Currently running on Facebook is a campaign lambasting the Comic Relief 'Red Nose' day because, they say: "(We) are annoyed and distressed at Comic Relief's decision to include David Cameron in the video to this year's charity single by One Direction. They then go on to list all of the atrocities committed by Cameron, aimed at sick and disabled people, and those on benefits or on a low income.
Firstly, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with this group's stance against Cameron and the present government. What the ConDems are doing to certain sections of our society beggars belief. I have, along with other disabled activists, been in the thick of the fight against them and will continue to take my place alongside those who challenge the government.
However, to boycott an organisation that is the very antithesis of Tory policy, just because of Cameron's appearance in the video is, in my humble opinion, not exactly constructive.
Many years ago, when Comic Relief, Children in Need et al first appeared on the scene, disabled activists throughout the country were appalled at the patronising crap which oozed from our TV screens. Not only did we boycott these appeals but we also tried to make sure that everyone knew why. We chained ourselves to the railings outside TV stations, we leafleted and a few intrepid souls even managed to gate-crash televised events to publicise our cause. "Piss on pity", "Rights not charity", "Nothing about us without us" were bold new statements way back then.
We all know what Mr Wogan and his cronies did. They ignored us and have pretty much continued as if nothing had happened. Lenny Henry and the other, original Comic Relief organisers, however, started up a dialogue with us and asked what they were doing wrong. They listened when we explained and took our criticisms on the chin.
From this small step many of us began working with Comic Relief (arguably the ONLY such charity to have agreed to work with disabled people on our own terms). Some of the results have been the increased involvement of disabled people in the organisation, funding being directed towards organisations "of" rather than "for" disabled people and changing the "tragic but brave" stereotype that so damages our struggle for equality and full citizenship. (And it became an approach they've used with other groups they support, too.)
Those of us who are really long in the tooth will remember that landmark training resource "Altogether Better" which was so vital to disability equality/disability action training throughout the 1990s and beyond. Perhaps for the first time, it enabled Deaf and disabled people of all ages to tell our own story through the video clips and materials it brought together and it tackled some highly controversial issues head on. Who funded it? Well, Comic Relief actually.
So please guys, hammer Cameron and his cowboys as much as you can. I'm with you on that. But don't risk sabotaging probably the only organisation of this type which, in my opinion, has worked hard to take our issues on board and provided a level playing field for us all to operate together on.
Thanks for listening. Rant over (for now!).
Hands up all those Crips who know what's going to happen in 2013.
Yes, you've got it, the Government are stopping Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing it with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment or PIP. This is the new system by the way that most disablity organisations claim is not fit for purpose and will leave some half a million disabled people without benefits after change over.
You'll remember that the government pushed through these changes under the Welfare Reform Bill* which received royal assent and became an Act on 8th March 2012. In a nutshell the act abolishes DLA and replaces it with PIP.
This is all part of the government's smoke and mirrors routine where they are trying to convince people that the financial sector is not responsible for creating the current crisis and are placing the 'blame' increasingly at the door of the poorest in society - those who need welfare support.
Even the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) agree that 500,000 current DLA claimants will not receive any PIP at all. They base this on their own figures that show only 1.7 million people between 16 to 64 will receive PIP. They state that, if there was no reform, the number of people getting DLA in the same age group would be about 2.2 million, which the country could not sustain.
So, why are the Government pushing ahead with a replacement system that would appear to be even more flawed than the current one? And why are they ignoring all of the feedback that came as a result of a nationwide consultation process which recommended that they undertake a full equality Impact Assessment before pushing ahead with this new scheme? Oh yes, I forget, Cameron has just abolished Impact Assessments hasn’t he!
Already ATOS and CAPITA, two of the big private sector organisations have been handed great chunks of the PIP assessment process and are rubbing their hands in delight at the prospect of yet more profit to be made at our expense.
BTW by abolishing DLA and introducing PIP the Government has by sleight of hand removed 20 years of case law. All DLA Tribunal decisions are now just history!
Welcome to Cameron's caring Big Society!
* The Welfare Reform Act will not only be responsible for those disabled people not qualifying for PIP losing their 'passport' to other benefits and entitlements, but is also responsible for a large reduction in local authority funding (who are expected to provide a safety net for those people effected by benefit cuts). The Act also places a cap on housing benefit, ends legal aid for welfare and benefits issues and is closing down the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which many of us rely on in order to remain in the community.
Living on an island we could be forgiven for thinking that the harsh cuts that are being inflicted on us Crips in the UK are unique and out of step with the rest of Europe.
Listening to disabled people in France, Greece and especially Spain, we hear that the exact same policies of cuts to benefits and services, along with an orchestrated move to get us all back into institutions, is taking place throughout Europe.
Thousands of disabled people rallied in Madrid last week to protest against a €60 billion cut in spending. Similiarly to the UK, many of these cuts have been targeted at the disability community.
Speaking on Spanish television, Luis Cayo, president of Spain's Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities who have over 4 million members, said:
"This is an historic day. Disabled people [in Spain] have never taken to the streets before!"
Another protester Ricardo de Lugo told a BBC reporter:
"This is our cry for help. They are taking away our aid which has taken us many years to achieve ... why are they doing this to us?"
Alberto Alvarez, a disabled activist from Barcelona told reporters:
"It is as if this is part of a big move to get us all off the streets and back into the institutions that many of us were forced to live in. They think that by allowing the blind to work on the streets with their lottery that this is sufficient. We are here to tell them that it is not!"
