Inclusion or exclusion?

Sometimes my research feels as if it is being conducted in a bubble. I am looking at a fairly small part of the world of social welfare and mostly in the past. A recent publication by Inclusion Scotland helps us to see things from a wider view. A Vision for an Inclusive Scotland provides a clear overview of the many ways in which disabled people are left behind: in employment, social care, transport, social security, education, protection from abuse, housing and healthcare. The general message is that policies and services should be integrated to prevent exclusion. It also reminds us that welfare benefits should not just be about getting people back to work but that they should also

support all citizens by providing an adequate income and assisting disabled people to achieve and maintain independent living. A welfare system worthy of the name should be underpinned by a commitment to fundamental human rights. All of those using it should be treated with dignity and respect. (p10).

Across the twentieth century benefits systems have often made getting back to work the key objective and have rarely treated claimants with dignity and respect. Incapacity benefits decision making has usually been focussed on narrow medical evidence which has not taken account of the many disabling barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities and health problems to get into work. A Vision for an Inclusive Scotland reminds us that these issues are interlinked.  If public transport is inaccessible, then it is more difficult for disabled people to get to work.  If people do not get the personal help they need at the time they need it, it is more difficult for them to work.  And if it is difficult or impossible for someone to find a paid job, they need enough money to live on.  The booklet was published in Scotland just before the recent referendum on independence but its message is important at all levels of policy making and provides suggestions for how different levels of government (UK, Scotland and local) can do something about this exclusion.

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