FFollowing the news in Britain is increasingly like living the words of the Smiths: “Good times for a change”. Faced with the onslaught of cost-cutting, short-term, and downright nasty public policies, it can sometimes be difficult to believe that progress is possible. Well, here's some good news.
Last month I reported on the cash-strapped Bristol City Council's proposal to place disabled people in residential care if this was deemed “more cost-effective” than providing support on their own. residence. Readers expressed their outrage on social media. Others took advantage of the council's public consultation to express their objections. Then Bristol activists hired pro bono lawyers to challenge the legality of the proposal.
Then came the U-turn. In light of the growing backlash, the council has now abandoned this policy altogether. He declined to comment when I contacted him, but shared correspondence from Councilor Helen Holland, cabinet member for adult social care and chair of the Mayor's Disability Equality Commission, who confirms : “the policy will not be implemented at this time”.
It's a reprieve. A policy that should never have been proposed was rightly thrown into the trash. “I feel wonderful,” emails Mark, who was featured in my column and campaigned for months against the proposal. “I couldn't believe when I heard. I just wanted to thank and tell everyone.
What happened in Bristol is not just a niche regional story. It reflects the crisis facing local authorities across the country: dwindling finances, the attack on the social safety net and how, time and time again, marginalized communities are the first to be harmed.
But it's also a lesson that change is possible – and that we don't need to wait for a general election to achieve it. Ultimately, Bristol's policy was toppled by a domino of ordinary citizens: a local group of disabled activists, a independent disability media who broke history, a local journala volunteer legal team and an army of Guardian readers.
This will not be the last time such efforts are necessary. In Bristol, Mark tells me that he and his fellow campaigners from Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) have been invited by the council to help produce a new social care policy; but he is wary of details. “The investigation must be independent and truly co-produced with people with disabilities,” he says.
Other councils – under pressure to meet growing demand for social care amid budget cuts and higher costs – will likely consider measures similar to those under threat in Bristol. As I write this, some young people with disabilities are already languishing in care homes or stuck at home, without any support.
Westminster, for its part, does not seem concerned. Just hours after news of Bristol's U-turn leaked, it emerged that Labor had gone back on its promise to create a new national care service during its first term.
You would be forgiven for feeling defeated. Or just tired. In the months to come, the same headlines will return again and again: which councils will cut which services and for whom. When you see them, remember the handful of disabled people in Bristol who took on the state and retained their rights. As Mark signs off his email: “There is still a lot of work to do. We won the battle, but not the war.