With this amount of concentrated activity across Europe aimed at disabled people one wonders why there's not a pan European disabled people's organisation taking the lead in these protests. Why are we not sharing our resources and our expertise with other disabled people across the length and breadth of Europe, people who are being threatened by their governments in the same way that we are?
The right wing strategy of 'divide and conquer' has never needed to be challenged more than now.
We can only do this effectively by working in solidarity together.
Solidarity - Solidaridad - Solidarité - Solidarität - Solidariedade - αλληλεγγύη - Solidarność - Solidaritat
This week I’ve handed my blog spot over to an artist whose medium is being creative with the airways.
Her name is Merry Cross who, apart from being a presenter on Reading community radio, is also well known as a disabled activist and one of the organisors of the Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts movement.
Here’s her contribution:
Community Radio for disabled presenters
"Years ago, it struck me that radio is an ideal medium for virtually all disabled people, except obviously you Deafies!* I even drew up schedules for an entire radio station devoted to our issues, and tried, naively to float it (it sank without trace).
But then the internet and community radio stations came along and I leapt at the chance of a weekly show on Reading’s ‘Make Yourself Heard’ - blissfully unaware of how much work it would be! But I’m so glad I did it, because not only can it publicise local issues and give local Crips a voice, there’s nothing to stop it covering national issues too. And then there’s nothing to stop English speaking people from all over the world contributing or hearing it!
Also, not being part of a posh outfit run for profit by a bureaucracy, there is no pressure to support the status quo. FREEDOM! What’s more I’ve found some hugely supportive people through it, and formed many new relationships.
So, whilst I’d quite like never to have any competition (!) I’d recommend daring to take the step to anyone.
And of course there are some other disabled people doing radio shows, with 'Alan Commonly Known as Maglite' trying out Skype as his prefered medium. So I’ll just have to keep upping my game!
*And it’s finally dawned on me that I could at least make the scripts available on request, to make it somewhat accessible to Deafies."
You can find out more about Merry and her work with Reading community radio by clicking on this link.
Several people have commented recently that my cartoons have become more 'dark' of late.
I suppose that it's inevitable considering the subject matter to hand these days; disabled people dying after having their benefits stopped, the government disassembling the welfare state and taking equality back to the dark ages, what can you expect?
I'm not consciously looking for bleaker material you understand. It's just that it's being thrust into our faces everywhere we turn. Even the so called 'right wing' press have started to recognise that all is not right with the way the government is running the country ... and that's saying something!
So you'll be pleased to hear that I've been working on a new strip cartoon for Disability Arts on Line (DAO) that takes a look at disability from a slightly lighter perspective. The characters all belong to a Disability Arts group ... but you're going to have to wait until we publish to see more!
But what was that I said about the dark ages? Now there's an idea for a cartoon ...
I read a letter in a local newspaper the other day. The writer was praising David Cameron for reducing the number of people who were on benefits and for making them work for a living instead of scrounging off the state. He seemed to think that some 60% of those people on benefits had now been found work by the government, freeing up a considerable amount of money from the welfare fund.
Where on earth had he got this evidence from? Surely he didn't just rely on the government or the right wing newspapers for his information? Surely he realised that the "facts" supplied from these sources would be biased?
Why didn't he know that the Department of Work and pensions (DWP) has subcontracted out this benefits reduction work to the French-based company ATOS, which has cost the country over £110 million to date. Or that some 20,000 of this year's assessments had been declared sub-standard, resulting in 37% of those disabled people who'd had their benefits stopped having them reinstated under appeal?
Why didn't he know about the estimated 25,000 people who have died whilst participating in this so-called welfare reform, many of them undergoing the Work Capability Assessment managed by ATOS? (The figure of 10,600 people who died during the period between January and November 20011 was recently substantiated by the DWP's own records.) Or that this 'fitness for work' test continues to kill, on average, 32 people each week, due to stress induced by the process or by suicide as a result of their benefits being stopped? (The actual death toll is estimated at just under 72 people per week, but this includes people who have died of impairment/illness related causes.)
Why didn't he know that Margaret Hodge, as Chair of the Public Accounts committee, has recently issued a statement to the effect that ATOS, during the period 2011 - 12, have been taking the DWP (and this country) to the cleaners and are still exploiting many loopholes created in the process?
The letter-writer could research the figures for himself. They're all in the public domain - though admittedly not published by the likes of the Daily Mail or the Telegraph - but available to everyone who has access to the internet. I've even made it easy for him by putting links to these various sources in my blogs!
The real problem with our letter writing friend is the true facts do not support his predudices. It's more comfortable for him to accept the pap he is fed, without analysis. He's been told that we're either super hero Olympians or despicable scoungers and he's bought it! He's lazily accepted the version that slots into his existing pre-conceptions.
Of course, he'll rationalise, there are bound to be a few genuine disabled people who get caught up amongst the fakes, but that's inevitable. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs can you?!
But at its core, our letter writer's perspective is one without compassion, without understanding, without generosity of spirit and certainly without intelligence.
There's a phrase for what's happening to disabled people you know. It's called colateral damage ... and that's what we've become. The colateral damage in Cameron's callous financial missile-firing.
Oh and by-the-way, welcome to the Big Society!
Several nights ago, a young disabled woman was at home on her own when a knock at the door heralded the arrival of police officers from the local constabulary. She claims that there aim was to intimidate her into stopping posting comments on Facebook critical of government cuts and specifically the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and their attacks on the rights of disabled claimants!
