Saturday, 14 June 2008

Is This Progress?

This week I was sent a questionnaire by my local council. They are modernising services for adults with physical disabilities.

Modernising. This word is used in conjunction with the phrase 'more choice and flexibility'. As if the former is needed to achieve the latter. Maybe it is. But something jars, as if a 'more modern' way of thinking has to be adopted to achieve social inclusion. What does that mean?

The move is to be away from 'traditional day centres' towards community activities provided by the council, voluntary and private sectors. There is to be greater choice and flexibility, and wider availability of services at existing premises.

Everyone who uses day services (I don't as I am not well enough to attend a day centre) is to be offered an assessment of need and care plans will reflect the outcomes of this.

And that's the sentence that got me worried. As soon as assessments and care plans are mentioned, you know that there is the potential for people to disappear under mountains of paperwork and for very little change to be effected. And for people to not be able to access services they formerly had access to, either because the service no longer exists or because they are now being directed towards a new service, and one that may not be appropriate.

This is a negative response, I know. So I'll include more of the council's vision.

The 'vision' includes the following statements:

To enable individuals with physical disabilities to live as full and equal citizens. Recognising their rights to independence and self determination and providing access to local community facilities.

To develop a more socially inclusive model to 'traditional day care' giving people with physical disabilities and their carers more flexibility, choice and control over their chosen activities.

Choice and access to shops, leisure, arts, sports, education and employment in their local communities and in the city centre. (In line with the social model of disability endorsed by the council).

Access to information and support enabling people with disabilities to have choices about a accessing a greater range of activities.

To give people with disabilities more choice about the type, time, length and location of activity they wish to partake in, and who they wish to do this with.

To work with individuals in a way that they can express how and when they would like activities to take place for example in the evenings or weekends.

To promote disability awareness in the general population enabling better access to all universal services.

My questions are:

  • How are local community facilities going to meet the very different needs of people with very differing disabilities?
  • How will greater choice and flexibility be achieved?
  • How is the council interpreting the social model with regard to access to shops, leisure, arts, sports, education and employment?
  • How will the council promote disability awareness? Who will they consult? Will there be a campaign? How will a campaign be drawn up and delivered?

I told them on the form that I am currently unable to access any leisure activities as there are no facilities for people with my condition in my area. For me to access 'activities' they would need to be close to my home, and involve small groups of people with a similar condition to my own.

I ended up wondering whether I would be able to access any 'leisure activities' at all. I would not, for example, be able to access aqua aerobics at the local pool, golf, shopping sprees, loud concerts, college courses or employment.

But if they can sort a trip to a local art gallery, or painting classes at a local gallery, or photography classes for wheelchair users, or group relaxation sessions for people with debilitating physical conditions...well it does get one thinking.

I cautiously welcome the mention of the words 'social model' within a council questionnaire, but I do wonder what the eventual outcome will be. And I'd welcome your thoughts. Really, I'm not sure what to make of this one.


Anonymous said...

I wonder the same thing with the new ADA: is it progress? Seems like a step forward in some ways but an attitudinal step back in others. I would ask who they have with a disability that they're getting input from for this project.

Good luck.

EkC said...

Hi TBO, I think you ask some very important questions here! Was there a section on the form for you to voice these questions? Thanks for sharing. I just happened across your blog recently and I look forward to reading future posts!

seahorse said...

fibrofog and ekc thanks and welcome. It is really important that they seek guidance from the people who know best. Us. It was a tick box sort of form as I recall just running through leisure activities so I missed most of it out, though it did have a section on how things are for you personally and what you'd like to see.

Maybe I'll write them a letter.