Comment, part 2
This piece of writing came to me about people who have learning disabilities. It seems very relevant to this Disabled Children’s Partnership report:
People with intellectual disability are easy victims of
institutional cruelty. This persists in the UK even though
the big long-stay hospitals have been closed.
Western society ranks its members holding men above
women, white people above black and fit people above
those with a disability.
Amongst disabled people those who do not have
intellectual disability are held above those who do.
Institutional cruelty to people who are grouped
together as children or adults in some sort of home,
hostel or hospital has three legs like a dairymaid’s stool.
The first is their powerlessness.
People with intellectual disability are not equipped to
campaign for their rights in the way that many women,
black people and physically disabled people can.
The second is public apathy.
The average woman and man in the street is not aware or
concerned about people with intellectual disability,
especially when they are kept out of sight. Their interest
might be raised when a scandal is exposed but it is always
The third is the lack of status, training, inspection and
proper remuneration for the people employed as carers.
There is a repeating pattern in institutional cruelty.
Each sequence begins when a new regime of cruelty
is exposed. In response, a government minister tells the
press and media how shocked she or he is and sets up an
investigation. In due course, a report is written with strong
recommendations and a promise that such cruelty can
never happen again.
Then a new regime of cruelty is exposed. And so on.
If you happened to miss the current scandal I am reading
about as I write this, do not worry. Another will come
along very soon.
Perhaps the key phrase in the above for the hundred or so organisations behind the report is ‘The average woman and man in the street is not aware or concerned about people with intellectual disability...’. No government will bother to respond effectively to reports like ‘Failed and Forgotten’ (and there have been very many of them) until there is the same sort public pressure that we see in support of black people and women and other oppressed groups.
Should this now be the proper work of the 100 or more disability organisations in England - to raise public consciousness to the point at which members of parliament are inundated with appeals and protests from ordinary ‘women and men in the street’? MPs will respond when they see there are votes are in it. We have many examples of organisations raising public consciousness, for instance about climate change, humane support for migrants, basic human rights and the problems caused by Brexit. There are good examples to follow.
Many disability organisations that take on this role of raising an angry public outcry would have to undergo radical change while working alongside disabled people, family members and advocates as suggested in Part 1 of this Comment. The result could be revolutionary.