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Employment policy and disabled people: old wine in new glasses?

Ardha Danieli and [Peter Wheeler, University of Bolton]
Disability and Society, 21, 5, 485-498


Many attempts have been made in recent times to increase the numbers of disabled people in the UK workforce. Present policy makers have proposed a raft of seemingly new initiatives to solve what appears to be a somewhat intractable problem. This paper argues that the present disability rights movement's concern with establishing equal rights for disabled people, including the right to independent living, has fused with government concerns in the area of employment, but questions whether this is a recent occurrence. Using historical data, it is suggested that a careful re‐reading of the actions and arguments of organizations and activists during the early part of the 20th century indicates rather more continuity with the present disability movement than is generally acknowledged and that many of the current policy initiatives aimed at the inclusion of disabled people into paid work can be seen as `old wine in new glasses'. The line between independence and dependence, between the efficient and the unemployable, has to be made clearer and broader … [the latter] must become the acknowledged dependants of the State and removed from industry. (Beveridge 1906)Work for those who can, support for those who can't. (Blair, 1998, p. 3)