Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Essay on DLA reform #TBofBTT

by Lucia (notcrazy on The Broken of Britain forum) - an essay for a disability studies degree course

The recent proposal for a change in Disability Living Allowance (DWP 2010a) contained in the Welfare Reform Bill (DWP 2011) was thoroughly researched as part of the legislative process. The research seemingly aimed to involve disabled people through various means such as consultations (DWP 2010b). This was intended to enable disabled people to influence the reform and its policies. However analysis and comparison with Emancipatory disability research (Oliver 1997) clearly shows that this may not be the case in practice. Emancipatory disability research is one of many theories that policy makers can adopt when conducting research (Barnes 2003). The characteristics provide a different approach to traditional research methods employed when researching disability. Traditional methods tend to have an individualised and medicalised view of disability underpinning them with disabled people as passive research subjects (Barnes 2003).

One of the primary characteristics of Emancipatory research is that disabled people are actively involved in all stages of the research (Barnes 2003). For policymakers and researchers this can be a challenging task (Mercer 2003). Using the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) as an example it was the government that set the agenda (and provided the funding) for reform (DWP 2010a). From the questions and the resulting outcomes of the research undertaken this piece of research had a medicalised and individualistic perspective underpinning the research (DWP 2010b). If the consultation had been more Emancipatory, which is underpinned by social model values (Mercer 2003) then more focus would be placed on the societal barriers to equal participation that exist and how welfare reform can best reduce their impact, However only one question focused on this (DWP 2010b). Twelve questions in the research were focused on how best to capture the medical proof needed to fulfil the qualifying criteria and how impairment and the impact that impairment has on everyday life (DWP 2010b). By utilising a medicalised perspective the research also implies that disabled people are passive recipients of care and support (Campbell and Oliver 1997), which places the power balance with the researchers and the governments own agenda. This can make it difficult for disabled people to influence policy.

Another key characteristic of Emancipatory research is that its ultimate aim is to empower disabled people (Barnes 2003). The government’s rhetoric surrounding the reasons for reform state that ‘The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives’ (DWP 2010b, p5). However upon analysis the reality of this statement doesn’t fit within an empowering Emancipatory research agenda. For it to be Emancipatory the source of the empowerment would have to be initiated by disabled people themselves making it authentic (Oliver 2002). This is another key characteristic linked with empowerment in Emancipatory research. The governments stated outcome of independence actually translates to less reliance on welfare provision. Disabled people have argued that it is only through this state reliance on provision that true independence can be achieved (Franklin 2010a, 2010b and 2011b). In reality this conflict would make an Emancipatory research agenda problematic for the government.

Another of the aims of this welfare reform is a reduction in claimants to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which according to the government is essential to reduce costs (BBC News 2010). If disabled people were allowed to conduct and influence the outcome of research in the area of welfare reform the fear that the government would have is that it would increase the welfare bill and not reduce it. However, it is important to consider that disabled people have argued that by reducing the eligibility criteria for this benefit will increase the need for other types of assistance which are more expensive and that ‘DLA is already the cheapest way of funding these kind of care needs.’ (Franklin 2011a). She uses a case study to demonstrate that impairments still exist when criteria change and that taking away the funding for support doesn’t take away the need for its provision.

Another key characteristic of Emancipatory research is accountability (Barnes 2003). The research has responsibility to its subject group. This differs from the research undertaken surrounding DLA reform which is more accountable to the government. The shift to a more Emancipatory approach would also need a significant shift in the structure of how research is funded (Barnes 2003). Practically, it is in the best interests of those who undertake the research to conduct and report their findings aligned to whoever has invested in it (financially or otherwise). In order to enable Emancipatory research to become more widespread the bias and resulting outcomes would need to be allowed to develop during the course of the research itself. Emancipatory research doesn’t claim to be without bias but developed through the research itself instead of external factors influencing it.

Although Emancipatory research may seem to be limited to an ideological method of research when applied to a real life policy making process it still can play an important role in the shape of how research is conducted. Before the concept of Emancipatory research emerged through the social model ideology there was an imbalance in research approaches. If different types of research methods are considered along a spectrum, with a medicalised and individualised approach being at one end, the furthest extreme to counter that has only been participatory research. The introduction of Emancipatory research which allowed for the researched to also be researchers extended the scope, range and the shape that research can be undertaken with (Campbell and Oliver 1997). In the same way that the social model countered the dominance of the medical model, Emancipatory research was designed to provide an alternative to a more traditional research focus when the researcher held power over their subjects (Barnes 2003). Although this approach may be a practically problematic proposal, its influence to alter and offer an alternative method is undeniably important. By employing elements of Emancipatory research within the existing research framework, especially if social model underpinning is allowed to guide the development of the research would be a viable compromise, and a distinctly different approach to disability research. In much the same way as the social model has influenced societies attitude to disability so too should Emancipatory research be an influence to the way research is undertaken. Both ideological extremes of conducting research present flaws, but are both valuable and essential to enable a more balance approach to be adopted when conducting research.

