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!).
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!
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.
He's at it again ... the so called comedian Frankie Boyle is once again attempting to get laughs aimed at disabled people.
This time his target is the disabled athletes taking part in the 2012 Paralympics. And not content with adding this material into his current road show, he's now also tweeting the 'jokes' to his fans.
This is the man who found so much to laugh at when watching people who have Cerebral Palsy or those with learning difficulties. Encouraging his fans to laugh along with him, these deeply offensive observations have now become a main part of his act.
However, although following down a well trodden comedic path, he obviously hasn't taken on board what happened to those other comedians who relied on such racist, sexist, homophobic and disablist material. The likes of the late Bernard Manning for example ...
Who, you ask?
Incidentally, there's more about this in the Guardian. Click here for the link.
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!”"
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. : -)
It strikes me as strange that this government haven't safe-guarded themselves by keeping the police forces around the country happy.
As more and more people take to the streets in protest against the ConDem's slash and burn tactics, I would have thought that they are going to need the boys and girls in blue to maintain public order and keep party members safe. But with the various police forces up and down the country being faced with their own cuts, there's now a strong possiblity that some police officers will be joining in the protests.
I suspect that this government would initially react by playing one force off against another - having the Met control a protest march by the Yorkshire Constabulary for example. Although apart from adding further to the North-South divide if they did do this, I think it would allow for the more anarchistic elements of protest to exploit this and capitalise on the divisions created. Not something that Mr C and his cronies would want I suspect!
History has shown us that in this sort of situation governments start to manipulate information, creating an atmosphere of fear that allows for new 'emergency' measurers to be implemented. New laws are rushed through that allow for people's civil rights to be ignored or crushed under foot by those seeking to establish scapegoats for the situation that the country finds itself in ... seem familiar?!
Let's hope that there's a whistle blower in government who is keeping watch for those signs of yet more political control appearing. Bulk orders for jack boots and black uniform material, the building of accessible internment camps to house those of us who are deemed too dangerous to be at large. It wouldn't really suprise me as to what lengths the present government will go in order to recreate society in its own distorted image.
Keep a careful watch brothers and sisters. It's not a big step for us to be branded tomorrow's terrorists if this government has its way.
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."
The following letter was received by Caroline Lucas MP (Green Partry - Brighton Pavilion) when she wrote to the Minister of Disabled People on behalf of one of her disabled constituents.
From Maria Miller MP "Thank you for your letter of 19 November to the Secretary of State on behalf of a number of your constituents about the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review on disabled people. I am replying as the Minister for Disabled People.
As you know, the Coalition Government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people, to improving the quality of life of those facing disadvantage, and to tackling poverty by addressing the causes driving it. The fiscal legacy we inherited has forced us to make some tough decisions about how we target our resources ' the Budget deficit is costing this country £43 billion a year in interest payments alone, and getting debt under control is critical in ensuring that we can put the country back onto the right track, and so safeguard the support we are able to provide to the most vulnerable in society in the future.
Throughout the Spending Review process, HM Treasury has looked closely at the impact that decisions may have on different groups in society, and published a high-level overview of the impact of the Spending Review.
Throughout there have been clear and focussed measures to protect disabled people and help ensure support is there for those who need it most. For example:
- all households where someone claims Disability Living Allowance will be exempt from the cap on the total amount of benefit a household can receive;
- we will use an extra £60 million by 2015 to help fund an additional room for disabled people who have live-in but non-resident carers;
- people aged between 25 and 34 who need additional care will not be affected by the extension of the shared room rate in Housing Benefit;
- additional investment is now in place to support social care reaching around £2 billion per year by 2014/15. £1 billion of this will be available through local government, and £1 billion will be made available within the NHS to break down the barriers between health and social care provision;
- there will be continued support, worth £6.5 billion over the next 4 years, for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people through the Supporting People programme;
- the Disabled Facilities Grant has been protected within the Spending Review and increased in line with inflation;
- and the current complex system of means tested working-age benefits and tax credits will be replaced with the Universal Credit, encouraging people to move into work. We are committed to simplifying the benefit system to ensure it is fair and supports disabled people in their day-to-day activities. To recognise the role of Disability Living Allowance it will not be included in the Universal Credit.