Several other reports have now filtered in of similiar tactics by police in other areas. It's alledged that they're acting on complaints from the DWP who say that disabled activists are distorting the truth and making unfounded claims against them.
If they're refering to unfounded claims as being the number of people who are dying under the new welfare reforms (10,600 between Jan to Nov 2011) then I'm afraid that these figures were released by their own department (see my earlier blog with links to DWP documents released under a freedom of information order).
If they're refering to the actual number of people who have committed suicide as a result of the welfare reforms then I'm afraid that this has also been substantiated by a recent survey amongst GPs in the UK (also see my earlier blog with links to this survey and it's results).
And if they're claiming that disabled people are not being effected by the changes to benefits, the closing down of the Independent Living Fund, and the other draconian measures being introduced by the government then I invite them to log onto Face Book and read some of the heart breaking comments from disabled people that are on there.
Whatever the DWP's reasons for complaint, I would think that employing the boys in blue to make intimidating night calls on disabled people was totally the wrong way to go ... although having seen the increase in feelings of anger and outrage being expressed by disabled people across the country, perhaps it was the right way to go!
You can read the full account on Tom Pride's blog by clicking here.
The young woman in question has just posted a comment on her Face Book wall which says:
"Thank you to everyone (in the disability community) for the many wonderful private messages of support, means a great deal. I'm ok, feeling much better than a few nights ago. Been in the care of some great friends ... Thank you everyone for your kindness, means more than I can possibly say."
Disabled people across the country are furious following the Prime Minister's comments at the Tory party conference about his own experiences based on his late disabled son and father.
He painted a rosy picture of the lives of disabled people in the UK following the recent Paralympics and that people were now "seeing the person and not the wheelchair". Although as one pundit commented, thanks to his policies people saw neither the person or the wheelchair, but instead saw a welfare scrounger!
His speech came at the same time as the results of a survey about the true cost of the government's welfare reforms were being circulated.
The survey, highlighted by Exaro, the investigative website and targeted at GPs, confirmed that many disabled patients have been driven to suicide due to the Government's fitness to work test.
Six per cent of doctors have experienced a patient who has attempted - or committed - suicide as a result of “undergoing, or fear of undergoing” the Government's fitness to work test.
The survey also found that 14 per cent had patients who had self-harmed as a result of the test and that a further 20 per cent of GPs had at least one disabled patient who had thought about suicide because of the test.
Alongside of these alarming statistics are the figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirming that 10,600 people participating in the welfare reforms had died during the period January to November 2011.
These figures are derived from administrative data held by the Department for Work and
Pensions and assessment data provided by Atos Healthcare and confirm that upwards of 72 people a week involved in the government's welfare changes have died and that 32 deaths per week are linked directly to people having undergone the ATOS Healthcare fitness to work assessments.
You can see more of Crippen on his alternataive cartoon blog. Please click here for a link to the site.
For those historians amongst us you'll have realised by now that this Tory government is just another manifestation of the idle rich, raping and pillaging their way through the land with their eyes very much fixed on the short term.
As far back as ancient Rome, the various emperors manipulated public opinion and made sure that there were plenty of scapegoats to blame for the decline in the standard of living. They also became very adept at creating colourful distractions in order to misdirect the public.
Cameron and his henchmen, realising that the general public need to blame someone for the state of the country, have already been sowing the seeds of hatred in the Tory press.
Disability hate crime has risen considerably due to this, and a large percentage of the public now associate disabled people with benefit scrounging.
So what better way than to fulfill this manipulated expectation than to create yet another extravaganza and give the public what they think they want!
Can we dare to believe it ...
According to a report in the Daily Mirror on-line, outraged athletes have lined up to slam PM David Cameron and his beleaguered Chancellor George Osborne in a storm that threatens to taint tonight’s Paralympic closing ceremony.
It claims that Team GB’s Paralympic athletes have launched a furious attack on the Government over savage plans to slash vital disability payments.
Last week George Osborne was booed as he appeared in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London, to present medals to triumphant Paralympians.
Now competitors have told of their own fury at the Coalition cuts which will see benefits worth between £20 and £131.50 a week slashed next year.
The article then goes on to give quotes from several disabled athletes who speak about their own experiences when faced with cuts.
Well, if this is true it must mean that our trusty Super Crips have been listening to what we've all been saying for the past few months. Only a protest at the Paralympics will capture the world media and bring our battle for equality to the forefront of British politics.
Let's hope that it's not just a dream and that they will make a protest during tonights finale ... we live in hope!
You can read the full Daily Mirror article by clicking here
You can also update yourselves on the ATOS protests still taking place by clicking here
I received an update on the ATOS Games this morning from Mark Baggley of Choices and Rights (additional updates from DPAC are also at the end of this blog).
The ATOS Games for those of you who haven't been paying attention are a series of organised protests against ATOS, the principle sponsor of the 2012 Paralympics. Principle organisers of the protests are Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Choices and Rights Disability Coalition.
ATOS is the French based company who have been given licence by the DWP to run roughshod over disabled people and our basic human rights, slashing and burning through the benefits system and alledgedly causing the deaths of many disabled people who were wrongly diagnosed as fit for work.
Here is the update from Mark.
