those who make effective use of it as a lobbying and campaigning tool. Some of the activities, reports and campaigns of the people, networks and organisations emerging to lead this campaigning have been impressive, both in their content, and their distribution and targeting via social media. A new and exciting model of the self-organisation of disabled people is emerging.
Breakthrough recently posted a blog asking 'Is there a disabled people's movement?' and outlining recent events leading to the development of the Disabled People's Manifesto by four of the leading active disabled people's organisations . The Manifesto was put out by its authors for consultation in July, for a little under four weeks, and was officially launched at an event in Parliament on 4th September as part of the DPAC (Disabled People Against the Cuts) ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ Week of Action.
The authors of the Manifesto describe it as mapping "the key principles, demands and commitments that disabled people, our organisations and our allies can use in our campaigning and lobbying.”, and acknowledge that it is still being developed in the lead up to the 2015 General Election.
Prior to, and at the launch, people and organisations were invited to sign up to the Manifesto, and Breakthrough has been considering how we should respond. On the plus side, we find much to support and agree with in the Manifesto, but conversely there are matters we would be concerned about and wish to discuss more widely, hence this piece.
In our discussions, and our own consultations, we have been clear that our intention is not to create tensions and rifts, rather to contribute and strengthen. We hope that our discourse is seen as constructive and creative, and are excited at the prospect of a developing Manifesto that we can sign up to and get behind.
In deciding how to respond to the Manifesto we saw it as important to place it in an historical context, however briefly: in terms of self-organisation we felt two documents were seminal - the UPIAS Fundamental Principles of Disability and the Derbyshire Coalition "Seven Needs for Independent Living".
It is worth considering if and how the Manifesto could be strengthened by borrowing and echoing some of the core UPIAS Principles. For example, the following is an extract from the Fundamental Principles:
"In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments, by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society. It follows from this analysis that having low incomes, for example, is only one aspect of our oppression. It is a consequence of our isolation and segregation, in every area of life, such as education, work, mobility, housing, etc. Poverty is one symptom of our oppression, but it is not the cause. For us as disabled people it is absolutely vital that we get this question of the cause of disability quite straight, because on the answer depends the crucial matter of where we direct our main energies in the struggle for change. We shall clearly get nowhere if our efforts are chiefly directed not at the cause of our oppression, but instead at one of the symptoms."
This paragraph echoes one of our concerns regarding the Manifesto - namely that of a decided and up-front focus on welfare. Although timely, we believe that to make welfare provision a central plank of the Manifesto is tactically unhelpful. We are not saying that the welfare debate is unimportant, nor that current campaigning and lobbying is not needed. We are saying that it needs to be addressed in a wider framework, as in the Fundamental Principles and in a clear relationship to other issues.
Our view on the call for a 'disability income' is similar. UPIAS was critical on the calls for a 'disability income', not because they were opposed to the notion as such, but because as a focused campaign that did not sit in a wider framework it diverted attention away from the need to address the causes of disability.
Vic Finkelstein, discussing the Fundamental Principles, insisted that there is no disagreement on getting an income, but "it's how one's going to get there that's the fundamental issue"
"We as a Union have drawn the necessary lesson from this experience in DIG, and therefore our Union's Aims and Policy Statement place incomes firmly in the context of the wider struggle for us to participate fully in society, and so achieve our emancipation from all aspects of our oppression, including poverty.”
The Seven Needs for Independent Living were outlined in the 1980s by the then Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People and provide a framework of what early analysts believed was needed in order that disabled people might achieve independence. These seven needs were later expanded into the 12 Pillars of Independent Living, which have been adopted by many disabled people's organisations (see Appendix for both frameworks).
The 12 Pillars differ in that they include an adequate income, availability of inclusive education and training, and equal opportunities for employment. The architects of the 7 needs argued that if the 7 needs were met, then these extra three would follow: many disagree, and perhaps the developing Manifesto would be a vehicle to drive this debate forward, especially the 'demand' in the Manifesto for an employment quota.
