Michael Morgan who died suddenly on the 27th April was
a true original fighter, thinker and campaigner. A
disability activist who touched lives and changed
lives, a journalist who wrote for a number of
community journals and papers including Disability
Now, the Andersonstown News and Fortnight. He was a
founder member of Euro-Ataxia a European network which
co-ordinates support and information for ataxians.
Michael was also an active trade unionist writing
progressive policy documents on disability for his
union the National Union of Journalists. Despite his
degree of impairment he traveled widely in Europe,
America and the Middle East. A keen photographer he
took a number of outstanding photographs which were
recently shown at an exhibition in Belfast in December
2006 at the Arts & Disability Forum â€“ an
organization which he also helped found. He lobbied
hard for disability access to arts and arts venues and
successfully campaigned for an allâ€‘Ireland award
scheme for disabled artists, which has just recently
celebrated ten years of productive operation.
Born in west Belfast on the 28th of January 1956 he
was educated by Christian brothers at St Mary’s
secondary school where he earned the nickname
Talleyrand after the French disabled Primeminister
and political survivor. He attended a number of
universities including Reading, Queens Belfast and
also the University of Ulster at Jordanstown (or
simply the ‘Poly’ as it was known at that time by the
Graduating with First Class hons in Social Science in
1984, his thesis was on the origins and operation of
the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement. This
directly challenged the established accounts (such as
as the British Governments’ Cameron Report) and later
academic histories which took the foundation of the
Northern Civil Rights Association as the beginning of
Northern Ireland’s most recent political conflict. He
showed that NICRA (which was founded in 1967) was
preceded by a number of important community campaigns
and civil actions against the Unionist authorities
which had in fact begun as far back as 1963. When
studying at Queens University Belfast he had hoped to
take up a temporary lecture post as a way of beginning
an academic career, but this was directly blocked by
his professor on the grounds that the students would
be ‘put off’ by his disability. From this time on he
became involved in disability activism. When once
asked why he choose to do this he simply replied, ‘I
had no choice’. Arrested many times by the police and
the Army for being drunken and disorderly he was
simply not believed when he tired to explain that he
had a genetic disorder which effected his ability to
walk. This meant also that he was frequently refused
service in bars as he was thought to have already ‘had
enough’ – he had but it was of this kind of treatment.
Not surprisingly, one of his very first successful
Euro-Ataxia campaigns was to have a form of official
ID that people with ataxia could show when they were
questioned by the police.
Michael had recently been reappointed editor of the
Euroâ€‘ataxia Newsletter to which he also contributed
many articles and was responsible for it recently
going on-line. Many fondly remember the good times
they had at Euro-ataxia events that Michael
organized on which they formed long lasting
friendships. On the evening of the 27th of April he
had been finalizing his plans for a trip to a
Disability Spa in Tenerife when he suffered a heart
attack. He will be greatly missed by close friends and
family in Belfast and his colleagues in the NUJ
Disabled Members Council and by those who knew him in
the arts and disability community.
As part of Channel 4’s wider commitment to do more to reflect diversity both on screen and off, this scheme aims to bring new voices and new perspectives into the industry, opening up opportunities to disabled people via supported placements in programme production. The scheme offers an opportunity for new disabled talent to enter the industry at ground level and learn the skills necessary to be a researcher. Applications must be in by 14th May. Look here for more details:
A Private Members Bill aimed at tackling the growing social care gap and to ensure greater choice and support to disabled people and carers, completed its legislative passage through the House of Lords today.
The passing of Lord Ashley of Stokes’ Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill coincides with the publication of new Government research which finds compelling evidence that significant savings can be made to public finances by providing support to disabled people that maintains their independence.
The Bill, which gained support from carers and women’s equality groups including Carers UK and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) as well as cross party endorsement, will now proceed to the House of Commons. Earlier this year over 150 MP’s signed an early day motion in support of its provisions.
Lord Ashley’s Bill was introduced in the House of Lords in November 2006 against a backdrop of increasing scarcity of social care support to millions of families. Last year seven out of 10 local authorities admitted to only offering support to people whose needs were judged to be ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’, with 8 in 10 of the same authorities anticipating further tightening this year.
If enacted, Lord Ashley’s Bill would provide a right for disabled people not to be placed in residential care against their will. The Bill would also safeguard the health and well being of carers and reduce dependency on social care provision by placing duties on local authorities and the NHS to increase opportunities for independence. Crucially the Bill would eliminate the post code lottery in the quality of social care and require agencies to pool funds to ensure better co-ordination of resources and cutting back on red tape.
Current arrangements for providing social care are an expensive and inefficient way of providing support to even fewer people. The costs of the reforms will be met by redirecting the savings gained by moving from a current costly method of social care to more individual choice based alternatives. New research from the Office for Disability Issues provide the first justification that cost savings can be found by providing independent living-based solutions to social care
The ODI research found that:
Delivering independent living type support to disabled people is more cost effective than traditional care provision. A saving of £10 million a year, with incremental increases each year, could be made by enabling disabled people to leave residential care and move into independent living, and this is after housing and adaptation costs are allowed for.
The higher cost of traditional care delivery was evident in the NHS and institutional provision compared to independent support mechanisms such as direct payments. Investment in adaptations and equipment has seen savings of £40 million to the NHS in Wales.
Cost savings in the order of £5 billion could accrue in the form of increased tax revenues and reduced benefits payments from investing in independent living support.
Satisfaction, health, and participation in society and self esteem were more in evidence from an evaluation of independent living type support than they were for conventional forms of support. 90% upwards of adaptation recipients report improved quality of life following adaptations.
Commenting on the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords, Lord Ashley said:
‘This Bill represents a fundamental recasting of the relationship between disabled people, carers and the social care system. By placing new duties on public authorities and conferring new rights on disabled people, it provides a blueprint for a future where disabled people are truly independent. Every single organisation connected with disability who has commented on the Bill has offered warm support.’
Sir Bert Massie, Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, said;
‘This is a historic moment. Disabled people’s, women’s and carer’s ambitions for an alternative future based on independence, choice and dignity have received legislative backing. A historic opportunity to reform our threadbare social care system and to liberate millions of families into active, participating and contributing citizens, now exists and should not be missed.’