Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society

Principal Investigator: Prof Katherine Runswick-Cole

Project Fact File

Start DateJuly 2013
End DateJune 2015
Funded by

Economic and Social Research Council

Project TeamProf Katherine Runswick-Cole
Prof Rebecca Lawthom
External Providers and CollaboratorsThe University of Sheffield; The University of Bristol; The University of Northumbria; The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities; Manchester Learning Disability Partnership; Independent Living Advisors; Pathways Associates; Mencap; SpeakUp Self-Advocacy

Principal Investigator

Meet Prof Katherine Runswick-Cole

Prof Katherine Runswick-Cole

Professor of Critical Disability Studies & Psychology

Phone +44 (0)161 247 2906

Project Details


This project explores the current context of austerity in England and asks how are disabled people with learning disabilities (LD) faring? The project has three strands of inquiry. The first strand examines the role of circles of support in the lives of people with LD; the second strand considers opportunities for employment for people with LD; and the third explores the role of self-advocacy in the lives of people with LD.

Aims and Objectives

  1. To identify, in the current climate, what opportunities exist for people with learning disabilities to contribute to and to benefit from the Big Society, and hence civil society
  2. To explore how people with learning disabilities are participating in British Civil Society in the 20th Century
  3. To examine the impact of the ongoing and anticipated cuts in public funding and new policies of the coalition government on civil society organisations aligned to people with intellectual disabilities
  4. To consider to what extent the three layers of Big Society (empowering communities, opening up public services, promoting social action) are illuminated by the practices of three civil society partners (circles of support; real employment; self-advocacy)
  5. To find out how people with intellectual disabilities are experiencing opportunities for self-advocacy, employment and community support and participation in civil society



Goodley, D. Lawthom, R. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2014) "Poshuman disability studies", Subjectivity

Goodley, D., Lawthom, R. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2014) "Dis/ability, and austerity: beyond work and slow death", Disability & Society, 29 (6) 908-984

Goodley, D. and Runswick-Cole, K., (2014) "Becoming dis/human: thinking about the human through disability", Discourse: Cultural politics of education. Published online.

Goodley, D. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2014) "Big Society? Disabled people with the label of learning disability and the queer(y)ing of civil society", Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research. Published online

See also for presentations, blog posts, summary impact cards & animations from the project.