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DISCIT making persons with disabilities full citizens
Diversity and change of the life courses of persons with psycho-social disabilities

DISCIT has published a new working paper on Diversity and change of the life courses of persons with psycho-social disabilities


This paper reviews recent social science research on psychosocial disabilities in relation to the concept of active citizenship, understood as security, autonomy and influence. The paper is illustrated with information on social policy issues coming from the eight other countries participating in DISCIT. The main argument is that the welfare system plays a crucial role in promoting (or hindering) the conditions needed for persons with psychosocial disabilities to exercise active citizenship. It is also shown that different conceptions of mental health, and in particular the question whether or not a medical diagnosis is requested in order to speak about mental ill-health, have an impact on the development of policies addressing citizenship and participation in society. Despite the process of deinstitutionalisation that started in the 1960’s institutional settings continue to be developed. On the other hand, community-based services are often insufficient and do not always meet the needs of persons with psychosocial disabilities, thus preventing them from enjoying active citizenship. Indeed, although studies have found improvements in the quality of life and personal development of people who moved out of institutions into community living, it has also been argued that community-based services are often scattered and fail to meet individual needs. In addition, the shortage of care provisions, the increased conditionality to obtain social services, the complex and bureaucratic arrangements of the welfare system, as well as the lack of cooperation between welfare agencies prevent persons with psychosocial disabilities to receive adequate support when living in the community. Except for measures such as Individual Placement and Support-models, disability benefits and case management, few employment services are specifically designed for persons with psychosocial disabilities.
The paper distinguishes between measures of “care” and measures of “active citizenship” and argues that both types of measures are needed in order to support persons with psychosocial disabilities in achieving social participation in terms of security, autonomy and influence. In some countries prevalence of ‘care’ measures is salient while good practices that have a potential to facilitate active citizenship, such as supported employment, personalised support, personal agents and personal assistance models or recovery-oriented measures, are still limited. It is concluded that a ‘universal’ approach to disability, including both the medical and the social model of disability, is the most adequate conceptualisation for grasping and addressing the challenges faced by persons with psychosocial disabilities in contemporary European countries. Through a universal model, disability and mental health are viewed from a dynamic point of view and consider both evolutions in the individual’s life and the influence of the broader socio-economic environment. Hence, the approach adopted in this paper recognises the fact that mental health difficulties evolves over time and can potentially affect everyone at any time in life.

The full paper and other DISCIT publications are available on the DISCIT website.

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