Michelle Daley, co-founder of Sisters of Frida, talks to Lani Parker of Sideways Times about black disabled people’s experiences in Britain, intersectionalities with the disabled people’s movement, global privilege and interdependence.
We should keep growing, like a tree. Keep pushing forward, keep going, in all directions.
The interview is provided as a podcast with a transcript below.
Lani: Welcome to Sideways Times, a new UK-based podcast in which we talk about the politics of disability and disability justice. Through this podcast I hope to have many conversations which broaden, deepen, and challenge our understanding of how we work against ableism and how this connects to other struggles. Today, I’ll be talking to Michelle Daley. I’m very excited to be having a conversation with her, she is a co-founder of Sisters of Frida, and has recently launched her new website Daley Michelle, which talks about the experiences of disabled black people in Britain. So, if you’d like to introduce yourself a bit more Michelle, and talk maybe a bit about why you started the website and how that’s going?
Michelle: Okay, thanks for inviting me to be part of your podcast. Yeah, so I’ve been involved in disability politics for over ten years. Just gonna give you a bit history on my own experience, so, I mostly worked in independent living, so I was a former member of Equality 25 which is a disability advisory group to the government. I sat on the Independent Living Scrutiny Group, and as you said I’m one of the directors of Sisters of Frida. I’m also a trustee for Independent Living alternative, which is a personal assistant service. And you asked about, you mentioned about my website which is www.daleymichelle.co.uk – why did I set that up? I set that up, basically, well I was trying to look for information and searching the internet, it was really difficult to find information about black disabled people in Britain. It was easy to find information about American black disabled people, but really difficult to find anything about our experience, and our lived experience, here. So, and I know that there’d been a number of work done by black disabled people in Britain, but nothing really been pulled together, and much of the information you can find is always based on white disabled people, and pretty much white men disabled. So I thought this was an ideal opportunity to kind of pull some of that work together, and also talk about our lived experiences.
Lani: What’s your sort of response been so far? How is it going?
Michelle: Surprisingly, it’s been really good actually.
Lani: I’m not that surprised [both laugh]
Michelle: Actually people have been, some of my friends have been kind of pressing ‘Mich, Mich, get a website up, come on it’s needed’ you know ‘pull some of the work together’. And it really started as a bit of fun I should say in some ways, because the first bit was a blog that I wrote which was an experience in a supermarket, and it was from then I started to pull some more stuff together. I think, the one I think is one of the best piece, one that I put out, was a thank you letter, which I’d done, it was done as part of the International Women’s Day month in March, so that one I think that’s one of the best pieces of writing that I’ve put up because that draws on lots of different experiences as well.
Lani: Brilliant. You were talking about the problems of finding sort of stories of black disabled people’s experiences, and I wondered if we’d maybe talk a bit more broadly about the sort of culture of, of the dominant movement in the UK, and how that maybe is exclusionary of black disabled people, black disabled women particularly – maybe talk a bit about the whiteness of the movement and what your thoughts are around that?
Michelle: I’m glad you mention that really, because I first basically became exposed to the disabled people’s movement in the late nineties. And when I started doing my bit at work, I was excited actually when I first became exposed to it, because it was another arm to kind of knowing about the politics of disabled people, and also knowing it was a global movement where people shared a common agenda. But it was only really pretty much focused on disability equality, but I then became to my, then through my own realisation and kind of, doing some work I realised that my own experience as a black disabled woman was excluded, so the disabled people’s movement really didn’t understand, reflect, or address any of my experiences, or any other person’s experience in their different intersectionalities. So it was, I often sat in a room and thought ‘this is really white dominated’, and in many ways, it kind of encouraged people to be marginalised, and it, because if you’re in a room where you can’t see yourself and you’re not comfortable to discuss your experience, what that did was actually force people away because when you felt that you wanted to discuss your experiences, when you raised your experience, it felt in many ways that it was about revenge, or you know, retribution in terms of ‘oh she’s just talking about black issues again’, kind of thing. Rather than realising, hold on, you can’t exclude disability issues from other experiences, so I quickly learnt to realise that the disabled movement didn’t engage in race, gender, class, and all those other stuff and it kind of created a homogeneous group, and what that did, is saying that we’re just one big group of people and that we don’t have different aspects about ourselves. That was difficult for me because being a black disabled woman, I can’t exclude those different identities and you can’t separate those bits because that is who I am, and the movement struggles I think, I believe, struggles to look at other identities. And it hasn’t recognised some of the privileged positions that the white disabled people hold in the movement, and there are many privileged positions. And it then kind of realise, made me think that when you look at the work of the disabled people’s movement, it’s mainly about the privileged disabled people. Let me explain what I mean when I say this: so, if I look at the work that’s done in the Caribbean and these are countries that I’ve been to – Caribbean, India, Morocco – when we look about, say we talk about disability work, disability equality, what the disabled movement is about, it’s all around access for tourism, access for disabled people who are coming to visit the place.