A full summary of the changes that affect disabled people has been published on this Department's website at www.dwp.gov.uk/adviser/updates/spending-review-2OIO, where people are able to register for updates to help keep them fully informed.
Theresa May, the Minister for Women and Equalities, and I wrote to Ministers across Government in advance of the Spending Review to remind colleagues of the need to consider the impact of policy and financial decisions on different groups of people.
Within this Department, all Budget and Spending Review measures will be equality impact assessed. Where the detail of policies is still being developed, we will publish Equality Impact Assessments at the most appropriate time, for example alongside the Welfare Reform Bill or to accompany the Uprating Order. Some policies, such as changes to the Disability Living Allowance assessment, will be subject to consultation and, therefore, the Equality Impact Assessment will be published at a later date, when policies are finalised. The equality impacts of Budget changes have been published where detail of the policy has been finalised, and can be found on this Department's website.
I recognise that disabled people may be concerned about some of the policy changes, and that a great deal of speculation about certain benefits has caused undue anxiety. I want to continue working with disabled people and organisations that have an interest in disability policy, to make sure that people have the right information about these changes, and to allay some concerns
I believe it is key to work with disabled people, who can tell us about the overall effect of public policy and services on their lives, in order that this can inform how we develop our policy and strategy. The role of EQ2025, the Government's disability advisory group, is therefore invaluable I support a co-productive approach and 1 will continue to talk as widely as possible with disabled people about how we can make reforms that enable economic recovery, while ensuring that the impact on disabled people and other disadvantaged groups remains proportionate.
With regard to the report mentioned by your constituents, "Destination Unknown", I have read the report with interest and have asked officials from the Office for Disability Issues to consider the findings. I plan to meet with Demos to discuss this further.
Your constituents raised specific policy issues, which I have addressed
Removal of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
The proposed measure will end payment of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for all state funded residents in care homes after 28 days While these residents will not be paid Disability Living Allowance, they will retain an underlying entitlement so that when they leave the care home they will not need to re-apply for the benefit.
Local authorities' contracts with care homes will cover services to meet a resident's assessed needs. These will cover activities of daily living, which may include providing access to doctors, dentists and local services such as libraries and banks. In addition, care homes should help residents pursue their individual religious beliefs. Our commitment to increasing the take up of personal budgets in Adult Social Care will give disabled people more choice and control over their care – including accessing transport that suits them.
This measure will end the anomaly whereby two State funded residents with similar needs who are placed in the same care home can be treated differently according to whether they are funded through the NHS or local authority. This measure will not apply to residents who meet the full costs of the care home themselves and they will continue to be paid both the care and mobility components of Disability Living Allowance to which they are entitled.
Time Limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group was never intended to be a benefit for the long term. A system where people can pay National Insurance contributions for as little as two months and then potentially receive Employment and Support Allowance for the rest of their lives is not sustainable, and is unlikely to be viewed as fair by the wider public
It is important that people who are capable of moving towards employment are not left to spend years on benefits. People in the Employment and Support Allowance Support Group, for whom work is not a viable option, will be unaffected by the change, as will those receiving income-related Employment and Support Allowance. After a year, those people who have no other means of supporting themselves will qualify for income-related benefits - there will always be a safety net for those who need it.
We know that disabled people want the chance to compete in the labour market and over the course of this Parliament, we are investing very substantially in back to work support, including the new Work Choice programme, which is expected to support more disabled people into employment each year than any of its predecessor Government programmes.