Franklin, Kaliya (2011b). A stitch in time can sometimes cost you nine. Benefit Scrounging Scum. [online]. Posted April 19th 2011. Last accessed 13th May 2011 at: http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2011/04/stitch-in-time-can-sometimes-cost-you.html
Franklin, Kaliya (2011a). The Queen and the Soldier. Benefit Scrounging Scum. [online]. Posted April 18th 2011. Last accessed 13th May 2011 at: http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2011/04/queen-and-soldier.html
Franklin, Kaliya (2010b). To the Disabled People of Great Britain. Benefit Scrounging Scum. [online]. Posted October 24th 2010. Last accessed 13th May 2011 at: http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2010/10/to-disabled-people-of-great-britain_24.html
Franklin, Kaliya (2010a). The government response to the petition to save DLA and AA. Benefit Scrounging Scum. [online]. Posted February 10th 2010. Last accessed 13th May 2011 at: http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/2010/02/last-week-government-published-their_10.html


Anonymous said...

I am sorry but I dont understand a word of that, probably just be being overtired tho

DeusExMacintosh said...

Well you can see why the government wouldn't use Emancipatory research... strictly speaking the new legislation is about budgets and assessments processes, not disabled people themselves.

The government has decided that it can no longer 'afford' to support any but the most extreme levels of incapacity (even though as Bendy points out, cutting DLA et all means higher costs elsewhere such as the NHS and Social Care). Arguing about how to make the cutoff "accurate" risks distracting from serious questions that ought to be asked about whether the affordability premise is correct, whether alternatives to cuts have even been considered and whether eliminating support from 'moderate' cases is justifiable (you get into the less for more/more for less issue as is seen in the NHS where the cost of having services free at the point of demand is slightly lower overall standards than say America, where brilliant treatment is available but only to the rich.)

At the moment the government seem to have all ready made up their minds and are just barging the legislation through with a lick and a promise to make it sound fair - eg. conservative MP comeback when challenged about abandoning those determined to have 'moderate' means was something like "don't you think we should make sure the neediest groups get the most support". Umm, yeah. But abandoning all those assessed with moderate needs (by an assessment that seems designed to minimise the impact of your disability) to swing in the breeze isn't okay either!

Good essay.

Jane said...

Good essay, Lucia. Where are you doing your disability studies degree? I'm doing an MA in disability studies from the University of Leeds (home of Prof Colin Barnes). One of the problems with the welfare reforms is that they are not underpinned by a sound research base and, similarly to other government projects, is based on an idea which looks good on the surface but doesn't stand up to rigorous scrutiny. It seems that we all have to suffer from the government's tendency to wade in where they know nothing - it's not them who suffer from this arrogance but us!

lucia/not crzy said...

Anon, im glad its not just me that doesnt understand it :)

Thanks for the comments. I am currently at sheffield hallam. Essay number 2 is (i think) a lot easier to read, and i believes going to appear here in the next few days. Its about ESA and the policy practice gap. As I was writing these essays new reports and marches and campaigns were happening. It is nice to be able to write about something I am interested in as part of my course of study. Something that is relevant too...

Leeds archive is where I do a lot of my research :)

lucia/not crzy said...

basically this essay looks at the recent DLA reform from an academic standpoint. Emancipatory research is a form of research where disabled people are involved right from the get go. If you think of it like a scale where non particpant research is at the bottom, next along is participatory, empancipatory is the other extreme.

If you look at the current DLA reforms the governement is wanting everyone to think they are involving disabled people and its all wonderful and everything, when in reality when you look at it in a little more depth, this isn't the case. They are leaning mainly towards the non particpant agenda.

(sorry for the spelling, I am really tired and dislexic. For some reason my spell checks not working on here. I hope its readable..)

DavidG said...

>> This was intended to enable disabled people to influence the reform and its policies. <<

I'd say rather "This was intended to give the appearance of enabling disabled people to influence the reform and its policies." But then I'm cynical about such things.