Michelle: But then as you move around, take the Caribbean for example, you start moving to the rural areas where people are living, totally inaccessible, so what that does is, you can start seeing how the movement is a very privileged place for the privileged disabled people. And often when we’re talking about access, the access is for those who have got, are in privileged position to be able to move around, to be able to access, to make, to get their needs met. So if I go to another country that is a country that’s not as, doesn’t have the same resources as we have here, it’s gonna be much more difficult. I’m gonna have to go into the areas where there’s tourism and where the non-locals are living. In the same way we can look here as well, in terms of work and what the movement’s done. I’ve had lots of conversation with my friends about this. The movement work here hasn’t really dealt with some of the issues around, um, so if I go into like local inner-city areas, I can find most pubs I can get into. I can find most, if you think of some of the high street kind of chain restaurants – I can get into. But if you look at the small, local, community restaurants, they’re very difficult to get into, because no work has been done with certain groups.
Michelle: Very few work, so when we start talking about who was the disabled people’s work for? What happened with the disabled people’s movement, it just focuses totally on the disability aspect of it. So, let me give you an example now. When some opportunities are put out, say for example an opportunity could be looking for young disabled people to join, maybe some leadership programmes for disabled people to be young leaders of the future, I’m just making this up for an example alright?
Michelle: If you’re thinking about disabled people who are from the most excluded backgrounds, it is less likely they’re gonna be even have access to that information because that information is not coming down to those young people. Even if that information does come down to the young people, what support mechanisms are in place to help that young person to be able to access and become, to be able to even get to the place to become the young leader, because they’re so far removed from the information about being a young leader. I’m trying to make myself clear here because the information is usually posted in certain areas that exclude certain groups, so when we start thinking about why are the voices, black voices, not there, because the information doesn’t always come down. There’s like a hierarchy of who should have access to certain information and who shouldn’t, and it’s not about we’ve made this information available – the way the information may be presented, there’s other dynamics that stop people from being able to access. But also, as well, people don’t want to feel like they’re being used, as well. Let me give you an example. I know that often my invitation to a lot of work in the disabled people’s movement, is really tokenistic, and also to fill diversity exercise. So I’ve actually said to myself, who benefits from this?
Michelle: Who is benefiting from my attendance? Who is benefiting from my invitation? That’s really important to me now, because often it’s not me benefiting. The people benefiting are the one who’s organising these events, and it looks good because they’ve made the event look like it’s a diverse event, when actually I’m not getting anything from that, and it should be about everybody. So I say to myself that it’s not about having those in privileged position and benefiting those in privileged positions, it’s about what we should be doing, it’s about everyone, how we gonna make sure? So if you’re inviting me to speak around black issues, is the presentation of what I’m speaking on really reaching the people that I’m talking about? Or is it just educating yourselves? Because often the work that I’m doing, or what you want me to, you’re inviting me to speak on, is not even reaching the people it should be reaching, so it, we need to be thinking about when we accept our invitation, who are we benefiting?
Michelle: So I have come to the point where I say no, I refuse your invitation, and I have heard it come back and say ‘Michelle very rarely attends things’, but…
Lani: Oh, interesting.
Michelle: But, if you are, if you have been told that we need you to sit on our panel because we can’t, we cannot find any other black disabled woman, the right thing to do, I think, is to decline that invitation, and that is what I do.
Lani: Good work.
Michelle: And that shouldn’t be the work of the disabled people’s movement, I know people are gonna challenge me for this, but hey.
Lani: So, I mean, the role of this podcast is not to educate white people…
Lani: …so, just having that in mind I was wondering about what, what do you think the work is of the disabled people’s movement? I know you, you do a lot of work around independent living, and independence, and that kind of thing. Do you wanna talk a bit about, kind of, why you do that? And where your passion lies with that maybe?