Funding for social care not being ring fenced
Funding for social care has never been ring fenced at local government level. Personal Social Services grants, which were previously un-ring fenced grants from the Department of Health to local government, have been increased by £l billion in real terms. They have now been rolled into the local government formula grant to help support social care, while giving local authorities maximum flexibility to use resources in a way that best meets local priorities. This is part of an additional £2 billion that the Spending Review allocated to support social care, which together with e programme of efficiency savings, will mean that local authorities need not restrict access to care.
I do hope that this helps to reassure your constituents that the Coalition Government is fully committed to enabling disabled people to have the same opportunities and choices as non-disabled people.
Maria Miller MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People"
A Day of Mourning for the Welfare State, Justice and Equality has been arranged to co-incide with the royal wedding on Friday 29th April, 2011 at 1400 hrs. This is just one of the expressions of outrage being expressed by people effected by the cuts to education, housing, public transport, the NHS, the Welfare State and much more.
Whilst bankers and speculators celebrate another year of profit and Tory and LibDem politicians congratulate themselves on having continued to fool the vast majority of the public, students and school children, teachers and lecturers, trades unionists, disabled activists, mums and dads, grandparents, NHS staff, public transport workers, Local Government workers, etc., all continue to unite their voices in protest.
Disabled people are also taking to the streets like never before, fighting back against the claims that they are responsible for the state that the country is in by fraudulantly claiming benefits that they are not entitled to. Scapegoated once again by a government determined to distract people away from where the blame really lies. Which is why they view this royal wedding as such a good thing - more televised opiate for the masses!
Regular Crips, who used to look at Disabled activists as a different species altogether are now joining with us to protest against the unfairness of the government's slash and burn tactics. We need this new energy that these newcomers are bringing to the fight. Many of us, having been protesting and fighting for Civil Rights for more years than we care to remember welcome this infusion of new blood.
Unfortunately though, not all protesters see things this way. Although united in their stand against the ConDem's devisive policies, many non-disabled protesters still don't understand that Disabled people have just as much right to protest as they do. This has manifested itself in inaccessible venues being chosen for protest meetings, no provision being made to allow us to transcribe information into alternative formats, no accessible transport being arranged to travel with others to different areas of the country, etc.
If anything, we have more right to be on the front lines of this current period of protest. We've been the ones, albeit not receiving much coverage in the press, who have been fighting consistently against oppression in these forms since the first World War. We are the one's who, having amassed a great deal of knowledge around civil disobedience campaigns can bring a whole wealth of experience to this current fight.
We're not asking for 'special' allowances to be made, just that our right to protest with other members of society is acknowledged. Because, let's face it, this is basically what we're all protesting about anyway - the right for everyone to be treated equally, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, impairment, age or ethnicity and with full access to education, housing, health care, employment and retirement without a few fat cats siphoning off all the cream!
To all of you non-disabled protesters out there, look upon Disabled people as a resource, rich in experience and networked into thousands of other Crips all around the world.
Together we can change society into a fairer, more equal place to live.
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.
A lot has been written both for and against the Pope’s visit this week.
Apart from the fact that he continues to tell people in the third world that to use condoms as a protection against HIV and AIDS is a sin, the main thing that rankles for me is that the Catholic Church has never publicly updated its belief in the origins of Disability.
Talk to many older Catholics and they can remember their Priests telling them that a person was born disabled due to a sin committed by one or both of their parents. I bet the Priests loved it when a Disabled child was born out of wedlock because then they could say “I told you so!”
They tell me that today’s more enlightened Priests no longer say this, but that old belief has never, to my knowledge, ever been fully weeded out from the faith. Even today, in countries such as Spain where Catholicism is the leading religion, a lot of people still believe that Disabled children are only born to those who have sinned. I’m told by Spanish Disabled people that it is mainly due to this belief that they have found it difficult to move towards any real equality within their society.
Perhaps it is time for the Pope to lay to rest this outdated and damaging belief and to use this visit to the UK to do so publicly.
