The Alliance for Camphill is a campaigning organisation. We fight for the rights of people with learning disabilities, for their right to choose where and how they live and for social justice without which the first two are not possible.
We are also strictly non-party political. But we are concerned that the debate and therefore the policy that impacts on those we campaign for has fallen foul to political bromide: that you cannot be a socially conscious and a Tory at the same time or that only a socialist government has the answers to the crisis in our care system.
For the record we do not believe that a person’s political beliefs (by and large) tell us much about them as human beings. Some issues transcend party politics: one of these is what it means to be disabled, what kind of life you want and how society and the state can help support you.
Indeed when politicians of all parties come together to examine such issues in all-party parliamentary select committees good sense often prevails.
But we find it hard to understand how, collectively, this government and this generation of Tories can ignore not just the very real suffering caused by the politics of relentless austerity but welfare ‘reforms’ that might have been designed to deepen the gaping inequalities which make Britain such an un-level playing field. People slip off the edge into a bottomless chasm from which some never return.
The pioneering post-war Welfare State conceived by William Beverage, one of the great universal social landmarks of the 20th century is being dismantled piecemeal and sold off to the private sector.
The companies that now compete for this ‘market’ are inevitably devoid of the necessary public service ethos. Their priority is shareholder value. Care has become a commodity like any other.
Competitive tendering for delivering care to people with learning disabilities and others is subject to the pull of market forces which is why the roll-out of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Universal Credit (UC) policies is a disaster.
‘Outcomes’ that appears efficient on a balance sheet or a parliamentary response rarely reflect the humane solutions needed to deal with complex issues.
There is a toxic view at the heart of current Tory policies that society can be divided into strivers and scroungers. Benefit Street is a parody of that dismal belief. It’s a Trumpian view of the world.
These inequalities, this disregard for people’s basic human rights: to a home, to equal opportunity, to the means by which they can live a basic, decent life without the fear of ending up on the streets or falling back on food banks and the mercy of a dysfunctional benefits system or the charity of friends, this Scrooge-like view – if you’ll forgive the festive cliche- will come back to bite us.
The ethos and the values of a committed Camphill community is that we are born equal, that love and friendship are the heart of community, that we depend on each other and that we each deserve a chance to make the best of ourselves through meaningful work and the right support. There are choices to be made. The state can’t pay for everything The job of government is not to shower us with helicopter money – as they did the bankers who unleashed a decade of austerity through their greed and incompetence encouraged by reckless cross-party deregulation of the financial sector.
Throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it which is why Labour needs a coherent disability strategy beyond the easy slogan “Nothing about you without you”
But nor is it to treat people with learning disabilities as deserving (or undeserving) charity cases. As the Guardian implies in the piece ( see link below) social justice is not the same a philanthropy.
It is to provide a safe, humane and considered economic and social environment that treats care not as a commodity but as a basic right; and people as citizens with equal rights.
This Theresa May’s government has signally failed to do.
The Alliance will continue to fight for such a world.
We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a New Year and thank you for your fantastic support. Together we can make a difference.
Alain Catzeflis Alliance for Camphill Steering Group
The Guardian: Government’s Marie Antoinette view of universal credit