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You have potential

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2012

'Fulfilling Potential' is the catchily named government consultation on disability which is about to close its doors this Friday.

Disabled people, their carers and organisations are being asked to share what they want out of life. The findings will be fed into a new disability strategy to be launched in the spring.

A simple proposal. With a finite amount of money available, the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) wants pointers, from those who know their stuff, on how to prioritise resources and effort.

Last week I attended an ideas session run by a user led organisation in Essex, ecdp. Approximately 20 disabled peple and carers took part. The results were carefully written up and fed back.

Ideas were flying. EastEnders should have a regular disabled character ... schools should have better citizenship classes ... careers officers need more training.

Suggestions about how to improve existing schemes such as transport and employment services sat alongside a strong desire to educate and inform the nation about disability so that systems and attitudes would be different in the future.

One of the leaders of the session in Essex was ecdp's aptly titled Lived Experience officer, Faye Savage. She says: "I think the fact that the government has started this conversation around fulfilling potential shows that, while disabled people have come a long way in the last 20 years in terms of things they're able to achieve in education, in employment and in volunteering, they still don't have the same rates of involvement as non disabled people. It tells you that there are barriers which stop them from fulfilling their potential."

The contributors in Essex were keen to talk about their experiences and pass on their thoughts and knowledge they've gained. But for some, Fulfilling Potential is just another talking shop.

There was plenty of bad feeling early last year when charities and organisations believed their contributions to the consultation about the future of DLA (or PIP) were ignored. And in a strongly worded blog post on Tuesday, disability academic and trainer Jenny Morris writes:

"[the consultation document] sits alongside, and steadfastly ignores, a raft of welfare reform policies which, far from recognising the social, economic and environmental barriers experienced by disabled people, assume that unemployment, impairment and ill health are a result of individual states of mind - lack of motivation and 'dependency'.

Where do you stand? Is it good to keep on feeding back? And do you feel your potential is presently not being fulfilled? Tell us in the comments below.

And you have just two days to get your comments in to the ODI's consultation.


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