From the Vaults

Fifteen years ago

In July 1992, performance artist and wheelchair user Tony Heaton used an artificial leg to demolish his seven-foot high pyramid sculpture of collecting cans – entitled ‘Shaken, not stirred’ – as part of a protest against Telethon, the television charity that raises money for disable people. Sadly, no chuggers were harmed in the making of this protest.

Ten years ago

A bright young whipper snapper of a Chancellor by the name of Gordon Brown announced plans to help disabled people into work in July 1997. His budget pledged to fund the welfare-to-work scheme to the tune of £200m to help people with disabilities and those on incapacity benefit into work over the following five years.

At the time, Disability Income Group director Pauline Thompson said she was “absolutely delighted”, adding that the funding “could be used creatively to make a difference”. However, Lorna Reith, director of the Disability Alliance, rather wisely gave the announcement a more cautious welcome.

Her concern was that there were no details about how the scheme would be implemented and she warned that, in order for the initiative to work, the benefits system had to change so disabled people were not penalised. “If disabled people try out for a job and it doesn’t work out they return to a lower rate of benefit. This is a disincentive,” Reith explained.

Our new Prime Minister may have proved he is good with money. But we are still waiting for this particular penny to drop.

Five years ago

The problems social workers face trying to get on to the first rung of the property ladder are not new. Five years ago, the government promised 200,000 new homes in the South East to help address the problem. But, commenting as he rushed off to one of his houses, the then deputy prime minister John Prescott said he was unable to say what proportion of these new-builds would be either affordable or allocated for key workers.

No-one can blame social workers for being sceptical. The vast majority of money previously allocated for 10,000 key workers had gone largely to nurses, police officers and teachers, with just 389 ‘others’ – including social workers – benefiting.

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