Clenton Farquharson on being ‘in control’ this Christmas

If I had a Christmas wish it would be to see us reclaim 'independent living' from a term that seems to mean 'living alone' back to what it should be - being able to live the life you want to live and be supported to do so.

I have been working and pushing for change for over 20 years and this Christmas I have the wish that we can not only help more people gain access to personal budgets but change the way we all think and talk about independent living.

I am self-funded so while I don't have a personal budget in the sense it is provided for me by the local authority, I have control over my own budget in the same way. Yes having this control is life changing - but it's only life changing because it is the tool I use to be able to live life the way I want - to live independently. I don't really think about it - it ticks over in the background. What I do notice is my quality of life. The things I can do that I wouldn't be able to do if I didn't have it in place.

You could say that it's something you don't notice when it works as it should - you only notice it's value when it isn't there.

But from my point of view, it's just the tool that I use to live my life. And that is what I want everyone to focus on this Christmas. Not on personal budgets, not on the tools we use, but enabling more disabled and vulnerable people to life a truly independent life, in the real sense of the term. Not the way that councils and institutions have changed it to - to almost mean someone living on their own - but to mean having a full life. A life like anyone else. A life that is the way you want it to be.

Sadly, this isn't the case for everyone. Many people fail to get the right tools in place, or are being denied access to these tools to be able to live independently. They face bureaucratic obstacles and barriers that often end up frustrating people so much, they simply give up and accept whatever they are given. Others get so frustrated they snap - I call this the 'Falling Down' moment from that movie with Michael Douglas. I often think that movie sums up how many people who are simply trying to live a life most take for granted feel when they face barrier after barrier, or aren't given the information they need to be able to put in place the tools they need.

So if you ask me what my Christmas wish is, it's to change this view that independent living is something different, something just for disabled and vulnerable, to meaning living a ordinary life, just doing what you want to do and not having to think about it. That's really being 'in control'.

Last Updated : 23 December 2013. Page Author: marijke.hirst.