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.
We all have our own take on the Olympics, especially the Paralympics where super crips compete to appear normal and we're all expected to forget about the billions being spent on this event whilst many of us have our benefits pared down to the bone ... or am I being too cynical?!
This article caught my eye the other day about a young disabled guy, a wheelchair user, who felt the need to carry the Olympic torch for a few yards. No doubt he was doing this to be ironic (let's give him the benefit of the doubt) but what actually happened to him could only happen to a Crip.
He'd only gone a few feet when the torch flickered and then went out! No problem, as the 'real' flame was being carried in a back-up vehicle (don't let's trust the 'real' flame to a disabled person eh?!). Torch re-lit, he trundled on for another few feet before it happened again.
Without missing a beat, one of the organisors sprang forward, patted him on the head, then swiftly slotted in the next, non-disabled torch bearing volunteer!
Bet our disabled volunteer is having problem's selling his torch on eBay though?!
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.
A non-disabled heavy metal fan seems to have met his match when stumbling into a debate being currently aired on the Pesky People blog.
Having tried to establish just what arrangements had been made for access to the 13 venues that would be hosting a tribute to Heavy Metal music, our disabled sister Alison ran into a brick wall. Not literally, you understand, but an equally effective wall of silence from the organisors.
In the end, the only response that she did get was that she should check out each of the venues herself in order to establish just how accessible they were. Apart from the impracticality of her travelling around Birmingham and the West Midlands in order to see which venue she would be able to access, the response fell somewhat short of the legislation laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act (1996) and the Equalities Act (2010) regarding access to such venues – both acts clearly state that any service must make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible and that any service must anticipate what those needs might be.
Enter our non-disabled Heavy Metal fan who thought that not only was Alison's request unreasonable but was in some way antagonistic! Had she not considered the feelings of the event organisors when posting about this ommission from their programme? How dare she?! He then went on to compound the situation by suggesting that Alison was being a Dick!
Bring it on my son... Needless to say quite a few fellow crips have jumped in with responses, including yours truly. But then I though, hang on, we should all have access to this debate, so I'm posting the link to the blog here and suggesting that you all join in! His name is Pete Ashton by the way ...
To join in the debate to access Pesky People's blog site please click here. It's worth taking the time to read the comments from the top down to the latest one in order to get the full picture.
So, over to you gentle readers. : -)
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."
UK citizens who were detained illegally at the US run Guantanamo prison in Cuba are to be paid millions of pounds compensation by the British Government.
And quite right to. Innocent people being locked away in an inhospitable place, away from their families and friends and all because they appear different to the rest of society should be compensated.
For someone to be denied their place in society and to be incarcerated in a place not of their own choosing must be a terrible experience to undergo. Imagine being treated as though you were not safe enough to be let out into mainstream society. Imagine having your right to a decent education, to travel where you want and socialise where you want taken away from you. Being kept segregated from family and friends and having your Civil Rights abused in more ways than we could imagine.
Thousands of Disabled people are being detained in this country under these very conditions. With no accessible alternative housing being made available to them, other than the care homes they currently reside in. Run and controlled by charities, many of these places are no further forward in their thinking than the work houses of the last century.
Unless we fight for the rights of our Disabled brothers and sisters who are being detained in this way, we are as bad as those who lock people up and throw away the key.
'Free Our People' (and a bit of compensation for them wouldn't go amiss either!)
For more information you can contact the Direct Action Network (DAN) by clicking on this link.
People who live in Residential Care Homes are clearly disabled by any definition and even the Sun, despite their current smear campaign aimed at disabled people (see last week’s blog) can’t claim that they are not!
However, the ConDem’s have included those of us who live in care homes as part of their attack on the Welfare State. They are going to withdraw the DLA Mobility Component from our benefits.
This means that those of us who reside in Care Homes and are buying wheelchairs and scooters through the Motability scheme will be unable to continue with the payments and as a result will lose these essential aids to our mobility. Those of us who use the Mobility Component to pay for taxis and other forms of accessible transport will also have this service denied.
Discussing this with Sir Bert Massie, former Chair of the Disability Rights Commission, he explained that people in care homes are allowed to keep £22.30 for themselves. Add to this the DLA Component of £49.85 and this provides them with a total of £72.15.
