Category: Uncategorized

Vote Labour… but…

I am writing to tender my resignation from the Labour Party and to inform you that I have cancelled my direct debit.

I will continue to vote Labour and support many of its policies and its much-needed shift Left. However, I am opposed to Labour’s approach to Brexit – and I have been patient. I have gradually but now completely lost faith in the leadership.

  1. The Brexit ballot was only advisory – even Farage accepts that.
  2. Leave misused official statistics to lie about £350/week for the NHS.
  3. Leave.eu broke electoral law.
  4. All convincing estimates point to Brexit being a disaster for the economy.
  5. There’s a high risk the Northern Ireland peace process will be harmed too.

Corbyn was too quick to call for triggering article 50. Since then Labour’s approach to Brexit has been confused, putting it mildly.

There is enough evidence now to consider the “will of the people” to be uninformed at best and deliberately manipulated through lies and cheating at worst. Brexit could and should be stopped.

I initially joined Labour in 2010. After a brief spell away, rejoined to vote for Corbyn in 2015. I voted again for Corbyn in 2016. For what it’s worth, I wrote a non-resignation letter nearly two years ago in support of Corbyn. I was hopeful for the party and supported Corbyn despite numerous criticisms.

It’s great to see the membership grow and surely Corbyn deserves praise for enabling this. I’m just not convinced that the Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott leadership are electable, and mainstream media bias – though partly responsible – is only a partial explanation.

The problems are too many to enumerate. Salient and illustrative examples include Corbyn refusing to condemn the IRA for its bombing campaign which killed civilians; sharing a platform with SWP members despite being asked and promising not to (given the “Comrade Delta” affair); appearing on a platform alongside a CPGB flag fluttering merrily in the wind; employing a former Sinn Féin staffer. The last straw for me was Corbyn publicly expressing sadness that Ken Livingstone resigned – after all the harm Livingstone has caused recently to Labour.

Given the targets Corbyn’s critics choose, these are clearly misguided decisions, and harm the chances of a democratic socialist government taking power from the Tories.

As I said I will vote Labour and encourage others to do so, to try to get the Tories out so there’s a chance the welfare state can be restored with sanctions and other conditionality stopped; to undo marketisation of the NHS; improve mental health care; and for a range of other important issues. I continue to be an active trade unionist in higher education. But I don’t feel I can be a member of Labour under the current leadership and with its current approach to Brexit.

 

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Samaritans

Today Samaritans announced that Esther McVey has left its advisory board.

This is great news, thanks to hard work by groups like Disabled People Against Cuts, Recovery in the Bin, and Black Triangle — groups led by disabled people, mental health service users and survivors. Their investigations revealed McVey’s membership on the board.

These groups should be confident Samaritans is on their side and should be more involved in informing policy.

This episode reveals a need for a review of advisory board membership. Samaritans must win back the trust of disabled people and others who have been harmed by disability (re)assessment policies, “sanctioning”, and cuts to welfare payments.

Additionally, there should be an urgent review of Samaritans’ communications policy. It is not acceptable for the same message to be copied and pasted to multiple people who are concerned about serious conflicts of interest which harm Samaritans’ reputation, potentially affecting donations and most worryingly putting people off calling.

Mental healthcare funding: Letter to Jeremy Corbyn 22 September 2017

Dear Jeremy,

I submitted a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to Treasury, Department of Health, and NHS England, asking:

  1. Who is responsible for decisions made in relation to mental health care budgets?
  2. How are budgetary decisions made, including evidence of how, in calculating the total health budget, mental health needs have been taken into consideration?

Treasury and DH both replied citing s35 of the FOI act. Releasing discussion of options available, Treasury argued, might inhibit future “rigorous and candid assessments of options available” [1]. DH replied similarly: “Premature disclosure of information protected under sec tion 35 could prejudice good working relationships, the neutrality of civil servants” [2].

NHS England did reveal something of their decision making processes, naming Paul Baumann, Chief Financial Officer for NHS England, as responsible for budgets, and citing a technical document [3], the technical annex of which [4] sketches an estimate of likely growth in mental health costs over the coming years.

But Treasury and DH’s responses indicate that other factors have been taken into consideration that are not currently in the public domain. A rigorous debate about options, involving the people who need mental health services as well as those who provide them, requires transparency.

I am therefore writing to ask for more information concerning the reasoning behind decisions made. In particular, what discussion has there been of the following?

  1. The effectiveness of mental healthcare treatments and support, e.g., in comparison to physical health care;
  2. The costs of the various treatments; and
  3. The potential for reducing costs, e.g., by employing lower band staff or increasing involvement of voluntary services.

It is important that reasoning on these issues is made public so they can be openly debated.

Thanks,

Andy

[1] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/293922/response/723453/attach/html/3/DOC231015%2023102015120744.pdf.html

[2] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/299123/response/734036/attach/html/2/966789%20Fugard.pdf.html

[3] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mental_health_budgets_2#incoming-736647

[4] https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/cta-tech-Annex.pdf

The social model of disability as a case study of social ontology

Ontology is the study of what kinds of entities there are in the world and how they relate to each other. As Effingham (2013, p.1) explains, “You will not find ontologists rummaging around your wardrobe” cataloguing everything they find. Rather, the idea is to conceptualise more broadly the kinds of things there are, including material and abstract “things” like numbers and colours. Social ontology concentrates on entities relevant to social theorising at various levels of explanation from the sub-personal (including unconscious processes like those controlling finger tips on keyboards) to people, their interactions, institutions and beyond.

