My week: John Knight ponders the honours system

Monday: I have only just got round to perusing the New Year Honours list. I have never really understood the honours system. What exactly do you have to do to be made a dame?

What does a prospective dame have to do that is substantially different from, say, someone awarded an OBE? And why do people get honours for jobs they are paid, usually quite handsomely, to do anyway? The lists in recent years have been more reflective of community service - but there is still a long way to go.

Tuesday A chap who exemplified what the honours system should be all about was my fellow columnist, the late Luke FitzHerbert. He was never recognised by the honours system, but the tributes paid to a man who championed the voluntary sector throughout his life are recognition indeed. In my opinion, these carry much greater value, meaning and understanding than any honour the state could have awarded.

Wednesday For some media work, I am just starting to get my head around the extreme medical procedures inflicted on 'Ashley X' in the States.

Ashley, a young disabled woman, was subjected to radical surgery and hormone therapy to stop her physically growing up. I am glad that parts of the sector have risen up to condemn this, but I do hope this does not limit the availability of less extreme medical interventions that can improve disabled people's quality of life. I speak as one who would not be writing this if it weren't for the many medical interventions I have benefited from.

Thursday Hooray! The debate about the delivery of public services by the sector has taken a new turn. A rational analysis of the pros and cons by the Public Administration Select Committee will allow the voices concerned about the negative impact it could have to be heard. They have so far been drowned out by the over-enthusiasm of the politically savvy 'pro' brigade. Tony Wright MP, the committee's chair, says he "hopes to hear from all kinds of groups we don't usually hear from". He will.

Friday The Welfare Reform Bill is now in the Lords. The potential 'partnership' role the voluntary sector can play with Job Centres (which would include making or being associated with judgements to withhold or refuse Incapacity Benefit payments to disabled people) is still being talked up. I challenge one disability charity to come forward and say that being part of a decision-making process that makes already poor disabled people even poorer is a part of their charitable purpose.

John Knight, Head of external policy at Leonard Cheshire 

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