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Author: Tom Shakespeare

Provides a response to Johnson and Nettle’s paper, discussing justifications for the UK welfare state, and associated perceptions of disability and fairness. Rather than the ‘stick’ of sanctions and conditionality, more investment is required in return to work efforts.

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Personal assistance is an innovative role within social care whereby disabled people directly employ others to provide support. Defining personal assistance as a commodified support relationship is insufficient as it fails to capture the lived complexity of these relationships. This article reports on qualitative interviews in England with 30 disabled people and 30 personal assistants. In the absence of any normative interpretive framework, participants defined their relationships through metaphor: ‘paid friends’, ‘staff’ and ‘quasi-family’. We explore the structure and significance of these descriptors, and offer an overview of the emotional, social and cultural dynamics that shape personal assistance relationships, and give them meaning.

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This chapter examines the medical and social ‘models’ that have underpinned social policy aimed at disabled children. It suggests that both ‘models’ are premised on notions of deficit and dependency. By drawing on ethnographic data, this chapter challenges some of the ‘taken-for-granted’ assumptions that inform policy approaches to disability and childhood. We want to suggest that what pertains is not natural, or obvious, or automatic, but rests on a particular cultural approach to disability as a ‘problem’. By showing that there is nothing inevitable about disabled children’s lives, we want to suggest that we can change the ways that we understand and deal with disability in social policy. This chapter will demonstrate the ‘need’ for policy makers to respond to the complex and fluid nature of disabled children’s lives. It will conclude that in order for an effective policy framework to be developed, policy makers must do more than simply carry out consultation with disabled young people. They should not only develop sustained and ongoing dialogue with disabled children but should also act to enable them to alter the service provision that they encounter.

Social policy during the 1970s to the 1990s was regularly attacked for being dominated by medical notions of disability. Dominant approaches to the issue of disability within social policy and medical sociology individualised the issue of disability. This approach, labelled ‘the medical model’, was criticised by writers in the disability studies tradition, who located the problem of disability in social relations and structural exclusion, rather than in personal deficits of body or mind (Oliver, 1990).

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