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Active Citizens Empowered Society September 2011

Š 2011 Simon Stevens


Introduction This document is a discussion paper on an Empowered Society and it is an “Active Citizens� project. The purpose of the paper is to discuss the role of disabled people and others within society and to present a vision for an empowered society that moves away current away from notions of dependency and welfare, and towards a society where every citizen is enabled and empowered to make an contribution. The paper will argued the current way government, voluntary organisations and others support many disabled people reinforces their dependency and cultural segregation. While this may have short term benefits for the workforce 'dependent' on this form of dis-empowerment, this 'industry' is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term as general resources increase in their scarcity. In order to properly include disabled people, and other groups, the focus of services relating to social issues should be shifted towards enabling and empowering individuals to discover their unique potential and to learn how they can utilise this to make an meaningful contribution to society, within a rights and responsibility agenda. The discussion paper aims to be a challenge to David Cameron's concept of a 'big society' which could be regarded as the restoration of Victorian values on welfare, where the 'deserving poor' are dependent on charities for their existence rather than the state, and therefore it is more likely that many disabled people would be further dis-empowered and required to conform to the wishes of their middle class benefactors. The discussion aims to ignite debate and does not aim to answer every question. Feedback from others is also welcome to develop the paper further.

The Background This discussion paper defines society as the whole social organisation of the population, primarily within the United Kingdom. While it includes how the country is governed, it also includes how we interact with each other as social beings, as opposed to animals. It therefore covers education, housing, financial transactions, employment, health and many other social policy and practice issues that make up the fabric of 'society'. Within this concept, we can see disability as the issue of how society responds to people with impairments, and therefore it can be deemed to be socially constructed. The way society has responded to people with impairments has changed over history and therefore it is important to understand how this has developed to see where it is heading. Before the industrial revolution, the worth of a person could be argued to be measured on the productivity of their family as a whole. This meant that a family may Š 2011 Simon Stevens


| be responsibility to their land owners for the farming of a specific area of land as a whole, and the merits of specific individuals were not identified. This meant those people with impairments, who survived the primitive health system, could find a social role within their families, who would naturally work together for their common outcome. Therefore, disability was not a social issue at this time. After the industrial revolution and the creation of factories, the measure of productivity moved from the family unit and onto the individual, who were now paid to perform jobs. As they were now linked into the factories they worked on, as a measurable resource, this meant that any form of difficulties was easily identified and measurable. Since the types of jobs were limited and factory owners expected to pay a fair wage for a fair day's work, it meant that working aged adults with many form of impairments were penalised. This could be seen as the roots of disability as a social issue. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20 century, it could be argued that many people with impairments were excluded from society and dependent on either their families or charities for their welfare. The later would more likely than not result in some form in institutional living. It is important to understand that disability at this time only related to being ineducable for employment or unemployment in an era where brawn was as required, if not more, than brain. This meant there was little interest in mild or hidden difficulties in the way there is now. The welfare of disabled people and other groups was formalised with the Labour Government's 1948 National Assistance Act. This was born out of a need to support a whole generation of people with newly acquired impairments from World War II, but like much law in this field, assisted a wider range of disabled people. This new notion of welfare was still based on employability, but introduced a new concept of the 'sick role'. The sick role meant that government and wider society would accept that individuals naturally had periods of sickness that required time off work but that had a responsibility to seek medical attention and to do whatever was necessary to get better and return to work. Since many people with impairments were never going to get better, there were still excluded from society and left dependent of the state for their income in the guise of 'looking after' the vulnerable. The basis of the welfare state has not changed since 1948 despite some improvement in the quality of life disabled people can expect. Disability is now seen in terms of a rights agenda with a number of laws put in place to remove the discrimination people with impairments face. Also, institutional living can now be seen as being replaced with the norm of people to live in their own with a wide of

