I was intrigued to see the hack day advertised through my networks, hosted by the Westminster Hub and Future Gov, and the invite list looked like it contained a good mix of people from all different walks of life. I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend in person, so I thought I would test out my theory that it would be possible to participate in an event like this entirely online. The advertising led me to believe I wouldn’t be the only one participating in this way, so I thought it would be a great experience.
I also believed that my dual perspective as a healthcare professional and as a person with a disability and limiting condition meant that my insight might be of value to the group, although I wasn’t sure I was expert in any particular area. I thought that at the very least I could contribute my skills in group facilitation and help the other participants voices to be heard. So, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I waited for the day to approach.
I feel strongly that the population of this country support the right of its citizens to fair treatment and a basic level of income no matter what our personal circumstances are. It is my concern that we are facing a political narrative that the economic crises we face are as a result of an “overindulgent” welfare state. I disagree with this opinion. I believe that the welfare state guarantees the basis of many of our freedoms in this country, and is a marker of our civilization.
As a person with a disability, it is important for my self-esteem to work. However, I am unable to work in the way that I did before I became disabled. My situation is not unusual, I have met many people online who wish to have the right work- work which suits their personal circumstances, the adjustments they have to make to accommodate their health and disability, work that is supportive of their recovery and which promotes self-esteem and societal regard. This may, or may not, include paid work. Volunteering and community work, caring responsibilities, childcare, study, all these activities are grouped under the heading of “productivity” for occupational therapists, and when I discuss work, these activities are all implicit under that description.
The hack camp decided on several themes that were important to the people in the room and the people online. These were:
1. Money saving and sharing
2. Personal data
3. Local impact
4. Better communication / information
5. Collaboration and peer to peer support
6. Skills and volunteering
7. Jobs, flexible working and enterprise
8. Better admin
Through conversations with the people involved, I decided that the group that I most naturally belonged in was the jobs, flexible working and enterprise group.
Here is a little further description of the group aims:
7. Jobs, flexible working and enterprise: be allowed to get income from work around benefits system, home working for people with disabilities, support for people to start their own business, post a profile of yourself and make employers find you, new types of jobs as old work models outdated, confidence-building to encourage people to have confidence to apply for jobs
- Home Work Net – “Bring your service back in house – Literally!” – Home Working
- Bring in an enterprise scheme, reduced or no rate for 2/3 years. Possible tax concessions
- People allowed to work flexibly on benefits – like consultancy
- You should be so lucky – profiles to show skills, employers come and find people – reverse recruitment
- Welfare/benefits sat nav. Given skills, it plots path through to desired job outcome based on what other people with similar skills have done
- How can the benefits system better reflect the changing patterns of work – FLEXIBLE
- How can we reduce the stress of the application process?
- @janetedavis: confidence-building to encourage people to have confidence to apply for jobs (using social media/web)
- @CathyAitchison: the concept of ‘jobs’ is outdated – need a way of thinking which counts/values all areas in a person’s life via a paid job, freelence, voluntary, care (family) – could an electronic system manage a person’s ‘credits’ of all kinds?
Participation in this group was incredible. The members of the group were spread all over the country, from the Isle of Wight to Newcastle, (@creativecrip @claireot @nancyrowena @janetedavis with two members on-site at the Westminster Hub (@Lisybabes and @Lucy_Watt)
Incredibly, within the space of an hour, our team had developed a website (currently kindly hosted by @creativecrip) which used a bespoke logo and presented our findings in blog format.
The site is still under construction, but provides a space where we may return to our findings and refine them with reference to future funding opportunities or other ways to develop our ideas. Having a skeleton site up and running in the short time available is, in itself, testament to the currently underused skills and abilities of people with disabilities, who are currently excluded from making choices in the jobs market that fit their circumstances.
We worked on our presentation as a Google Doc, which meant that it was hosted in the cloud and accessible to all of us for editing and commenting.
We talked about our presentation using Skype chat facility, which meant we were able to share our opinions and improvements for the project as we went along.
Our presentation was a mock-up of a user interface for a website or mobile application which detailed how we thought we should develop the ability for the benefits system to accommodate the various different work patterns likely for those with fluctuating conditions.
If you would like to view it, it is available below.
I have to mention the amazing job that Lucy and Lisa did in facilitating this in the physical space of the workshop. We online participants felt as involved as if we had been there in person- we had as much influence on the project development as the people in the room. I felt it was an important model of inclusive practice, which still seems to be an alien concept for so many events when simple adjustments such as these made our participation possible.
Participants in the group were:
Lucy Watt (@Lucy_Watt)
Lisa Egan (@Lisybabe) http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/
Lisa Ellwood (@CreativeCrip) http://uk.linkedin.com/in/iconicimagery
Nancy Farrell (@nancyrowina) http://www.nancythroughthelookingglass.blogspot.com/
Janet Davies (@janetedavies)