Research Bulletin, March 2020

Here are a few more summary comments on what might be interesting snippets of research.

1. The anniversary this year of the Alf Morris achievement in creating the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 got me reading an interesting book by him and Arthur Butler, who was a friend, political journalist and PR adviser.

I would recommend a close reading of this book to people who are interested in research in British politics and disabled people. At times the language will jar with the modern reader. But work through that, because it tells a story of the political construction by a back-bench MP of an understanding of disability policy for the first time in Whitehall. Until then 11 different departments had taken an uncoordinated and impairment-led fragmented approach, and had resisted every attempt to change. Having unified Whitehall, the centre of resistance moved to local government, and the early years after the Act was law are described by the press campaigns to shame various councils to do their (new) duty. And the resistance was as much from within the Labour party as it was from the Conservatives.

Something that rather jumped off the page was when Alf Morris says in the Prologue:

“I explained that I wanted to remove the severe and gratuitous social handicaps inflicted on disabled people” (Morris and Butler 1972 p10)

Clearly this isn’t the full-throated social model of disability as per UPIAS and Mike Oliver, and in the context of the extract above it does use the built environment as its main example, but even so, credit where it is due … “social handicaps” is an idea in political discussions and print by 1972.

For me, the biggest weakness of the CSDP Act was in the establishment of new, segregated YDUs – Young Disabled Units – which were new institutions built within NHS hospital grounds.

For more on YDUs and the 1970s onwards campaign to close segregated provision, my recent publications on Grove Road (Maggie and Ken Davis) and on UPIAS (Paul Hunt) give a lot of detail and discussion. This all ties into Independent Living today, another neglected area of political research I feel.

No Feet to Drag
Alfred Morris, Arthur Butler
London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1972
ISBN-10: 028 397 8678

2. The Phil Mason Collection has been topped up within the GMCDP Archive, with some closed materials (GDPR etc) and some open materials (policy reports etc) giving a good insight into the national and local government dynamics in the 1980s around disabled people creating their own independent living projects and practices. Some materials also show work at the European level with DPI (Disabled People’s International) and then ENIL (European Network for Independent Living).

There are also a lot of now-poignant papers around the establishment and criteria of the ILF (Independent Living Fund), now abolished, a calculated act of political cruelty, spite and vandalism in my opinion.

3. A good friend and colleague from my time working at GMCVS in the 1980s, David Sutcliffe, has kindly shared in his retirement from his bottom drawer, copies of two guides I had worked on in 1987. Clearly he was a better Information Officer than I was! One guide was on the media, and will make for nostalgic reading for people of a certain age.

The second guide was on venues, which I co-wrote with Lorraine Gradwell in the early years of our relationship, and was a co-production between GMCVS and GMCDP. The idea was to show voluntary and community groups which buildings in their area were accessible to disabled people and therefore suitable for meetings and events. Bits of it will make the modern reader cringe, but like the TV programme Life on Mars, that is how it was back in the day. I’m organising a small reprint of both guides for various archives and similar, and pdf copies which can also be used for larger print.

4. Finally, the replica banner of Justice Not Charity is under construction with all the parts now ready. The original was used by the National League of the Blind 100 years ago on 5 April in the march from Manchester, Leeds, and Newport to London, and a photograph survives.

Cheers all.

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