Working for a Living: Employment, Benefits and the Living Standards of Disabled People

Working for a Living: Employment, Benefits and the Living Standards of Disabled People

Working for a Living: Employment, Benefits and the Living Standards of Disabled People

Working for a Living: Employment, Benefits and the Living Standards of Disabled People

Synopsis

For too long, disabled people in Britain have been denied access to employment. Now paid work is being presented as the only route out of poverty and dependence on the state. What is the reality? Working for a living? asks: Does paid work bring disabled people the benefits they are led to expect, or does it have hidden disadvantages? Can disabled people who are not able to work expect to enjoy a good standard of living? The author compares the welfare states of Sweden, Germany and Britain on the basis of social policy provision for disabled people of working age, particularly in the area of income maintenance and employment policy, and uses survey data to analyse the living standards of disabled people both in and out of work. Working for a living? shows that both employment and welfare policies have a vital role to play in securing a good standard of living. The report brings together policy and outcomes in all three countries, and examines the implications for policy in Britain.

Excerpt

The disability politics of the last 20 to 30 years have been described as the last civil rights movement. Disabled people have rejected the damaging stereotypes of passivity and dependency which have underpinned so many forms of welfare provision in favour of new models of independent living which emphasise personal autonomy. in common with other groups, such as immigrants, women, and those who are poor (Held, 1989; Lister, 1990; Roche, 1992), disabled people have argued that a failure to guarantee their rights results in an imperfect, ‘secondclass’ citizenship (Barnes, 1991; Oliver, 1996). This poses a challenge to policy makers, particularly those concerned with income maintenance, employment and personal assistance, but recent political emphasis on civil rights for disabled people has tended to overshadow debate about how welfare provision can be reformed to fulfil the social citizenship rights of disabled people and enable their equal participation in society.

The research presented in this book compares disability policies and the standard of living experienced by disabled people in three countries: Sweden, Germany and Britain. It considers their economic situation, and investigates whether disabled people in each country are able to lead the same kind of lives as their non-disabled peers in terms of access to employment, income and social life. It identifies examples of good practice, makes recommendations for changes to existing policy and practice, and highlights areas where further research is required. This first chapter begins by exploring the concepts of disability, citizenship and independence, which will provide the framework for later analysis.

The ‘social model’ of disability

The way in which disability is defined influences both the way in which disabled people construct their identities, and the way in which they are perceived by others (Scott, 1969; Stone, 1984; Gartner and Joe, 1987).

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