Only by hearing it from the lips of ‘God’s representative on Earth’ will many Catholics put down this corrupt understanding and start to work with Disabled people towards our full and unconditional inclusion into societies throughout the world.
In a recent survey commissioned by Scope, almost half of those approached claimed that they didn't know any Disabled people!
Now either they only count wheelchair users as being Disabled people and are using this as their yard stick, or they move in circles that exclude all but the non-disabled members of our society. A worrying thought when over 90% of these same people felt that Disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else.
This response shows that we crips are still pretty much invisible in day-to-day life and if the Government go ahead with their proposed spending cuts, and the effects that it will have on Disabled people, this means that we'll be pushed even further into social exclusion and maybe even cut out from the mainstream altogether. The next poll could well show that ALL of those approached didn't know any Disabled people!
Members of the Disabled People's Movement are advising the CON-DEMs that they need to carry out a full impact assessment before making any cuts. The Government needs to understand the full consequences of reductions in Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit before embarking on this knee-jerk reaction to current over spending.
I'm always sceptical about what Scope has to say about the Disabled people that they claim to represent, but on this occassion I find myself agreeing with their Chief Exec when he says: "Without fully understanding the nature of disabled people's lives, or the impact these changes will have, the Government may find itself causing extreme distress and financial hardship to disabled people which could end up creating greater dependency on the state and an even greater demand on the public purse."
Couldn't have put it better myself Richard.
(The cartoon is from an original idea by Alison of Skegby Methodist Church - Feb 2010)
Sad News - I've just heard of the death of disabled activist Rowen Jade. Rowen has always been a passionate campaigner for an inclusive education system. After graduating with a Law degree she worked for the Alliance for Inclusive education, several centers for Inclusive Living and latterly as a freelance consultant in disability equality. My sincere condolences go to her family and many friends. Rowen will be missed by us all.
I have been musing on the attacks on Disabled people's day to day lives that this CONDEM coalition have already started making and watching with interest ways in which crips are grouping to try to resist.
High on the worry-list is the apparent complete lack of understanding by the government of the nature of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). As we Disabled people and our allies all know only too well, the basis of this financial support is actually to go some small way towards helping with the extra costs of being a Disabled person in a disabling society.
Yes, I know, it does only go a small way and there have always been plenty of hoops to struggle through to get DLA at all (like some 50 pages form of application just to start ... ). However, DLA is at least about acknowledging that many crips - whatever their circumstances - have extra support costs and find it more expensive to travel and get around.
Why is it then that the Budget statement and the Programme for Government, which spearhead the attack on DLA, entirely miss the point? The government talks about reducing dependency and promoting work in relation to DLA. Come on! DLA (as we all know) is a benefit which is available (at least in theory) to Disabled people whether they are in work or not.
For one thing, taking it away from people (by more stringent assessments) and reducing it will make it LESS likely that working disabled people will be able to carry on in employment. That's one of the (many) things that worries me about the CONDEM axe-people - they don't even seem to pause to grasp these basics in their ideological rush to slash anything to do with 'welfare'.
Lots of groups and organisations are already campaigning hard against the whole range of attacks on Disabled people, including on DLA. I found some good info on the Inclusion London website on the Programme for Government and how the Budget will damage Disabled people's lives. Depressing reading of course - but it is a damn sight more honest than any of the government's own stuff and more readable than a lot of the other analysis on the effects of the Budget.
Click here to visit the Inclusion London site. They have both a full version and an easy read version to download about the budget and the proposed cuts.
Rumours have been circulating about a TV programme that would enable celebrities to aquire an impairment for a week in order to see what it's like to be disabled (I kid you not!).
It now turns out that the former Mrs McCartney, Heather Mills is working on such a programme although she has refused to say which broadcast company it is with or when it will be aired.
