Lord Lows debate on the impact of Government Policy on Disabled People

Baroness Grey-Thompson

On Thursday 5th May, Lord Low of Dalston initiated a debate on the impact of Governement Policy on Disabled People, and so far I think it was the most enjoyable debate that I have spoken in.  As you would imagine there were a wide range of opinion, and it was time limited to two and a half hours.

Unfortunately Lord Freud was unable to be in the chamber due to personal circumstances, but Lord Taylor of Holbeach ably stood in, and although this wasn’t his area of speciality promised to write to all who took part to answer our questions that he wasn’t able to address at the time.

Lord Fellowes made his maiden speech and was, as we could have all predicted witty, inciteful and tackled the salient points of the debate.  And of course he thanked all the right people!   I know that I speak for many when I say that we are looking forward to his further contributions. 

There was a bit of squash in the chamber as we had 4 Baronesses who are wheelchair users who all wanted to speak.  In reality there is comfortable space for three, but there are other options to sit near the steps of the throne if you want to be present in the chamber.  Unfortunately you cannot speak from there and with a little bit of shuffling we all fitted in

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton gave an impassioned speech about the future of the Independent Living Fund, Baroness Masham discussed nursing, and Baroness Wilkins the assessments and appeals procedures for people claiming benefits.  Of course, there were many other contributions. 

I raised questions about the inclusion of disabled young people in sport.  There are many challenges for young disabled people.  One of them is that those who are eligible to be on a Paralympic pathway is such a tiny minority of those who are eligible to take part in the wider disability sport.  Although I obviously come from a background of elite sport, I am concerned that if disabled children are excluded from PE then there is less likelyhood that they will lead fit and healthy lives.  This is not about medals at the Paralympic Games (although there is a risk to that), but about people being fit enough to move around, be in work etc. 

I do admit that there are lots of challenges.  It is hard when we don’t know where disabled children are in schools, and when there may only be a small number with a similar impairment who could ‘compete’ against each other.  It is not an easy problem to solve, but we have to keep working on to make sure that we get it right.

11 comments for “Lord Lows debate on the impact of Government Policy on Disabled People

  1. MilesJSD
    07/05/2011 at 2:41 am

    We (herein principally those who Govern us, that is) should be much clearer about some very important factors in discussing and legislating Disability, Impairment, Health versus Illness, and Wellbeing versus Underclassed.

    It should be of primary importance to distinguish the term ‘Disability’ as meaning an irreversible condition (‘crippling’);
    from the term ‘Impairment’ as meaning ‘may be possible to reverse or significantly reduce the condition of (‘incapacitation’).

    and our need to have the different sorts of Disability clearly graded, for the general-public;
    and the different grades of Impairment likewise to be graded for the general-public

    I believe Australia tried to do this at the end of the 199Ts, but I don’t know how far it has taken root.

    And similarly, at least one Australian State launched a leaflet about “Hidden Disability”, from which one could cut those two words and slip them into a pin-on transparent name-label and wear it, in public.

    Quite distinctly from smoothing the daily-paths of many Physiologically- (or ‘Body’-) Hiddenly-Impaired folk, those two innovations were helpful to the ‘hiddenly’ Mind-Impaired, as well.

    There is a “divide” between “body” disability and “mind” disability; and the former in particular are strong in wanting to keep these two types of disability separate, and ‘never the twain shall meet’.

    But this and other discriminatory and protectionist barriers can be overcome by legislating for the launching of a new major decade of generic and individual human development education.

    I have a compound-disability, but comparatively mild in-all; of physiological disability and iatrogenic-brain-damage.

    Some of each may, I now believe, be reversible’.

    I have just begun to find that a ‘tailored’ combination-care-programme, of informed Shiatsu education-cum-therapy, ‘in-step’ with re-awarenessing of the brain through pursuit of such self-help-inclusive advances as
    “Wisdom of the Body Moving”; and
    “Somatic Psychology” (Hartley);
    “Somatics” (Hanna);
    “Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery” (Franklin);
    “The Thinking Body” (Todd);
    “Natural Vision Improvement” (Goodrich);
    “The Centering Book” (Hendricks & Wills);
    “Phantoms in the Brain” (Santanchayan & Blakelee);

    and through very-possible further-effectivisation,
    of such activity-groups as the “Singing for the Brain” an Alzheimer’s group meeting two hours a week in the Salvation Army Hall, Plymouth; which already includes alternating relaxing and stimulating body-movements,

    and which with the further advice of leading experts such as Linda Hartley and Thomas Hanna, could become ‘break-through’ effective, in both ameliorating and reversing impairments and in catalysing and guiding normal individual-human-development enablements and activities,

    and through further effectivisation of such TV channels as “Body in Balance” from which one can pick and choose which movements to perform or test-out, complementarily, enhancingly, to one’s other work with the self-help guidance and the Shiatsu-type of educator.


