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Allfie's Blog

‘United’ Kingdom and the EU: What Happens Next for Disabled Students?

July 11th, 2016

Author Miro Griffiths

Miro Griffiths

The question raised by the title of this post cannot have a simple and definite answer. The circumstances of the Government’s decision to hold a referendum on UK membership of the European Union, which resulted in a majority of voters electing to leave, are incredibly complex. The potential consequences are too varied to draw a clear conclusion as to the impact this will have on citizens and fellow human beings living in Britain; nevertheless, it is not hard to see substantial concerns from disabled campaigners, their organisations and allies regarding the effect this will have upon the lives of those experiencing disablement. Similarly, this represents a sharp turn away from the slow progress in opportunities to shape international affairs and safeguard support mechanisms to protect – or enhance – the rights of disabled people, and towards a further concentration of power for influential, elitist actors who set the terms on rights and justice for their own benefit.

Whilst the European Union should be rightly criticised on many issues, it is vital to recognise the bureaucratic processes and frameworks that sought to address the inequality and marginalisation affecting disabled people and their families across Europe. Although disabled people’s living standards continue to be severely affected by current austerity measures, adopted by the European Commission and implemented by the member states, there has been a collaborative effort to bring together various grassroots movements and challenge those that seek to cause harm during this time. Furthermore, the narrative around the debate on leaving the European Union must recognise that certain groups, including the State, have attempted to undermine the EU at all times.

Regarding the impact of the referendum result upon disabled learners, there is now a concern as to whether various EU directives will be adopted – voluntarily – by the British Government. The work priorities of the Disability Intergroup, which aspires to promote disability issues within the European Parliament, will become insignificant as the eventual exit of the UK may result in the dismissal of any proposals put forward by the group. This means any recommendations adopted by the EU in response to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will not need to be implemented by the UK, nor will the state prioritise the aspirations of the European Disability Strategy. Both of these examples will create further marginalisation and isolation for disabled students.

Recently, John Pring from Disability News Service highlighted the significance of three pieces of European legislation – outlined by Lord Low – that aim to have a positive effect on disabled people: procurement by public bodies, web accessibility and air passenger regulations. EU treaties guarantee certain fundamental rights to all citizens of the EU and among those rights are the free movement of persons, goods and services. Such fundamental rights will no longer be guaranteed to citizens outside the EU; therefore, it can be assumed that the barriers encountered when studying will intensify as the rights of disabled students will be further dismissed by the establishment and any discussion on advancing social justice issues associated with education can easily be excluded from the corridors of power – more so than it is now.

The economic and social inclusion aspects of the Europe 2020 strategy aimed to explore the correlation between disabled people’s underrepresentation in employment and their overrepresentation in ‘early school leaving’. This analysis identified the negative consequences of cuts to social services and community-based support – a stance echoed by the economists employed by the International Monetary Fund, who are critical of these destructive policies. This is not to embrace Brussels bureaucracy, which has been integral to the decline of democracy; rather it is a reflection of the various social structures (economic, cultural and political) that affect the development and delivery of education for people across Europe.

It is not just policy developments that will be affected; the geographic mobility of disabled learners to pursue their higher education options across Europe will become further restricted. The introduction of a European Mobility Card will, inevitably, no longer be realised and there is uncertainty as to what impact the exit will have on the Erasmus Programme (an EU exchange student programme). The scholarships provided through the Erasmus Programme are essential for meeting the access needs of disabled students but many national and international students who require support will find their opportunities further limited. The neoliberal capitalist frameworks and privatisation methods infiltrating higher education institutions are reflected in disabled people’s lack of current participation in academia. The British state has already committed to dismantling the support mechanisms for under/post graduates and the State will eventually not be required to justify itself to those within the EU who are committed to increasing disabled people’s social mobility and access to education.

Finally, detachment from the EU will lead to the further disintegration of Independent Living organisations that received support from Brussels and Strasbourg – whether through the advancement of demands through European Parliament collaboration or through financial security provided by the European Social Fund. User-led organisations have been closing rapidly for some time and it seems likely that this will accelerate due to the State ‘reclaiming’ sovereignty, which effectively means the ruling elite will be able to impose their ideology without substantial resistance from within the political system.

