Haverstock Series: Disability Rights – A Revolution?

Haverstock Journalism Club


Haverstock is a co-educational school in Camden Town, North London. Producing political heavyweights including the likes of Ed Miliband, it is not a school that should be cantankerously dismissed. Students are engaged, well informed and mean business. This is the latest in a series of contributions from their students.


‘A revolution is taking place in the field of disability throughout the world. It is primarily a revolution of ideas. It entails a completely different way of looking at disability based on respect for human rights. And it stands in stark contrast to the past – even the recent past – when persons with disabilities were looked upon more as ‘objects’ to be managed rather than human ‘subjects’ with equal rights. Treating persons with disabilities as if they were ‘objects’ denied them their humanity and led to social exclusion and chronic poverty. The move to the rights-based framework creates new opportunities to tackle systemic poverty’.

The above extract from Poverty, Invisibility and Disability the Liberating Potential of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by Gerard Quinn and Christian Courtis in 2010 made us think.

Recently the law changed in regard to benefits for disabled and sick people who now have to be reassessed for the new Persons Independence Payment (PIP). This is a benefit that helps the disabled with carers, special equipment and specially adapted transport. In addition, those who fail the assessments are now finding it very difficult to have their claims reassessed because of appeal changes in the DWP law.

We wondered what it must feel like to be called to this assessment where the disabled person is seen by a ‘nurse’. A nurse who is not there to make you feel better but has been instructed to find ways for you to fail your assessment? The claimants must feel uncertain and demoralised.

Worse still is when the claim is refused and they are prevented from appealing. The subsequent loss of money causes the very ‘Chronic poverty and social exclusion’ the above authors wrote about seven years ago.

Is this treating the disabled and very sick as proper people?

No. We think it smells of Government cutbacks to people who cannot fight by turning them into statistics to please the Government’s declaration that they will cut benefits and it is NOT fair.

Of course there have been little changes that are much needed, for example ramps on buses – and the Paralympics have raised awareness of the incredible physical feats by disabled athletes. However, we believe the: ‘Revolution of ideas’ that Gerard Quinn and Christian Courtis wrote about needs to change to one to a ‘Revolution of actions’.

For more information generally please see: Fleischer D. and Zames F., The Disability Rights Movement – from Charity to Confrontation, Temple University Press, 2001.

 

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