What does 2014 have in store for disabled people?

As the year of 2013 draws to a close, it is time to think about 2014 and consider what it has in store for disabled people on a political level, and I am not sure there is much good news here. While I have, as always, high hopes for my own situation in the coming 12 months, I fear for disabled people on a political dimension that there will be a continuation of the confusion, lies, mistruths and negative portrayal that has dogged us since 2010, and that does not include the actions of the government!


I feel disabled people’s biggest problem right now is that the issue of disability has been well and truly hijacked by the anti-cuts movement as they use the issue as their main weapon of attack. This is also true of what I am now calling the ‘work shy’ movement, a movement that likes to call themselves the ‘sick and disabled’ movement but I feel it is unfair and wrong for these people to claim to represent all sick and disabled people, when they are simply about one way of thinking, and that is a way I find quite offensive.


The ‘work shy’ movement is led by people like Sue Marsh, and Kaliya Franklin (better known as Bendygirl), who represent a negative ‘medical model’ way of thinking about disability, where ignoring 40 years of disabled people explaining they are citizens who face societal barriers, believe disabled people are naturally inferior who therefore can not work, despite them both now working as full-time ‘work shy’ activists. Their thinking is made worst by a pro-welfare ideology that assumes disabled people, as well as the unemployed in general, have a greater right to be dependent on the state, because of the pity of the middle class, than the right to be fully contributing members of society. The fact Sue Marsh invites members of her ‘work shy’ community to shred tears at the sight of people she considers too profoundly disabled for her imagination to bear, which would include myself if she did not know who I was, demonstrates the damage to society the workshy movement is doing.


The life of this parliament has been shadowed by the actions of the newly formed ‘work shy’ movement and the only hope I have for 2014 is that the possibility that is success of this terrible movement has peaked and that we can now start to move forward as we approach hopefully a new Labour government. There is only so many times this movement can complain about cuts that has not materialised in the all out chaos they hoped, so many times there can turned the fact the government, particularly Ian Duncan Smith, has misquoted a statistical figure by 0.1% into a media scandal, and so many times they can publish reports they claim contain facts where they refuse to provide evidence, describing themselves as political prisoners to excuse their CIA-like actions.


It is interesting to note that the big project of the ‘work shy’ movement in 2013 was the ‘Wow petition’, a desire to turn disability social policy back 150 years, and while it did reached the necessary signatures, considering the supposed public support it had, it just managed to limp past the finishing post, offering real disabled people hope that maybe, the tide is turning and we can begin to focus on more positive things, that are actually relevant to the real lives of real sick and disabled people.


So as 2014 sees the race to the next general election begin and where people, including the media, will be looking for solutions, rather than an another round of “I told you so”, the holes of the ideology of the ‘work shy’ movement may be further exposed, not just by brave or stupid souls like myself, and their creditability may be shattered, as history could and should regard them as a short-lived movement that was a small scar on the liberation of disabled people. If this is indeed the case, and 2014 will see the demise of this dreaded movement, please do remember you heard this prediction here first!

This year, I got myself a voice


2013 has been great year for me and I believe most years have pushed me forward in my life in one way or another. If this year was going to be defined in terms of having a theme, a goal that has been achieved, it would the fact that I had got myself a voice in terms of being a blogger for the Huffington Post, which was something that happened through a series of coincidences. If I had not had politely raised my concerns about the way Mik Scarlet has misrepresented what I had said in one of his articles, asking for a right to reply, I would not got the wonderful and important opportunity to ensure my opinion, so different to my peers in the work shy movement, would be heard.


Before this, I was frustrated at the many negative articles being lapped up in the Guardian and other anti-disabled pro-welfarism media by some of my peers, but now I can redress the balance and ensure a silent majority of disabled people are heard. I admit the reaction I received was a shocked but I quickly got used to being regarded by some, especially those in that work shy and anti-government communities, as the most hated disabled person in the UK!


With 30 articles so far and plenty more to come, having a voice will prepare me for the next step of changing the world for the better and ensuring real disabled people can be regarded as citizens able to make meaningful contributions to society, not objects of plenty, I just hope the theme for 2014 involves making an awful lot of money!