Š 2011 Simon Stevens

[3/12] support options, which is increasing being personalised to the needs and wishes of the individuals involved,. The current situation is however that the foundations of the welfare state is still related to the perceived employability of people with impairments. It could be argued that the situation has been made complex and confused by the way many people with minor impairments have embraced the label of disability in terms of rights and welfare. Many have mixed the two issues together to assume they have the right to be on disability related benefits, without the responsibilities laid down in the sick role. To add to this, the computer, internet and other technological advantages has meant that many people with impairments are now employable in a manner they never were before. Since it is now possible for people to work from home if they wish as professionally as if they worked in an office or factory, people can meet their access needs and compete as equals. However, at the same time, how society as perceived health issues have changed. In the past, people were deem healthy most of the time and did what they wanted until they got sick and health services made them better, so they could do what they wanted until the next time. Now there is an increased awareness and focus on long terms health conditions, like Asthma. This has certainly confused the 'sick role' and further quested notions of employability and being 'fit for work'. This all means that it can be argued the welfare state in its current form is no longer fit for purpose for a 21st century society. It excludes people from the workforce who now have greater potential to be employable. It has also created an 'industry of dependency', which will be explained further, which prevents individuals from being enabled and empowered to make a contribution.

The Concepts The notion of an empowered society can be seen to be made up from 5 main concepts, which are the building blocks necessary to the fabric of enabling and empowering individuals to make an active and meaningful contribution to their communities and the larger society. These includes citizenship, 'right and responsibilities', enablement, empowering and contribution. Each concept brings important values and understanding to the wider discussion. Citizenship can be seen as the relationship between individuals, as citizens, and the state in terms of the government, the justice system and other organisations. Citizenship can be regarded as the implied agreement between citizens and these organisations, that make the rules we have a responsibility to comply to in return for

Š 2011 Simon Stevens


| the services and support we have the right to receive. Good citizenship can be seen as the state providing a good balance between these rights and responsibilities. It could however be seen that currently citizens, including many people who define themselves as disabled, are expecting and demanding more rights than responsibilities. This could therefore be seen as a result for seeing society as currently being dis-empowered as people see their dependency on the state as a right 'Rights and Responsibilities' is the concept of the social interaction and social norms with others in terms of how individuals are expected to treat others and how others are expected to treat them on a number of levels formally and informally within a range of situations. It can be argued that while most people understand and welcome the rights they have, they are often unaware or try to avoid their responsibilities, failing to understand the link between rights and responsibilities. It can be clearly argued the fact it is necessary to move society and citizens away from a just rights culture and onto a 'rights and responsibilities' agenda, where individuals understand, accept and embrace the fact that every action has an consequence which they must take appropriate responsibility for. Enablement, within the context of the discussion paper, can be defined as providing individuals with the skills and functional ability to manage their lives in a manner where they can make a meaningful contribution to society, within a rights and responsibilities framework. This may include being able to do things for themselves or understanding how others can support them to achieve their desired outcomes and goals. It can be seen as the provision of a fishing rod so they can catch their own fish as oppose to being dependent to someone providing them with fish each day. This is therefore about government and organisations shifted their thinking away for assuming people are unemployable or vulnerable and focus on enabling everyone to have skills, appropriate to their ability, to make an autonomous contribution to society in their own right and not be dependent on others to represent them. Empowerment, within the context of this discussion paper, is defined as providing individuals with the confidence, understanding and motivation to make a meaningful contribution to society, within a rights and responsibilities framework. This works on top of enablement to put the skills learnt into action, providing users with greater ability to self-determine how they wish to live and make a contribution to society without interference from others in determining this. If enablement provides them with the fishing rod them empowerment teaches them how to use the rod. It also enables and empowers individuals to understand that they have the ability and the 'right' so do anything they wish, in one way or another, so long as they take responsibility for their actions, and nothing is totally impossible without some creative thinking and determination. In its extreme, its means anyone can have the ability and so 'right' to commit murder, so long as they take full responsibility for their actions, which may be life imprisonment. This means self-determination must be provided Š 2011 Simon Stevens