We have today completed our first part in the ATOS Games by protesting outside the local ATOS assessment centre in Hull. We had a good gathering of disabled people and supporters who had a range of banners, slogans and chants “ATOS, ATOS, They Don’t Give ATOS!” and excellent media coverage including BBC Radio Humberside, BBC Look North, Calendar (ITV), Independent Radio (Viking FM) and Hull Daily Mail.
We spoke to many local people to inform them what the protest was about and somehow the building windows became covered in posters featuring Crippen cartoons. These were removed by a somewhat friendly security guard who returned them to us!
The next part of our campaign is to take part in the ATOS phone jam on · Thursday 30th August 2012. Let’s flood ATOS with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore! To take part in this, all you have to do is ring them and tell them why you object to what they are doing. ATOS don’t like to give out their local numbers, but we very resourceful and they can be contacted on Hull (01482) 328812. Alternatively, you can ring the national office on 0113 230 9175
To recapp ...
From Monday 27th to Friday 31st of August, join Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games – five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives.
We are calling on disabled people, disabled activists, families, colleagues, friends and supporters to come together and fight back against Atos’s attacks. Atos represents as dangerous an opponent as any government, law or barrier the disability movement has faced in its long history. It’s not just welfare, but our very identity and our place within society that is under attack.
And we are asking the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join us in our opposition to the company most responsible for driving through the government’s brutal cuts agenda. Let’s make it Games over for Atos!
We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.
Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’.
Atos uses an inhumane computer programme to do the testing, and trains its staff to push people off benefits. The government has admitted the tests are flawed, and the British Medical Association wants them to end immediately.
But Atos continues to devastate people’s lives. Many have committed suicide because of its testing programme, and over 1,000 people have died of their illnesses soon after being found ‘fit for work’.
We won’t let them get away with murder, so join in The Atos Games however you can – online, on the phone, or on the streets!
We’d really like YOU to make this week of action a great success! Let’s come together and show this monstrous company that we’re stronger than them. They’re the vulnerable ones and they know it.
Let the Atos Games continue!
Further Action by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Hundreds of protesters brought traffic to a standstill last night when they demonstrated against the French firm they say is forcing people to work when they are sick.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were protesting against Paralympic sponsor Atos, which carries out work capability assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions.
Yesterday they dubbed their action a “die-in” as they lay across the road outside Cardiff Castle, at the corner of Duke Street and Kingsway, as part of five days of action across Britain.
Film of live action
Click here to watch video of ATOS protest in progress.
So, let's take the suggestion a little further shall we?
We've already decided if disabled athletes AND disabled artists work together then we have a real chance of putting a spanner in the works of this divisive government, even if it's a small one.
Because let's face it, some of those disabled athletes out there are only a hair's breadth away from falling into the benefits trap that many of us currently find ourselves in.
Disabled athletes are currently the flavour of the month, especially with all of the Paralympic hype that's going on. But what happens afterwards? When their 'special' status changes and they become just another disabled person, ripe for attack by the ConDems and subject to the brutal fall of the cutting blade.
We all have our moments. Currently for disabled athletes it's the 2012 Paralympics. For the rest of us Crips it's the workhouse.
So come on you Super Crips. How about directing a bit of that limelight onto the rest of the disability stage. We need your help to highlight the reality for thousands of fellow disabled people who are being put through the ATOS wringer - with some failing to come out the other side.
Together we can make changes and have this unique opportunity to do just that. By all means compete and get your medals, but also, when the members of thepress want to interview you, talk to them about the real plight of disabled people in this country!
Thanks for listening.
Crippen's strip cartoon
And don't forget that you can visit Crippen's latest strip cartoon episode of the O'Crype family and their involvement with the Cultural Olympiad.
Why is it that the companies that Cameron and his cronies pay to handle such diverse matters as the Direct Payments Scheme (A4E) and now the stewarding of the Olympic Games (G4S), when they foul up, they get let off with little more than a slapped wrist?
Nothing about Breach of Contract, Penalty Clauses, or being made to give back the millions that they've been paid! No, the British tax payer coughs up yet again and we bail out yet another balls-up!
But what about all of the pieces that are left laying around after each 'jobs for the boys' project fouls up? Here we have the biggest corporate ... sorry I mean 'sports' event ever to take place within the UK and we're now told that there's insufficient people to actually steward it.
Rest assurred, Cameron is sure to have something up his sleeve to overcome this slight set-back ...
Last week at the Shape media conference I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Veasey. She has taken part in two Paralympics and talked about her own experiences competing as a disabled athlete.
For most of us non-athletic Crips, and in particular those of us involved in disability arts, the world of the Paralympian seems remote to say the least. We see them as single minded Super Crips with no interest or involvement in disability politics and protest. What we do hear about are those sporty wheelchair users with amazing upper body strength telling non-disabled people that they don't need ramps!
The media love them as well, providing photo opportunities of 'good' disabled people (as opposed to 'bad' disabled people who are scrounging on disability benefit and can't be arsed to find a job!).
All this media hype of course goes to reinforce the stereotypes of disability that Mr and Mrs Jo Public know and love. The acceptable face of disability versus the unacceptable.
But having chatted to Kristina after her talk, I learned a few things. For example did you know that all Paralympians have to sign a contract that specifically prohibits them from taking part in any political protest during the duration of the games?
This means that if they did protest for the duration of the games, (against ATOS for example) they would have sacrificed years of training and would have to return any medals that they had won.
But some paralympians find ways around the system. For example Kristina told me that was why, as a retired paralympian, she became Amnesty International's paralympic ambassador during the Beijing games - "so I could give voice to protest."
