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!).
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."
It is being stated that physical and sexual abuse has been prevalent within mental hospitals, disability institutions and care establishments throughout the UK for the past 50 years. Many of the incidents that were reported were allegedly ignored, either because the resident or patient was not believed or because it was not considered in the 'best interest' of the care community to make such allegations public.
Now we have a growing list of statements made by people who were institutionalised during this time who claim that they were also abused, not just by staff, but also by well know public figures, including the late TV celebrity Jimmy Saville.
Lynn Harrison who facilitates a FaceBook group of people with experience as a user of the mental health system told me: "Speaking with many other disabled people who have come up through the care system, they tell me that this represents the tip of a very large iceberg which has seen vulnerable people, particularly those with mental health diagnoses, learning difficulties and other impairments, being abused in many ways for far too long by organisations that have professed to protect them.
"This scandal has also highlighted the prevalence of vulnerable people being disbelieved and ignored in the past when they have been brave enough to try to speak out."
For too long the establishment has worked hard at maintaining the status quo that disabled people should be seen and not heard. They tell us through their words and actions that our complaints are not valid and we should be grateful to those organisations who have taken it on themselves to offer us both a home and the care which we need; we should be grateful, even when the people involved in these organisations physically and sexually abuse us.
In a climate where this government seem determined to push us all back into care, we say ENOUGH!
Someone in Parliament has finally found the guts to stand up and accuse the DWP of being totally inept in its dealings with ATOS.
I didn't have much time for Margaret Hodge MP, especially when she was Minister for Disabled People, but her recent statement in the House of Commons as Chair of the Public Accounts Committe will have redeemed her in the eyes of many of us Crips.
Pulling no punches, she told MPs: "The DWP's management of this contract has been unacceptably loose and permits loopholes that can all too easily be exploited by contractors. I am stunned to discover that the department does not check and challenge the key performance data that supports invoices. The financial model that informs contract charges was designed by ATOS and the department lacks an understanding of how it even works." She added: "The Department's inaccurate forecasting of demand for services has undermined its ability to hold ATOS to the terms of its contract."
Ms Hodge then went on to tell her colleagues that People with disabilities (sic) must be able to access the benefits to which they are entitled. She said: "The DWP relies on medical assessments to make sure it awards the right benefits to the right people. Getting this wrong can have devastating impacts on individuals and their families."
It is public record that Atos Healthcare billed the DWP for over £110 million to conduct the medical assessment of some 740,000 people in 2011-12. Over the same period, around 20,000 people received substandard assessments. In March this year, 1 in 4 cases was taking Atos more than 56 days to deal with.
Ms Hodge informed fellow MPs that this has resulted in distress, uncertainty and financial hardship for those people who are genuinely in need of and entitled to disability allowance. Indeed, she commented, it is a mark of this process's shortcomings that 38 per cent of appeals against the department's decisions on Employment and Support Allowance entitlement have been upheld.
She told MPs: "The number of substandard assessments must be slashed and the department needs to understand why so many appeals are successful.
Advising the DWP to "take immediate steps to get a tighter grip on this contract" she added that government wanted to see ATOS's performance improve dramatically
Concluding her statement, Ms Hodge said: "ATOS's performance must improve dramatically, and it is crucial that the department improves the accuracy of its forecasting so that it can take a much more robust line when contractors underperform rather than allowing them to hide behind unexpected demand."
Good on you Margaret ... better late than never!
PS. I do apologise for the poor caricature of Margaret Hodge, my only excuse is that it was drawn in a bit of a hurry ... I'll work on it though!
It's like a feeding frenzy out there.
All the funding that was originally allocated to us Crips to enable us to live and work out in the community seems to be slowly but surely eaten away by the vultures of private enterprise.
You'll know about the biggest vulture, I take it? The French company ATOS who've had the contract to get as many disabled people off Benefit as they can. As an added incentive, the ConDems also gave ATOS a bonus for every Benefit payment that they stop.
