Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Green member from Brent asks...

Candidate Name : Jessica Goldfinch – Norwich Green Party
A little about me related to the field of disability:
A BA(Hons)Psychology; two years as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist for:
1) Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Learning Disabilities NHS Trust
2) Exeter & District NHS Trust – Older Adult Care, specialisms – the dementias and stroke
3) Addenbrooke’s Hospital NHS Trust – Child and Adult Psychiatry for one year.
4) Additional – Red Nose/ Mental health media work; volunteer of ‘Rethink’; SEN Teaching Assistant; helper at Toddler Group for Children with Down’s and many more.

What is your understanding and view of the social model of disability? I came across this during my Community Psychology option and work within ‘Older Adult’ care, in particular with people who had Alzheimer’s and pre-senile Dementias.
The medical model has its place, but it is the advent of Community and Social Psychology which has changed people’s, (disabled and non-disabled), thinking about disability in general and their own disabilities.
In Older Adult care the Social Model’s influence, for me, most likely helped create ‘The Bradford Dementia Care Model’.
This revolutionised the way carers saw and worked with dementia. The Social Model talks about how ‘we’ as society inflate, exacerbate and collude with accepted norms of disability and that this is a major player in keeping people isolated and ‘more’ disabled than they would ordinarily be.
In Dementia Care this is called ‘social malignancy’ and boy does it make me mad! The infantilising of people, the tone of voice, not thinking or even being mindful of environments: sound, colour, patterns, flooring, texture, gradients and so on. This is so of all disability.
When I’ve stopped being mad, I can say I have witnessed some fantastic changes and moving experiences. A lot of people are simply not aware of these things and not deliberately prejudiced and so it is up to us to coax, cajole and sometimes demand!
What is your understanding of the current and future issues affecting disabled people? 
There is so much so I will concentrate to a few:
I am in receipt of Disability Living Allowance – I have a ‘fibromyalgic/neuropathic’ type condition, previously thought to be MS. Thankfully, it was not; my cousin is not so lucky. I also have a diagnosis for Bi-Polar Disorder, very much managed for the last 10 years as can be seen by my work experience. DLA is on the chopping block and it is as simple as this – if DLA is cut, I don’t go swimming any more, (£7.20 per session), or at least as much as I do now. This is the self-help which saves the NHS thousands and would cost thousands if I now deteriorate. This is politics and its grassroots consequences and there are thousands like me.
I am open about my mental health status, so it is alright for you to discuss this with others.
The Equality Act, to work, has to implemented at all levels. It needs to be in people’s minds as a natural state of being in planning services, buildings etc. Some exemptions may have to apply for rickety old buildings, but compromises should be struck as if it were the norm not the exception.
GP Consortia – the current moves towards a GP led NHS, may work for some, but my very competent GP practice is worried and so am I. It is people with disabilities, of all types and of all ages who will be disproportionately squeezed, as has been deomnstrated in the past. I have a horrible image in my mind of us fighting over resources and GPs having to advocate for ‘their’ patient against another within the same practice.
What are your views on bioethical issues – please include assisted dying here?
Again, through my Alzheimer’s work I was directed to the Belmont and later Beauchamp and Childress reports from the 1980s, these reports have been criticised of course, but I believe that the four principles still hold true: justice (in all decision making); respect for each person’s integrity (autonomy) and non-maleficence (not to inflict deliberate pain) and ‘beneficence’ (to do things for the benefit of others). Essentially, in my view, a reworking of the spirit of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’.
With regard to assisted dying; I used to be very pro- and now I feel the following: My mother and discussed it, in the event she needed ‘help’. I’m not sure I could, but can see therefore the need for choice and a method by which people can end their lives if they so wish and do it here in their own homes without having to go to Switzerland and possibly end their lives sooner than if they could have stayed at home.
However, and this relates back to the Social Model, what if we go down that road and change the very ‘culture’ around death towards the negative? Will we not be bothered with further innovation in palliative care; research into cures; good older adult care and will disabled people become further demoted by a new prevailing attitude which will permeate into all of us whereby we end up thinking “I’m a burden; I’d better go then”?
