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Sickness and the Social Model of Disability

This is the first part in a series of blog posts that will explore the uneasy relationship between chronic illness and the social model of disability. From my perspective as a Sick person (more on that controversial word next time) I will explore why people with chronic illness often feel excluded from the Disability Rights Movement (DRM) that emerged out of the social model. But rather than reject the social model I’ll discuss how we, the Sick community, could claim it for ourselves and what a social model of chronic illness would look like. The crucial distinction between impairment and disability lies at the heart of the revolutionary Social Model of Disability that emerged in the 1970s – the model that underpins the disability rights and independent living movements. To paraphrase it simply, impairment is loss of bodily function, whereas disability is disadvantage imposed upon people with impairments due to hostile social attitudes or inaccessible physical environments. 

The future of assessments and social security for disabled people

This is a slightly edited version of notes for a presentation to the ESA roundtable meeting chaired by John McDonnell MP on 29th November 2018. The content is based on previous research work with Spartacus Network, independent research into ESA and the WRAG, research on Access to Work, as well as current research with the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project. The current benefits system was identified as the biggest source of social oppression faced by CIIP participants. We recently completed focus group on designing better social security for people with energy-limiting chronic illness. Introduction The first part of this presentation is four main principles for a new assessment framework. A set of tests that any new system must meet if it is to restore the Human Rights of disabled people. The second part covers points for further discussion. Highlighting areas of current debate and disagreement. Principles 1: Overturn the ideology behind the Hostile Environment, restore digni

A Hostile Environment - my personal story

In 2014 I had my benefits, my main source of income, stopped for almost 3 months. I was a single parent and I was receiving disability benefits because I was assessed as unfit for work due to chronic illness. What happened to me is known as a sanction. I want to tell you about the impact it had on me, not just because it was one of the most stressful and distressing times of my life, (worse than divorce), but because my case is shockingly commonplace and could be on the increase with the introduction of Universal Credit. The reason I was sanctioned is that I couldn’t physically do the activities I was being forced to do. My chronic illness causes severe exhaustion and very poor stamina. But throughout 2013 and 2014 I kept receiving letters compelling me to attend employability workshops for 18 hours a week, which involved an hour’s journey, including a ¾ mile walk, each way, three days a week. Each letter threatened that my benefits could be cut if I didn’t comply. I’m not a natur