The Power of Belief and Wishful Thinking.

Guest post from Hossy lass

I personally am furious about the Government reducing, or rather
bastardising, the social model.

They claim in the Disability Living Allowance reform that the world has moved on since its inception, and is a very different place from what it was when they constructed the DLA. And hence DLA needs reforming. Yeah, we had the DEA and DED’s. Powers that are only effective when wielded as a weapon of defence by disabled people.

Now that has changed to the Equality Act 2010, but until the change is proved to be working then it is just wishful thinking, and they cannot rely on the world of wishful thinking. Not when that reliance is at the expense of disability benefit reductions.

Wishful thinking and the necessary retrospective actions are  just some of the flaws in the Governments interpretation of the social model.  Given the reductions in Employment Law for small companies, the legislation promoted as the great social equaliser becomes not just a toothless beast, but a totally vacuous promise.

However the social model was never meant to be used in isolation. It is an academic tool to be used alongside other models, to be used as a framework for reference when discussing all aspects of disability. The use in isolation, and subsequent bastardisation, of the social model has left some disabled people in a very vulnerable position.

The social model is not a valid model for people who are sick, and disabled by illness. It leans towards those who are disabled without illness or pain, i.e. it leans towards those whom society generally recognises as disabled. It then leads automatically to the ESA and the whole “working” thing which is portrayed as a good thing, and I agree, because if the world was flat, and wheelchairs were wonderful and free, and all transport accessible, and all people could sign, and hearing loops existed in every cable in the land etc, etc, etc (fill in your own wish list) then disabled people would have a better chance of being equal regarding many aspects that disable them.

It is only a better chance, but the equality of access and communication will only be effective when the wishful thinking is fulfilled. It won’t be achieved by current legislation. It won’t be achieved by Dave’s “Big Society” either, because if society was such a nice obliging disability-friendly place then there would be no need for legislation.

However, even if this utopian idyll existed it would do very little for those who are simply too ill to participate, a point that gets ignored constantly.
Those who have chronic illnesses and disabling conditions often look totally free of disability. You can pass them in the street and not feel the urge to stare, pat their guide-dog or lust after their wheelchair, because you haven’t noticed that they are disabled. This is because people with chronic illnesses and disabling conditions have a tendency to stay at home, indoors, and usually in bed when they are disabled by their illness. Some are hospitalised when their illness becomes noticeable. At this point the social model, as portrayed by the Government, becomes irrelevant. All that matters is the medical aspects, the treatment, and the vague belief that “some day soon” the condition will go into some form of remission. Their lives are controlled by the random fluctuations in their conditions. 

The medical aspects of life are what controls the behaviours and choices these people make – “Can I cope with a crowd today?”, “Will I have enough stamina to get me to the shop and back?”. When they do go out in society it is often dictated primarily by the medical aspects of their condition.

The reform of DLA and the horrific ESA are both heavily influenced by three significant beliefs;

The belief that society will somehow become accessible, and therefore
remove all barriers disabled people face, the belief that all people will get better from debilitating conditions, and the belief that sufficient financial sanctions and enforced work participation will in some way bring about the first two scenarios.

Well society won’t become instantly accessible just because DLA has been reformed, and people won’t recover from genetic life-long conditions regardless of how many times they are tested. If we don’t remind people that the medical model is as relevant as the social model, and that these reforms and cuts are based on projections, unfounded beliefs and wishful thinking, then a significant proportion of the disabled community will, in the not too
distant future, get seriously shafted.

And no amount of belief or wishful thinking is going to change that.

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5 Responses to “The Power of Belief and Wishful Thinking.”

  1. mozzas01 Says:

    Congrats on this post.

    The situation is sinister with ministers demonstrating ignorance as to the vast subject area of disability. Those of us too ill to work with a permanenrt condition that can never improve should not be required to be reassessed annually…. However, we are being persecuted to save money and the chronically sick & disabled are viewed as an expensive inconveneince for government, according to David Freud, whose comments the government hang on – yet he is unelected, does not have a mandate from the British people and his only concern is cash.

    Until the government are willing to at least comprehend that chronic disability includes serious illness, this cannot move forward.

