A welcome alternative from a full day’s powerpoint marathon, kudos goes to the Alliance for mixing up the usual conference format and opening the show with some hard-hitting drama. With no disrespect meant to the various other conference presenters, I would hasten a guess that it’s the opening performance by the Purple Poncho Players that will stick in the minds of most delegates as they reflect on the day.
The 2016 Conference’s 2 Million Expert Voices theme is an emphasis on the fact that 4 in 10 people in Scotland live with at least one long-term condition. This was brought to life on stage yesterday morning by a small talented bunch from this 4 in 10, hitting home hard the barriers faced as a disabled person in Scotland. The tone was light-hearted but the message was serious – those living with disabilities haven’t ‘got it easy’, they aren’t scroungers, they want to actively contribute to society and they want to be seen beyond their ‘disabled’ label.
Unfortunately, all too often ‘the system’ throws barriers up in their way and the group conveyed this well through mockery of the DWP’s harsh disability assessment process – albeit slightly exaggerated for comedy value – which went down a treat with the audience.
But mockery aside, the performance clearly resonated strongly with conference delegates and, in myself at least, it provoked despair at how the issues highlighted have not yet been resolved.
We know that tackling inequalities has been placed high on the new Scottish Government’s agenda. Its emphasis too is on person-centred services, driven by people who are empowered to ask for the care that they want. However, what also sticks in my head from yesterday is a comment form a lady in my breakout session – “how can I be empowered? I’m exhausted”.
The despair in her voice hit the nail on the head – the sentiment of empowerment is great, but until the barriers faced to achieving it are removed, the messaging by groups like the Purple Poncho Players will continue to be much needed.
Catherine is Policy Engagement Officer at Voluntary Health Scotland – contact her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0131 474 6189.