Disability affects families across the UK in many different ways. There are children born with physical impairments and genetic conditions. These families need ongoing care and support from disability services to ensure the very best for all involved.
Then there are those that suffer from disabilities due to illness or accidents. There are visible and invisible disabilities. Some are chronic and debilitating, and others are manageable. Whatever the issue, all disabled people deserve access to high-quality, compassionate services for the disabled.
The problem is that these services aren’t always that compassionate, accessible or affordable. Many charities work hard to help those in need, but there are still improvements to be made.
The Struggle For Disability Services in the UK
There is a strong need for charity and independent groups as a result of growing cuts and austerity across the country. As the government tightens the budget, many people see cuts to local services and benefits.
The poor and the disabled are often the first to suffer. There are many stories about the abuse, harassment, and anguish of those going through government assessment. Then there are the deaths due to austerity and suicides due to mismanagement of cases.
This all means that there is a need for greater support for disabled people in the UK. This is true both at home and outside of medical facilities. The NHS should be there with adequate support for outpatients dealing with disabilities.
There should be specialist centers and free services to those that need them. This isn’t the case for many people dealing with disabilities in the UK. The health service can’t handle the strain of GP waiting lists for the sick, A&E waiting times for emergencies and pay for junior doctors. The disabled are a long way down that priority list.
The main aims of disability services
The aims of social disability services are best summed up by Scope – one of the leading disability charities in the UK. They are as follows:
• To see the person for who they are
• To remove any limitations on their potential
• To offer freedom of choice on services and options
• To promote independence and inclusion of the individual
• To fight for equality for disabled people
• To improve society to benefit those with disabilities
The social model of disability
(Source: Scope – About disability)
There are two different models of disability that services can follow. They are the social model and the medical model. Many charities prefer to turn to the social model because of the positive implications and room for progression. Many see the medical model of disability as a negative approach unfit for modern support services. Critics see four key issues here:
- Disabled people don’t always have the choice and control to make decisions. Instead, this falls into the hands of medical professionals.
- Disabled people receive the label of sufferers. They suffer from negative physical, neurological or mental conditions that hold them back.
- Disabled people are therefore a problem that requires a solution.
- Disabled people cannot enjoy full equality because of these attitudes against them.
The social model is a little better for a modern approach to disability services in the UK. That is because there is a greater sense of equality between the disabled and able-bodied.
There is also an understanding of the barriers and problems that society imposes upon disabled people. This method can identify these restrictions and work to either remove or improve them. This gives disabled people more freedom.
Instead of looking at what they cannot do, this model creates solutions to further opportunity and equality. For example, the medical model looks at the incurable spinal issue that stops someone from climbing the stairs. The social model offers a ramp and a new way into the building.
1) The need to improve society to benefit those with disabilities
One of the main areas of focus here with the social model for disability services in the UK is the need to change society, not the patient. We can spend time and resource trying to fix a problem with a person. Or, we can spend that time and effort on changing aspects of society that work against them.
There is a clear need for improved acceptance and inclusion of disabled people in society. Attitudes to the disabled have improved in some respects. However, there are still those that look down upon those disadvantaged in some way. There is still a sense that the disabled are a burden and other people, or facilities, must go out of their way to accommodate them. A better solution is simply to improve society so that everyone is equal in all situations from the start.
Compass Disability Services
Compass Disability Services puts the disabled at the forefront of their thinking. This is partly down to the fact that the Board of Trustees comprises of around 80% disabled people. It is all about providing opportunity and empowerment while improving equality. This helps to ensure that people can live a more independent life. This means equal access to all services, simple consultations and fair representation. They work in partnership with different government, health, and social services. There are also vital ties to other charitable agencies for better service provision.
2) The need to see the person for who they are
This is essential in all levels of care. Each case is individual, with individual obstacles and needs. Some health service can undermine the importance of the individual in disability services. One on one care and support isn’t always available. This is where befriending and one on one care services can help.
Peer to peer befriending allows people to meet others in their age group to talk through problems and enjoy the social situation. It could be a simple as meeting another teenager for coffee in a local cafe for an hour. The hour could involve little more than social talk and catch up. There is that openness to talk and share stories. This often offers users more confidence and independence. Befriending pairs get also set personal goals and arrange events.