  2. Bob Williams-Findlay Says:

    The social model of disability has been bastardised by many people over the years and even Hossy Lass herself is guilty of doing this. To argue the social model is not valid for people who are sick, and disabled by illness on the basis that:

    “It leans towards those who are disabled without illness or pain, i.e. it leans towards those whom society generally recognises as disabled.”

    Is a complete misrepresentation of what Michael Oliver, the person who coined the phrase “the social model of disability”, has argued. In fact, the social model exists in order to challenge how “society generally recognises (people) as disabled”. I also question the claim that:

    “It is an academic tool to be used alongside other models, to be used as a framework for reference when discussing all aspects of disability.”

    If you make statements like this one needs to clarify the terms that are being employed. In no way should the social model be “used as a framework for reference when discussing all aspects of disability” because it wasn’t designed to be all singing and all dancing. The model has a focus on how the nature of specific societies impose social restrictions upon people with a range of impairments. I believe Oliver makes a crucial point when he states:

    Using the generic term (disabled people) does not mean
    that I do not recognise differences in experience within
    the group but that in exploring this we should start from
    the ways oppression differentially impacts on different
    groups of people rather than with differences in experience
    among individuals with different impairments.

    In other words, the social model fully acknowledges different groups of disabled people experience social restrictions because of the particular ways in which they are both seen and treated. This applies to disabled people who have chronic illnesses or conditions which come and go as much as it does to people with a wide range of physical impairments.

    Dominant views within society would label people with visual impairments and those with cerebral palsy as ‘physically disabled’, however in reality the disabling barriers/solutions they encounter albeit in the same social environment can be at odds with each other. Societal attitudes towards ill health and the ignorance around the experience and debilitating impact of pain are disabling barriers to certain disabled people.

    At no time does the social model deny the reality of impairment, quite the opposite in fact: it is concerned with the nature of social responses towards people with impairments. People who talk about disabling barriers don’t necessarily understand or apply the ideas that are within the social model – the Government works firmly within the individual model of disability as their assessment processes demonstrate.

  3. ians12 Says:

    “the Government works firmly within the individual model of disability as their assessment processes demonstrate”

    I disagree Bob, the way the new ESA assessment is biased it makes out that because “everywhere is wheelchair accessible” (we know its not true) and if you could use a “virtual wheelchair” then you are mobile. Its clearly based in Narnia.

  4. Hossylass Says:

    Bob, I am, yet again, using the term “social model” as the Government does, not how it was intended.

    The intention has now been lost except for a select few (statistically) people like yourself.

    If you want to pull anyone up about the incorrect use of the words “social model” I suggest you direct your comments at Maria Miller.

    Stop being so pedantic. Its not as though you dont know what I meant, or where I was coming from, (God only knows we have debated this often enough) and I am sure the entire planet now recognises you expertise on the real “social model”, so can you stop trying to drag everything back to what it should be, as opposed to what it has become.

    And if I didn’t make it clear what the real model is about thats because the governments policies are not about the real model, and this is a blog, not a bloody academic precis.

    As you can gather, you have seriously irked me.

    You said;
    “At no time does the social model deny the reality of impairment, quite the opposite in fact: it is concerned with the nature of social responses towards people with impairments.”
    There are no sodding social responses to some impairments, because as you failed to notice, if you have a fluctuating impairment that means when you are ill you are in bed, then you have sod all chance of even seeing society.
    And dont start about doctors, treatment and all that bollox. You know and I know that I was talking about the same thing as Maria Miller is talking about, which is society as people, employers, transport managers and building designers, not theoretical equality of healthcare.

  5. Bob Williams-Findlay Says:

    “There are no sodding social responses to some impairments, because as you failed to notice, if you have a fluctuating impairment that means when you are ill you are in bed, then you have sod all chance of even seeing society”

    I disagree with this statement. You are conflating two different things here; social interaction (Miller’s crude focus) and social attitudes or perceptions. If there were ‘no …. social responses to some impairment’ that might be an improvement on the situation we find ourselves in!

    One of my best friends has a chronic condition, so forgive me if I don’t accept your allegation that I’ve failed to notice the reality of chronic illness – I also know how other people view her and her lifestyle. Society impacts upon people’s lives whether they’re socially active or not.

    I made the points I have because, despite your assertion that you were challenging Miller’s bastardisation, in my opinion you continue to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Being called pedantic doesn’t bother me, if that what it takes to air views that are important, so be it.

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