Category Archives for "Disability"

The PIP Process – Part 2: The form arrives

The wheels PIP process are definitely turning.

There was a big ‘thud’ as the post arrived through the door this morning.  My heart sank, and pulse quickened, as I suspected I knew what this would mean.  I was right…my PIP form had arrived.  I had been warned about the length of the form and about what to expect, but nothing quite prepared me for the reality of the form.  It sits beside me as I write this, the deadline for the return of the form glaring out at me from its box.  In this blog, I want to talk about the impact of the form arriving and the effect that this has.  I’ll talk through completing the form in a future blog, because, as for reasons that will become clear, I’m not about to complete it yet.

It reminds me of an old exam booklet, complete with instructions about what to do and how to do it.  Except at 40 pages, this form may take a little longer than the traditional 3 hours to complete.  At this point, I want to say a big thank you to those who have reached out to give me words of encouragement and support.  Rest assured, I’m not completing the form without some serious professional and informed advice from a variety of sources.

As I flicked through the form, the feeling of an exam stuck with me.  I felt overwhelmed.  There were some easier questions about who they should contact (I had already given this information, but I suppose some duplication is to be expected.)  The form though feels like a missed opportunity, and as if there is some magic spell needed to unlock the code around it.  At first glance, I don’t even know where to begin and just feel very, very sick.

Lets put this reaction into context.  I am blessed with a good head on my shoulders and have a masters from Cambridge and a PhD.  I clearly have at least a reasonable command of the English language and am used to navigating systems.  However, this form left me feeling stumped.  Whilst I don’t claim to be a genius, my question is, if I’m struggling with the advantages I have, how the heck have other people gone on?

The other thing about articulating the impact your disability has, is that it can be quite tricky.  I have had CP from birth.  When I first talked about the form with someone, I went through a lot of the adjustments that I had to make in everyday life that are second nature to me.  These will all need to be unpicked and put into the form, which I presume will then be assessed by someone with no understanding of my particular impairment and how it manifests itself in my case.

As the form continues, I feel as if I am almost on trial – “tell us why you can’t do this” “tell us how long it takes.”  To me, the form also has a kind of sinister tone to it, a kind of medical model writ large approach that feels deeply uncomfortable.  Whilst having to disclose details of an intimate nature it itself also second nature, somehow this feels different, as if I have to show I am ‘disabled enough’ to merit the vital help I have had throughout my life to this point.

The form also cuts against the grain to me.  I always try to be positive in my outlook and approach to life, to try and focus on what I can do.  This form just feels a bit like an exam on ‘everything Chris can’t do.’  Then there are the reminders on the form – to include all my evidence, to not delay, and to ensure I do everything I can to include it as “delay in receiving evidence on which I intend to rely” might throw a spanner in the works.  Also, is it just me, or does that wording sound a bit like a police caution?

Still, there is hope.  The form will get done..and if all else fails there are appeal routes.  According to latest statistics, almost 80% of tribunal decisions go in the claimants favour. With figures like that, it’s almost as if the system is designed to deter people from claiming in the first instance, and reward persistence.

Sources of support for the PIP process

I have received lots of helpful tweets on where you can go for help in filling out this form.  I’ve not personally used any of them yet so can’t recommend or comment further, but these include:

  • Citizens Advice
  • Benefitsandwork.co.uk
  • Third Sector organisations
  • Your local MP

1 The PIP Process: Part One

This was the text I woke up to on Friday from the DWP. Upon reading it I felt sick. I also felt patronised (as if I needed telling to fill in the form carefully!) and intimidated (fill in the form or else you won’t get the money that you need to meet the extra costs that come with your impairment.)

In a sense I am one of the lucky ones, in that I have not been asked to go through this process until now. It’s important to outline the psychological effect that PIP, and the prospect of this change, has had though. The problems with the PIP assessment process have been well documented and the worry about having to go through this process has been at the back of my mind for literally years.

Imagine waiting for a letter you have wanted to come through the post. Each day you await for the arrival of the mail that day with a sense of keen anticipation. You might even look out for the person delivering the post and feel a little surge of adrenaline when you hear their footsteps or the doorbell.  Now imagine that this is a letter you have dreaded getting. Swap that excitement for fear. This is what waiting for that letter has felt like.

I got this letter on the Thursday before Easter. Or more to the point my wife did. She’s been keeping an eye out for the post for years too. She saw that the letter was from the DWP, guessed what it might be and opened it for me.  She was then able to tell me, very gently that the letter had arrived.