Debates in social ontology, such as on ontological individualism or emergentism, can be abstract and their relevance hard to grasp. There has even been a case to “rid social sciences of ontology altogether – of all philosophized metaphysics of how the social world is” (Kivinen and Piiroinen, 2007, p.99). This short post tries to make it clearer why it’s important to think about ontology, using an example from disability activism.

In 1975, the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, a group of disability activists, published a series of fundamental principles which challenged the ontology of disability:

“In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments, by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society. […] For us as disabled people it is absolutely vital that we get this question of the cause of disability quite straight, because on the answer depends the crucial matter of where we direct our main energies in the struggle for change. We shall clearly get nowhere if our efforts are chiefly directed not at the cause of our oppression, but instead at one of the symptoms.”

Here a distinction is made between impairment and disability. From this perspective, it doesn’t make sense to say that someone “has a disability”; individual people can have impairments, but it is society which determines whether someone is disabled. Note how the conceptualisation is used to unite people behind one social struggle.

This guide from the activist group Disabled People Against Cuts explains how social barriers cause disability:

“… we live in a society that’s designed by, built for, and used by non disabled people. Because of poor historic attitudes to disabled people […] disabled people were effectively locked away in hospitals, sanatoriums, in care homes or other kinds of institution.

“And that meant that we were excluded from the development of the way our society works, the way our buildings are designed, transport systems, education systems, machines and appliances, leisure activities and the world of work anything really that you care to think about was designed at a time when disabled people weren’t included in the process.

“And that means that all these things don’t work in a way that enables us to use them.

“And the upshot of all that is that in hundreds of different ways, some big, some seemingly small, its difficult for us to take a full part in all kinds of activities that non-disabled people take for granted.

“So we believe that its not our impairments that disable us, it is the social barriers that disable us. Our own impairments we can adapt and/or use aids to overcome, but social barriers are out of our control.”

Whether someone with a particular impairment becomes disabled is also affected by scientific and technological advances. For instance, many people who have a visual impairment wear glasses or contact lenses and wouldn’t consider themselves disabled (see Slorach 2016, p. 37).

A related example is illustrated in this piece on the difference between deaf and Deaf identity:

“To be ‘deaf’ (small d) is to fit into the medical definition of deafness as something to be cured and eradicated. Being deaf means you have a hearing loss, but you choose or don’t feel able to function within the Deaf Community. […] Deaf – with a capital “D” (and occasionally with capital E, A and F too) – is used to refer to people who are culturally Deaf. These people actively use British Sign Language; they see themselves as being culturally Deaf and part of the Deaf community. […] I consider myself to be culturally Deaf; this is my Deaf Identity. […] I don’t see it as a disability – there is nothing I feel I cannot do – rather, I see it as an important aspect of my character that makes and shapes me.”

These conceptualisations of impairment and disability, social barriers, adjustments, aids, deaf and Deaf identity, concern ontology. The debates on these topics occur naturally in social struggles and discussions of social policy, whether or not explicitly articulated as being about ontology. They also have clear implication for how social research is carried out and understood.

References

Effingham, N. (2013). An introduction to ontology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kivinen, O., & Piiroinen, T. (2007). Sociologizing Metaphysics and Mind: A Pragmatist Point of View on the Methodology of the Social Science. Human Studies, 30, 97–114.

Slorach, R. (2016). A very capitalist condition: a history and politics of disability. London: Bookmarks Publications.

Disease vs. drug-centred model of psychiatric medication

“The disease-centred model suggests that psychiatric drugs work because they reverse, or partially reverse, the disease or abnormality that gives rise to the symptoms of a particular psychiatric disorder. Thus ‘antipsychotics’ are thought to help to counteract the biological abnormalities that produce the symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia… the ‘drug-centred’ model suggests that far from correcting an abnormal state, as the disease model suggests, psychiatric drugs induce an abnormal or altered state. Psychiatric drugs are psychoactive substances, like alcohol and heroin… The drug-centred model suggests that the psychoactive effects produced by some drugs can be useful therapeutically in some situations. They don’t do this in the way the disease-centred model suggests by normalising brain function. They do it by creating an abnormal or altered brain state that suppresses or replaces the manifestations of mental and behavioural problems.” 

Blog post by Joanna Moncreiff

Critical realism in 100 words

A summary of an introduction by Margaret Archer and colleagues:

Critical realism is a mess, but there are four themes in the literature. The first is ontological realism: there is some sort of reality out there existing independently of people’s minds. The second is epistemic relativism: our knowledge of reality is conditional on particular contexts, e.g., standpoints, theories, communities, conflicts of interest. The third is judgmental rationality: it is possible to decide whether one theory is better than another at explaining some phenomenon. The fourth is ethical naturalism: although “is” does not imply “ought”, the two are not independent; empirical research can help us determine what values we should hold.