And of course, ATOS are failing thousands of disabled people every day, whether they fit the work capability criteria or not, and claiming their bonus for a job well done. Regardless of the fact that most disabled people actually had their benefits reinstated after appealing, ATOS still get to keep their bonus!
Of course we know that many other profit motivated, private companies have also got their fingers in other pies and receive vast payments for doing what a lot of disabled people led organisations used to do for a hell of a lot less and more efficiently.
It doesn't end there ... ATOS is now sub contracting out some of its work to other vultures like SALUS (part of NHS Lanarkshire), who have been carrying out PIP consultations on their behalf. So ATOS doesn't even have to work for all it's money - it just creams off the profits whilst sub-contractors do the work - all jostling to make large profits from their involvement. Profits which surely come out of funding originally allocated for disabled people!
I haven't actually worked it out, but wouldn't it be cheaper for the government to give every disabled person a respectable payment each month without them having to jump through all these hoops, rather than pay billions to these vultures whose only motive seems to be making a profit for their shareholders?
Or perhaps I'm missing something here?!
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.
Following the sad demise of yet another Disability Arts organisation due to funding cuts, I'm letting my cartoon speak for itself this week ...
For those of you too young to have seen the 1973 film Soylent Green with Charlton Heston this cartoon won't have the same impact on you that it will to us oldies.
It was basically about a futuristic government getting rid of its dissidents and solving a world wide food crisis by turning them into food - Soylent Green!
We're being such a pain in the arse to the present Tory government that it's a wonder they haven't thought of this as a solution for us!
Remember ... you are what you eat!
Like hundreds of other disabled people in the UK today, Adam Lotun has experienced verbal and physical abuse, has been spat at, pushed off the pavement in his wheelchair into oncoming traffic and accused of single handedly bringing this Country to the brink of bankruptcy by claiming disability benefits.
Now on top of this, like thousands of other disabled people in the UK, Adam has been subjected to the ATOS work capability process and as a result has had his benefits cut and his accessible Motability vehicle taken away.
However, unlike most of his disabled peers who have been left feeling disempowered by the heartless actions of the coalition government, Adam Lotun has decided to make a public statement and say "no more".
Taking his fight straight into the enemy camp, Adam is standing as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Corby By-Election on Nov 15th 2012. His aim is to show that the age of the career politician with their selfish, self promoting attitudes has ended and that the caring and compassionate society that he was brought up to believe in still exists.
Speaking in his Blog, Adam argues that today's politicians have lost their way and no longer care about those very people that they are supposed to represent.
"I'm arguing against injustices by those in power ... it is no longer acceptable that the 1% should be ruling over the 99% ... that Parliament needs to be reformed so that we can secure a future for my children and future generations."
Adam has been working with other disabled people to achieve disabled people's rights and equality for over 20 years. He has played a leading role in recent direct action initiatives, chaining himself to other wheelchair users in attempts to block roads and raise awareness of the damage resulting from cuts to disability benefits.
During this time he has heard many examples of discrimination and injustice, but the stories that are emerging from those disabled people who are being abused by the ATOS work capability process are causing him the most concern.
In his latest blog Adam comments on a recent CH4 television news item that focussed on one example of just how badly disabled people are being treated by this system.
"I have heard of a great many injustices to disabled people and have often taken up the fight with them to redress their wrongs ... but I have never witnessed anything so deliberate as to lead to the tragic and needless death of the disabled person upon who the CH4 news item was based ... it left me feeling sick to my stomach."
This particular news item has become a clarion call for Adam and those other disabled people who are working with him towards winning the Corby By-Election. Adam feels confident that the people of Corby will turn out in force to elect him as their parliamentary candidate, influenced by the support that he is receiving from across the country by the disabled community.
He added: "I know that the people of Corby believe that all of my supporters from around the UK who have offered their time, support and resources to enable me to represent them, will continue to assist us in our fight for true democracy.
"That they now have friends from as far afield as John O'Groats to Lands End who will have their hopes pinned on the people of Corby to make a stand against those outdates ideas that have led this country into the state it is."
They will do this by putting Adam forward as their choice to represent their community on the 15th November 2012.