Perhaps between us all - paralympians, activists, disabled artists - we could start to tear down the wall that the media & society have erected and start working together.
As ever the challenge is to be able to communicate more openly with each other and to be prepared to let go of those unhelpful stereotypes. I include myself in this as a veteran of creating and maintaining some of these stereotypes. My exchange with Kristina was a kick in my assumptions which I found very helpful and thought provoking.
Perhaps all disabled people, all working together could create a power base strong enough to bring this government and their draconian measures to a shuddering halt.
We can but hope.
BTW if you do have tickets for Paralympic events you may be asked to participate in an on-line survey. Why not use this opportunity to voice some of our concerns about the dichotomy between the experiences of paralympians and many other disabled people. Here's your chance to comment on the gap between the portrayal of paralympic athletes and the daily struggle against barriers that most disabled people face.
Why we need a NEW 'Disabled People's Resistance Movement' by Bob Williams-Findley.
"We have campaign groups like Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle (BT), and I'm aware of the effort that is going into what disabled people are doing right now, but I believe we need to have a visible "resistance movement" which brings all the strands together in a 'Rock Against Racism' style approach.
"This doesn't need to be organised in the traditional Disabled People's Organisations style; our central drive has to be to gather support for disabled people in face of the savage attacks that are falling upon us.
"This 'movement' needs to be militant, visible, and extremely challenging - I agree with linking with UK Uncut and employing direct action methods to get our message across - we also need to use other media and alternative forms of protest too. Working with non-disabled people will be essential.
"Duncan Smith has demonstrated that the Government has a 'kill or exploit' policy which is creeping nearer and nearer to the Nazis' T4 programme. Our lives ARE at risk; it's no longer about being excluded or marginalised and offered inadequate services - the fact IDS used the word "fester" transforms the landscape - people with impairments are now viewed as "a sickness" - the same type of landscape the Nazis created for the Jews and other 'unacceptable groups'.
"No doubt he'll claim he used "fester" to mean 'left without support', but we know that this is bollocks because the Government like all of those before them maintain our social oppression. The mask has slipped, finally the ruling elite reveal their resentment and contempt for the "ABNORMAL, CRIPPLES and FREAKS" who have been burdensome due to the Welfare State. The knives are out; they ARE out to get us!
"We MUST mount a resistance, fighting cuts and oppressive policies, is not enough in relation to this ideological onslaught - it is a State run 'hate campaign' and more and more disabled people will die.
"I'm not going over the top or being alarmist, this is a measured political analysis of our current situation. Me simply putting out a "call to arms" will achieve nothing in itself; what is required is for disabled people, especially activists, to come together to shape our destiny - unless there is a genuine effort made to build a resistance movement, many of us will not have a future."
Bob Williams-Findley is well known within the disabled people's movement both as an academic and an activist. Please leave your responses to Bob's article within the comments section of this blog. Thankyou.
The present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
I realise that it might appear to be a 'closing the stable gate after the horse has bolted' type of scenario, especially as the government's health changes have survived their final parliamentary test and are set to become law. But I can't help feeling that there's something we can all still do to forestall the seemingly inevitable conclusion.
I suppose, having received treatment through the National Health System (NHS) several times over recent years, I can be forgiven for appearing more focussed on its imminent demise than on other 'cuts' issues.
Most people would agree that the NHS certainly needs a good sort out, but I fail to see how by sending in the Tory bovver boys who's only experience has been based upon private health care (along with their private education) anything good can come out of this. It would be, for example, something like making Boris Johnson Mayor of London; unthinkable and utterly unworkable! (Ed: Er Dave ....)
As many of you will be aware, over the past year or so I've been working with the Socialist Health Association to raise public awareness about the proposed changes to the NHS. Along with other protest groups, such as 38 degrees, they put up a stiff resistance to the proposed changes and hopefully made a few MPs stop and think before they voted earlier this week.
Both of these groups are still fighting and I still intend creating cartoons for them in order to hammer home the valid points that they are continuing to make. Please click on the following links for more information.
Now you see him, now you don't ...
The CONDEM Coalition has replaced the disabled director of its Office for Disability Issues (ODI), Tim Cooper, with a non-disabled civil servant.
Rumour has it that the switch, which wasn't even advertised, was due to problems around Cooper being forced to give a public defence of the government’s record after disabled activists criticised its programme of spending cuts and attitude to human rights.
Cooper, who has refused to discuss the reasons for his departure, is moving to a new job as chief executive of Advance, a supported housing and employment charity, after two years as ODI’s director.
You\'ll recall that the ODI was set up in 2005 by the Labour government to help deliver equality for disabled people by 2025 and act as a champion for disabled people across government.
The person replacing him is civil servant Jeremy Moore, who is NOT disabled and will also be taking on the role of director of independent living. He was actually appointed before many ODI staff were told Cooper was leaving. He will now be responsible for all disability issues across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), including employment, benefits and the ODI.
A DWP spokesman said Moore was appointed because he “has a lot of experience working on disability issues and was the best candidate for the job”.
Oh yes?! Apart from having held "various roles in the Department, most recently as director of the departmental transformation programme" (whatever that is?!) I haven't met one Crip who knows anything about him. In fact, apart from his resemblance to the late Eric Morecombe, he appears to be just another Tory clone in a grey suit.
