Blogging the week: One in Four's Mark Brown
I'm a big fan of social media and the possibilities it presents for people with disabilities, including people with mental health difficulties. I think social media is finally taking its place as a particular force of its own with other aspects of civic and political life. It's like the opening up of a new frontier.
On 14 January We are Spartacus put out their response to the proposed changes to eligibility for Motability that will occur along side the planned replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
We are Spartacus are fantastic: Somewhere between a network and a movement, they've come together via social media and are generating high quality research in response to proposed changes in government policy around benefits for disabled people, doing so with next to no money, and quicker than charities and think tanks.
The report, Emergency Stop, is an update of their previous report Reversing from Recovery which came out in 2012. It makes for scary reading. To quote the executive summary: "It is estimated (using DWP projections) that, once PIP has been fully implemented in May 2018, 42% fewer working age disabled people, and 27% fewer disabled people overall, will be eligible for the Motability car scheme." The groups findings were covered by BBC News on Monday.
One of the remarkable things about We Are Spartacus is that, despite responding to things that are pretty grim and depressing, the campaign and its actions maintain a sense of optimism and approachability.
This week I also read The Centre for Welfare Reform's report A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people. It was written by Dr. Simon Duffy on behalf of The Campaign for a Fair Society. The movement, launched in February 2011, is governed by a steering group comprising people with disabilities and disability organisations and supported by similar.
It's a pretty angry document, closer to a traditional manifesto for political action, seeking to point out how unfair the cuts that target disabled people are.
The relative newness of mass social media means that, in lots of situations, the rules haven't quite settled yet on the right way to use it. There are differing understandings of what is correct and appropriate and what isn't. Especially fascinating is the interaction between what organisations think is right and what individuals think is right.
Victoria Betton is deputy director of strategy and partnerships for
an NHS Trust in Leeds and, as part of her PhD, has been exploring the interaction between mental health services and social media. This week she published a blog post which details the existing guidance to NHS Trusts on social media usage by mental health inpatients.
Allied to that, in a recent joint post with mental health tweeter and blogger ChaosandControl, ChaosandControl asks: "Not that long ago, a pocket watch was the must have latest gadget. Were patients allowed to keep them when they were admitted to the asylum? Or, did they have to refer to the clock in the main building several fields away?"
So, are concerns about the use of social media by people with mental health difficulties legitimate? Or are current fears just based on the possibility that new technology will disrupt the way things have previously run?
I'd suggest that social media has a big potential to change things, because it connects people directly to other people without anyone standing in the middle, leading them to form new links and find out things they wouldn't have otherwise learned.
If you want to use social media in hospital you need to be able to connect to the internet, so I was chuffed to come across John Popham and his #freewificampaign on Twitter asking all hospitals to offer patients free Wi-Fi. It's obvious that people would want to use the internet when in hospital, but the NHS hasn't caught up yet.
Finally, here's an example from this week of where using social media can mean you're more in the loop than before it came into existence.
Comedian and actress Francesca Martinez appeared on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday. She talked about her upcoming tour and what it was like being a "wobbly lady" and performer - she has cerebral palsy. But if you follow her on twitter, you may have been expecting a very different topic to be discussed.
Martinez is the person who started the WOW (War on Welfare) petition, asking the government for a "Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick and disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions."
This is the successor to Pat's Petition, which asked for similar government reconsideration but failed to gain the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a debate in Parliament.
Many on social media had thought the Breakfast interview would be an opportunity to discuss the petition and why disabled people and allies would like the government to reconsider some of its decisions. But they and Martinez were surprised that this topic did not emerge on the programme.
As she tweeted to her nearly 8,000 followers later that day: "Gutted I couldn't mention #WoW Petition- needed more time!" And: "I was told they'd ask me about welfare cuts so I was geared up to talk about WOW but interview was over before they did!"
Sure, it's not a conspiracy that'll bring down a government, but still an example of where social media can give you a chance to see just what goes on backstage and to get an idea of how things do, or don't, happen as expected.
• For the government's view on planned changes to disability benefits, visit the DWP's pages about welfare reform
• Mark Brown was on the January edition of Ouch's talk show, available to listen to or download as a podcast. With his smooth and considered way of talking, we've dubbed him the Brian Cox of mental health.
• Next Friday: Blind BBC business journalist Johny Cassidy will be blogging the week.