After calming down slightly, I picked up the phone to begin my claim. I wanted to at least have started the ball rolling before Easter. I captured how I felt after the call in the following tweet:

I’ve always been told that first impressions matter. You set the tone, get it right, and it establishes trust and helps to build good foundations. I’d heard the horror stories with PIP. I’d read the critical reports and tweets and news stories. They’d have made sure everything was thought of and ran smoothly now, right?

I was left shaken and literally shaking after that first phone call. The failure to be able  to even answer basic questions like ‘what comes first, form or assessment?’ (turns out it’s the form!) gave me no confidence at all. 

At times the call also resembled a police interview under caution as I was warned that I had to be accurate and warned about fraud at least twice. The impact of this is that it ramps up the nerves.   I felt like I was under suspicion and being watched.

I was also struck by the technical nature of the process, the questions involved and what was asked of me. So much so that I talked about the possibility of using an advocacy service to help me at one point. When you consider that I have a Cambridge degree and a PhD and am struggling, what hope does someone without that background have? The process is a fundamentally inaccessible one.

I’ve also had to make an appointment with my GP. Apparently one of the things that can happen is that a medical assessment can be filled in without you actually being consulted with. I should say at this point that my GP is great and has been supportive in the past. What my GP doesn’t have is 35 years worth of experience of Cerebral Palsy and an understanding of how this condition can impact on day to day life. We’ll hopefully get to fill out the medical paperwork he gets sent together.

So now I await the form. Thankfully, I’ve had lots of support from my friends and other disabled people who have been through the process. I’m really grateful for this as it has helped me to have a better understanding of the process and what will happen next.

Let’s see what the form brings…

1 The ‘Editing Out’ of Disabled People from society

A rather sinister thought crossed my mind as I was munching my way through my Easter Eggs and hot cross buns and mulling over the arrival of the notification that I would need to start my claim for PIP.

I had seen a story that there were no school places for people with Special Educational Needs. The gravity of this, and its profound potential consequences, really hit home to me as someone who had begun life in a ‘special’ school (as it was then called) in 1985 and had the opportunity to transfer to a ‘mainstream’ school in what at the time was a brave experiment and almost unheard of when it happened thanks to some really progressive (and brave!) teachers and parents.

Following some surgeries, I then returned to the special school a few years later, before going on to mainstream primary and later secondary school.  Even at a young age I could see that both places had their own value and an important, distinctive role to play.  From there, I was lucky enough to go on to get my degree, masters and PhD.  I can say with near complete certainty though, that I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I couldn’t have even got to school in the first place.Educational exclusion is particularly problematic and damaging to the life chances and prospects of young people.

Young people then are effectively being ‘edited out’ from the system, excluded before they can even get any kind of place within a structure that either isn’t equipped for their needs, or worse still, doesn’t want them.

Being ‘edited out’ in other contexts?

Does this happen in other contexts?  I wanted to know more.  I spent a while looking around the literature and found that this idea in and of itself is nothing new.  Disabled people had long encountered structural barriers to their progression in society.  This is, after all, what the social model of disability has told us for many years.

What struck me was the acuteness of the problems faced in the present times.  Disabled people are still contending with the consequences of welfare reform (e.g. PIP, ‘Bedroom Tax’) coupled with other things to ensure they are ‘edited out’ and invisible from public life.  There are numerous other examples of this too.  Take for example, well documented issues on public transport for disabled people, or even the campaign to remove straws from public places.  A straw is one of the most important tools that many disabled people can have, and without them, simple things like getting a drink can be a non starter.

A particularly sinister ‘editing out’ trend comes in disabled people being asked to pay for their own care contributions (something which is currently under consultation in my own local authority.) The equation is quite a simple and stark one..pay more for your own care..if you can’t afford to have the care…don’t have it and the impact on quality of life is catastrophic.  You are once more ‘edited out’ and precluded from accessing society before you even leave the door.

And a paradox…

There is an abundance of technology and mechanisms that should make society more inclusive than ever before.  The very computer i’m writing this article on is a prime example.  Therein it could be said, lies the rub.  Technology costs…and how is one supposed to afford it when eating could well be a struggle, according to recent findings.

So what to do?