If you feel able to spare time to assist Adam in his fight for parliamentary recognition then please contact him by clicking on this link to his blog. Any and all offers of help will be gratefully recieved, not just by him but by the people of Corby.
Beware men from the Ministry wielding paint brushes.
Nothing is as black and white as it appears, especially when Crippen links badger culling to thinning out the ranks of us Crips ... puts a whole new spin on painting by numbers!
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!
When these latest figures hit my in tray this week I couldn't help wondering if this was further evidence of the effect of the government's targeting of disabled people?
Police figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show that there has been a rise in hate crimes against disabled people during the past two years.
Although some of this could be attributed to an increased willingness to report such crimes, more than 2,000 such offences were recorded in 2011, which is up a third on 2010. This year's figures are proving to be even higher.
Hate crime monitoring began in 2008 to raise awareness of the problem. Perversely, hate crimes linked to race, religion and sexual orientation have fallen.
An offence is considered a hate crime if the victim, or any other person, considers it was motivated by hostility based on a person's race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or where the victim was perceived to be transgender.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who heads the Association of Chief Police Officers' (Acpo) online reporting facility, True Vision, commented:
"The 2011 data importantly shows a further increase in disability hate crime.
"While we would obviously want to see reductions in the incidence of all hate crime, we suspect that disability hate crimes have been significantly under-reported in the past."
The Association for Real Change (ARC UK) launched a Safety Net campaign in 2009 - running for three years. They targeted 'Mate Crime' in which people would befriend someone with learning difficulties in order to rob or abuse them.
ARC UK is concerned that, without a sustained national campaign, more vulnerable adults with learning difficulties will be abused by people pretending to be their friends.
Rod Landman speaking for ARK UK said: "Identifying and tackling 'mate crime' is complicated. Victims often do not understand what is happening to them or are too afraid to tell anyone."
Mr Landman says that from his experience almost all of this type of crime goes unreported.
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.
I've had several messages concerning limited access to the forthcoming Paralympics. For the most part it's been about poor information provision but other issues are now coming to light, one of which seems to involve a strange interpretation of PA support.
A disabled mum of two, along with her husband decided that they would like to go to the Paralympics. Well, here's her story ...
"The London 2012 Olympic Games were brilliant. My family - particularly my two children - loved it. I decided I wanted to take them to the Paralympic Games to sample the once in a lifetime showcase of disabled sport in London.
"I'm a wheelchair user, with a four-year-old autistic son and a nineteen-month-old daughter. Naturally we wanted to sit together and, particularly as it’s the Paralympics, I assumed there would be adequate provision to allow for this.
"So I was stunned to hear that there was no way that this could happen as there is a policy that wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person, meaning that either my children or my husband have to sit far away from me.
"I cannot believe that this event, designed to inspire a new generation of athletes, has a discriminatory ticketing policy. It's essential that my husband sits with me as he helps me with things I need to do and clearly my kids can't sit separately.
"Aside from these practical considerations, I want to share this special occasion with my family, but I'm being prevented from doing so just because I use a wheelchair.
"Please join my campaign to get the organisers of the Paralympics to change this ticketing policy for these and future Games - so every family can share the Paralympics together. Thank you, Beth."
Beth has started a petition on Change.org calling on London 2012 to review this policy. Please click here to join her.
A further development has come to light regarding additional discrimination against disabled people who wish to attend the Paralympics. Click here to access the article.
I found this article in the Guardian archives which may have some relevance to the forthcoming Paralympics and the proposed ATOS protests.
Back in 2008 the British Olympic Association (BOA) said it would review its athletes' contract for the Beijing Games after criticism of a clause which had prevented competitors from making political statements in China.
The clause, which appeared to go beyond the requirements of the Olympic charter, will be softened although athletes who engage in overt political demonstrations or statements could still risk being sent home.
Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, said: "I accept that the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA team members' agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic charter; this is not our intention, nor is it our desire to restrict athletes' freedom of speech ..."
"This clause is intended to stop overt statements such as wearing a Free Tibet shirt," said a BOA spokesman.