It is worth noting also that the 7 needs were itemised in a particular order, each need seen as having to be in place so that the full benefit of the other needs could be realised. We feel that the Manifesto could benefit from such an approach - not a hierarchy as such, rather a clearer ordering that begins with the fundamental building blocks and then adds on the related issues.
If the Manifesto is to be used as a strategic document and as a blueprint for lobbying / campaigning we feel that a 'horses for courses' approach would be useful. For example, if this is to be used to persuade 'conservative' (non-political) politicians and civil servants to change policies and practices it needs to speak in language they will understand and not reject, whilst still getting its essential message across. The Manifesto needs some adjustment if this is to happen. Breakthrough, for example, has experience of working with politicians and civil servants in this manner - our responses to, and work on, the Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People strategy were highly influential. The lessons from this have stood us in good stead for influencing the changes we see need to happen and given us an open door to push on.
Finally, we would be interested in how many people and organisations have signed up to the Manifesto so far: our 'straw poll' tells us that some significant organisations are still considering how to respond, whilst some have signed up.
We welcome the fact that the Manifesto is seen as a 'developing document' and look forward to contributing to that development.
(i) Extract from Fundamental Principles of Disability re UPIAS / Disability Alliance meeting
1. Fundamental principles to which we are both in agreement: disability is a situation, caused by social conditions, which requires for its elimination, (a) that no one aspect such as incomes, mobility or institutions is treated in isolation, (b) that disabled people should, with the advice and help of others, assume control over their own lives, and (c) that professionals, experts and others who seek to help must be committed to promoting such control by disabled people (page 5)
(ii) The Seven Needs for Independent Living
(This wording from the Disability Derbyshire Coalition for Inclusive Living)
Before we can make any decisions or changes in our lives, we need information.
When we have the information we need in the format we need, we have to use it. Peer counselling can give us the confidence to use information to make changes that we want to make in our lives.
A property that can be adapted to suit your needs.
Things that make everyday tasks easier to do.
Staying in control of your daily living with support from a Personal Assistant.
Public transport, community transport and individual transport which promotes independence.
Making full independent use of public buildings and the countryside.
(iii) The 12 Pillars of Independent Living
(This wording from Disability Wales)
To further clarify what Independent Living means in practice, the disabled people's movement has identified a range of issues that need to be worked on and improved to make Independent Living a reality. These "12 Pillars of Independent Living" are:
- Appropriate and accessible information
- Appropriate and accessible health and social care provision
- A fully accessible transport system
- Full access to the environment
- Adequate provision of technical aids and equipment
- Availability of accessible and adapted housing
- Adequate provision of personal assistance
- Availability of inclusive education and training
- Equal opportunities for employment
- Availability of independent advocacy and self-advocacy
- Availability of peer counselling
Under each of the 12 Pillars there are a wide range of practical solutions to facilitate Independent Living, disability equality and social inclusion. However, we need to organise and work for political change if these goals are to be achieved.
 Our blog ‘Is there a disabled people’s movement?’ is at: http://www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk/OurServices/policy/blog/movement.htm
 See the manifesto here: http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/?location_id=4909&result=success
 The 4 organisations are DPAC, ALLFIE, Inclusion London, & Equal Lives
 UPIAS Fundamental Principles of Disability: http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UPIAS-fundamental-principles.pdf
 Derbyshire Coalition 7 Needs for Independent Living: http://www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk/AboutUs/Principles_of_Independent_Living and listed in full in the appendix.
 Fundamental Principles of Disability, page 4.
 Fundamental Principles of Disability, page 8.
 Fundamental Principles of Disability, page 5.
See for example the Disability Wales website http://www.disabilitywales.org/independent-living/-pillars (listed in full in the appendix)
 The Life Chances report is archived here: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/strategy/assets/disability.pdf