There is no doubt, dear readers, that this is bleak stuff.  I hope, as I move beyond the preliminary sketch presented here and dig deeper, that there is evidence to disprove my theory, and for  my working hypothesis to be disproved….time to dig deeper.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

A tale of two narratives and the contested representation of disabled people

It strikes me that from what I see, hear and read at the moment, that there is a very polarised contest going on in terms of how disabled people are talked about, thought about and represented.  Discussion and debate over the representation of disabled people is in and of itself nothing new.  As I was researching this blog, I found a really interesting book on how disabled people are represented in the media from the early 1990’s.  Many of those representations are still with us today.  What feels different (and I emphasise that this is a feeling rather than I something which I can empirically verify or ‘prove’ as such) is the significance of the challenges that disabled people are facing in current times, coupled with the unparalleled importance of social media channels today.

So for me there is a tale of two narratives which are diametrically opposed.  On the one hand there is a ‘contribution’ narrative, which talks about the positive impact disabled people can make through their approach to life and skills.  An example of this from a few days ago was the parliamentary discussion of the role that disabled people could make to economic growth.  The report from this discussion makes it clear that disabled people have a significant contribution to make in several different ways and is well worth a read.  A further example is a channel 4 publication on the importance of disabled talent in the media industry, which in many ways is an extended testament to the progressive approach taken by this broadcaster.

On the other hand there is the ‘burden’ based narrative, which depicts disabled people must, as Colin Barnes puts it, be ‘cared for’ together with the cost and complexity that this involves.  This can take a range of forms.  There was recent outcry over a BBC Ouch podcast which, it its headline, explicitly discussed whether having a disabled partner was a ‘burden.’  The response to this will also give us clues as to how to combat this narrative, which I will return to later.

I first want to highlight a deeply troubling aspect of this narrative though: the renaissance of the medical model.  Increasingly, it is being left to disabled people to find their own solutions to their impairments.  In an educational context, I have been disturbed at the increasingly contested state of special educational needs provision.  The denial of young disabled people of access to educational opportunity due to increasing amounts of litigation is a worrying development.  Other examples of the return of the medical model include requiring disabled people to contribute to their own social care costs and fund their own wheelchairs.

Whilst I am normally quick to call for and point to a need for nuance, I really can’t see any middle ground between these narratives.   Opposing the burden based narrative in a swift and confident fashion is important.  In the case of the BBC Ouch podcast, thankfully the range and volume of response to the characterisation of disabled people as ‘burdens’ was vast.  This resulted in the offending text being edited and an apology being made.  It could easy for the medical model to ‘creep’ its way back into our default way of thinking, so it is by challenging its expressions that this can be combatted.

The case for the ‘contribution’ based narrative should also continue to be made in an assertive way.  Even allowing for my own bias, it is clear to me that disabled people have a pivotal role to play in contemporary society in so many ways. Make no mistake though that the hard fought advances that we have seen for disabled people can be easily eroded, and constant vigilance against this is required.  Long may the contribution based narrative emerge, and we all have a role to play in ensuring the ‘burden’ based narrative is consigned to the past, never to return.

A new approach to disability activism:Some first thoughts

This is something I have been wrestling with for a while…and something I wanted to try and make a constructive contribution with. For a long time I have observed disability activism and seen some instances where it has gained more traction than others. I have also wondered about what it means to be an ‘activist’ or a ‘campaigner’ and wanted to help contribute to this debate. 

With this in mind, I outline some principles around what a new approach to disability activism could look like. I do so with some trepidation, and with the heavy caveat that these are first thoughts. I am though of the conviction that, used with a principled approach, disability activism has far greater (and more consistent) scope to have impact than it does currently.

Principles

In this section I present a very broad brush outline of the principles underpinning a new approach to disability activism. These are that activism should be goal directed, evidence based, nuanced, proportional and ideologically transparent.

 Goal directed

Activism must have a clear idea concerning its objective(s) and how the activism intends to contribute to their realisation. Being goal directed could also help in the engagement of individuals who share a similar or common objective

 Evidence based

In order to make a telling impact, what is said must be grounded in evidence, either of an empirical or experiential nature. Being evidence based will mean that findings can be discussed with authority, rather than being dismissed as being merely purely anecdotal in nature. Evidence could take the form of a quantitative, qualitative nature or a mix methods approach as each methodological approach has merits.

 Nuanced

The term ‘disability’ encompasses a wide range of impairments and as such, any activism carried out should take this range into account. Giving due attention to nuance will help to highlight the diversity that is covered when discussing issues related to impairment and give due respect to difference.