    • Baroness Grey-Thompson
      Baroness Grey-Thompson
      07/05/2011 at 3:12 pm

      Thank you for your comments – very interesting. I agree that there is still much education to do around disability. We are not one homogeneous group, and there are many people who have a hidden disability who could be considered far mor disabled than I, but because the public see me as a wheelchair user, would make assumptions about what I can and cannot do. I have lost count of the number of people who have spoken down to me because I am in a chair, or make assumptions that because I can push myself down a corridor, that I am somehow special. We have a lot of work to do to understand and change people’s attititudes.

  2. Twm o'r Nant
    07/05/2011 at 8:02 am

    Government policy, ie police practice of recent years, is such that a disabled man may be taken in so violently that he dies during the arrest, whilst no charges were brought.

    The police are oblivious to disability. Force is force, they contend, and it applies to the disabled as much as to any other person.
    Whether a disabled person can resist arrest is questionable, or for that reason merit violence during arrest, equally questionable.
    (Carmarthenshire case 2008)

    The IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission)is supposed to deal with all complaints of disability but merely refers them back to a different officer in the local constabulary, best buddy of the policeman perpetrator of the assault.

    It may be one of the areas which the debate discusses, but I can’t verify, since the B G-T has left no link to it.

    • Baroness Grey-Thompson
      Baroness Grey-Thompson
      07/05/2011 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you for your comments. My part of the debate only addressed the issue of disabled children being given the opportunity to participate in school sport. While it is a wide subject and there are many disabled children, like non-disabled children who would say that they hate sport and physical activity, many disabled children who do want to take part are not being allowed to. There are many reasons for this. Some of it is that Teachers receive very little training in how to work with disabled children, and because some teachers may be more worried about doing harm, rather than good.

      I still think that we are in a situation in the UK where disability is not fully understand either how to address disabled people, nor how to treat them on many levels. Disabled people are not one homogenous group that can all be treated in the same way, and there is still a long way to go

      I am relatively new to this blog, but in future additions will link to the relevent debate.

    • MilesJSD
      08/05/2011 at 1:38 pm

      I would not only agree, Twm, I have experienced, and had such negativising and neglectful goveernances impairingly attack my years in the UK, and on Earth.

      Notwithstanding that, however, I wish to treat Baroness Grey-Thompson’s ‘ouvre’ here, as an inter-nation-al discussion forum, for a few minutes more, if you will.

      Today in an old English ‘may-flower’ township of Plymouth, the time is midday on a Sun-day – where a springtime butterfly is already seeking a safe future-food spot in which to lay down its biome’s & couple’s-egg for its species’ Future –
      and some humanfolk will be running through their minds the words set to Dvorjak’s prayer-like music
      “Be Still My Soul…” (( THY God is ever near thee)).
      Do you remember playing the body-movement-control games “O’Leary says ‘Do this …..’, ‘Do that….. ?”
      “O’Grady says “do this..”, “No, that..”, “Yes this..” ?
      Or the ‘Statue Waltz’ – “when the music stops everybody ‘freeze’, stand motionless – the first couple or person to move is ‘out’, eliminated; the last person/couple on the floor will receive the prize” ?

      Or in a training-lesson or Army-like drilling-place, being commanded to “Do as I say, NOT as I do” ?
      Well, in that same spirit I now ask you to turn away from me, and follow other and more appropriate leaders, many of whom I have already been recommending in previous Lords of the Blog postings.

      “More Help For Your Nerves” was published by Dr Claire Weekes after decades of being called upon by baffled consultant-psychiatrists worldwide who had given up,on certain ‘intractable Depression cases’.
      All Dr Claire did was to turn away from the ‘depression’ diagnosis and start-again from her surmised base of “Four-Fatigues” – namely
      1. Physiological fatigue, in the body; which if not dealt with would be followed by
      2. Emotional fatigue; which if not reversed would have to make way for additional
      3. Mental fatigue (or progressive impairment of Mind-functioning); which if ignored would lead to ‘one-foot-in-the-grave-already’ death-threatening
      4. Spiritual fatigue.

      Eric Franklin has already warned us about “Wrong Habits That Feel Right” (1996).

      A further overlooked leadership comes from
      Kathlyn Hendricks ( a human movement tutor and therapist) and her husband Guy Hendricks (a professor of education and psychology)
      via “The Moving Centre”;
      wherein we are led ‘self-teachably’ through a whole range of movement activities and fresh-mindsets, from the everyday-fast to the better-awarenessing-slow-and-completely-still.

      Thus the opening little quote above
      “Be Still …”;
      Otherwise you have no hope of ever appreciating the several distinct and ‘move-able’ big-parts of your own body, much less of holisticly controlling all the ‘minor’, ‘small’, ‘hidden’ or ‘unimaginable’ parts of your body (including your little eyes – see “Natural Vision Improvement” (Goodrich 1987).

      Perhaps it is no mere ‘convenience’ that in Biology the first “MRS GREN” essential of any Lifeform is
      (( or self move-ability, whatever;
      but in the real-ability sense of being able to (“) move any part of yourself in any direction (“):
      see “The Thinking Body” (Todd) and “Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery”: awareness/alignment/imagery/posture )).

      Thank you for sharing that.