[5/12] without judgement and people should be empowered to make their own mistakes so that they can learn from them. Contribution means what someone is willing to give to society, as a citizen, in return for the support and services they provide as a member of their community and society at large. This is normally first defined as paid employment since this is the most usual form to making an impact on others. While employment can be seen in terms of a capitalist model of a company using paid labour to made a profit for their own benefit, without any responsibilities for their communities, the reality is that it is not that simple. Every business and indeed organisation provides a product or service that benefit members of the society and therefore can be seen as a contribution. Paid employment can be seen as only one way someone can make an contribution to society. It may also include unpaid work, involvement in national or local government organisation, parenting and other forms of caring, stimulating discussion, debates and ideas on blogs and other social media, and much more. The perceived size of someone's contribution is not important but rather the fact someone is making a meaningful contribution to the best of their abilities, which will depend on their unique situations. Contribution is not about measurable outcomes but rather it is about a way of living that embraces a rights and responsibilities framework. These 5 concepts can be seen as the foundation of building an empowered society. The next section will discuss the barriers that exist in the way of the vision of an empowered society and how they could be overcome.

The Barriers At this stage of the discussion, the discussion paper will move beyond the concepts around the vision of an empowered society and will examine some of barriers and discuss how they could be overcome. The section will discuss 4 main barriers, which are the notions of vulnerability which organisation respond to, the whole industry of dependency, the internalised dis-empowerment that exists within individuals and the ability to shift resources from dependency services. This barriers are complex and are weaved into the fabric of society where no one individual can be said to be responsible for them. Notions of vulnerability relates to how organisations and individuals perceive how specific groups are perceived to be automatically prone to being vulnerable as a state of being without necessary knowing the people involved or how vulnerable they really are. It is important to understand that vulnerability is often used as a political tool used by organisations to claim representation on individuals they perceive, or Š 2011 Simon Stevens


| they wish others to perceive, to be in need for their assistance. They currently often use the guise of research to highlight the 'wrongs' committed against a vulnerable group of peoplem and claim ownership of the issue as the champions of the 'wronged', assuming the group is able to take any responsibility for the issue. In examining the research in detail, it does not often make sense or stand up to scrutiny. In reality vulnerability can be described as a current state of being at moments when a person does not feel safe or feels prone to abuse in all its forms. People's vulnerability can change minute by minute, depending on the situation a people is facing at that current moment. In this context everyone can be vulnerable at one time or other. While it may be accurate to say specific groups of people may feel more vulnerable at specific times, it would be inaccurate to describe anyone as always being vulnerable. The biggest barrier to an empowered society can be seen as the Industry of dependency. This relates to the number of charitable and other organisations providing 'services' and 'support' to groups of people society currently deems unable to support themselves as fully active contributing citizens. The reality is these organisations may on such individuals to be dependent on them for support in order to receive support and for their staff to be paid. It must be noted that charitable organisations are no longer philanthropic in nature and often all their staff are paid and therefore their fund raising efforts simply go to keep their staff in paid employment, even if that means being distracted from the often noble reason they were set up for. It is therefore in the best interest of these organisations not to provide individuals metaphorically with fishing rods, nor teach them to use the rods, but rather ensure that they are dependent on the supply of daily fish for the survival of the organisation and their users. Since these individuals are often perceived to be vulnerable and therefore naturally disempowered, it is difficult to make people understand and realise that the organisations which claim to be 'helping' them, are often the ones that they are keeping them dependent and dis-empowered for their own benefit in terms of the organisation's economic survival. Because organisations are seen as 'not for profit' it is assumed no one other than the intended group benefits from their actions, when in reality there are paid staff who can be seen to profit. It could be argued that organisations could and should change their 'business model' away from services related to dependency and services that relate to the provision of enablement and empowerment. By continuously raising the expectations of the groups they wish to support, they can profit from their journeys as the lives of everyone involved is improved.

