Big Society, Disability and Civil Society Research

Website for ESRC research project 'Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society'

15th &16th September “An inspiring and energising conference” End of project conference Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society

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The end of project conference brought together people with learning disabilities, family members, activists, academics, third sector organizations and other allies to think about the lives of people with learning disabilities in a time of austerity.

Day one focused on the three strands of the project: circles of support; self-advocacy and employment. The day included presentations from

The day concluded with a knowledge café facilitated by Rebecca Lawthom (Manchester Metropolitan) with visual facilitation by Dan Goodley (Sheffield).


Day Two took up the theme of austerity again and began with a presentation from Dan Goodley (Sheffield) & Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan) talking about disability and community. In their presentation Dan and Katherine described disability’s radical potential to disrupt notions of the community and, indeed, the human. (Presentation here: EOP presentation)

They were followed by Imogen Tyler (Lancaster) describing her current powerful research on the cultural production of stigma ( ) (Presentation: intolerant%20times%20tyler)

Next Alan Roulstone (Leeds) reflected on the ‘causes’ and consequences of austerity in the lives of disabled people, as well as thinking about opportunities for resistance (Presentation here: Roulstone).

Alan was followed by Jenny Fisher’s (Manchester Metropolitan) presentation which focused on austerity parenting and her evaluation of the work of Home Start in Manchester ( ) (Presentation here:Sheffield%200915) .

After lunch, Aaron Reeves (Oxford) described his work on drawing on social policy and health economics to explore disability and the labour market ( ) (Presentation here: disability_public).

The day ended with a presentation by Chris Hatton (Lancaster) describing what statistics do (and don’t) tell us about the lives of people with learning disabilities ( (Presentation Hatton).

Thanks to the generosity and support of those attending the conference, you can follow the detail of the discussion via twitter #austerity15 and the storify is available here: ‪ ‪ ‬

Katherine Runswick-Cole said: “While it was clear that there is a range of urgent challenges facing people with learning disabilities in a time of austerity, it was also clear that among the presenters and attendees at the conference there is a powerful momentum for change.

We are looking forward to collaborating with community and university partners to be part of that work.”

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Author: Katherine RC

Katherine is Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change at Manchester Metropolitan University

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