Keep Our NHS Public welcomes Bob Williams-Findlay, as guest writer. Bob is a disabled activist, member of Act4Inclusion and Reclaim Our Futures Alliance - an alliance of Disabled People and their organisations (DPOs) in England. Bob is on the steering group of National Care Support and independent Living Service campaign (NaCSILS)
On 7th September 2021, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced new plans to reform health and social care funding which will include raising National Insurance (NI). As a pensioner, disabled activist and former planning officer within Social Services, I spent a number of hours that day listening to an array of experts, spokespeople and members of the public discussing the announcement. The majority displayed degrees of ignorance about social care users or resorted to prejudicial stereotyping, and as a result, totally failed to engage with the bigger picture.
From my perspective, before we talk about finance or resources, we must agree what we want to pay for – what kind of social care system and services do we want to replace the current broken and discriminatory system? To date solutions have been inadequate and absent of the voices of those directly involved – service users and workforce. What is often missing is any acknowledgement that the system denies certain citizens their Human Rights. There is confusion and disagreement over what is understood by ‘Social Care’. ALL the major political parties have misrepresented the crisis due to the stereotyping of people in need of support via a crude collapsing together of health and social issues, hiding the impact of the implementation of cuts; for example, focusing on ‘risk management’ within criteria and undermining advocacy and independent living.
Disabled people engaged with these issues argue Social Care and Independent Living needs to be addressed other than through an outdated ‘one size fits all’ approach that has been adopted by both the Health and local authorities over decades of service provision. Those who require social support come from a range of service users with differing support needs – not everyone needs ‘health care’ or even ‘health and social care’ (sic) and to conflate them can lead to inappropriate assessment and service delivery; denial of any support whatsoever and have oppressive consequences.
It is clear that people are still confused as to why disabled activists are distrusting of local authorities and Health. These activists believe their own knowledge and solutions are too often marginalised or ignored altogether. What is needed is shifting the centre of gravity by Rights of Disabled People.
Disabled people’s organisations believe addressing health care, personal support and social support has to be done through considering people’s lifestyles and encountered barriers; not simply through the ambiguous lens of ‘well-being’. It is not enough to challenge the government’s half-baked plan; we must seize the opportunity to end decades of neglect, the placing people at the centre of decision making with the capacity of agenda setting. I am in favour of new independent national and local structures that would change how Health, local authorities, voluntary sector, and service user groups worked together to co-produce community-based services with an emphasis on independent living. The core values of this approach are to be found within Article Nineteen of the United Nations Convention on the sweeping under the carpet of uncomfortable truths about how as a society we see and treat older and disabled people.