Michelle: The question you just asked, um, if I heard you rightly, what I thought the work of the disabled people’s movement was. When I came into the disabled people’s movement, I thought the work of the disabled people’s movement was about addressing all aspects of disabled people because as disabled people we are one group where we, we have all different intersectionalities, so it, in my opinion, it’s silly not to. So therefore, I automatically assumed it did embrace and engage in all those different aspects of our lives as, not to repeat myself, did I realise it didn’t, so then that, you asked me about another piece of my work in terms of independent living. Why am I so interested in that? I think that, I’m really interested in it because as somebody who cannot hide their dependency, and I’m very much dependent on other people, for my, to meet my access needs and all the things that I need done. And also, when I came into the disabled people’s movement, there was this kind of notion filtering around that disabled people from certain parts of the world, particularly those in the poorer countries, have a different understanding to independent living.
Lani: Oh right, interesting.
Michelle: And the way I interpret it, as if to say that, we don’t understand independent living. So when I did my Masters, that was one of the things I did my dissertation on. I did a comparative study looking at the North and South experience of independent living, and I challenged that notion, and what I found is that no matter where you live in the world, everybody understands what independent living is. What I found with the disabled people’s movement, is that it didn’t, kind of, try to understand and look at some of the deeper issues that, in terms of sexism, racism, classism, that all impact on people achieving independent living. But also it didn’t look at things such as what things are available in terms of the role government play, the infrastructure where someone lives, what resources are available that helps people, so when we start speaking about if somebody comes from less developed parts of the world, where the, and I have issue when I say ‘less developed’. I mean where the money is not around, where the resources are not around. I’m thinking of some of my friends who live in different parts of the world, where there isn’t the same buses where you’ve got lifts, and stuff like that. So the way they, they understand independent living the same way as how myself and you understand it, about choice, freedom, and control of our own life, but how they achieve independence is pretty much, the outcome would be different because they have to make use of the resources what they have available. But for people like myself, we could access direct payments, personal health budgets, so that changes the way our outcome of achieving independent living, but it doesn’t mean that we see independent living in a different way. For example, if you look at, there’s certain standards in terms of someone who’s doing the building here, or, there’s certain standards that need to be followed. That same building or business that built, say for example, built this home and made it accessible for you to live in and for me to visit, that same company that done that building goes to another country that has less resources and wouldn’t follow the same standards they done here. So now we can start, so then what happens is people, the argument and narratives will be that people from certain countries don’t understand independent living. A lot of businesses that happen in other parts of the world, come from outside.
Michelle: They come from outside. What happens is, when they operate in other countries, they forget about the things they have to do when they’re in countries where laws are enforced on them.
Lani: Right, yeah.
Michelle: So, what happens is, whether it’s intentionally or not, often I think it’s maybe they don’t care because they know that they’re not gonna get any punishments for it, they exclude certain groups in the way they do certain things. And also a lot of developing countries, and countries, as I say, less resources and money, are seen as dumping grounds. So if we wanna get rid of equipment, these people need it, send it there, and dump. We see that. So, and people in those countries are meant to be seen as thankful, appreciative of it. So what I meant by standard, and it’s not that, what I’m saying is that it’s colonialism in that way. We know there’s certain ways a ramp is built, to make it safe, easy and accessible for us to enter a building. But if you see the way a ramp will be built in other parts of the world, it’s climbing a mountain. We cannot keep saying, the argument cannot be going around, that people from certain parts of the world do not understand independent living, because often they don’t have the same level of access to resources. Infrastructures are different. And when people are coming in with resources, it puts them in privileged position, they have power. And more resources and power they have, is they exclude particular groups, so it makes it even more harder for disabled people’s voices, because even though people try and mobilise themselves to get a ramp, but if you think where somebody doesn’t have resources to, for example, buy a wheelchair – a decent wheelchair – many of the wheelchairs that we have here wouldn’t work in countries, in certain terrains, cannot work in certain terrains. So, and some countries may not have produced certain resources to make wheelchairs and to make the equipment needed, so you’re relying on external input, importation, to help. But not help in the way that I mean, like, helping to take advantage, but help in a way that we all are, and it brings me onto, we’re all interdependent – interdependency. But sometimes what we find, and often that we find, when we start looking at interdependency, there’s issues around harm and abuse.