Š 2011 Simon Stevens

[7/12] Another big barrier to overcome is the Internalised dis-empowerment with individuals. While David Cameron may describe this as the roots of a 'broken society', it is not quite that simple. Internalised dis-empowerment is how individuals feel dis-empowered on arrival to a situation and without direct influence from the situation they believe they are dis-empowered in. This means that they feel have embraced and internalised the labels of vulnerable which organisations have placed upon them. There are many reasons why people may feel dis-empowered such as the lack of motivation within their family or communities, periods of extreme stress and depression or a difficulty adjusting to a new situations especially a health related situations. While it may be argued that disabled people or other groups are naturally prone to feeling dis-empowered this is not necessarily the case. Having an impairment or having any other form of general social status may not be the issue but rather how individuals have responded to their situations. This means that some disabled people can feel very empowered while others may be very dis-empowered, it is a very individual thing that depends on many factors and therefore it is not something which can be generalised. It can be argued that notions of 'hate crime' and 'abuse' are used by organisations to add fear into the lives of the group they claim to support, evoking further internalised dis-empowerment, as people are led into victimhood, dependent on others to be rescued. While a vast amount of abuse can occur, it is important to enable and empower individuals to have the ability to take an active role on preventing abuses from occurring and to take positive action when they become 'victims' of abuse. Internalised dis-empowerment can be overcome through personal development exercises, conducted formally or informally. These exercises enable people to discover themselves and to feel more confident in themselves, and therefore more empowered. If individuals can identify the true barriers in their lives, as opposed to any imagined ones, they can understand how they can be overcome by breaking large goals into small steps. Personal Development is a very useful tool which is not used enough for a wide range of people. The final barrier to consider is the difficulties in shifting resources from what can be described as 'dependency' services into enablement and empowerment services. These may include statutory services, as well as services run by the voluntary or private companies. Dependency services can be seen as any service which reinforces the dependency of its users on that service for the long term. It is not necessarily about what the service is but rather how it is delivered. For example, a helpline service on any subject can simply aim to provide callers with enough information to require them to keep calling them or to use related services, in metaphor, providing them with daily fish. The helpline could however provide callers with more detailed and constructive information which empowers callers to take

Š 2011 Simon Stevens


| control of the situations, providing them with a fishing rod and teaching them to use it. The biggest difficulty is that dependency is often institutionalised into the policies, practices, actions and behaviours of many organisations in a manner where they may often not realise how much they rely on dependency services for their survival. It can be very difficult to explain that what they see as 'helping' people, may in fact be hindering them, not just unintentionally but as a matter of internalised policy and practice. In this context, it may be very difficult to look at shifting the organisation towards a business model that relies on enabling and empowering people. None of the four barriers highlighted are insurmountable but will need a greater honestly for all parties involved to form a starting point in overcoming them. While dependency services and internalised dis-empowerment may be unhelpful, it is important not to blame anyone for the current state of play in this matter, as there is no single reason or action for how society is currently constructed. The important issue is to work together to overcome the barriers.

The Solutions In reviewing the concepts and barriers that exist in terms of heading towards an empowered society, it is possible to identify 4 possible solutions that will enhance the process. These are Personal Development, Individual Actions and Outcomes Plans, Rewarding empowerment and Structural changes. Each solution will significantly enhanced the empowerment potential of society, and together they would be an ultimate force in ensuring major improvements to the fabric of society. Personal Development can be described as a number of experiences which allows a person to develop themselves in terms of their understanding of how they are and what their 'story' is, to learn about setting goals, managing time and other skills. More importantly properly conducted personal development can dramatically improve the confidence of an individual and therefore improve how empowered they feel. It is a solution which can benefit most people regardless of their background as it is about individuals finding themselves rather than being asked to sign up to any form of set values. It can be argued that if personal development was built into the education system, it will create a new generation of empowered citizens. It is not just about teaching individuals to take up their rights but also their responsibilities. An fully empowered person is one who takes responsibilities for their actions and seeks to achieve their goals, whatever it takes. They further recognise the assistance they need and Š 2011 Simon Stevens