The games have long provided a political stage, from the Nazis' appropriation of the 1936 games to Tommie Smith's Human Right's salute in Mexico in 1968.
The then shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Britain's athletes should be allowed to "say what they want". The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, said: "[It is] our moral responsibility to push for human rights wherever they are being abused."
I understand that this clause still stands, which means that any disabled athlete joining in the ATOS protests may face censure.
But think of the publicity that this would generate for the cause of Human Rights for disabled people in this country. Worth a slap on the wrist I would have thought.
So, are their any Paralympians out there willing to make such a statement on behalf of their disabled brothers and sisters ... ?
I didn't think so!
You can read the full Guardian article by clicking here
This is an extract from an excellent article in Disability Now (DN) about disabled asylum seekers using art to express themselves through a painted mural in Bristol.
In the DN article, Disabled Iraqi Ahmed tells us a disturbing account about their lives and their treatment in Britain.
"People in Britain don’t seem to like the disabled. I see lots of disabled people. They drink in the park, they have nowhere to live. They try to kill themselves ...
"Britain says Iraq is rubbish but even in Iraq and Kurdistan people are treated better than this. My family send me money every month ...
"Who made me disabled? The government. Britain, America, Iraq. The governments fought. They made me disabled. They injured my leg in an explosion. I lost my mind. I lost my brother. My mother can’t talk properly now: she lost an eye and an arm in the explosion.
"The Government should be helping these people. They put me into a hostel with people who abuse drugs and drink. I’ve never drunk alcohol in my life. Why house me with drug users?
"Does this country respect disabled people? They make them sleep on the street.
"In my country, when someone dies, people come and check on you. My brother died last year. Only one person came to see me when I heard that he’d been killed. I was bleeding inside. I couldn’t talk. My family say “Are there any people around you?” I say “No.” My mother says “Be strong.”
"I’ve never seen such bad people as here. No one came to help me. I needed people to listen. I felt my insides going into a small hole. I needed a place to forget my pain. When I hear news about Iraq I just cry.
"I’m not here to slag off the Iraqi government or British government. I can’t talk properly. I don’t remember how long it’s been since I talked to my mum ... lots of people sleep on the street. My inside is always crying.
"Britain came to my country. They smashed everything, they killed people. When I came here I asked for help, but they wouldn’t help me. England has lost its mind ...
"People call me names. They say I come from the jungle. They don’t believe the things I say. They say I’m lying. I’m not lying ... it’s because I’m brown and disabled.
"They’re racist and the Government doesn’t do anything to help. They should be shouting, “Look after disabled people!”"
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.
On Tuesday of this week (the 19th June) I'll be attending the DAO/Shape conference to be held at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, in London.
The aim of the conference is to bring together both disabled and non-disabled professional journalists and disabled artists and to look at how disabled people are being represented in the mainstream press, specifically during the Cultural Olympiad.
I'll be creating and then presenting cartoons based upon the discussions taking place during the afternoon. Later, and In collaboration with John O'Donoghue , DAO blogger, author and creative writer, we'll be creating a series of blogs within DAO portraying disabled people and their varied reaction to the whole Olympic issue.
I'm expecting there to be lots of 'in your face' stuff as we Crips argue our side of the story to the non-disabled journalists and other media folk who will be at the conference.
I, of course, will be my usual quiet, polite and restrained self during the event! (Ed: better get the legal team on stand-by then!)
Here's a link to the events section of this web site which will explain things about the conference in more detail.
I posted this cartoon on the Crippen Cartoon blog the other day and because I've started to get some interesting comments about it, I thought I'd share it with you on this Disability Arts on Line blog.
I'm still amazed at the number of Disabled people who don't know who Atos are. Despite most of them having gone through, or are due to go through the Government's Benefits Assessment programme.
The Assessment is, of course, being carried out by Atos. They are paid a handsome amount for doing the work and, according to a recent whistle blower's report (ex-Atos employee), are also paid a bonus for every Crip they can strike off the Benefits entitlement list.
The fact that a high percentage of Disabled people who then challenge Atos' decision are reinstated, says a lot for their credibility!