Disability Reality

I think it is important to do a column from a disability point of view on independence, from my perspective I campaign and advocate for people with a disability every day, I have a greater insight than most as I have Cerebral Palsy.

I was very disappointed that Scotland lost the Yes Vote by such a narrow margin, but it is perhaps an early indicator that one day we will get our independence. In the lead up there were a number of different campaigns running, such as Disabled For Yes representing people with disabilities who recognise the advantages of independence.

The realisation the campaign aims to get out there is that , under the current Westminster government , 100,00 disabled and vulnerable people in Scotland are being victimised , and our lives turned into a nightmarish fight for survival. The drastic changes to policy , brought in by the preceding coalition government , included a large cut to the amount of money a disabled person can receive to support them in daily living, the infamous Bedroom Tax , and the removal of key resources such as Motability vehicles. These changes have affected both people in work,  and those who are unable to work. Disabled and disadvantaged people all over the country are caught in an unnecessary cycle of self justification , uncertainty and decreasing control over our own futures. Sanctioning (stopping all benefits) rose by as much as 350%,  for such crimes as being late in attending a job centre interviews, however these meetings are often changed or instigated at very short notice By the job centre.

Disabled people are being considered fit to work without proper one to one assessment,  forced to participate in workforce schemes,  or take zero hours contracts. This can seriously affect mental and physical wellbeing for those who previously wanted to work , but are not capable , however “on paper” it would appear they can, this is the highest government led form of prejudice and discrimination.

Without proper means to support themselves, many people are now forced to turn to Foodbanks and Payday Lenders , sadly there are now many publicised cases of suicide and death from stress , illness and malnutrition, these are some of the tragic outcomes of improper work feasibility assessments for those with a wide spectrum of  physical , mental and developmental disabilities . I recently worked for a charity called the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability (SCLD) , where I traveled around Scotland , to share my story . I spoke about the challenges I faced , and stigma I experienced, in my journey getting in to employment as someone with a Learning Disability , and how I overcame this , but there are still too many employment barriers.

It is crucial for many more people with a disability to attend Recruitment events, such as Job Fairs and Open Days, in the hope of breaking down the the barriers , to change future employers’ minds and perceptions about candidates who have a disability. Data extracted from the Learning Disability Study in 2010/11 indicates that Only 6.6 percent of adults with a Learning Disability were shown to be in some form of paid employment.

Michael McEwan writes a monthly column for one of most prominent UK magazine in the learning disability sector and has done some freelance work for the Sunday Herald. We are pleased he has volunteered to write for us too. www.michaelmcewanmedia.scot