 Proportional

A sense of proportionality matters in order to ensure the effort directed to addressing an issue is relative to its significance. Moreover, this sense of proportionality is intended to avoid disproportionate responses to an issue. To give an example, boycotting a manufacturer because one of its employees used a disabled parking space in an isolated occurrence would be, it is suggested, a disproportionate response to this infraction. 

Ideologically transparent

Some disability activism is informed by a clear ideological standpoint which can help inform the stance taken in relation to particular issues. In the policy making arena Barrilleaux et al (2016) have suggested that ideas should be ideologically neutral. 

Given the nature of disability activism, much of which draws from personal conviction and responses to government and social policy, the author doubts it is possible to separate the personal from the political. Being ideologically transparent though means that ideas can be discussed with the nature of an influential standpoints disclosed. 

Learning from history: Using the past as a springboard for the present

In writing these first thoughts, I do so in the knowledge that the disability rights movement has a long and rich history which is of import with the above in mind. Here there is work to do in order to identify and learn from past endeavours in order to inform and develop present efforts.

I hope these first thoughts are useful, and I would welcome thoughts on them. I intend to develop them in the near future. Good disability activism, in order to make the case for the multitude of issues that those with impairments are facing in current challenging times, is in the interest of so many.

Introducing The Coalition of Chaos

In this blog, I will be thinking out loud, sharing initial ideas of an idea that has been developed for a new group called ‘The Coalition of Chaos’ and how this will operate.  These ideas are very much a ‘starter for 10’, on which I welcome feedback and critique.  I have no idea this will lead (and indeed, there is the possibility it may not go anywhere!) but I do feel from the initial response to some ‘soft’ consultation that we’re onto something.

Origins of the Coalition

As someone who has been in and around the Third Sector for a while now, I think it is a reasonable assessment (some would say understatement!) to suggest that we are living through challenging times.  I am of the view that challenging times require innovative and creative solutions where we can all benefit from working together and sharing knowledge, drawing best practice from a range of areas.  This was where the Coalition of Chaos originated.

I am a great believer in ‘safe space’ where people can get together and say what they think without fear of recriminations.  As I was having a catch up with the brilliant Paul Richards of Stay up Late, these thoughts led to the suggestion that a new group be formed – cheekily called ‘The Coalition of Chaos.’  The intent would be to draw together a range of progressive thinkers from across the third sector, who could come together and freely exchange ideas to address our common problems.

Through sharing these solutions, we would be both collectively and individually placed to make a difference in the third sector and have a greater toolbox at our disposal to overcome the issues we face.  In formulating these thoughts, I am aware that there are already a plethora of groups and forums that already exist.  What is distinctive about this group, I would argue is the freedom and safety it allows – this would be a group that wouldn’t be afraid to be radical in its approach and be a bit left field.

Practicalities and next steps

Thinking the practicalities through, the group would offer a mix of face to face and virtual options, with the finer logistics to be determined by consensus in due course.  Though the emphasis in this group is on dialogue, I would envisage that some outputs in the form of presentations or papers could be used to help give a basis for further reflection and development.

In terms of next steps, if you would like to talk some more about this idea and maybe even get involved, please get in touch and we can have a chat via email, phone or Skype.  The only ‘qualification’ you need is an interest in the third sector and the desire to work together to improve practice.  From here, we will collate a distribution list and develop things from there, hopefully working towards a first meeting to kick things off.

Wheelchair Latest: The most unhelpful response ever?

Dear Reader,

We’re still struggling to make headway with Fran’s wheelchair.  It is difficult to do this due to lack of clarity on what exactly is required by way of evidence for the appeals process, and a process which itself it both fundamentally flawed and hopelessly outmoded.  The following is the full transcript of the CCG reply to my latest set of questions, designed to understand exactly what evidence is required:

Dear Dr Whitaker and Mrs Whitaker,

I am authorised to send you this response to your three specific questions on behalf of Mr Rob Murphy, Associate Director, Planned Care.

1.         In terms of Fran’s condition, I am unclear what is meant by the ‘normal population of patients with the same medical condition.’ As I explained, Patient’s impairment, Cerebral Palsy, covers a wide range of circumstances with the impact of the impairment manifesting itself in different ways.  It would be helpful to understand the specific criteria used to constitute the term ‘normal’ in this case so that we can gather evidence in this regard to enable the panel to consider this.  I appreciate that you yourself are not a clinician so would welcome advice from a clinician who sits on the panel in respect of this.

Response:  This refers to any other patient with cerebral palsy with similar physical disabilities.