Bert went on to explain: “But when we consider the amount of income that people in Care Homes will be losing in percentage terms after these cuts, this group of Disabled people will face a drop of about 66% in their net income. This will be the highest new tax rate imposed upon anyone in the government’s Budget!”
Later, talking to one of my whistle blowers within the Leonard Cheshire care home system, she told me that she’d also heard that those residents who are rich enough to pay their own care fees are actually being allowed to keep the Mobility Component of their DLA!
So there we have it folks, something concrete with which to beat the Prime Minister and his cronies over the head with; two clear examples that show that despite the claim that the Budget is fair, for Disabled people it is most definitely not!
Just think, we could have found the Achilles heel that will result in the collapse of this corrupt government. Nice one Bert!
The Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun seem to have been competing in order to see which of them can persuade the most readers that the majority of Disabled people in the UK are not really disabled at all.
In their collective opinion most people claiming disability related benefits are not disabled, they are in fact scroungers and work shy benefit cheats and should be made to work for their money, the same as every other member of society.
Somehow, the suggestion that a few non-disabled people have been fraudulently claiming disability benefits has allowed these right wing rags to direct the outrage of their readers NOT at the non-disabled benefit cheats, but at disabled people generally.
Unfortunately a great number of the readers of these right wing publications tend to believe what they are told and as a consequence have moved us from being seen as objects of pity and therefore worthy of their support, into the people who are the real cause of the UK’s current financial problems.
Still, I suppose it’s an improvement of sorts when we no longer have to put up with their usual patronizing and condescending manner whenever they write about us!
As an ironic aside to this cartoon I’ve just received a news update that tells me that the Ministry of Defence has nearly tripled the number of rehabilitation beds available for severely wounded soldiers from Afghanistan to accommodate a sharp rise in the number of soldiers who have lost one or more limbs in the conflict.
Incidentally, I've not heard if they'll be increasing resources for those service personnel that have been traumatized by the war in other, non physical ways. They tend to keep a lid on information that concerns our brothers and sisters who return from the war zones diagnosed with a mental illness.
Opposition MP’s are using the term ‘slash and burn’ to describe the knee jerk reaction of the Coalition to the financial deficit that they claim to have inherited from Labour.
Rampaging through the country in a similar way to the Viking’s when they were first attracted to our shores; the ConDem’s have spared no one in their attack upon our society. Seemingly with no real plan or any indication that rational thought has gone into this process, they appear to have indiscriminately attacked all who fall within the category of vulnerable.
Not content with slashing away at the funding needed to keep our health service, local government and educational services, transport, the arts and community services running, they’ve also ensured that any future Disabled people may have looked forward to has also been destroyed.
After years of struggling against an unjust and inaccessible society, Disabled people had begun to feel that at last they were starting to get somewhere. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) brought us much needed legislation and doors were literally opening for us all in areas of education, transport, housing, employment and the Arts.
Now those doors have been slammed shut and we find ourselves once again the government’s scapegoats, the ‘useless eaters’ without whom society wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.
We shouldn’t be all that surprised though. Most of the current government consists of MP’s who belong to a class of people who count amongst their friends and associates those very people who created the deficit. These are the bankers and financial speculators who spirited away billions of pounds from our economy using the self same tactics!
Come the revolution!
For a comprehensive analysis of the government's so called spending revue, click on the following link which will take you to the Inclusion London site and their downloadable information paper. Here is the introduction to the analysis.
"We reject the government’s claim that these cuts are either fair or progressive. They are a brutal attack on disabled people and will intensify poverty and inequality. Cuts in services and jobs will hit disabled people hard. Disabled people have also been targeted for specific cuts, particularly to Incapacity Benefit/ESA and DLA."
Download the information paper by clicking here
Inclusion London is an organisation of Disabled people run and controlled by Disabled people and promoting equality for London's Deaf and Disabled people.
On Tuesday 26th October 2010 at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park at 1300 hours, the campaigning group MAD PRIDE have organised a day of action to oppose welfare benefits cuts for people labelled Mentally Ill.
UK mental health service users and survivors will publicly assemble to re-enact the opening chapter of Michel Foucault´s seminal book ‘Discipline and Punishment’.
A life-size effigy of a prominent Conservative/ Liberal Democrat merger politician will be publicly executed by method of hanging, drawing and quartering, after which the remains of the body will be burnt. There will also be a variety of other visual and subliminal stunts on the day.