She has said however that she wants to get people like tv presenter Eamonn Holmes to spend a week in a wheelchair to see what it's like to live with a disability: "You would have to be looked after and pushed around by your wife,” she told him on his early morning show.
She added: "We would also get a chef like Gordon Ramsay, blindfold him, and put him in the kitchen for a week."
I thought we'd progressed beyond this type of disability 'awareness' theme and that if anything, the tv companies would realise the importance of portraying real Disabled people encountering real barriers within society.
As we've said many times before, this equates to a white person putting on black grease paint and being expected to suddenly develope an insight into the oppression faced by black people within our community. It just doesn't work that way!
Perhaps Ms Mills would benefit from attending a disability equality training session, run by Disabled trainers and learn something about the social model understanding of disability. Only then will she understand that this type of programme only re-enforces the negative stereotypes of disability and adds to the ignorance that results in the discrimination that we face every day.
Disability Pride is an odd concept which seems to be quite difficult for many non-disabled people to grasp.
I mean, why would be be proud of our impairments?
Here's a link to Vince Laws' current blog where he explains what Disability Pride means to him.
Click here to visit his blog and leave a comment.
The following is an extract from Baroness Jane Campbell's recent comment in the Guardian.
"Disabled and terminally ill people have had to deal with fear, prejudice and discrimination since the beginning of time. Our lives have been devalued by statements such as "he/she'd be better off dead". In recent years, calls for a change to the law prohibiting assisted suicide have grown louder and more frequent.
"They capitalise on fear. Fear of pain, fear of loss of dignity, fear of being a burden. And, yes, fear of witnessing those fears being felt by those we know and love. The solution offered to the fear of disability and illness is final: suicide.
"Yet suicide is not well thought of in our society. It is 'committed' by the mentally ill and those unable to face the future. In both cases, society does all that it can to prevent suicidal thoughts being enacted. Life is too precious to be solely entrusted to individual action.
"That society is willing to protect us, even from ourselves in times of personal crisis, defines our – and its – humanity. However, those seeking a change to the law on assisted suicide say such ideals have no place when considering severely disabled and terminally ill people. Such lives, it seems, are not so precious: ending them prematurely should be a matter of individual choice.
"Perversely, if you can take your own life without assistance, society generally strives to protect you; but, if assistance to die is needed, they argue, it should be provided. The option to choose the time of one's death is to be reserved for those for whom assistance is required.
"No equality there. Yet many see this as irrefutably logical and compassionate.
"It was the realisation that the majority of disabled and terminally ill people were not being heard in this debate that led to the formation of Not Dead Yet UK. We joined with other groups in opposing the two most recent attempts to change the law.
"In each case the House of Lords was decisive in rejecting calls for assisted suicide. However, the euthanasia campaigners have vowed to try again in the current parliament."
Please click on the high-lighted links above to find out more about the current campaigns organised and led by Disabled people.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is writing to all primary and secondary schools in England inviting them to become Academies and therefore independent of local authority control. This could mean thousands of schools leaving local authority control.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT (Teachers Union), argued that it was wrong to stop local authorities from having a say in proposals for new schools, and that [the proposal] represents a costly and unnecessary solution to a problem that simply does not exist. She added that such "Academies and free schools are a recipe for educational inequality and social segregation".
She's hit the nail on the head there ... For example, how many of these Academies are going to want to continue with integrating disabled children into main stream education when there'll be no financial incentive? Remember, these schools will be looking towards their local business community as part of their funding drive and these funders will expect to generating some form of profit from their investment. I wouldn't think that they'd take kindly to forking out for additional tuition and support for disabled children.
There's also going to be an emphasis on presenting as a school of elite learners and achievers, a 'corporate image' that will attract more high achiever pupils and investers. This is just an old Tory strategy dressed up as an exciting new way of looking at education in this country. We'll soon end up with an even bigger divide between the rich and poorer members of the community, and with the remaining state schools loosing their best pupils and teachers to the cash rich Academies.