He certainly seems to be Maria Miller's (minister for disabled people) blue eyed boy though. Here's what she had to say about his promotion: “Jeremy brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise and I look forward to working with him in engaging with disabled people and disability organisations to ensure they are fully involved in the decisions which affect their lives."
She added: "Bringing all disability issues together under one director reflects our commitment to a more joined up approach in ensuring disability issues are given the attention they deserve.”
And we all know what attention she feels we deserve ... bugger all!
More and more disabled people are turning out for the various anti-cuts demonstrations that are taking place across the length and breadth of England and making their voices heard. And it looks as though the big rally planned by the TUC in London on 26th March will include members from all of the anti cuts groups run and controlled by us crips; in effect the largest turn out of disabled protesters that this country has ever seen.
Even those of us who can’t be there physically are being facilitated by groups like ‘Black Triangle’ (who originated this idea at the Inclusion Scotland Conference earlier this year) and ‘Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)’ who are both planning on carrying banners with absent disabled protesters names printed on them. There is also going to be a virtual protest blogs set up so that those who can’t participate physically can do so on-line.
Accessible transport is being arranged, a buddy support system is being organised and the TUC have announced the setting up of a large video screen for those who can get to Hyde Park but can’t access the actual march itself. I’ve also just heard that there’ll be a static protest point in Hyde Park for those of us unable to participate in the actual march.
And it also looks as though the mainstream press are starting to take notice of us too. The recent demonstration in Birmingham at which our own Bob Williams Findlay spoke was shown on television that night. Also several excellent videos about the protests from the likes of John McCardle and Craig Lundie from Black Triangle, and Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip from DPAC are currently doing the rounds on UTube.
Protest groups that mainly consist of non-disabled people are also now beginning to realise that we have a vital part to play in the nation wide protest against this government’s punitive actions. Albeit with some heavy lobbying by disabled activists, they seem to be taking on board issues around accessibility and inclusion.
Call me optimistic but I think that after the 26th March demonstration, bully-boy Cameron and his cronies will be in no doubt that disabled people in this country are determined to put a stop to their slash and burn tactics. I can forsee the biggest U-turn in political history coming up with regard to benefits reforms and this will be down to those disabled people who protested and shouted ‘rights not charity’!
I was recently privileged to see Liz Carr make a brilliant, gutsy speech at the People's Convention on 12th February 2011. She spoke from the heart on behalf of every disabled person facing the uncaring attitude of this government. I'd like to share it with you...
"Thank you … I can only dream of being on the platform. One day … One day we’ll make it" (this was due to the fact that Liz was relegated as a disabled speaker to the area in front of the stage - the stage, as usual being inaccessible!).
"Disabled people make up 20% of the population. That’s a conservative estimate. We are hidden impairments, we are visible, we are old, we are gay, we are lesbian, we are black, we are white, we are all sorts of people, that’s who we are.
But what we are not is… We are not victims. We are not scroungers or frauds. We are not vulnerable or work shy. We are not charity cases or burdens or ‘unsustainables’ or useless eaters. We are fighters, survivors, leaders, comrades, brothers & sisters in arms, campaigners, citizens and equals.
This, like for many of us, is not a new struggle. Our history is littered with disabled people being scapegoated, demonaised, discriminated against and oppressed. It is also a history of disabled people fighting back against this.
From the League of the Blind who unionised in the 19th Century to fight for their rights, to the war veterans who marched on Whitehall for the jobs and respect they were due, to disabled people fighting to escape residential care in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s forming the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, to those of us in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s who chained ourselves to buses to secure equality in public transport and in law … We have been here before.
However, we are faced with a horrific onslaught of attacks from all directions. The cuts that we’re all talking about today, we encounter those cuts too – whether it’s the increase in VAT, privatization of our basic services, of the NHS, of cuts effecting the public sector – we experience them too as disabled people but on top of that we’re having our benefits whipped from us, we’re being assessed by ATOS. People in care homes are having the mobility component of their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) removed. We’re being charged for the basic right to have a wee, our Independent Living Fund money that allows us to be independent within the community is being removed in 4 years time, Incapacity Benefit is being scrapped and replaced by the unforgiving ESA (Employment Support Allowance), on top of that there is hate crime, limits to housing benefit, Access to Work, to transport and if we want to challenge it, to Legal Aid too. That’s fucked as well.
Disabled people are living in fear. We are living in poverty. We are going to be living in the Dark Ages where they decide between the deserving and the undeserving poor. But, we will not let this happen. Because through our history, what we have learnt is that the media, the policy makers and the Government will try to separate us into our different groups. They will try to weaken us. They will try and make us compete against each other for whatever crumbs are on offer, fighting amongst ourselves, individualizing this struggle, dividing us so that they may conquer and change the balance of society in favour of financial capital rather than social capital and equality. That’s what happening. We cannot afford to let this happen.
We are fighting for our lives, for our freedom, for our existence. That’s how important it is to disabled people and for everybody here today. It is about our basic liberty, our basic right to life. We will not be hidden away. We will not be hidden away behind close doors, out of sight out of mind, in our homes or institutions.
We will not settle for charity rather than rights. We will not be forgotten. We will not be silenced. We must mobilise and in doing so not forget those who cannot take to the streets in protest but who can through virtual protesting.
We must politicise. We must educate ourselves and others in what’s happening in our own and wider campaigns. We have to radicalise. This is about revolution not reformation anymore. We must unite. As disabled people, as disabled people and allies, as everyone - we must unite. Together we are stronger. Thank you."