Michelle: And what you see when you start talking about interdependency is that where countries are seen, or individuals have got less resource than people, maybe struggling, or whatever it may be, it’s seen as a way that can be abused. And when I mentioned before, seen as dumping grounds, it’s meant to be seen as that we’re helping, but actually you’re dumping. That’s not helping, that’s abuse, that’s harm. You’re getting rid of your waste stock. And, and the thing is, what we have to recognise is that we’re all interdependent, we all want independence, we’re all interdependent, we’ve all got an issue where we’re dependent on one another, but the problem is when it creates harm and abuse. Other problems is that often we find people are made to feel bad about needing help, and are forced to rely on systems that are abusive and harmful, and we see that a lot as well. For example, people in segregated services, we see, we’ve seen lots of examples of that shown on TV. Lots of reporting in the media about that, but also where people don’t have a choice, so for example women who remain in abusive relationships because they’re dependent on their partners, or family members or assistants for vital support, which could be helping them to communicate, helping them with their personal care needs – whatever it may be. This is a massive problem, and that’s when interdependency is a problem, where people don’t have choice or control about the support and the dependency that they rely on. And there’s lots of ways of how we can understand interdependencies, and I think we cannot just be focusing on it just as something about people needing help just to get in and out of bed. It has to be a global thing, and look at more, a kind of, a bigger picture. You know, for example, you know, we’ve recently seen in the media round examples, around issues around the buggy versus the wheelchair user getting on the bus. That’s a whole issues really, because you’re dependent on the ramp to work, you’re dependent on people to make that space free for you, we’re all working together. Is that making sense?
Lani: Mm hm.
Michelle: As a collective group of people to make things happen, really. And that’s interdependency. Interdependency is about not thinking of us as an individual, it’s about one or more people working together to make everything work, and I think when we think about disabled people, often disabled people are meant to feel bad about, about the support that we need, feel bad about the assistance that we need for some of our basic needs, what people may be able to do without the same level of support that we need.
Lani: One of the things I always kind of notice is an effect of ableism and perhaps of the combinations of patriarchy and ableism and racism is this, the whole idea that we are, we are, or we can be, or it is even desirable to be one person, to be a disconnected person, is kind of this idea that it’s, it’s, that’s where we’re heading, that’s what we need, that’s the standard, in a way. And, like, there’s lots of people who’ve, sort of, challenged that, but I still find it’s kind of seen as disabled people, I don’t know, when I’ve talked to non-disabled people about it, about what they actually do with their lives, and how, how they’re dependent, they don’t think about that. They don’t think about it, whereas we’re forced to think about it. We’re forced to see it as a, maybe as a bad thing, or…
Michelle: I think with non-disabled people when they ask another person for help, they don’t see that as being dependent.
Michelle: They don’t recognise it in the same way. A classic example could be, one of my non-disabled friends could ask me to drop them into town in the city somewhere. That’s me helping them as a friend, but if we flip that on the other side, and I ask the same question, that’s them helping me as a disabled person, and therefore I’m dependent on them. So that’s, it’s the way we understand, it’s about who does it come from? Who’s asking for that help? So that’s when we go back to some of the things we were mentioning before. And it goes back to a lot of things I think, um, let me explain myself a bit clearer here, trying to put my thoughts here a bit clearer. So it’s about who asks for the help and it’s about a hierarchy of that as well. So there’s like, privileges around it as well. So if somebody’s in a prominent position and they ask for help, everybody’s excited about helping them, because it’s about ‘we’re with this person’, they don’t see it as help, they see it as an opportunity. It’s good to…
Lani: Right, because they’re in a prominent position?
Michelle: Position, yeah. But, when a disabled person may approach somebody to do something, the response is different, and it depends on what disabled person requires, asks for that help. So then what happens is, is that you then find, depending on who people are, what group, their situation, and then this is what you see about ableism, racism, sexism, why people may be reluctant to ask for support. Because they don’t want to get, be viewed in a certain way. Am I making myself clear, what point I’m trying to make?
Lani: Mm hm.
Michelle: So, if you’re from a poorer background – and I think we have to look at everything, we can’t just look at it in one area – if you’re from a poorer background, and your family may not have a lot of income coming in, um, so it’s not just about a disability aspect, there’s economics that come into play here, and they’re, someone who’s, they may need help to pay for the child’s uniform, is that any different from somebody who’s wealthy, who approaches a banker for money to get a mortgage?
Michelle: It’s still help.
Michelle: In terms of financial help.
Lani: Yeah, sure.
Michelle: But it’s based on who’s asking for that help.
Lani: So it’s about the, sort of, relationship between… or, what’s legitimate in a way, what’s legitimate help and what’s not legitimate help?