This article has continued the discourse surrounding the consequences for disabled people in the UK following the EU referendum result. The battle to advance the inclusion of disabled people will continue and there is a desperate need to retain the strong relationships between grassroots social movements across Europe. Those who support the fight for inclusive education must continue to plant and nurture the idea for a future education system within the present one. The roots of the problems in the existing institutions still exist, irrespective of Britain’s membership status, and those who seek to marginalise, isolate and exclude disabled people from society must be brought to account.

Miro Griffiths is a Trustee at ALLFIE and a PhD researcher and teacher at Liverpool John Moores University.

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama

July 22nd, 2015

Is it just me or did anybody else sense Alan Yentob’s surprise when he asked the Dalai Lama, at the Edinburgh Festival, ‘Does music make you happy?’

I’m sure Alan, and many in the audience, did not expect the response, “not much”. After the initial laughter from the crowd, the Dalai Lama’s (DL) more detailed response provided the scenario of countries such as Iraq or Syria, where humans are killing each other and whether music being played would reduce their anger and violence towards each other. The DL’s response being “I don’t think”. Read the rest of this entry »

Inclusive School Health and Nutrition Programmes

April 15th, 2015

According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 93 million children in the world – 1 in 20 children aged 14 or younger – have a moderate or severe disability. The majority of them live in low- and middle-income countries, are not enrolled in school and have very poor access to the most basic health and nutrition opportunities. Whether it is due to poor data or a lack of knowledge and understanding, school health and nutrition (SHN) policy makers and programmers have previously struggled to visualize this group and respond effectively to their needs. These children have been left behind.

Read the rest of this entry »

Film Poems by Heathar Barrett

March 11th, 2015

Sitting in the Darkness – A Film Poem by Heathar Barrett:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql3fTKCjdZk&feature=youtu.be

 

Delemere Forest – A Film Poem by Heathar Barrett:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdGWNhTLHB0&feature=youtu.be

How Blind Victorians Campaigned for Inclusive Education

October 22nd, 2014

Disabled people’s voices are often missing from mainstream history, but texts reveal that a group of blind activists fought for inclusive education during the Victorian times:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-29327232

 

Inclusion and Me

April 30th, 2014

From a young age I knew that I wanted to be in mainstream education. I didn’t like the concept of being away from home and not being with my family. That was the biggest thing I didn’t like when I was little. Read the rest of this entry »

Blackburn College – Further Education and Inclusion

October 2nd, 2013

At a recent discussion day organised by ALLFIE, a talk by Ann Harwood centred on the educational provision at Blackburn College. This is a college which OfSTED describes as ‘outstanding’.

Ann is the ‘Additional Learning Support Manager’ at Blackburn College and during her presentation, she discussed, from her perspective, how the college worked towards creating an inclusive educational provision. Read the rest of this entry »

Exclusion with Inclusion? How can we tell the difference?

September 4th, 2013

If you are reading this, my guess is that you believe in inclusive education for all children and young people, however how do we know when inclusion becomes exclusion? To achieve inclusion in an inclusive setting, is educating a child outside of the classroom necessary? When and if it happens what stops it from turning into another form of exclusion? Read the rest of this entry »

Illegal Exclusions from School

March 6th, 2013

A recent report looking at the illegal exclusion of disabled pupils paints a bleak picture. But campaigners say that it could be the tip of the iceberg.

More than 50 per cent of the families with a disabled child who participated in Contact a Family’s Falling Through The Net report said that they had been asked to collect their child before the end of the school day because of a lack of support staff.

The report also found that more than 50 per cent of families had been told that a school activity or trip was unsuitable for their disabled child.

Unlike formal exclusions, schools do not have to report these sorts of exclusions to the local authority. It is not subject to review or external monitoring and can drag on indefinitely.

The report put the weekly level of illegal exclusions at almost 25 per cent and the daily figure at 15 per cent.

Read full article, including what ALLFIE had to say here: http://disabilitynow.org.uk/article/illegal-exclusions-school-bad-report

Call to Action – Open Letter

February 27th, 2013

An Open Letter from
The Alliance for Inclusive Education, (Allfie) to all who are concerned, about the ending of a commitment to Inclusive Education In Newham

 20th February 2013

Disability News Service (DNS) has raised the concern that Newham College is about to embark on a project, supported by Newham Council, that will result  in the segregation of hundreds of  disabled students. The national and international reputation of The London Borough of Newham, where inclusive education was assured, is in danger of being totally undermined by The Management of Newham College. Read the rest of this entry »