Due to ill health Crippen has had to cut down his workload for the moment, including his regular postings on this blog. He's hoping to be back soon however and is looking forward to continuing the arts protest debate that was started on an earlier posting.
In the meantime you can visit his alternative political blog by clicking here and leave your comments as usual.
here's hoping that you had a great holiday and are all fighting fit for 2011?!
I'm just getting over man flu (second dose) so have been a bit lax with regard to posting here for a couple of weeks. I am, however putting the final stages to the follow-on from my last blog where lots of you mailed and messaged me with ideas and suggestion about involving the disability arts movement with the current anti-cuts protests throughout the UK. I hope to have this up within the next couple of days. It will be well worth waiting for, I promise.
As I've previously mentioned. I'm now running a seperate blog to carry my more political work and you can see what I'm up to there by clicking on the following link.
It's a scary time as this government are gradually clicking all of the pieces of their 'Big Society' into place, and the recent white paper intended to change the way that people give to charities in the UK is a part of this. This will affect all aspects of disabled people's lives and is part of the bigger plan to get us off the streets and back into Care Homes!
Click here to visit this article and leave your comments
A little while ago I did a round robin email to specific folks that I know who are concerned or who are involved in the cuts protests going on around the country.
It seemed to me that we needed to think of a way that we can protest without switching people off and being associated with violent confrontation, whilst at the same time getting in people's faces and making an impact. In effect cutting through the stereotypical perception that the general public have of us crips and putting an end to the apathy that seems to grip people in times of crisis, including many disabled people.
We have a huge resource in the shape of a large disabled artists community. We should be able to utilise this talented group and come up with some pretty unusual ideas with which to attract the general public to our cause. At the same time we should be able to provide a vehicle that those disabled people who haven't yet become involved could identify and join in with.
One of the best demos I've seen involved environmental protesters dressed in black, moving slowly through the streets one evening carrying large canisters. They all eventually converged on one of the large oil companies HQ's and proceeded to dump the oil they had in the canisters on the doorstep of the building. Nothing was said and the protesters remained expressionless. Then they all turned around and walked slowly away in all directions. This had such an impact and was covered by the press and television in full the next day.
Imagine several hundred (dare I say thousand) disabled people all gathering at one point and all doing something so imaginative that it would make the whole country sit up and take notice. It doesn't have to be elaborate; just different enough to grab people's attention.
I then gave a few examples of different ideas and waited for the responses ...
Well, I wasn't disappointed. My inbox is still gets several responses in it every day and they are still coming in. So the time has come to try and get all of these ideas out for further discussion; which is why I've created this blog.
The plan is to winnow out the main ideas and put them up on a further blog here for further discussion. We'll eventually end up with a group of ideas that we all feel confident with and that we can start to recruit crips to implement up and down the country.
The cartoon, by the way depicts fellow disabled artist Liz Crow appearing on the Anthony Gormley plinth in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 8th August 2009. She presented a dignified but powerful statement against extreme right wing politics in its worse manifestation. This was also an example of how disability art and disabled people's protest could come together and send a strong, clear message to the rest of society.
Do government ministers need disability equality training?
"Do government ministers need disability equality training?" That was the question asked by a member of the public at an all party parliamentary group on disability earlier this week. It's surely a sign of how disabled people's trust in the government agenda around this issue has broken down that someone even felt it appropriate to ask this question - even if it was slightly facetious!
Lord Freud, minister for state for welfare reform, was present to discuss the government's benefit reform agenda with MPs and members of the public. Apparently, according to people at the meeting Lord Freud didn't seem to appreciate that ESA was aimed almost solely at disabled people and that Contributory ESA is only open to disabled people when he insisted that disabled people would be protected against these changes. This apparently caused several people to ask if he fully understood the issues?!
Vern Pitt, equalities journalist commented: "There are elements of disability benefit reforms which are sensible and easy for disabled people and the sector to get behind. No one would argue the form for disability living allowance should remain huge and complex, or that there needs to be better employment support for disabled people.
"But the way the government has handled it, in a rather blunt manner (often pandering to the right wing press' depiction of those on benefits as scroungers), has made it untenable for most to get behind these aims."
Disability Alliance, the disability organisation which focuses on benefits, was quick to point out that the consultation on disability living allowance reform is only running for nine weeks, not the usual 12. It is measures like this that make disabled people rightly suspicious of the motives for change.
Vern added: "All the little things add up. The lack of information, the lack of consultation and the subsequent lack of clarity are making it hard to find a solution that both the government and service users can support. Worse still it's clearly beginning to make disabled people question if the government even know what disabled peoples lives are really like!"
Commenting to me by email, disabled activist Alan Wheatley told me: " As a lifelong disabled person, I have long suspected that those who give the order have no idea what my life (as a disabled person)is like."
You're not the only one Alan!
The following letter was received by Caroline Lucas MP (Green Partry - Brighton Pavilion) when she wrote to the Minister of Disabled People on behalf of one of her disabled constituents.
From Maria Miller MP "Thank you for your letter of 19 November to the Secretary of State on behalf of a number of your constituents about the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review on disabled people. I am replying as the Minister for Disabled People.
As you know, the Coalition Government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people, to improving the quality of life of those facing disadvantage, and to tackling poverty by addressing the causes driving it. The fiscal legacy we inherited has forced us to make some tough decisions about how we target our resources ' the Budget deficit is costing this country £43 billion a year in interest payments alone, and getting debt under control is critical in ensuring that we can put the country back onto the right track, and so safeguard the support we are able to provide to the most vulnerable in society in the future.