It will be interesting to see what this government comes out with regarding disabled people specifically, apart from the general changes that they are proposing that will have inevitable consequences on our lives. Be sure that I'll keep my ear to the ground and report back on anything else that comes to light.
Please leave a comment at the end of this blog and let me know what your thoughts and feelings are about this issue and the others that are coming out of the woodwork.
I've recently received an email from a Disabled equality trainer in Australia asking if she could use some of my cartoons about labelling within her courses. She hadn't come across the concept before and felt that it might help her to get across the equality message to both non-disabled and disabled Australians.
"No problem" I replied, and then began to wonder if other readers of this blog in other parts of the world were as ignorant of this concept as she was. With this in mind I've recreated a simple example and cobbled together some information about the subject for you.
The concept of labelling people, especially Disabled people has been with us since early times. Then we were made to wear labels that identified us as ‘witches’ or as the ‘familiars’ of bad spirits or ‘changelings’, or, if we were lucky, as the harmless village ‘dolt’ or ‘idiot’. Although if hard times came, such as a crop failure or something equally as harmful to the community, then the ‘idiot’ often became the 'scapegoat' and was disposed of to appease the gods.
As times progressed and society became more enlightened (Ed - our American readers should note the use of irony here!) we were seen more as figures of fun and were given the labels of ‘Jester’ or ‘Fool’. Those of us with mental health issues were also allowed to entertain the nobility, but were put on display in places like Bedlam and given the labels of ‘Mad’ and ‘Insane’ regardless of our actual condition.
We were also given the label of ‘villain’ in early children’s stories, usually with an eye or a limb missing, or labelled as the ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ character whenever sentimentality or charity were portrayed by such as Charles Dickens and other writers of his time.
Following the onset of the industrial revolution we were deemed ‘worthy poor’ and allowed to beg, and some argue that this is where the label of ‘handicapped’ (cap in hand) originated. The label ‘Invalid’ also appeared about this time and literally means ‘not valid’.
The medical professionals during the 19th and 20th century, deciding that we needed repairing brought with them their own labels. These ranged from the familiar ‘idiot’ to the ‘imbecile’, the ‘feeble minded’ and the ‘moral defective’. More labels followed as they began to split us into groups of impairment, resulting in 'Mongol’ and ‘Spastic’ to name but a few.
The more subtle labels remain to this day and are still used by those groups and organisations who wish to control us and wish to separate us from society. It is mainly the charities that rely upon the power of labelling, still portraying us as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘incapable’ amongst other disempowering descriptions. The medical profession also continue to play their part, although have changed some of their labels to appear more progressive; ‘Cerebral Palsy’ replacing ‘Spastic’ and ‘Down’s Syndrome’ replacing ‘Mongolism’ for example.
Remember, labelling people is about disempowerment and only works if the person who is given the label agrees to wear it.
I’ve had some correspondence recently with a colleague known in crip circles as Deaf Bitch. Her shared insights into Deaf culture have helped me to understand a great deal about the many forms of oppression that Deaf people face within our society.
Here’s some of what she wrote followed a recent programme about children having cochlear implants.
“I was watching a programme about a one year old boy who was about to have a double cochlear implant.
"During the programme we heard the mum say about her older daughter, who was also born deaf and who also had this done, that before the operation 'it was like she died'.
“This was followed by the surgeon saying that if the boy didn't have this operation he would be 'condemned to a life of sign and special schools'.
“I don't get into blaming people who want their children to have this invasive procedure, whatever my personal view, but this just made me jump up and down in sheer fury and distress.”
And here’s a sample of Deaf Bitch's outstanding poetry …
I’ve had enough....
suggesting gently in ladylike tones
hinting it might be a good idea if....
proving the business case
explaining the law
taking the barriers down inch by painful inch
brick by careful brick
I want to
all in one go on one perfect day of ecstasy.
Deaf Bitch 2010