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By Colin Barnes, Geof Mercer

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Additional info for Independent Futures: Creating user-led disability services in a disabling society

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Others queried the basic disjuncture between ‘old’- and ‘new’-style protest. Indeed, the roots of disability protest in Britain stretch back at least to the 1890s, when low pay and poor working conditions led to the formation of the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD) and the British Deaf Association. These organisations instigated a series of campaigns through the first half of the 20th century (Pagel, 1988). Nevertheless, while conventional political activities continued, there was an upsurge in more radical analyses of disability and political interventions by what were regarded as the failures of pressure group politics to win important policy reforms.

From the 1970s, there was a notable growth of organisations controlled and run by disabled people such as the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), the Liberation Network, and Sisters Against Disability (SAD). As in the US, these offered a ‘powerful source of mutual support, education and action’ for disabled people campaigning against discrimination and the oppression of disabled people (Crewe and Zola, 1983, p xiii). In addition, the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP), which was established in 1981, grew rapidly and by 2000 had a membership of 130 organisations of disabled people (BCODP, 2001).

Again, this harmonised with a market orientation in its emphasis on greater user choice and better-quality services. Conversely, the marketisation of social ‘care’ encouraged not only competition between service providers but also among service users (Rhodes, 1999). New Labour further sought to revitalise governance by setting up many new agencies, although it stopped short of a decisive transfer of power. Social welfare initiatives included the establishment of a General Social Care Council (GSCC), and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

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