Throughout the Spending Review process, HM Treasury has looked closely at the impact that decisions may have on different groups in society, and published a high-level overview of the impact of the Spending Review.
Throughout there have been clear and focussed measures to protect disabled people and help ensure support is there for those who need it most. For example:
- all households where someone claims Disability Living Allowance will be exempt from the cap on the total amount of benefit a household can receive;
- we will use an extra £60 million by 2015 to help fund an additional room for disabled people who have live-in but non-resident carers;
- people aged between 25 and 34 who need additional care will not be affected by the extension of the shared room rate in Housing Benefit;
- additional investment is now in place to support social care reaching around £2 billion per year by 2014/15. £1 billion of this will be available through local government, and £1 billion will be made available within the NHS to break down the barriers between health and social care provision;
- there will be continued support, worth £6.5 billion over the next 4 years, for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people through the Supporting People programme;
- the Disabled Facilities Grant has been protected within the Spending Review and increased in line with inflation;
- and the current complex system of means tested working-age benefits and tax credits will be replaced with the Universal Credit, encouraging people to move into work. We are committed to simplifying the benefit system to ensure it is fair and supports disabled people in their day-to-day activities. To recognise the role of Disability Living Allowance it will not be included in the Universal Credit.
A full summary of the changes that affect disabled people has been published on this Department's website at www.dwp.gov.uk/adviser/updates/spending-review-2OIO, where people are able to register for updates to help keep them fully informed.
Theresa May, the Minister for Women and Equalities, and I wrote to Ministers across Government in advance of the Spending Review to remind colleagues of the need to consider the impact of policy and financial decisions on different groups of people.
Within this Department, all Budget and Spending Review measures will be equality impact assessed. Where the detail of policies is still being developed, we will publish Equality Impact Assessments at the most appropriate time, for example alongside the Welfare Reform Bill or to accompany the Uprating Order. Some policies, such as changes to the Disability Living Allowance assessment, will be subject to consultation and, therefore, the Equality Impact Assessment will be published at a later date, when policies are finalised. The equality impacts of Budget changes have been published where detail of the policy has been finalised, and can be found on this Department's website.
I recognise that disabled people may be concerned about some of the policy changes, and that a great deal of speculation about certain benefits has caused undue anxiety. I want to continue working with disabled people and organisations that have an interest in disability policy, to make sure that people have the right information about these changes, and to allay some concerns
I believe it is key to work with disabled people, who can tell us about the overall effect of public policy and services on their lives, in order that this can inform how we develop our policy and strategy. The role of EQ2025, the Government's disability advisory group, is therefore invaluable I support a co-productive approach and 1 will continue to talk as widely as possible with disabled people about how we can make reforms that enable economic recovery, while ensuring that the impact on disabled people and other disadvantaged groups remains proportionate.
With regard to the report mentioned by your constituents, "Destination Unknown", I have read the report with interest and have asked officials from the Office for Disability Issues to consider the findings. I plan to meet with Demos to discuss this further.
Your constituents raised specific policy issues, which I have addressed
Removal of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
The proposed measure will end payment of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for all state funded residents in care homes after 28 days While these residents will not be paid Disability Living Allowance, they will retain an underlying entitlement so that when they leave the care home they will not need to re-apply for the benefit.
Local authorities' contracts with care homes will cover services to meet a resident's assessed needs. These will cover activities of daily living, which may include providing access to doctors, dentists and local services such as libraries and banks. In addition, care homes should help residents pursue their individual religious beliefs. Our commitment to increasing the take up of personal budgets in Adult Social Care will give disabled people more choice and control over their care – including accessing transport that suits them.
This measure will end the anomaly whereby two State funded residents with similar needs who are placed in the same care home can be treated differently according to whether they are funded through the NHS or local authority. This measure will not apply to residents who meet the full costs of the care home themselves and they will continue to be paid both the care and mobility components of Disability Living Allowance to which they are entitled.
Time Limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group was never intended to be a benefit for the long term. A system where people can pay National Insurance contributions for as little as two months and then potentially receive Employment and Support Allowance for the rest of their lives is not sustainable, and is unlikely to be viewed as fair by the wider public
It is important that people who are capable of moving towards employment are not left to spend years on benefits. People in the Employment and Support Allowance Support Group, for whom work is not a viable option, will be unaffected by the change, as will those receiving income-related Employment and Support Allowance. After a year, those people who have no other means of supporting themselves will qualify for income-related benefits - there will always be a safety net for those who need it.
We know that disabled people want the chance to compete in the labour market and over the course of this Parliament, we are investing very substantially in back to work support, including the new Work Choice programme, which is expected to support more disabled people into employment each year than any of its predecessor Government programmes.
Funding for social care not being ring fenced
Funding for social care has never been ring fenced at local government level. Personal Social Services grants, which were previously un-ring fenced grants from the Department of Health to local government, have been increased by £l billion in real terms. They have now been rolled into the local government formula grant to help support social care, while giving local authorities maximum flexibility to use resources in a way that best meets local priorities. This is part of an additional £2 billion that the Spending Review allocated to support social care, which together with e programme of efficiency savings, will mean that local authorities need not restrict access to care.
I do hope that this helps to reassure your constituents that the Coalition Government is fully committed to enabling disabled people to have the same opportunities and choices as non-disabled people.
Maria Miller MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People"