New challenges face us. Now we really do need to work together to overcome the current economic difficulties, by ENIL director, John Evans

April 23, 2010

John Evans

I am really pleased that ENIL is launching a specific newsletter for the western region of the ENIL organisation.  ENIL for many years has wanted a more regional approach to its work, but due to lack of funding and resources this has not been possible.  It is very exciting now that we have this structure in place which will hopefully benefit all our organisations in the four different areas of Europe. 

We hope this regional approach will not only strengthen the wider membership of ENIL but will also contribute towards a more joined-up thinking of the different Independent Living organisations in the western region.  This way we can also share our experiences and debate the issues which affect us.  I believe that this sharing of experience now is more important than ever in the current difficult economic times we are living in.  Many of our countries are already experiencing cutbacks in services, and we need to challenge this.  I think it is vital that we share strategies with each other on how we deal with and challenge these potential cutbacks.

 It took us many, many years in lots of different countries to establish independent living, direct payments and personal budget schemes, and we do not want to lose this unique way of life for disabled people.  It has been one of the most innovative developments in what is called social care policy over the last 30 years.  I remember well both the excitement and the difficulty of establishing Independent Living in the UK 30 years ago.  We knew we had a vision, even if it was hard to persuade the different authorities, whether it was either National, or Local Government.  In the end we certainly proved our critics wrong, when Independent Living became established and clearly showed a vastly improved quality of life and general satisfaction of disabled people.  We cannot forget these significant advances now when budgets are being tightened, and cuts in services are being made.     

Despite these difficult economic times we also have a number of key levers we can use to support our position.  We have the new UN convention for the protection of our rights, better EU non discrimination legislation, and a variety of good national legislation and policies in a number of our different countries. We need to use this kind of legislation in order to protect our rights to independent living, when such rights are being threatened in the economic down-turn. 

It would be nice to think that the banking sector could help us out, as they are the ones who got us into this mess!  Disabled people should not pay the price for this economic crisis.  I believe that the principles of Independent Living and our involvement in participating directly in policy and decision making can help us survive this crisis and prosper.  Our ideas now are even being considered and used in other sectors of society, simply because of the sheer sense Independent Living and the empowerment of the individual makes.  We must not lose the grasp of both the principles and spirit of Independent Living.  We can win out in the end regardless, as we believe in what we do and know what we do is right.

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