      Lastly, how much do you know of your ‘weakness’ ?
      How constantly are you in touch – direct and one-to-one with the ‘fearfully-and- wondrously-made-human-self’ that (as it were) ‘God’ designed and still will be supporting ?

      Howard Arnold Walter, 1906 wrote: (may be sung using the melody of the Londonderry Air ‘Oh Danny Boy’)
      I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
      I would be pure, for there are those who care;
      I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
      I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

      I would be friend of all–the foe, the friendless;
      I would be giving, and forget the gift;
      I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
      I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.

      I would be faithful through each passing moment;
      I would be constantly in touch with ‘God’;
      I would be strong to follow where ‘He’ leads me;
      I would have faith to keep the path ‘Christ’ trod.
      May Life be with you, and You.

      +++++++ 1200 Sn 08 May 2011. +++++++

  3. Carl.H
    07/05/2011 at 9:53 am

    One of the things that concerns me about pushing more disabled (most have more ability than me) young into sport may well be that able(sigh) bodied people may feel that they are trying to push someone not able. If that makes sense.

    If I can liken it to a young girl who uses the excuse of periods to get out of PE at school. There may well be no way of knowing if the situation is true or not for the able bodied instructor/tutor.

    As an able(?) bodied person I would feel terribly guilty at pushing someone hard to participate in sport when they are quite clearly disabled in someway. It would appear cruel, though possibly no more cruel than say the physical education I underwent at HMS Ganges, now branded as possibly one of the cruellest authorities that existed in it’s time.

    It is extremely difficult to push, cajole or encourage those into physical activity that do not want to participate even though it would do them good. Sport is a great way to alleviate depression though few depressives jump up and state “I’m off to run a marathon”.

    We need to encourage disabled people into sport but we do need the expert help of knowing what they capable of, so as not to appear cruel. It is all too easy to feel sympathetic or perhaps guilty with someone in a wheelchair or the like and knowing when to help or not is a concern to most of us.

    There are many types of disablement amongst our young and for each may require seperate Health and Safety risk assessments. I think schools and teachers play it safe at times to the detriment of the young disabled.

  4. MilesJSD
    07/05/2011 at 7:09 pm

    Baroness Grey-Thompson, thank you for your further-positivising reply.

    I had just nearly finished writing some further factors, when suddenly it had all disappeared from my screen, logged out without any of it being saved.

    What I wrote would I think have connected with every other commenter so far.

    I believe there has to be a common-factor for ‘salvation’ between this Disabled People complex and the bigger underlying ‘Threat’ of what is more and more evidently a “Disabled Civilisation” complex.

    I believe some such practicum as that discovered by education and remediation workers and researchers might be the answer, instantiable here and now by Doreen Cott a vision teacher who fedback a letter to her teacher Janet Goodrich who in turn published it in her best-selling self-help manual “Natural Vision Improvement”:

    She says that
    (“) since body movement facilitates eye movements, I emphasise total body/dance movements, integrated with eye movements (swinging and blinking), in order to free up the entire visual system.

    You must break both; the stare of the body as well as of the eyes (“).
    We also know from experience that whilst one must retrain the memory and mind as well as the body, so that we don’t unconsciously slip-back into ‘wrong habits that feel right’ (Franklin “Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery” p 42) there are optimum timeframes being discovered.
    For changing people’s attitudes, i.e. ‘mind-awarenessing’, the ideal way would appear be to provide generic open-learning courses (perhaps as a central part of a new ‘Earth-Lifesupportive Citizenship’) wherein there is much practical-experiential sampling, so that the body ‘learns’ equally with the mind being ‘better-informed’.

  5. Twm O'r Nant
    08/05/2011 at 8:58 am

    when suddenly it had all disappeared from my screen, logged out without any of it being saved.

    How fortunate!

    different grades of Impairment likewise to be graded for the general-public

    Which they are, mainly for social security pension purposes.

    I have a compound-disability, but comparatively mild in-all; of physiological disability and iatrogenic-brain-damage.

    How unfortunate!

    I generally think of my own self deleting blog post, as an Act of God, but in future I shall consider that of Mr. Miles in the same light

  6. MilesJSD
    09/05/2011 at 8:57 am

    We all also need to beware of movement-activity that is too ‘high’ for us.

    Doing sports is not the best foundation for a fit-self.
    For instance, the ‘new’ “Insane Body Workout” just appearing on Sky 275 “Body-in-Balance” pitches you straight into highly-energetic, high-impact, fast-twitching-muscle building.

    Dangerous, even for the vast majority of non-disabled people;
    It should be made to add at the beginning and throughout, the headline “Do not attempt these exercises without first having built all your underlying slow-twitch, main musculature, and your midway musculature”.
    That warning is as important and urgent as printing on cigarette packets “Smoking Can Kill”, I would submit.


  7. Gareth Howell
    11/05/2011 at 8:01 am

    Walking down a local high street early in the week, I began to count the number of people who did NOT have walking sticks and mobility aids.

    It worked out at 1 in 5 with assistance, over a short period of time.

    They say if you see two car accidents in quick succession the third will be yours.

Comments are closed.