What does this response actually mean?  How on earth are we supposed to get evidence comparing Fran to a hypothetical person that doesn’t exist…or is that the point?  This is response is really concerning as it a) shows no evidence of an understanding of cerebral palsy and b) provides no further clarification.

2. I am also unclear in terms of the panel not discriminating on age.  How is this consistent with the need to demonstrate the need to demonstrate clinical circumstances which are ‘at a similar stage of progression as the patient’ when, in the case of Cerebral Palsy, this would be causally linked to Fran’s age?

Response: This is taken out of context from the policy which states: The Commissioning Authority does not discriminate on grounds of sex, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, educational level, employment, marital status or religion.

 If the stage of progression is causally linked to the Patient age, this would be the case in any similar patient.

So now we have to find someone who is effectively a twin of Fran for the purposes of comparison.  Where does this person exist?  If you know, please tell me.

3.         Lastly, you state that the Commissioning authority does not ‘generally make treatment for patient under its policies dependent on the patient’s personal or social circumstances.’  Please could you state what personal or social circumstances would constitute exceptional ones in this context?

Response: The Panel could not advise on what personal or social circumstances might be exceptional until presented with something felt to be in this category by the applicant.   It is up to the applicant to demonstrate exceptionality not for the Panel to presuppose what that could be.

We already have presented this evidence, which has been dismissed, on the basis that it was not considered ‘exceptional’ with no further reasoning for this given.  Again, there is no clarification here, meaning the panel is effectively hiding behind its discretion to take decisions based on a flawed understanding of Fran’s particular impairment.

To add to my concerns, I have researched the background of Mr Murphy, and he has a masters degree in Pharmacy.  Quite what basis this qualification provides to make decisions on  the case of someone with cerebral palsy, I know not.

I hope this is helpful.

Do you find this helpful dear reader?  We will follow the process, but I now have no confidence whatsoever in it.  It is clear that the people making decisions lack the understanding required to meaningfully assess Fran’s case.  Still, we persist, in the hope that, eventually, common sense will prevail.  The odds of this, however, seem increasingly remote.

The effects of having to negotiate a process such as this should also not go without a mention.  This process has, and continues to impact both Fran and I adversely in a number of ways.  We will not give up though.  It is clear that systemic changes are needed, and I am determined to continue to shed light on a process which is not fit for purpose and fails to meaningfully understand the people it is there to serve.

Appeal rejected: Our wheelchair woes continue

Today we found out that our appeal for Fran’s e-motion wheels has been rejected.  This despite a letter from Fran’s GP, OT and the Wheelchair Service themselves.  The reason for this is that the criteria for ‘exceptionality’ has not been met.  I won’t rehearse that exceptionality criteria here, but suffice to say that all the clinically qualified professionals who had written in support of Fran’s case were confident it did.

What this means is that a second appeal is needed.  What is going to make the difference? More evidence, perhaps.  Evidence of a clinical nature from professionals, yes?  Well yes, except the appeals manager informed me that a personal letter from ‘the patient’ (i.e. a person) could sometimes make the difference.  Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. I suspect that the basis for the operation of the appeals panel is being made up as it goes along, dear reader.

Could I see the reasoning behind the denied appeal? No.  Could Fran actually meet the panel to explain the difference it would make? No.  In essence then, an inconsistent process that has no real hard and fast rules and which is shrouded in mystery.  The next step? Another appeal. The next step after that? Another appeal.  Both appeals heard by the same panel.

What does all of this mean?  Further delay, anxiety and yet more money being spent.  I’d suggest that if the wheels had been given to Fran at the outset money would have been saved, with the best clinical outcome already achieved in the judgement of the professionals who actually know Fran and have met her.  In the mean time, Fran has to continue to have a wheelchair that is unsafe and causing discomfort (we discovered pressure sores over the weekend.)

I’m literally at my wits end with this.  Should I crowd fund?  I am very tempted, and we’d probably get the wheels much quicker that making subsequent appeal(s).  But what about the next time wheels are needed?  Just as with dear Theresa May, we don’t have a magic money tree!  This is to say nothing of the embarrassment resort to crowdfunding would cause to two people who are attempting to cling on to pride and dignity, despite the effects of a totally demoralising and dehumanising process.