Lani: De-legitimising certain people
Michelle: We have to recognise that there is around, a legitimacy around who asks for help, who doesn’t ask for help, and the merits on that. Those on privileged positions, it’s seen as okay, they’re not seen as being dependent. The further you go down the hierarchy the more of a burden you’re seen, and if you’re a disabled person you go down the hierarchy, even more down the hierarchy in terms of class and all the other bits that come with it. You’re the, I don’t know what, the label becomes even worse. And then that brings us onto, in terms of, um, needing support to function, in terms of the labour that you’re asking. Who helps, who provides that services? Who’s doing that? And that’s when we can start seeing even more exploitation, because the people who are doing that labour are often women, black people, and people, usually, from working class backgrounds, so the poorer backgrounds, who are not the Oxford and Cambridge and the Eton graduates. Is that making sense?
Michelle: So, and because of that, the work is seen as having no value.
Michelle: So then you’re talking about labour and exploitation, just tying into that. That’s bad because it then says disabled people have no value as well.
Michelle: Because the people who are serving us, who are supporting us, and I’m not using the world serving in terms of a negative way, I’m using the way as you’re supporting us to function and to have choice and control about our lifestyle, are seen as having no value. It also means that we as disabled people don’t have no value. And then what you start seeing is power dynamics between sometimes PAs and PA users, because the PA user is the person who is in the position of power. But sometimes, what we sometimes see, is that, um, because people don’t always understand how oppression happens, people wanting power and privileges, you see elements of abuse, and not just with PA users, it’s also the system itself, the whole structure of the system. For example, last week I met a woman, a black woman, who’s new to the UK, who is doing a 24-hour live-in shift for three pounds sixty one an hour. That is exploitation.
Lani: Yeah. And it’s very common.
Michelle: And it’s very common.
Lani: It’s not like it’s a shock horror thing or something.
Michelle: And then another woman who works as a PA, who was told by their boss they’re not entitled to holiday pay.
Michelle: So these are some of the things what happen. There are systems in which people can go and challenge, but we also have to go back to what we were speaking before, is that sometimes these people may not be aware of these systems where they can go to challenge, and may not want to. Because sometimes it’s like, why challenge someone when there’s another job we can move to. Or why challenge because, you know, are we gonna get any result out of this? But that is the point I wanna make here. The point I wanna make is around the abuse and the power and the control of the system itself, at the top, of what it does to people who they value at the bottom of the peg in terms of the hierarchy. And often, disabled people, along with all the other people, who they define as having no value, and that’s what would happen in terms of examples that I’ve just given. So one of the other things we find as well is that, why is it that certain groups work as personal assistants? I’m raising this point as well because background things of labour, you’ll find in one of the articles on my website, is that I was speaking to one of my own PAs and I said ‘what attracted you to be a PA?’, and they, they’d travelled to England from another country, and they said ‘it was one of the easiest jobs to get into’
Michelle: ‘Social care’s one of the easiest jobs to get into because our qualifications here are not recognised’. That raises a number of issues, because unless disabled people are valued then everything about, that happens, we become unvalued, and the people that support us and the things that we’re dependent on, is all, becomes unvalued.
Lani: Yeah, and also if people’s qualifications and things are not valued then when they come here, they’re not valued, so it, you know…
Michelle: Yeah. Steve, is it Steve? The previous – Steve? Your person you interviewed in your last podcast, he touched on this when he was talking about some of the work that he was doing. But I see it a lot in my day work. There’s a lot of exploitation. There’s a lot of bad practices, especially in the social care element, especially from care agencies. There’s a lot of it. We saw, I think it was last year, big case taken to court in one of the London boroughs where care workers were paid something like two pound fifty, something like that, I can’t remember exactly the price. And many of those workers were black women. So, I’m trying not to go off topic, but I’m just trying to give examples…
Lani: It’s not going off topic at all
Michelle: Yeah, I’m trying to give examples about when we talk about independence, interdependency. We’re all relying on services, but when we speak about interdependency for disabled people, it’s not the same as those in privileged positions, often. Even if, and then, we have to start looking around. The resources that are put in, the power someone has, and if you’re usually, more often than not, if you’re from certain backgrounds, your opportunities are gonna be near to nothing. Near to nothing, really. So in terms of someone having real choice and control it we compare, even here in the UK, compare the real choice and control and all the other bits in terms of independent living, access to employment, access to transport, access to services, access to healthcare, access to social network, access in the wider community, relationships. Usually not the same.
