My name is Teodor Mladenov and over the next two years (until April 2019), I will work on a research project titled ‘User-Led Personal Assistance in the European Union: A Critical Comparative Analysis’ at the European Network on Independent Living. The aim of this project is to compare and evaluate user-led personal assistance (ULPA) schemes for disabled people across the European Union.
My approach will be to explore ULPA schemes from the perspective of the Independent Living philosophy, the social model of disability, and (critical) disability studies more generally. My method includes review of previous studies, analysis of policy documents, and consultations with disabled people’s organisations who will be approached for advice and feedback through ENIL’s membership network.
The setting up of ULPA schemes has been one of the most significant innovations in social services over the last four decades. Promoted by disabled activists since the 1970s, ULPA schemes have been designed to enable disabled people to have choice and control over their support, in contrast to provider-led mechanisms such as residential care that have empowered professionals.
More recently, the development of ULPA schemes has been slowed down and, in some cases, reversed by austerity measures that have flooded European societies since the financial crisis of 2007 – 2008. Such retrenchment notwithstanding, ULPA has remained at the cutting edge of disability policy in Europe. In my previous research, I have noticed that most studies of ULPA have so far been confined to single cases on the national level – a gap that the ULPA project will try to bridge (or fill, depending on the available material and the underlying terrain).
I developed the ULPA project by building on my previous engagement with disability studies and social policy. Most recently, I did social research at King’s College London, first as a doctoral student (2009 – 2012), then as a postdoctoral research fellow funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2013 – 2016). Before that, I did research and disability rights campaigning at the Centre for Independent Living – Sofia (2000 – 2009). Most of my publications are available online here.
The ULPA project is funded by the European Commission through its Horizon 2020 funding programme, and within it – through a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship. Yet although it is framed as an ‘individual fellowship’ intended ‘to enhance the creative and innovative potential of experienced researchers’, my hope is that the ULPA project will benefit not only me (and, perhaps, a handful of other researchers inhabiting the academic bubble), but also those engaged with campaigning for disabled people’s equality and emancipation across Europe and beyond.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 747027. This document reflects only the author’s view. The Research Executive Agency of the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.