3 thoughts on “The National Disability Union – A Way Forward? | jaynelinney

  1. Peter John Farrington

    Seems sad to have to dfig this out of my old documents folder but this is a piece I wrote for the final days of the old DRC before the EHRC took over in 2006/7

    “Nothing about us without us?”

    (The need for full democratic participation in disability politics)

    The “Disabilty Agenda” rightly has proactive participation at its heart, not least given two of its main recommendations:

    Increasing democratic participation and active citizenship

    “The DRC believes it is desirable for disabled people, communities and the country that many more disabled people have a voice and make an active contribution to public, civic and community life.”

    Promoting a culture of equality and human rights

    “A cultural change can only be achieved by challenging these low expectations and aspirations and by promoting the active participation of disabled people.” – “Transforming the power relationship between public services and disabled people is vital”

    All well and good, if this transformation actually happens, so why do I question if “nothing about us without us” is still an issue?

    Well we may have new rights, a Minister for the Disabled, the O.D.I. and a Commission, but despite all the fine words, “consultations” and rhetoric I, and many others, feel our voice is still barely heard let alone listened to by those in power or sadly even, always, by those supposedly appointed to represent our interests as disabled citizens.

    So what is the answer?

    Membership of Equality 2025 and the new CEHR Disability committee are solely by appointment, but I would argue both these bodies should be directly accountable to the wider disabled community via a truly democratic process if they presume to ever speak for us.

    Nomination to any such national forum should therefore be drawn from locally elected panels of disabled people who would themselves also act as our representatives on local issues linked to disability, including but not exclusive to ensuring compliance with D.D.A. and D.E.D. duties, in full proactive cooperation with the relevant local authority departments and other relevant public bodies in their area.

    Membership of the panels would be by nomination from individual user groups within the relevant local authority area including carers and local disability organisations. Election would be by democratic ballot of all service users and those registered as disabled, to confirm and endorse the individual membership of the panels at regular intervals to ensure full accountability and promote wider participation by new members.

    The cost of running panels would be minimal as participation would be on a voluntary basis with only essential and unavoidable expenses being reimbursed including the full cost of any appropriate additional support required to meet individual member’s needs. I would hope that some small allowance would also be made for participating members time, perhaps if only by way of a reduction in any contribution they now make to their care under current charging arrangements by crediting them for their time as a “disability related expense”.

    This is necessarily just a brief outline of how such panels could be established and how they could work in practice but I trust this will allow you to see the benefits of setting up such independent democratic panels of disabled citizens to give reality to the central goal we all share of equality, fairness and self-determination for all.

    Just a thought for those looking at how representation works at the top for the few why not start by focusing on the grass roots the individual disabled people themselves as we don’t have one voice and never will have but a multitude of voices and ALL our views need hearing!

    P.S. Yes I know the EHRC changed its name along the way but sadly it never changed its ethos when it came to matters like this.

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