Fulfilling Potential – rhetoric or opportunity?

Some of you will have seen Maria Miller, MP for Disabled People’s discussion paper on Fulfilling Potential, setting out the Government’s commitment to breaking down the barriers to social mobility and equal opportunities faced by disabled people in Britain.

The paper sets out some expectations about how people with disabilities should expect to be included in society and seeks ideas and contributions from people with disabilities in three areas, Realising Ambition, Individual Control and Changing Attitudes and Behaviours. It strikes me that there are two lenses through which one can read this paper. The first one, I do confess is a rather cynical one which considers this a load of rhetoric with little bite or accountability for delivering change. It flies in the face of the reality that support for people with disabilities, including speaking up support through advocacy,  is being savagely cut across the country. A time when people with mental health needs are suitably worried about the impact of a plethora of changes in welfare benefits on their ability to cope. Produced by a minister who recently claimed that those who are out of work have ‘a lack of appetite’ for the jobs that are out there, despite unemployment levels at their highest in 17 years, may indeed leave one questioning the very sincerity of the intent. Now having got that of my chest like most cynical views it achieves little and to be frank is wasted energy. So let’s focus on what the disability movement is renowned for,  finding possibilities in adversity and indeed maximising the opportunities to influence people in every sector of society of the true benefit of genuine inclusion.

The alternative lens therefore, and indeed the Certitude approach, is to recognise and embrace the opportunity this offers to share with others the benefits of a diverse society with people with disabilities contributing at every level. From Yvette, someone we support with learning disabilities who is playing a starring role in her local Amateur Dramatics production, to John who co-chairs the partnership board in Ealing with the Director of Social Services. Our Treat me Right! project which is working with GPs, and hospital based staff to change attitudes and the treatment of people with learning disabilities when in hospital. The team of Travel Buddies we employ who offer their experience in supporting other people with learning disabilities to use public transport. The individuals with lived experience of mental distress who are offering peer support ‘out of hours’ to others who need that supportive and empathetic ear. These are the people who are taking control and changing public attitudes every day. Let’s use this opportunity to appreciate and share the success of inclusion so those parts of society or businesses who don’t embrace it soon realise that they are missing a fundamental trick in achieving success.

Please do send your positive stories and ideas to Maria Miller as part of the Fulfilling Potential consultation document by 1 March.