Thursday, 16 October 2014

Valuing the disabled

This wasn't the entry I was thinking about making at the time but one that seems to have arisen in the last 36 or so hours.
Background is a Minister, Lord Freud, was overheard in a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference talking around the Minimum Wage and Disabled people and he was reported a suggesting it would be in order to pay less than it, a figure of Two Pounds was suggested on the basis that their work didn't justify the actual minimum wage as a means of increasing the number of disabled people in Employment.
Presently in the UK, as I know from personal experience, employers often receive financial help to employ suitable disabled employees and some assistance with any adaptations the person may need to do the job but the person is paid the going rate for their work even if it is the case they may have a co-worker provide some assistance too. 
What was suggested was they need not and that government would be prepared to pay employers to employ them on Two Pounds per hour basis.
This lead to a very heated debate in the House of Commons where the Prime Minister and "Disability" minister disassociated themselves from it saying nobody in Government agrees with this idea.
The first comment I would make is while Lord Freud isn't a Member of Parliament, he nonetheless  is a Minister and is therefore a member of Government by virtue of holding office and having power.  To suggest otherwise is deliberately ambiguous.
The second point is, It drives a coach and horses through the whole notion of the value of work, the presumption of labour having a minimum level of reward that dignifies it and furthermore it poses the question how you would assess when a person is so disabled that they should be expect to work for less than his or her colleagues for the most menial of tasks.
Most of us hold that everyone doing the same job should be expected to receive the same pay and a number might well think employers might well substitute disabled employees for cost savings.
The real issue is the nature of what some people by virtue of disability can achieve is limited by the absolute ability to perform one or more tasks or if indeed they can  then the amount of work they can usefully provide.
To put it plainly if they can work at all, it may not be economic to either the employer, the individual and may well cost the state a lot more  to support in the attempt than the value of anything they may well produce.
People often talk about integration - the mixing of disabled and non-disabled - in society but the preoccupation with employment in policy areas as the sole means of meeting the aim is flawed.
What some disabled people need is an outlet for their abilities that provides stimulation, the chance meet new people, make friends and learn new skills that can be shown to the wider community such as a well run day centre and maybe a break for their carers.
Providing this isn't writing disabled people abilities off, ghettoizing them or just enabling a dependency culture at all. It's about meeting disabled peoples own individual needs as they are and as I'm only too aware from person experience being honest, about your very real limits.

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