Anonymous said...

I do believe this govrnment realy dislike disabled people with a passion - If they wanted to show how much we were worth to the world thy would not be attacking us from all sides and making us feel like we are asking too much to just survive, and for some disabled people - Survival is NOT what is on the cards for them.

I feel that Cameron and Clegg are just wrecking the entire county by spending money bailing people out while removing support for British disabled people - Why do we have to continually be the one to bail out other countries? Why cant someone else do it? Why can they not look after their own people first?

I am disgusted at the way they are treating the disabled of the UK - It is like going back in time when we woudl be ousted into a whole separate community on the outskirts of society because we are 'unclean' and unwanted. This is NOT a big society - if it were a society then the society would be encouraged to look after the sick, and they would be told that in doing that - That is being a big humane caring society - But instead they have made us into the villains, saying how we are all scroungers - Tightening this PIP thing so you wouodl stand almost no chance of getting it at all. Making ESA plonk you on jobseekers when people sign on the dotted line that they are able to work - When they KNOW THAT THEY ARE NOT - But they have to sign that they are - Or lose ALL benefit and support. So they are making disabled people into liars - THEN the govt will say 'you lied when you signed on so now you have to pay all the money back to this govt that put you in this situation to start with'

So HOW do we get past this - If we are doing the right thing - we shouldnt sign that we are able to work - That is what you sign. But if we go for ESA we are told we ARE able to work - Therefore they have made us all liars - Just to save money by telling us we are suddenly cured - Aint gonna cure me from my disability that has NO cure!!!

I live in fear - Every single letter I get I am in fear. I got a letter today offering me a motability thing with my DLA - but how could i sign up for a 3yr contract knowing that in less than that PIP comes in and I would then be in breach of contract. Just seeing the letters DWP on that letter filled me with fear - A fear I have never known before - I was shaking with fear that 'my time had come' (IE = ESA call)

I live in fear - This is not a nice place to be :-(

fourbanks said...

I live in fear - This is not a nice place to be:-(

Never was a truer word said You speak for all of us :-(

fourbanks said...

I live in fear - This is not a nice place to be:-(

Never was a truer word said You speak for all of us :-(

RockHorse said...

Lucia: it IS a good essay and I'll look forward to reading the next one :)
DavidG: I'm as cynical as you are and agree with your rendering.
anonymous at 16.47 and fourbanks: so right!
DeusExMacintosh puts it so very well! Reminds me of a couple of organizations I was involved with a few years ago. Both believed that if they opened up membership the people they were currently excluding (tenants and facility users respectively) would 'vote for expensive things/services'. Both were proven wrong. The newly admitted people were far more realistic about financial constraints and clearer at seeing where savings could be made through improvements in the administration side of things.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if there was an election now and Kaliya stood for ole Camerons job - Would she get in to power - After all - She would have the backing of all the disabled people and there are alot of us - As they say 'Divided we fall - Together we have strength' (something like that)

Somehow - The disabled of this country have to stand (metaphorically) up and show this government that we ARE people and we WILL make them sorry they hloody well took this view to demonise the disabled - After all - If we all en masse voted for Kaliya - That would be a helluva lotta votes they would NOT be getting for their stupid lying waste of space parties...

(s'ok Kaliya you don't really hafta be the figurehead - Though you sem to have a nice head - LOL)
Either way - There has to be a way to get these stupid selfish ()*^*&%& people to wake up and take notice of us. If only I had a few million more spoons I might be able to think of something...

(OK that doesn't bode well my word verification is 'twitiong' I know I am a twit!

fourbanks said...

Anonymous it wouldn't work like that there are many who think like the government and worse in the UK now and as time goes by things are getting much worse for everyone

You will find that over the next 2 years all sorts of deaths will occur as various services and help stop you yourself will not even know who has died or from what service has been withdrawn leading to that death

The DWP will target the most at risk first those who live on there own and and as i say you and the public will be none the wiser as to what is going on

I have two care workers plus my conservative mp and i still get treated very badly by the DWP with letters and home visits with loss of money and a whole manor of abuse from the system and i have been ill for 30 years so i can assure anyone times are still difficult not only for me but for anyone who is sick or disabled

For the rest of my life i will never know justice or freedom and at the age today of 55 it still hurts me as to what i have done so wrong and why i have been so badly treated and left a prisoner in my own home to sick and afraid to go out

My health is so poor i could claim asylum in another country if only i had the strength to do it get to the airport with some money and go what wonderful joy to even think that