The ‘Liberation’ of Welfare

Smack in the middle of the UK election campaign comes a new book Liberation Welfare published by the progressive think tank Demos, focusing on the reform and transformation of our social support systems.  You have to hand it to the social/voluntary sector in the UK.  Not only are their issues part of the 'Manifestos' of each political party but also, they synchronize their publishing efforts to coincide with the public policy debates occurring during the campaign.

Liberation Welfare is a compendium of essays from thinkers and doers in the fields of disability, job creation, child welfare and poverty reduction. They base their reform of social security and welfare systems on three key principles:

  • Reciprocity – individuals should be expected to take the lead in transforming their lives and contributing to society –
  • Power -  should have genuine power, choice and control over their lives
  • Security – greater employment and financial security particularly for people with complex needs facing a more dynamic labour market and increased risks inherent in our modern economy

This is consistent with the values that underline PLAN.  Reciprocity shifts the focus to relationships and underscores the importance of belonging.  It articulates a revised definition of citizenship where everyone's contributions' are expected and respected. Power and choice offers an alternative to the low expectations, passivity and often paternalism of existing income support systems.  Security shifts the equation from income or welfare support to asset accumulation. 

By way of illustration, the Registered Disability Savings Plan will shift hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars directly into the bank accounts and pockets of people with disabilities.  It provides an incentive (Disability Savings Grants) for individuals and families to take the lead in securing their financial well being.  It also offers a Disability Savings Bond as a base for asset building for those at financial risk.  It eliminates asset limits, claw backs and any reporting on how the money is used.  And in the medium term it strikes a blow against disrespect for the capability of people in receipt of government support and the often accompanying 'learned helplessness' of traditional welfare systems.

Liberation Welfare is well organized and moves easily between concept and real examples. Through the lens of reciprocity, power and security it addresses the challenges of homelessness, employment and job training, mental illness, low income families, and poverty.

Eddie Bartnik's chapter on self directed support and Local Area Coordination provides a proven dynamic example of a vibrant system of support for families and people with disabilities in West Australia.  Eddie is a friend and respected colleague, the epitome of a creative, skilled and committed public servant.  We have witnessed first hand the many benefits in Western Australia of developing partnerships between individuals, families and local communities.  The system of Local Area Coordinators attracts interest from around the world. Eddie's chapter, Putting the People in Control, begins on page 117.  Definitely worth reading.

Download the book here and check out Demos' other excellent publications at

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