A minefield indeed and one of many reasons why I would like sit on the Health and Science Committees or other more pertinent one, should I enter the House.
What has been your experience (include evidence please) of how you have promoted the views of disabled people and their organisations (run by them) during public office or political role (e.g.  assembly member, councillor, Green Party policy committee)? 
I ran a political cafe at a centre for people with mental health problems. This was to get folk thinking about other things and encourage action and self-determination.
My daughter and I have been on TV and radio with Blue Peter and Red Nose to help ‘normalise’ the nature of living with mental illness. My daughter has given talks and I have given talks/lectures on the subject. Having been a working professional and finding myself on the other side was painful, but humbling. I do not have a link, only a CD/DVD recording, which I cannot locate, but it maybe still archived on their websites.
I have co-published a paper with a psychiatrist and occupational therapist on “The Consequences of Disclosure of Mental Health Status”; led by the Social Model and Medical Model. Again, I never got an actual copy but the lead researcher was Dr. Rebecca Martinez.
A Special Educational Needs Green Paper which we believe will be the basis of new legislation –    what do you think would be the key issues from the perspective of disabled people?  if you are appointed to the House of Lords would you work with ALLFIE and if so  how will you work with us.
It is supposed to be more weighty than the Warnock Report and the measures set out are all well and good but,
1)   12 weeks public ‘consultation’ is not enough and there appears no indication that children themselves are being consulted; at least the ones who are able and there is no advocacy for those who are not. The Social or Bioethical Models are not being implemented here, which is ironic.
2)   The notion of ‘choice’ I believe is bogus. Concentrating resources into well run SEN establishments should not be seen as necessarily segregative. I would like to see school campuses which included SEN schools within them. My daughter attended a primary where a SEN school was right next door and they shared common facilities and played together. I’m more a fan of ‘Extra Needs’ because pupils of all skills and abilities, (including high achievers), have ‘special needs’ and they should be viewed as needing a ‘leg up’, not as ‘special’ or ‘apart’. I believe that some schools are becoming specialist centres for certain conditions such as autism.
As parent, I don’t want to be given competing choices, I just want a well run local school which my child can walk to or be easily transported to and which caters for her needs.
There is no place for children with disabilities, or any child for that matter, to become victims of ‘social malignancy’ in schools.
I hope Sarah Teather can present this well.
ALLFIE – I must confess I had to look this up. I must be a bit behind, because it does not appear in any of my books. Then when I did I realised I did know it, I’d remembered it as its full name!
The Alliance for Inclusion in Education, I would have thought could and should be a leading light in informing legislation.
How would I work with you?
For me working as a Councillor, or maybe a Lord isn’t all about talking, it’s about doing and experiencing. I have a lot of SEN experience, across all of the age groups. I had isolatory experiences myself at school and my daughter experienced intense loneliness and bullying– thankfully, she has found a niche, which we had to fight for and for me it took until adulthood to find some equilibrium.
One of your members put it beautifully, as I have just read:
"I think that when you don't have real friends you can't experience real life because real life is how you get on with people. I can't do anything on my own so I am completely dependent on people helping me, so if I am not going to be surrounded by only personal assistants, I have got to find a way of making friends."
Maresa Mackeith
If I had the time, and there is lots of non-sitting time in the Lords, I would have to come and actually experience your workplace, join some activities and/or observe if that was preferable.
Then to listen and ‘feel’, followed by guidance and advice from your team. Then sit and work out what is that is missing?
Then act!
I hope I didn’t go on too long and please feel free to contact me further for any clarification or omissions.
To be mindful of: People, the Environment, Respect and Kindness in everything I do and in every decision I make.
This is the type of politician I am and want to be. Lofty ideals that I’ve never let go of.

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