Lani: I was wondering, you were talking about harm, and you were talking about various things, and I thought about how we might be able to work to change those, that situation, in particular the situation of the PA.
Michelle: There are ways in which we can, and I think there’s always, there’s always answers for everything, there’s always solutions for everything. It’s about whether we want to do it, that’s always the argument. And there’s also the recognition, whether we recognise abuse or not. Because I don’t think in all cases that if you were looking at the hierarchy level of how, if you take somebody at the top of the hierarchy, are they aware that people are getting paid three pounds something an hour?
Michelle: Those are some of the things. It’s about recognition and people’s awareness about these issues. Even when somebody, if the issues is, if people, for example, we have, we know there are care agencies that are paying people poor rates, below the minimum wage, working in poor conditions. We could easily say ‘don’t use those services’. The issue is, go back, is the system itself, has forced disabled people to sometimes create abuse, because of austerity, so if you’re given a social care package that, that your needs are higher than the value of the money of the package, what happens is people pay people a lower rate. I’m not saying I agree with this. It’s not just they pay people a lower rate, the condition in which people are going into are poor, and the people who are attracted to this are usually, as we just said, people from certain backgrounds.
Michelle: Because individuals from these backgrounds have also conditioned themselves to believe this is the only work they can do. So it’s, everybody needs to come together, and this is an issue of the, of all movements, to challenge this. This isn’t an issue just about disabled people, this isn’t an issue just about women, this is an issue about everybody coming together and recognising, this is abuse and exploitation. It’s wrong to disabled people and it’s wrong to people who are working in the industry. Because what we’re doing, we start thinking about, um, for example, we see, at the moment, we know at the moment that there is a shortage of people doing the work, because you can’t attract many people to the industry, so therefore some of the risk we need to start thinking about, if people cannot, if people, if there isn’t people being attracted to the work, because I wouldn’t work for three pound sixty one an hour. I just wouldn’t. And that means people are having to work so many hours to be able to pay their bills as well as that means they’re removed from their family, removed from their children and so on. And then is it healthy that somebody is in their home working with a person who hasn’t had sleep, hasn’t had a break, and has to be in someone’s house if they do a week on for a hundred and sixty eight hours in that one week. Think about how many hours are in a week, that’s not safe.
Michelle: So these are some of the things that we need to be looking at, at the deepest level, um, we need to break it down and we need, all movements need to be coming together, and we need to be campaigning against the abuse. The problem is it’s not brought to the forefront enough.
Michelle: And disabled people are away of this, because many disabled people use PAs, so we cannot say we’re not aware of these issues, because we are aware of it. The question we need to be asking, do we not have a big interest in it? Because it’s, the people who are mainly doing the work are mainly black women.
Michelle: And that’s a question I’m asking. Is it because the people who are mainly doing the work are people from overseas? Black women, Eastern Europeans, we know who are doing the work
Michelle: Cause we can see who’s doing the work. We know it and we can see it, and people who are working class backgrounds, and it’s usually, and we do know better because of us disabled people, as you said, we also are in privileged positions sometimes. We ourselves need to be challenging some of these as well. We do, I speak about it, I write about it, you can see on my website
Michelle: These are some of the things. But it needs more than one, it needs lots of voices. It needs lots of voices. I can – lost my thought of what I was trying to say then. It is abuse, bad practice, and it’s gonna keep continuing until, I think, there is more cases taken out against it. And more, more legal cases taken out, and, because social services and all the industries that fund these packages are gonna keep pouring it out and as long as people keep doing the work it’s gonna keep going.
Lani: Is there some things that need to be taken on more around how we challenge cuts to social care, given that what’s resulting in the cuts to social care is further exploitation?
Michelle: I think, yeah.
Lani: Do you know what I mean? Like, do we need to be changing the way that we’re thinking about…
Michelle: We need to be more clearer.
Lani: …campaigning around care cuts, for example?
