From Assistance to Active Citizenship
by Alberto Borghi
Effects of the crisis on assistance to persons with disabilities and citizens in situations of disadvantage. Interview with Professors Andrea Canevaro and Giovanni Maria Mazzanti.
|On the margins of
the "Mostrare la rosa al cieco" convention (show the rose to the
blind), held in Bologna last May, we asked two presenters, both professors
at the University of Bologna, Prof. Andrea Canevaro, Chair of Didactics
and Special Education, Faculty of Education Sciences, and Prof. Giovanni
Maria Mazzanti, Professor at the Faculty of Economics, if it was
possible, in a context of cuts that aim at eliminating waste and
dysfunctions, to imagine the review of the concept of "assistance to
persons with disabilities" itself, with a strong specialization of skills
and, consequently, of services to offer this category of users; or if, on
the contrary, we are heading towards a systematic and generalized
elimination of funds that are, in the end, in contrast with
constitutional precepts. The question is directed either to the pedagogue
or the economist according to their own areas of
Does welfare in Italy today remain true to constitutional precepts?
Prof. Canevaro: We can consider constitutional precepts as something that must be held on to. We can even consider them as a future to be built. Let us try to go towards that perspective. Our Constitution places labour as a fundamental element. Therefore, welfare has to be linked to the founding theme that is labour. Labour could consist in the meeting point of those who have a project and are passionate about it. They can create their project, their passion, and, at the same time, contribute to the common good. Some organizations are doing that, taking into consideration the different cycles of human experience, and also including the difference based on ageing. Organizations that create objects for a quality of life "despite" disability, despite ageing, etc., have an added-value for the market and contribute to the fulfilment of our Constitution. We could give other examples, including the building industry, which can anticipate special needs, and this way create a larger market. At the centre of all this is passion for one's own work, that not by chance becomes a contribution to the common good which is at the heart of the Constitution.
Prof. Mazzanti: Italy is the European Union's country which has the longest life expectancy at birth and, among large countries at the international level, it comes in second after Japan. This is the extraordinary result of a farsighted investment in our welfare model. The risk today is to fall back in previous models of welfare of corporate type that identified in the individual's work conditions the main gate of access to services. The challenge is to continue updating the answers to the needs in a coherent way with a universalistic vocation and rediscovering also the importance of the spontaneous organization of citizens in a Republic founded on labour.
Can the actual economic crisis lead to the redefinition of the concept of social equity itself?
Prof. Canevaro: It is the opportunity to do so. Social equity is the alliance of social, health, cultural and educational services, and of the social web. We need to try to outline, to profile the competent identity, which is an identity that connects, integrates. We need to be part of a larger group, overcoming categorization, in other words we need to do things in a way that a person with a disability, for example a deaf person, feels that she does not only belong to the deaf population. Let us go beyond this aspect, to realize that the sense of belonging of a deaf person is not linked only to deafness, but citizenship, and participation. Categories become part of a plural, competent identity, able even to organize itself in a social belonging.
It is important and fundamental to have needs
and competence meet. It means overcoming these mechanisms of assignment of
agents and subsidies who are now only busy establishing an hourly fee on
the basis of the possibility of spending, and not on the response to needs
which, if they were answered adequately, would allow the passage from
assistance to active citizenship, and from subjects with unearned income
to active and proactive subjects.
a dimension that is basically individual, "competences" are social or
they are not.