Appeal we will.  Get it changed we will.  I just hope the human cost of this is worth it, and that in highlighting the issues we’ve faced, change will happen too.  It needs to.  The system is broken and belongs on the same place as Fran’s wheelchair, the scrapheap!  In the mean time, there is always the power chair, and the house adaptions, and car change on offer.  Cost of this  £40 000.  Impact: Loss of independence.  Shelf Life: 2 years.  Cost of e-motion wheels: £5000. Impact: Independence preserved, health benefits through activity. Shelf life: 5 years.

I’ll leave you to decide which is the best option dear reader.  I only hope I don’t have to carry out my threat of protest, using e-motion wheels to cover my modesty.  Time will tell.  Am I serious? You bet I am.  Something has to give…

We need to talk

Every so often, I read something that stops me in my tracks and makes me sit up, providing a sobering reminder of the daily challenges that face disabled people like me. The latest one of these moments was research from Sense which revealed that loneliness was highly reported by disabled people.

Perhaps even more shocking to me was the finding that over half of those surveyed thought they had nothing in common with disabled people. As someone whose hobbies include football, travel, music and eating chocolate (!) I scratched my head and wondered how on earth it was possible to have nothing in common with half of the people I encountered in my daily life. If this is true, what a damning reflection on us all.

We need to relearn how to be with each other. One of the best take aways from my counselling training this year is the Adlerian concept of social interest. Essentially this says that it is everyone’s responsibility to find ways which can help us gel together. Surely that shouldn’t be so hard? I was also really struck by the fact that between a third and a fifth of people surveyed essentially didn’t know how to talk to disabled people.

In my experience, the latter is quite simple: Essentially like anyone else. For me personally, though it will vary from person to person, I always also say that I’d rather people ‘ask and no, than not and wonder’ about my impairment. The rest is down to a bit of tact and common sense – treat me with the same respect you’d extend to other people and all will be fine. There really is nothing to be scared of.

I also think we need to rethink our approach to difference. Difference needs to be celebrated, rather than perceived as something which is awkward, threatening, or to be ‘othered’ in some way. Through appreciating the differences we all have at some level or another, we get to experience the richness that is living in a diverse society.

To close this blog, let me pose a challenge to you, dear reader. Try and engage with someone you don’t know. It might be as simple as smiling or saying hello, and its a start. Together we can tackle the issue of loneliness and change the world we live in, one conversation at a time.

General Election 2017: Feeling Apprehensive

So I’ve seen the Bedroom Tax, PIP and a raft of other measures to make life harder for disabled people.  What impact has the General Election debate had, and where is this disabled voter left feeling as a result?  One word sums it up: Nervous.

Should the Tories be re-elected, further welfare cuts seem likely, and Jeremy Hunt seems to be making increasingly concerning noises about how long money can kept being put into the NHS and that’s only *if* the economy is strong enough to take it.  Having seen the impact of healthcare privatization in the US, that really scares me.  I fear being one of a class of people who faces an impossible choice between sky high premiums or poor coverage, and quite possibly ending up with both.

I feel quite frankly battered by cuts which seem to have impacted on my life in a number of ways and the thought of more of the same also really worries me.  Add to this the lack of attention given to disability issues in the coverage I’ve seen to date and i’m left feeling sidelined by the debate thus far. Where has been the attempt to speak to the ‘purple vote’? What reassurance have I been given that things will improve?

Debate around public services, especially the NHS, matter so much when you know that you will be regularly using services and the way they are run will have an impact on your daily life.  Social Care too is massive.  From an early age I have known that the shape of social care will have a direct effect on my life and I want to try and plan my life so that I can live it to the fullest.  Depending on the nature of the proposals, this could well effect the home you live in and the sort of life you can lead.  It can be very easy to feel marginalised as a result when these issues are not aired – because I know the impact will be felt.

There is perhaps better news.  This analysis by Disability Rights UK indicates that the party manifestos contain a range of proposals that are disability specific, some of which are more encouraging than others.  Though this isn’t an endorsement, it is also good to see the Labour Party support for the Social model of disability at a time when we seem to have regressed to a medical model of thinking which has become increasingly entrenched in some circles.

It is also becoming easier to engage with politics.  United Response have also continued their excellent ‘Easy News’ for the 2017 election, producing a highly accessible account of the election manifestos.  Debate has also been lively on Twitter.

My sense of unease is still there though.  In the closing days of the campaign it would be good to see greater prominence given to disability issues so that the ink that is clearly devoted to the manifesto pages can be bought to life.  At a crucial election, it is vital that we all get the chance to have an informed debate about the kind of society we want to be a part of, so we can all live life in an inclusive way with one another.

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