3) The need to remove any limitations on the potential of disabled people
This is crucial when dealing with social models and restrictions on the disabled. A lack of services, tools and general support in the outside world immediately places limitations on people. The result is that many see the individual as unable to cope and limited in their abilities when the problem lies elsewhere. Disabled people can succeed and learn new things in the right environment, with the right guidance and encouragement. This is much easier when we take those limitations away.
Activity camps are a great way for people to meet others in their situation, learn about their condition and test their true capabilities. Many disabled people spend their lives told what they could and can’t do because of their disability. This immediately places restrictions on their opportunities and thinking.
Camps remove limitations and show people what they can do in spite of their disabilities. There are locations and activities adapted so that they bring people together. Again, this helps with confidence, skills, social interactions, and independence.
It is also important to remember that many services also help those affected by disabilities in other ways. Many charities provide camps and activity days for the carers of those with disabilities. There are also options for the siblings that struggle with home life. The benefits are the same in many ways, as the camps offer confidence, social experiences, and new skills. They are also a retreat from daily life for a much-needed break.
4) The need to offer freedom of choice on services and options
This factor continues that idea of the importance of the individual within disability services in the UK. All individuals should be able to choose the service they want. A service based on personal preferences and individual needs, not medical guidelines. It is too easy to pigeon-hole people into certain groups based on their underlying condition.
There are guidelines on what to do with patients with broad issues like blindness, autism, spinal problems or speech issues. Not all those dealing with those issues will respond to the same treatment option in the same way. Therefore, it helps if they are aware of their options and can tailor their choices according.
Counselling and guidance are essential for all those new to disability. The same is true for those struggling with long-term problems. The problem is that they don’t always get the support required from a medical professional. This is where charities and disability services step in to help. There are different support lines where sufferers can find information and a friendly ear. These centers could offer information on all kinds of issues. This includes:
- adaptations to the home
- obtaining a career
- work opportunities
- local support centers
- benefit entitlements
5) The need to promote independence and inclusion of the individual
A great charity working to promote independence and inclusion is the British Red Cross. The British Red Cross is more than just a disaster relief and first aid service. There are also key services for vulnerable people in different situations. There is a heavy focus on the natural disasters, emergency responses and refugee crises, and less focus on their work with the disabled.
There are two important factors here. The first is their community equipment services and services for disabled people in Scotland. This offers partnerships and funding with those that provide solutions for independent living. Then there is their work with Options for Independence. This system looks at guidance for those adjusting to disability via illness or accidents.
Options for Independence can help with social, recreational, educational, emotional or physical activities. Equipment for independent living is vital for many people in the UK. It is important that anyone with a disability can lead a happy, independent life in their own home. This ranges from children born with medical conditions to those that suffer accidents and also the elderly.
Families should be able to adapt to a home to suit the needs of a child born with disabilities. Also, older siblings shouldn’t have to face disruption. Then there are the growing needs of the elderly. The aging population in the UK wants to stay independent in their own home. This is increasingly true as care homes struggle with finding and places. Simple solutions from ramps and guidance rails to bed hoists and lifts can help.
6) The need to fight for equality for disabled people
The final aim here is pretty simple. In the end, disabled people across the country just wish that others viewed as equal. Equality means the same rights and opportunities as those afforded to those that are able-bodied. Equality also means the chance to prosper with the same resources and guidance as others. Everyone has something that others may perceive as a weakness. It isn’t always a clear physical disability or learning problem. At the same time, those with clear disabilities have strengths and talents that we shouldn’t overshadow or ignore.
The focus on the social model for disability in the UK is important for some reasons.
Not only does it place the focus on their restrictions imposed by society, but it also works to provide solutions. It is too easy to write people off as disabled, incapable and restricted when reading a list of medical problems. We often find that those restrictions fade when we take the time to improve social influences. It isn’t always the physical condition that limits opportunities outside of the home. Instead, it is the attitudes, the facilities and the support offered.
The current climate of austerity and outdated attitudes mean that independent disability services are more important than ever. This is an ongoing fight, with many social hurdles. It is one that many charities will continue with, as long as there are people in need.