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
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 ...