Firstly, my copy of 'Community Living' dropped through my letterbox today. It's packed full of useful information on current benefit changes, such as the Personal Independence Payment, as well as great information from Belinda Schwehr on the law around social care and disability.
One article from Community Living that I found really interesting was a review by David O'Driscoll of a website that English Heritage have set up covering Disability History 1050 - Present Day. The pages are brimming with intriguing information about the lives of disabled people in the past, such as the 'natural fools' in the Tudor court who were appreciated for their humour and honesty, and facts, such as the first wedding ever conducted in sign language was held in 1618. It also shows how people have resisted institutionalisation right since the earliest days, such as the Leper Colony in West Somerton that rose in revolt in 1292.
Parallels to the present day include the unforeseen consequences of radical changes to the provision of health and social care that happened because of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Many of the religious institutions that had been mainstays of the lives of sick and disabled people were destroyed leaving people forced to beg in the streets. The state's eventual reaction to this was to establish new hospitals and institutions, though many disabled people lived long and productive lives in the community. The site touches on the debate about separation or inclusion that continues today (and is a key theme of this blog).
|The Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation was an early disability rights group. |
© Disability Archive UK, Centre for Disability Studies, Leeds University
If you're lucky enough to be in Edinburgh at the moment there's a really interesting looking exhibition of the work of photographer Graham Miller called 6 percent Downs Syndrome.
The exhibition focusses on the experiences of people with Downs Syndrome and their families, and includes recorded testimony as well as photographs. It gets its' title from the fact that of all the pregnancies where Downs Syndrome is determined before birth, 92% are terminated, and only 6% are delivered.
This blog has covered the issues of loneliness and isolation, and seeks ways that our communities can help people overcome this. Vanessa Barford's article on how society creates loneliness is worth a read.
More and more medical professionals are reaching the conclusion that much of the treatment and care currently provided in hospital could be provided in people's own homes or in local clinics. People like Dr Michael Dixon think that 50% of what's currently done in hospitals could be done in the community, with better outcomes. I'd suggest that for this to happen successfully, we'll need to develop person centred attitudes and skills among medical staff, and also find ways to make local communities more connected and confident to become welcoming and supportive places for all the people whose conditions are being treated there. We'll need to think carefully about how to deliver this, so that things like 'virtual wards' in the community don't trap and isolate people in their own homes.
The death of Mabel Cooper was a sad loss to the self advocacy movement. Tom Shakespeare marked her passing with an obituary in 'Our Statures Touch The Skies", While Dorothy Atkinson wrote an obituary for her in the Guardian. You can hear her voice on this video from the Forgotten Citizens Conference. You can also hear more about her on BBC Radio 4's 'Last Words' programme, which should be available up to the end of April.