Much of the mass public awareness of the problems faced by disabled people and resulting demands for structured support emerged at the end of the first world war.
According to Historic England, over two million British soldiers, sailors and airmen were left permanently disabled — and a perceived lack of state support led to organisations like The British Legion and The Not Forgotten Association being founded to bridge the gap.
The introduction of the NHS in 1948 improved matters, but charities and social enterprises are still providing coverage in areas government institutions can’t reach due to funding issues.
Although the third sector is still underfunded, it was worth £45 billion according to 2017 National Council for Voluntary Organisations figures and is bolstered by public contributions and support.
Staffed by a range of employees, from student graduates from distance learning degree courses in charity management to volunteers of all ages who want to spend their spare time giving something back to society, the third sector now strives to equalise opportunities for disabled people from all walks of life.
There’s still work to be done — but the diverse range of support available from organisations across the country means there’s usually somewhere to turn for help and advice in most scenarios.
Holidays and respite
Finding for families and individuals affected by disability or illness is just one strand of support that’s strengthened over the years, but it ensures that everyone has a better chance of leading a full life that includes much-needed downtime.
There’s now more recognition of the stresses and strains felt by those caring for loved ones who are dealing with debilitating conditions — carers aided by the Respite Association can access funds for professional respite care for their seriously ill relatives to enable them to take a short-term break to recharge their batteries.
The cash awarded usually pays for at-home carers or a place in a residential home for a few days and the level of support is carefully matched to each family’s needs.
Unfortunately, there are still barriers to work for people with a disability — analysis by charity Scope reveals that they’re currently twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, although a five per cent employment rise for disabled people would swell the Exchequer’s coffers by £6 billion by 2030.
There have been some advances though — disabled people now work in many more fields than previously thought possible, from veterinary science and sport to nursing and teaching.
Jobseekers supported by Disability Rights UK will receive the latest advice and assistance on issues like accessing further and higher education opportunities, understanding their employment rights under The Equality Act 2010, finding employers that proactively welcome disabled candidates and requesting reasonable adjustments at job interviews.
So there’s a quick snapshot of the ways the third sector has evolved to support disabled people in the 100 years since the first world war ended — equality will hopefully improve more rapidly over the next century.
How could disabled people be better supported? Share your thoughts in the comments section.