Speaking to one of the organisers of the demonstration, she told me that “the economic downturn caused by the irresponsibility of bankers and big business has led to the Coalition government to enact the biggest cuts in public services since the Second World War.
“Further, that instead of targeting bankers’ bonuses and rich people’s profits, they are hoping to make huge savings by attacking the welfare benefits of vulnerable people unable to work, including people with severe mental health problems.
“In particular, they would like the public to think that people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental ‘illnesses’ are malingerers and scroungers – when in fact all of us find it a terrible day to day struggle just to get by.”
As we are now aware, in George Osborne’s recent emergency budget he has pledged to take 360,000 people off of Disability Living Allowance by 2013 – which will plunge over a third of a million vulnerable people, most of whom will have mental health problems, into dire poverty.
This will put lives at risk. Already, 6000 people are thought to have committed suicide a year in the UK, although the true figure is definitely far higher. The stress caused by the threat of welfare benefits cuts, as well as the impact of the material deprivation that will result, will undoubtedly lead to a huge increase in suicides amongst people with mental health problems – an outcome that members of MAD PRIDE and other survivor support groups wish to prevent through campaigning and giving each other one-to-one support.
Mike, another member of MAD PRIDE adds, “This is no time to cut benefits and services for people labelled mentally ill. Our numbers have swelled significantly over recent years because so many members of the armed forces have gone through two very long and desperately hard wars. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Iraq and Afghanistan, those conflicts have taken an exceptionally heavy toll on the mental health of so many of our brave troops.”
More cuts to disabled people’s benefits are promised in George Osborne’s upcoming ‘shock and awe’ spending review to take place on Wednesday 20th October. Added to cuts in housing benefits, the VAT rise, and a whole range of other austerity measures, the future looks grim for the poor and those less able to object or protest – whilst the bankers will get to keep their bonuses.
“We’re not taking this lying down!” is the united cry from survivor groups across the UK.
MAD PRIDE can now also announce that, also on 26th October 2010, there will be a Nationwide 24 hour medication strike.
All UK mental health service users will default on their psychiatric medication for one day, in protest against the coming welfare benefits cuts. Further, all UK mental health service users will not engage with any mental health services whatsoever on that day, in a bid to demonstrate the collective power of mental health system users and survivors everywhere.
Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.
The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.
By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.
Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner.
Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.
I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.
Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!
So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.
Change to original artwork following comments
Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?
Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.
On Sunday 3rd October a huge protest march is taking place outside of the Conservative Party Annual Conference, which is being held this year in Birmingham.
The protest is about the cuts being imposed upon people who rely upon benefit payments and the draconian measures being taken by the current Coalition Government against Disabled people in particular.
The marchers will consist of representatives from Trades Unions, many groups and organisations involved in Welfare Rights, individuals and family members who are affected by the cuts, and Disabled people from all over the UK.
Disabled people involved with the Black Triangle protest group along with other Disabled individuals have also been asked to lead the march, which is expected to attract more people than attended the anti Poll Tax marches during the Thatcher era.
Speaking to Linda Burnip, one of the principle organisers of the march by Disabled protesters, she told me:
"As you may know, West Midlands police originally agreed that the march could go down Broad Street right past the Conservative Party conference, but then the Tory controlled Birmingham City Council refused to allow this. This meant that many Disabled people would not be able to participate in the march as the alternative route was not as accessible."
There then followed two lengthy meetings with the police and the City Council during which the case was made by Linda and her colleagues that Disabled protesters were being denied their basic human rights to engage in legitimate protest. Following the meetings Linda reported that:
"I am pleased to say the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for West Midlands Police, Denis O'Connor is very keen to make sure that we are facilitated to protest following the large number of complaints he had received."
Full Details - For information about attending the protest please click on the following link which will take you to the Protest web site.
Virtual Protest - For those of us unable to attend the protest in Birmingham, we have been given an on-line alternative. Click on the following link to access the virtual protest web site and leave your comment which will be read out during the march in Birmingham.
I would like to add that on behalf of Disabled people throughout the UK who will be affected by the cuts, our heartfelt thanks go to Linda, Eleanor, Debbie and Tina for all of their hard work in organising our participation in this important event.