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Friday, 30 November 2007

Oh Voltaire

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!"

Sounds good, apparently he had some very dodgey views indeed, which has put me off this quote a bit!

It's going round my head as to how it works, especially when people see you as all the same. Positive & negative freedoms all link towards discrimination and oppression, I'm not sure what I wanted to write here, but new I wanted to say something as theres so much in my head. It's exciting, it's hard, it's confusing, it's tricky...Once I know what IT is I'll be sorted.

Question Time had a good debate last night about The Oxford Union & their Freedom of Speech debate the other night. It's tricky to know whether it was a genuine debate where extreme views could be put down for what they are through academic rigor, or was it just a publicity stunt? Certainly the BNP had a publicity shot up on their site of Griffin in the Oxford chamber within a few hours of his entrance (the bbc news story had a link to the site).

This is probably as confusing to you, as it is to me, but it'll make sense at some point in the future. I know learning of any value is confusing for a bit so I must be learning masses at the moment. I went to a friends funeral yesterday which was sad and has probably added to my reflective mood. His two son's spoke and I realised the strength we have within ourselves in the most difficult of situations, it's our humanity that comes out and speaks the truth and when it does, it is so powerful. They were amazingly strong and were not afraid to show emotion. I'm sure Alan was so proud.

I guess the two bits to this blog are linked, the first bit is about freedoms that we have and don't have and how we either use those freedoms properly or we abuse them. The second part is about when we speak from the heart because we feel & we believe, we recognise the positive strength of our humanity and thats what quashes people who speak just to wind things up and have a bit of fun with it, because it doesn't affect them in any way. One is Intrinsic because it means everything & the other is extrinsic because it means nothing to the person saying it and everything to those who are oppressing or discriminating.

I had an embarrassing blog moment yesterday when I commented on another blog and my tag read "sit back & enjoy the ride" the observant amongst you will see I've made a few changes, but this blog demonstrates that my blog is a bit of my journey and I don't always know where I'm going...Tom tom anyone?

Be lucky


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Why do we need a CIL in Merton?

That's the question I was asked today.
As some of you will know, I've finished my degree studies and am using some of my time before my next venture in a productive and local way.

The answer to why we need a CIL or Centre for Independent Living is that there is no officially recognised disabled people led organisation which is providing an effective voice for disabled people in Merton and we need that (not that I know of at this point). We need an effective peer support organisation around issues of Independent Living, a CIL provides a new opportunity to have that focus and for disability issues to be listened to on our terms.

There are gaps in support services which are responsive to independent living that can campaign and lobby for equality and better participation in society locally that is led & controlled by disabled people. Nationally, where CILs have been successful services have improved and been closer to what disabled people want, because disabled people have led them themselves. There is a gap in supporting disabled people in a way that doesn't split us into catagories or that tries to fit us into boxes.

In a nutshell, disabled people who want to live independently with control over their lives want a peer support organisation that is resourced to encourage social change and full inclusion in our communities and that understands what is needed to achieve independent living at a level that we can choose and control.

There are lots of organisations doing some good work but they rightly have a focus on their particular interest group. Undoubtedly they are important to supporting disabled people to take control of their own destiny and a CIL will need to work in partnership to fill the gaps that do exist. So it's about collaboration rather than competition, choices rather than this or that.

Unfortunately, discussions about the new CIL have been drawn into a context of cut backs and reductions in other social services. A CIL must be about adding to choice and filling some of the gaps around supporting independent living that reflects a social model of disability. It is not a replacement day centre or any other type of replacment centre. In fact, until disabled people get together and decide locally, we only have our own thoughts and assumptions and examples from other CIL's as to what our CIl will be or do!

What a local CIL is and does must be decided by disabled people locally and should be very different from traditional services, thats where the gap is. If it replecates any other service already in place it will not be achieving it's purposes and will be the same old same old. A new CIL is a different discussion from what is happening in terms of current reviews and cut backs in existing services. A CIL cannot be seen as a replacement or a cheap option. It is only when a cIL is working that it can demonstrate it's value and people can make a choice for themselves, but it cannot be limited by assumptions and limitations even before it gets started.

I do support the proposal for a disabled people led CIL, as I've experienced and hear from Disabled People every day about the gaps and barriers we face in achieving a decent level of independent living and also the ability to make choices and have control over what's important to us. All of this is essential to our ability to participate fully in our community.

In the past couple of months I've talked with perhaps 50 to 60 disabled people about issues around developing CILs both locally and nationally, some for and some against, and the key message has been to get it [the CIL] done properly with adequate and varied funding and infrastructure and sustainability and secondly that it needs to be developed on our terms.

A CIL is about providing a different or alternative choice for people, not forcing them to have a CIL instead of something else. It is also not about grouping us together because f some imposed label. We are individuals who share common experiences that can bring us together, but just as important is our lives in relation to all people, friends and communities. We are not just all about disability. How effective a local CIL is, is dependent on how well Disabled People get involved in partnership to make it work, adequate funding and capacity and how inclusive it becomes as a user-led organisation. As a disabled person I value having control over my life, what I do & how I do it. Direct Payments has put me in control and a CIL would help to ensure more disabled people have the support and opportunity to have more control over their lives.

I'm old enough now to know that it won't be the answer to all our prayers but it will be a massive leap in the right direction towards disabled people being heard and valued in our local community. There is of course an important role for non-disabled allies and organisations to collaborate and share with us the journey, so it is up to us all to make it work.

Be lucky,