[9/12] embrace the need to work with others. Therefore the value of personal development can not be underestimated. The next solution to consider is Individual Actions and Outcomes Plans. Moving beyond the benefits of personal development, these plans represent a possible and positive way organisations can move from away from dependency services and towards enablement and/or empowerment services. It can be argued that dependency services tend to treat ever user in the same way often where the expectations is that of the lowest common denominator. This means users with higher expectations or greater potential are hold back within the 'equality of service' provided. These plans enables the potential, expectations and desires of individuals to be properly identified and acted upon. This can be seen to be tied into the current personalisation agenda within social care but it can be implied to a wider range of services including within education and employment. In developing these plans and identifying people's own outcomes, it is possible to evolve services towards empowering people and in so doing, raising their expectations and desiring outcomes, creating a positive cycle of development. The plans also enables services to be more account to not only its users and its funders but also society at large. Another solution to consider is the rewarding of organisations who promote empowerment in terms of funding and resources. As this paper has discussed, many organisations and services rely on the dependency of their users for their survival. They are therefore not encouraged nor have any motivation to enable and/or empower its users, especially if its results in the user not requiring support from them when there is funding attached to that. Notions of vulnerability and charity means society does not currently question dependency services or encourages them to move towards being enablement or empowerment services. It is therefore necessary to challenge the public perception on these issues, through discussion papers like this one, to slowly change thinking away from an acceptance of automatic dependency for specific groups of people and towards a believe that everyone with the right support can be enabled and empowered to make a meaningful contribution to society, within an rights and responsibilities framework. It is important to understand that dependency is often a mindset rather than a state of being and therefore it can be changed through personal development and other methods. In this framework, society should desire citizens to be empowered and therefore reward organisations and services that support this. This could be achieved by changing how services are funded, by requiring enablement and empowerment strategies to be built into how services operates and a requirement for services to use Individual Actions and Outcomes Plans. This leads us to the final possible solution, which is structural changes to the fabric of society that enables its citizens to be more enabled and empowered. It can be argued this not is not just about throwing money at the problem at building a new Š 2011 Simon Stevens


| system which fits over the existing structures, but rather a deep rooted review of how specific elements are constructed and then changing them to enable an empowered society. This is clearly a solution for the long term that is likely to receive much resistance from organisations and services which benefit from how society is currently constructed. However, it could be argued that an failure to make the changes could result in an increased economic burden on what is going to remain a weakened economy. This means society may not be able to sustain the current industry of dependency and may require citizens to become more enabled and empowered so they can become more economically self-sufficient. It is therefore it in best interested of everyone to have an empowered society. These are just four possible solutions to what could be described as a complex concept to achieved. It has however been demonstrated that an empowered society has benefit for everyone. Enablement and Empowerment should become a part of the fabric of society to increase people's own self-worth and expectations in terms of making a contribution to society. Empowerment can also create a new form of equality as people come together as interdependent beings.

Conclusion This discussion paper has outline how the current structure of the welfare state is no longer fit for purpose within the 21st century. It has been argued that too many services and organisation rely on the dependency of their users for their survival and that they are not encouraged or motivated to develop themselves towards being enablement and/or empowerment services, which supports people's individual actions and outcomes. It has been demonstrated that personal development is a powerful tool to empower people by assisting them to discover themselves. This is key in supporting them to understand their rights and responsibilities in making a meaningful contribution to society. This can remove their feelings of dependency and challenging the notions of vulnerability which organisations can use against them. It can be argued that having a generation of empowered citizens, it will improve the general wealth of society as more individuals would be making an contribution. It would also create a new sense of equality based on rights and responsibilities, where each citizen is required and encouraged to use their potential for the benefit for themselves, their communities and society at large. The transformation towards

Š 2011 Simon Stevens

[11/12] an empowered society, assuming that it is desired, is a complex one and something can bring many rewards to many people.

Š 2011 Simon Stevens


Empowered Society  

This document is a discussion paper on an Empowered Society and it is an “Active Citizens” project. The purpose of the paper is to discuss t...

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