Disability Strategy

Thank you Monsieur le Baillie,

I describe my political thinking as Libertarian, the belief in small government with two guiding principles that must be upheld, that government should protect its people and that government should protect property. But I stand here and note that by the inertia of political discussion this government has failed in the first of those two principles, we haven’t protected our people.

I’d like to talk of a deficit, not the financial deficit that we obsess over, but a social deficit. We have fermented a political discussion where our fiscal deficit is seen as the only imperative that needs tackling and that any other form of deficit can be ignored. Money is allowed to dictate our values and people are seen as collateral damage in the pursuit of eradicating that fiscal position.

We are in danger of becoming a community that knows the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.

The political discourse for too long has viewed spending in a binary form. Spending money is bad and saving money is good, but this is a simplistic an erroneous view. Evidence from the UK shows that for every £1 spent on the access to work programme, the UK treasury receives £1.14 in return. Is spending that £1 bad? Are we to be considered profligate for affording someone the ability to work and contribute in taxes?

The political discourse must change. 2014 sees the end of the Financial Transformation Programme, 2015 must see the beginning of the Social Transformation Programme.

To understand our current social deficit we must first look at our areas of social concern and identify where the deficit lies. It’s easy for me to rattle off a number of issues such as gender, race, sexual preference and of course, disabilities. But that’s just the broad outline. What is required is an analysis of where the deficit currently lies. I believe that deficit to be a chasm from what people expect in this day and age to what is currently afforded them.

We shouldn’t be afraid of identifying this social deficit, as the solution is not in simply financing our way out of it, money can’t answer all our problems.

Throwing money at gender inequality issues by and of itself won’t resolve any of the problems that result in a government comprised by only 10% of one gender that forms 50% of the population.

I know that members won’t be surprised to hear me talk of a political hero of mine, it seems to be a staple of my speeches. Thomas Jefferson had a view of the ideal American life, it was the beginnings of what would later be called the American dream. His view was of affording each and every person sufficient land for them to pursue their independent life. He took the most readily available commodity and ensured that people gained independence by its distribution. He even went so far as to complete the Louisiana purchase, buying twice the size of the existing former English colonies from the French to secure that wealth of land.

Here in Guernsey, land isn’t such an easily available commodity, but the richest assets that we possess is also our most readily available commodity, our people. We have an abundance of them that can and do make a difference on a daily basis. It is this great commodity of our people that I believe to be our social capital, and this is the answer to the majority of our social deficit.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the “We All Matter Eh” videos showing Guernsey people living with disabilities. What I heard was a number of requests for small differences. Those small differences would be made by people, our social capital.

I know that we’re not big on dreams here in the States, but we seem to have a love of visions. I’m unsure whether the Old Testament prophets were forward thinking or whether the States are antediluvian in their thinking, maybe Deputy Le Tocq would like to offer his thoughts in closing this debate.

I’d therefore like to suggest a Guernsey vision. The problem is self-evident for those who care to look, a social deficit spanning all areas of our community. The most evident of those areas that we’ve yet to tackle is race. How we got to 2013 and still permit discrimination on the basis of race is beyond me.

The vision would be to enable people to live the life that so many of us take for granted.

  • A home to call one’s own.
  • A family recognised in law.
  • Equality of opportunity in pursuing employment.
  • Equal service to our neighbour.

These may sound like the basics of our lives, but to many they are a privileged position. It isn’t an overly ambitious vision, but one that is achievable.

I believe the disability strategy is the best place to start this vision, addressing this social deficit.

Key to the strategy is the Equality and Rights Organisation. I’d suggest that this isn’t only key to the strategy, it is key to identifying the full extent of our social deficit and that is why its formation is so pressing.

The irony of this organisation not progressing as a result of our fiscal decisions is painfully evident. Our understanding of our social deficit will be deficient as we don’t view people as being of equal value to money.

Having spoken of Thomas Jefferson earlier in my speech I’d like to close by referring to him again. Of course, Jefferson is primarily remembered as the principle writer of the Declaration of Independence. That declaration has as its preamble the following

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

On the fourth of July 1776, Jefferson attested to the equality of all men and spoke of their rights secured by government, an idea that translated to the French revolution in 1789.

That idea has finally made the crossing from St Malo. On the 27th of November 2013, the States of Guernsey are talking of a strategy that one day might lead to equality of rights, secured by government, if we find the money.

It would seem that nearly 250 years after those words were written, we still have much to learn.

Thank you.

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