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com  


Taking the Wow Out of Disability

On Thursday many disability activists across the country will be celebrating the fact that the ‘Wow Petition’, a government e-petition, will have reached the necessary 100,000 signatures to be debated in parliament. They will regard this as an important message to the government from the British public that they will not tolerate the alleged cuts upon ‘disabled people’. I however feel saddened and frustrated at what I see is a petition that highlights the rise in politically accepted prejudices and pity towards disabled people as naturally inferior beings, rather than as citizens capable of making a meaningful contribution to society.

I have three main concerns to why I think this petition is a step backwards for disabled people and indeed the whole of society. The first is the absolute pointless nature of a cumulative impact assessment, which would be nothing more than a very costly and lengthy government funded ‘bitchfest’, enabling every charity, disability activist and general crackpot to line up to provide supposed evidence on how and why disabled people are suffering based on lies, myths and the general socialist assumptions that disabled people can not work.

If the assessment was done properly, it would show many disabled people are not affected by the cuts, but these are the ones who would never be heard. I am not sure what will be the benefit of such a costly exercise other than to provide the anti-cuts and perhaps anti-disabled activists the cement to turn their lies and myths into false facts, dooming disabled people to be regarded as nothing more than unemployable users of welfare by a movement that pities them.

My second concern is what exactly does the Wow Petition stand for? There is no official supporting evidence to the petition and I am not sure what exactly the MPs can debate in what is a garbled mix of unrelated and confusing demands where people can asked to fill in the gaps in the way they think best, making the meaning of the petition anything anyone wants it to be, as I have told again and again on twitter. Does it believe disabled people should be locked away in day centres or segregated in Remploy factories? What does it want happen to ATOS? Does it believe only people with learning difficulties, not all disabled people, should have an education? or is it offended people with learning difficulties get an education? Does it believe carers know best and should have control over their burdens?

There are so many questions and very little answers from its organisers, who I believe regard the petition simply to be an ideological symbol of support for any lie and myth the anti-cuts movement wish to peddle in their attack on the rights of disabled people as employable citizens. And this leads me to my final and gravest concern, which is that the fact the petition has raised its desired 100,000 signatures means it will be regarded as a public affirmation that the British public supports every lie and myths of Anti-cuts disability activists, that can be turned into publically accepted facts, like ATOS kills, every disabled person experiences hate crime, ILF users will be forced into residential care and of course I am a Tory who works for ATOS!

This petition will provide the anti-cuts movement a ‘mandate’ to continue its fierce attack on disabled people with pity and patronising assumptions on how they have no meaningful place in society and be simply swept under the carpet with label based compensation rather than enabled and empowered to be fully equal and included citizens. The petition will be an excuse to increase the negative portrayal of disabled people, turning the clock back 150 years, actually helping the Tories with their dream of a Victorian style society.

I am not worried about the actual parliamentary debate since the MPs will murmur the right noises with many backbenchers trying to score points by stating the well-rehearsed lies from the anti-cuts movement, and then the government will politely and professionally explain how the demand of a cumulative impact assessment is a load of rubbish and how it is never going to happen, whatever Government is in power.

I am however worried about the impact of petition will have on an already obsessed and paranoid anti-cuts movement, who see disabled people as footballs to kick around with little regard for the consequences in their desire to have the impossible dream of a socialist government. Thursday is therefore not going to be a day many ‘real’ disabled people will be celebrating as the wow is certainly taken out of disability.

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/taking-the-wow-out-of-dis_b_4411357.html


What Is the Future for Independent Living?

I grew up both understanding and benefiting from the concept known as ‘independent living’ although as we roll further into the 21st Century, I wonder if the concept has lost its way and what is its future? Within an different era, where so many disabled people were segregated in various types of residential care settings, independent living was simply about living in the community with the necessary support required, which was a very big deal at that time.

But living in the community is only the very first step and the independent living movement realised it should also be about choice and control, which is a great ideology although it must be within a context of responsibilities and consequences, otherwise it becomes meaningless. And I feel where this is we are right now. While the independent living movement has focuses what the rights of disabled people and what they need or perhaps want to have a good quality of life, I feel they have so far ignored the responsibilities that go with being a good citizen.

