This longitudinal study was undertaken as a piece of Action Research to plot our contemporary position in Community Care Planning, to ascertain in which direction we are travelling, and to examine the economical physical and psychological results of current practice. Compiled of notes, diary writings and submissions, it recounts the establishment of the first Independent Living Pilot in Scotland. This is contrasted with the case of a lady with a similar disability and intellectual capacity, in receipt of Services. The material herein has been collated over a period of eighteen years, and the two individuals’ journeys contrast starkly, demonstrating the frequently overlooked possibilities created by Direct Payments.

The results clearly indicate that, given the appropriate assistance at the appropriate time, professionals perceived this quadriplegic gentleman to be able. His contribution was welcomed, and his opinion frequently sought. His disability was seen as incidental. In the services model, marginalisation and exclusion resulted, and the submissions which I received portrayed the disability as central to onlookers.

This paper calls for a re-examination of the potential economic and mental health benefits of Independent Living. It calls for a definition of “needs” that is universally accepted, and which has the same meaning across all Local Authorities. For practice the outcomes are profound. It has been demonstrated that those most severely disabled can participate and contribute meaningfully to Society and stimulate economic growth. When freedom, dignity, choice and control were offered, the benefits, not only to the individual but to Society were evident. With the economic crisis and the threat to quality of life and independence greater than ever, this paper proposes a challenging new role for the Clinical Leader: the potential to assist in the emergence of Ability from Disability.

©Linda Jane McLean


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