… Or at least, they should be.
Today, This Writer was contacted by a long-term correspondent, concerned about a passage in the Labour Party’s new manifesto: “Labour follows the social model of disability.”
“The use of that model is at the heart of what is wrong with the assessment process since Peter Lilley got into bed with Unum Provident,” he wrote.
“The man who designed the fatally flawed system, Mansel Aylward has been giving lectures to civil servants and politicians of all parties for decades and is still financed by Unum.
“Having had arguments over the years with many senior Labour politicians they are not as disability friendly as they appear.”
This opinion is based on a mistake that links the social model with the discredited “biopsychosocial” model championed by Mr Aylward, Unum Provident and others (see my many previous articles on the subject).
As applied by the Conservative government (and others before it), the biopsychosocial model has been used to state that the disabilities a benefit claimant seems to have are in fact all in their mind and there is nothing wrong with them at all, or nothing that won’t get better in time.
The extreme expression of this, a few years ago, was the regular recall for reassessment of people who had lost limbs – in the belief that they may grow back.
The social model of disability, as adopted by Labour, is different.
In this model, disabled people are seen as being disabled not by their impairments, but by society’s failure to take their needs into account.
Their disability is not seen as something they are pretending to have; it is seen as something that society should accommodate.
Being disabled is accepted as part of the normal spectrum of human life, and society must expect disabled people to be there and include them, rather than excluding them by denying the existence of their disabilities, denying them the benefits that would help them to cope with the obstacles that can arise for people with those disabilities, and ultimately denying them their lives by depriving them of the means to survive.
For example: if a wheelchair user can’t get into a building, the social model would state that the problem is that there is no ramp, not that the person is using a wheelchair.
This works much better for Disabled people than the biopsychosocial model, or even the medical model, because it means disabled people can access the same, full range of educational, employment, social and other opportunities as everyone else, and have equal lives.
I am happy to put my correspondent’s mind at ease – although we must be vigilant that Labour does, in fact, put this model into practise if that party is elected to form a government.
If anyone else tries to tell you that Labour is betraying people with disabilities because of that phrase in the manifesto, tell them they have misunderstood and direct them to this article.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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