The main problem in terms of independent living for the majority of disabled people is that it requires some level of financial and/or other contribution from the state. This means that while it may appear correct to focus on someone’s rights, if the state does not feel it is getting something from their investment they will find it hard to justify it, especially since we do live in a world of finite resources. It is therefore in the best interests of the independent living movement to reframe the concept to provide a greater focus on what disabled people living ‘independently’ can give back to the state.

I do not see this as necessary being about employment, paid or otherwise, but a willingness to make the effort to contribute to society, even if the result is very small. In this context, I see independent living as a continuous process of improved social inclusion, a type of social model version of rehabilitation. If we take for example the starting point of someone who experienced a spinal injury from a road traffic accident, we can see an ‘independent living pathway’ from the ambulance, to the acute hospital service, to the spinal rehab unit, to moving into an adapted home and employing PAs, to employment support and then eventually finding new paid employment. Another pathway could be for a disabled child and all the support activities they require to be a contributing member of society throughout their life.

For these pathways to work, the barriers between health, social care, housing, employment, education, transport and other services need to be broken down as we would need multi-disciplinary teams who can duly assess and support people as and when they need it, possibly with a mixture of personalised support payments, to fund care, support and other costs, and specific services as required. This would be the biggest shift in the way welfare, health services and social care would be delivered since the start of the welfare state. The system must be very responsive, and so delivered locally, possibly through local government, but also be fair and just with national standards and guidelines.

More importantly the focus will move away from label based eligibility to a flexible system of meeting people’s outcomes, in line with their responsibilities as citizens, taking into account their health, care, social, and as importantly emotional needs. While health and care, that can be deemed as basic, may be met as a basic right regardless of circumstances, social and emotional needs will be dependent on the amount of effort someone is willing to put in to be a good citizens such as employment, education, raising a family, involvement in political activities, or simply being compliant with a treatment plan even if that means just resting.

I feel this new way of independent living can only work if there is a theoretical believe from professionals and society that all disabled people have human potential and should have the ultimate goal of paid employment or raising a family if they wish to be considered a good citizen, in the same way every non-disabled person is regarded, even if the reality of their potential, within the current state of technology and the environment, is very different.

Independent living has succeeded to get many disabled people a quality of life equal to their peers, but I believe it is time for the next step if we are truly committed as a society to the liberation of disabled people, particularly those with high support needs, as equal citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else.

from Simon Stevens http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/independent-living_b_4376542.html


What the hell do I do?


It has always been hard to explain exactly what I do because it is so wide and varied, and often unique. I never get work from an interview or the traditional methods but often because I am the right person at the right place and time who is uniquely qualified to do whatever the activity entailed. While I want paid work, sometimes I have to do unpaid work, like the Huff blog, to get paid work. Since there can often be a lot of gaps between paid work, managing my money can sometimes be difficult but I have realised that it is a part of my life as helping others is never going to make me rich.


While some people think all I care about is myself, this is simply not is case. I have to look after myself so that I can help others since if I can not pay my own bills, I am not really in a position to help much. If this makes me appear selfish than I do not really care as who said being selfish is a bad thing?! My passion is indeed helping others and I do not need to always shout the loudest to be happy and yes, proud, of those I have helped, often in small ways that not even those I have helped may realise.


My passion is indeed helping others to discover who they are and enjoy the life opportunities and experiences available to them, even if they do not realise that themselves. I do not see why anyone should like in misery and that as I have said many times, it is all about attitudes, and if I can help people become positive about their attitude then I am good to what I do. And this is why I attack those who need disabled people to be negative and miserable to feed off them and exploit them for their own agendas. Disabled people should be free, not trapped of their own negative attitude.


So this explains a bit about what I do but without meeting me, I am not sure anyone will understand what I hell I do!


If you like what I say, have a look at my site at www.simonstevens.com or follow me on twitter, @simonstevens74, or even leave me feedback on +44 (0)121 364 1974 or email simon@simonstevens.com