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Disabled people and service users will be heard. We will be listened to #ombh

Peter-Beresford-60.jpgby Peter Beresford, chair of national service user network Shaping Our Lives, and professor of social policy at Brunel University

It seems that the only way that disabled people can prove they are human to this government is to have a job. No matter that the job market currently discriminates and excludes. No matter that not everyone can contribute through paid work even though they can contribute in other ways. No matter that jobs are being lost and unemployment is rising each day.

So, disabled people can expect to come under automatic attack because the discriminating world we live in too often just doesn’t make it possible for them to pay their way and being on benefits is presented as something bad and wrong.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This attack is not just a new thing coming from the coalition government. There hasn’t been a government since 1979 – that’s over 30 years – which hasn’t attacked people on benefits – and that always includes disabled people and people with long term conditions. It was ‘New’ Labour which declared that it would get a million people off incapacity benefits remember. As far as I can see, the only major political party that has shown any understanding of the rights and needs of disabled people recently is the Green Party.

One Month Before Heartbreak

That’s why the One Month Before Heartbreak Blogswarm is so important. Because real change will only come from us as disabled people. This really is about speaking and acting for ourselves – about true ‘self-advocacy’. We have to be in there telling it like it is – as we are now doing. We need to be seeking and gaining support from other groups who are under political attack and building alliances with them. We need to make clear that the government seems to have almost everybody – other than people like it and the rich and powerful – in its sights. We have to highlight that our issues are everybody’s issues. That the attacks we are now facing are ones that many more people are coming under and will increasingly come under as politicians drive forward with policies which are about reducing support for people while increasing control over them.

Different ways

There will be many different ways in which we, as disabled people and service users, can contribute to campaigning and protest. Each of us may come at the issues in different ways and maybe feel more comfortable responding in one way rather than another. For some demonstrations and direct action seem most helpful. For others it is about being able perhaps for the first time to express their feelings and to gain solidarity with others. But the goal is the same – safeguarding and advancing people’s shared rights and different wants and needs.

We aren’t going away

Many politicians who are attacking disabled people say that they aren’t, or that they don’t understand why we think they are attacking. As our voices get louder they will hear them and they will more and more realise that we aren’t just a soft target as they thought. As we pump up the volume, the message will get across, maybe slowly at first, but certainly more effectively in the long run. Others who are already beginning to be shocked by some of the cuts in disability benefits will increasingly register their support. We aren’t going to go away. Any policies and politics which try to ignore that will fail.

Sure, such policies will cause much pain, loss and tragedy in the meantime. But they will not work. We are here. We will be here. We know we have a right to be here. There’s no more just taking it. Expectations, standards and legislation have all changed. Increasingly they recognise and protect disabled people’s rights. They will be on our side for the future.

About Simeon Brody

Community Care managing web editor

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