disabled people all over the world are struggling to confront the processes that exclude and segregate them and to escape form the institutions that are part of that. ” (Oliver 1996,p93). Empowerment is meant to allow the disabled person to do more things for themselves but however it can be seen that empowerment can also be disabling. Disablement is a major social problem. It affects not only the person who is disabled but also their families and friends. Self-Advocacy enables people to make choices and decisions about the way in which they want to live their lives.
Advocacy can be seen as standing up for ones rights, making informed choices and speaking up for ones self. Self-Advocacy in relation to people who have learning difficulties can be seen as people who have gained the power to fight for their individual rights rather than in the past being a collective group who have been stigmatised and labelled as having no rights at all. Self-Advocacy is also about a person’s own identity. When we talk about empowerment it is in the specific context of people with learning difficulties. It must be remembered that self – advocacy is different from empowerment.
Empowerment consists of two main freedoms, which are the freedom to avoid unnecessary constraint and the freedom to develop individuals potential. Empowerment is based on the idea that there are lots of people within society who experience heightened vulnerability and have special needs because of their impairment or impairments. A pilot project in London, run by the Greenwich Association of Disabled People showed that giving the disabled person direct control over their own care budget not only produced more effective and personalised service, but also provided better value for money. It was less costly for the government.
As a result the UK government introduced direct control, nation wide from 1996. In Britain direct payments have been available since 1997, but so far only 54 of the local authorities offer direct payment schemes. This is just over a third of those with social service responsibility in England and Wales. The British system differs from the Canadian and other schemes available in Europe in that claimants are at present responsible for securing their own services. But help is available from local Independent Living Groups. The government intends to extend direct payment schemes, promising nearly i??
3billion extra funding for social services. It hopes eventually to make it mandatory for all authorities to offer direct payment schemes. Direct payments to people over 65 are also promised. The Association of Directors of Social Services disability committee points out that the costs to the state are no more, and often less, through direct payments, and that the only hindrance at present is the initial cost outlay. The innovation consists of providing community support in the form of an independent agent – i. e. not paid by the government or the service providers – to help person with exceptional needs secure and manage their own funds.
This concept marks the recognition of the rights of persons with continuing needs that started with the processes of de-institutionalisation and community care. It turns the user of services into a purchaser of services. It makes the service providers accountable to the person, not to an agency or to the government. It removes many of the barriers that make it impossible to become full citizens. Many groups and sectors have been involved in making the innovation a reality. In the UK such direct payment exists as a well-kept secret.
There are two versions (with many variations within each) of personalised funding (funding allocated to the individual based on specific needs) that could work in the UK. Individualised funding, where the funding is ‘attached’ to the person, but managed and monitored by a third party. Given the current system of grants through the DHSS and the need for local authorities to top up allocations to voluntary agencies to meet some clients’ exceptional needs, it is conceivable that a brokerage model might be seen as a means of negotiating these extra funds so that the existing voluntary agencies or new services could provide the services.
* Direct Funding. Once the funding is negotiated, it is given directly to the person, family or person willing to assist. If individuals are able to manage on their own, they do so in the same manner that those with independent wealth have always done. If individuals are not able or prepared to manage their services on their own, they have a number of options – they could hire an agency to provide the services for them (as is the case in privately funded special care), or they could have the broker (or volunteer committee of people they select) assist in setting up and monitoring services for them.