Michelle: Yes, yes, yes, when we talk about cuts to care, what often we hear in the media and usually in the campaigns, is disabled people’s packages are being cut, disabled people’s packages are being cut. What we’re not doing is understanding some of the big pictures of what’s happening when disabled people’s packages get cut. I think some of those stories need to come out a bit more. So, we do educate society, and the world really, about what’s happening. Because if you cut disabled people’s packages, you force more exploitation in labour. Is that being clear? So it’s about also showing some of the risks that you create, you’re also creating more elements of abuse in the industry. And I’m not saying it’s the right thing, but this is what you’re doing, because then you’re exposing people to employ in ways that are not safe, and you’re exposing people to do things that are not safe, because, for example, somebody could be working, somebody, someone who’s just come off a week live-in, to work with somebody else, so people are not having breaks, so these are some of the things, in terms of we’re saying ‘what can be done?’ so it’s like, giving examples. One, we need to be telling their stories, we need to be bringing personal assistants in, carers in, to the arguments, so we can hear their voices as well and seeing their experiences. We need to be talking about the impact social workers are having in terms of how they’re having to make the assessment processes, what pressures have been put on them in terms of why they’re making… we know, we know the government’s making cuts, but what we don’t understand, why are you putting certain cuts on certain packages? If somebody is not able to get out of their bed to go to the loo, or they’re not able to turn, why are we cutting a package when someone needs that support? What’s the story behind it? We need to understand. We need to understand the reasons to why this happens. It’s okay telling someone there’s been cuts to social care, but what’s the impact? For the general public to hear there’s been cuts to social care and a disabled person can’t leave home, I don’t think that means anything to them.
Michelle: The reason I say I don’t think it means anything to them, loads of disabled people live in institutions, and it’s allowed to happen. Nobody’s up in arms about it. Disabled people, not many disabled go out and can access the service, and nobody has an issue about it. But we need to understand the bigger pictures, we need to also understand that this issue is not just about disabled people, this issue is also about yourself, because this is an exploitation to the labour as well. Because it’s about a whole industry of market, because if you cut social care packages, disabled people cannot spend, they lose they’re spending power because they’re not accessing the community in the same way as they may of if they had support to get out and about. People lose jobs, because there’s not jobs for people to do. Do you know what I mean there’s a whole…
Lani: Yeah, there’s a whole industry of it.
Michelle: You risk children being, you risk family breakdown. Breakdown in families, children may end up dropping out of school. So there’s a whole bigger picture, that I don’t think we always hear the whole story around this. Difficult thing is, we don’t know what’s planned, we know there’s gonna be change, we don’t know what’s planned. We need to be asking our question, ourselves the question, do we feel secure? Do we feel safe? And I said we know there’s gonna be change, and the issue is, when that change does happen, it’s gonna impact on disabled people the greatest. So we’re gonna be the ones who are gonna be disadvantaged by these changes. Because, and the reason I’m saying that, because whenever there’s changes that happen, they usually impact on disabled people and then we need to look at disabled people from different groups as well. And we need to be preparing ourselves, you’re saying, you know, what do we need to think about? It’s how do we prepare ourselves, and it’s about aligning ourselves to all the different movements, and making sure that people recognising that it’s about our human lives and that we need to be counted. Um, and making sure that our experiences don’t become marginalised and erased because, and I started off by saying do we feel secure? That’s the question, and how can we make sure that our voices, our experiences, you know, I repeat myself, don’t become marginalised and erased? And that is by us aligning to all the different movements. And I think by doing so that will give us some recognition, recognition about, it’s about being part of that agenda really, that’s the main thing. Because I don’t think just disability equality on it’s own is gonna be good enough for that, not, you know, we started off by talking about the disabled people’s movement, it’s about recognising every aspects of us as disabled people, because we are part of the world.
Lani: And it’s not, just to sort of bring you back I suppose, for a reminder for white people as a white person, um, it’s not about the ‘we’ as a disabled white person, it’s about the ‘we’ as a movement, and it’s about how we orientate ourselves towards tackling intersectional issues.
Michelle: And I think really as well we need to, one of the things I didn’t pick up, and I know we’re coming to the end is, we need to give – one of the things I do notice, and I didn’t get the opportunity, sorry I’m not going back, but, we don’t speak enough about some of the work that black disabled people have done in Britain. There’s so many names that we could have called such as Nasa Begum, Millie Hill, Saadia Neilson, Ossie Steward, and the list goes on, and, and I think if we’re gonna, you know, these – Mary Prince – these are some of the people that have helped shape my thinking, helped me learn and develop in some of the work that I do and, you know, in terms of focusing forward, we have to look what happened before to learn what happened tomorrow. So there’s lots of things that we can learn from, so let’s look what happened, and keep growing, as a tree really. Keep pushing forward, keep going, in all directions.
Lani: That sounds like a good note to end on to me.