One of the main problems affecting many disabled people at the moment is a lack of income. And, as a result, a reduction in the ability to make those choices that affect the quality of our lives.
Until recently, many disabled people earned a reasonable income from providing professional services to organisations which provided disability equality training for their workforce, as part of complying with their legal obligations in relation to employment and providing services. But recently this, and other equality training, seems to have slid right down to the bottom of the agenda - if not off the agenda completely.
Crippen the cynic believes that this is all part and parcel of the present government's efforts to undermine our status as equal citizens in society. First, they labelled us all benefit scroungers and a burden on society. Then this gave them licence to go ahead with their cuts in support services, giving a bit of encouragement along the way to those charities that claim to represent disabled people. So this - among their many other evil acts - has resulted in a reduction in funding everywhere and signposts a one-way route into residential care for many of us.
Many disabled people spent several decades wrestling disability action and equality training away from the "simulationists". Those were (and alas still are) largely non-disabled people, who think that making people wear a blindfold for 5 minutes enables trainees to understand what it is like to have a visual impairment or sending people out into the high street in a wheelchair shows trainees just how brave it is to tackle life on wheels. Having slogged to make disability equality training more meaningful, apparently now our skills are no longer recognised as valid or having any value.
Apart, that is, in those organisations which seem to have revived the old tradition of inviting a disabled people to come in and talk about their own experiences, providing them with a cup of tea and a sticky bun for their trouble.
So if you are one of those crips providing your services for free, could I just remind you that it took years of hard graft to establish our role as professional disabled people in the field of equality training. The last thing that we need is for our disabled brothers and sisters to undermine us in this role and to devalue the importance of this work.
It also goes without saying that we need to earn a living and be in a position to fight against those right wing bigots who don't want us to have any part in their Big Society!
According to documents obtained by the Guardian newspaper, Cameron’s senior adviser on troubled families has set up a new partnership to bid for work under a programme to get 120,000 households into work. A programme that she helped create!
Emma Harrison, the multimillionaire founder of private welfare company A4e, was appointed the “families champion” last December. The prime minister singled her out in a key post-riot speech last month, saying she had “develop[ed] a plan to help get these families on track”.
She's already on public record as having stated that, for her to make any money from the scheme would be at the least a “conflict of interest”.
Harrison told the Guardian she withdrew from bidding when the government announced the first tranche of contracts, worth £200m, in February. She said she had accepted the unpaid role but had been “shocked” to learn there would be hundreds of millions of pounds in funding.
“Chris Grayling [the welfare minister] told me he had got £200m. It was a bit of a shock … I thought: ‘Oh crikey, that makes me feel a bit awkward. We will have to withdraw [from the bidding].’”
But documents sent to private firms who did bid for the work reveal that Harrison’s company had set up in January a “partnership” called Families Unlimited, with (wait for it) a former civil servant who until this year was running the Department for Education’s “support services for families with multiple needs”, to pitch for the cash ... so apparently she wasn't really feeling THAT awkward!
Families Unlimited offered to execute the work won by “prime contractors” for a fee. In blunt language, the documents say that “A4e will not bid as a prime contractor … due to a conflict of interest arising from the work of its founder and chairman, Emma Harrison, through the Working Families Everywhere initiative. However, DWP [the Department for Work and Pensions] have advised that no conflict arises where A4e is acting as a subcontractor.”
If I remember right, wasn't A4e the company that took the 'direct payments' contract away from the East Sussex Disability Association (ESDA)?!
Talk about jobs for the boys ... and girls!
Following on from previous blogs where I've written about the funding cuts that are slowly but surely decimating our culture, two more disabled people led organisations fall to the axe this week.
Mark Bagley of Choices and Rights has emailed to tell me that their Disability Housing Service has had to close down. I know that this service has helped lots of disabled people sort out their housing problems and will be sorely missed. Although no longer able to help out with housing advise, Mark tells me that they'll still be there, managing the Centre for Independent Living along with all of the other support services that are run from their office in Hull. You can find out more by clicking on this link.
The following day I got an email from Peter Little saying that SKILL: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, has announced its closure along with the redundancy of 23 members of staff.
SKILL is the only pan disability charity that focuses on promoting equality for disabled people in education, training and employment and has been a great champion of further and higher education for disabled students for some 40 years. It has also played a hugely important role in improving access to post-16 education
You can view my alternative cartoon for this sad news by visiting my other blog by clicking on this link.
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"
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.
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.
Fifty years after the one of the worst disasters in medical history, hundreds of survivors of the thalidomide scandal have finally got an apology from the government and a new £20 million compensation package.
Mike O'Brien, minister of health, recently announced a new funding scheme that will help survivors cope with the changing needs of age. He also offered what campaigners said they wanted even more – an apology.
"The Government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961," he told the House of Commons.
"The apology is just as important as the financial settlement," said Guy Tweedy, one of those leading the campaign for a better deal."The money will help people to buy wheelchairs and adapt their houses and cars for a phase of life they were never expected to see. "They didn't think we would be alive today. They thought we would all be dead by 2007," he added.
In 1957, the World Health Organisation had warned the UK that its lack of adequate pharmaceutical regulation was courting disaster. It took the thalidomide disaster to reform the system, bringing in the sort of regulation we have today. The Medicines Act 1968 laid down stringent standards that had to be met for the safety and efficacy of drugs.
This time of year I'm often asked to produce cartoons for christmas cards for the many groups and organisations of Disabled people throughout the UK.
This year however, there's been a noticeable reduction in these requests, mainly due, I'm told, to the fact that many of these organisations are just too strapped (lacking funds) to be able to afford to have cards printed and posted this year.
So, in the spirit of good will and co-operation that exists at this time of year I thought it would be a nice idea to post one of my favourite christmas cartoons and dedicate it to all of those organisations of Disabled people that are continuing to fight for their very existence.
And if you haven't received a card from your local Crip group this year, please accept this one on their behalf. And why not make it your New Year resolution to pop down there and see if there's anything you can do to help raise the funding needed to continue their vital work during 2010.
Unfortunately, due to problems with t'internet I'm a bit late with this cartoon which was intended to come out during the recent Children in Need event on BBC Radio and TV. Still, better late than never ... and the idea of a Trojan Pudsey rather tickled me!
Needless to say, us Crips are still campaigning against this charitable farce. Our message is loud and clear and asks why do Disabled children still have to rely on this type of humiliationathon AND have to appear sufficiently grateful in order to get what should be there's by right (and to make the likes of Terry Wogan feel good about themselves)?!
When we were young, most of us had to endure this form of gate keeping as pretty well everything we needed to live within a hostile and non-accessible environment came through the charitable concerns set up to represent our particular form of impairment. We were expected to play the game and allow so called celebrities like Jimmy Saville to pose with us as we gratefully received our wheelchair or mobility aid.
Enough already ... give today's Disabled youngsters EVERYTHING that they need in order to achieve a level playing field. This includes access to an inclusive education, a fully integrated and accessible transport system, respite care for parents and siblings, access to free mobility aids and adaptations, full grants to make their property accessible, etc ... and all without them having to jump through these out dated and humiliating hoops!
Ok, I take the point from Richard Downes (last blog comments) that by only blaming the 2012 Olympics for the current lack of funding is being a bit simplistic, but I still hold to the belief that this huge white elephant is doing more damage in this area than all of the effects of the current recession combined. So here’s another cartoon along the same theme (sorry Richard!).
As part of Richard’s response however, he’s come up with an interesting idea. How about setting up our own Technothon to run head to head with Children in Need (CIN)? This would be a novel way to raise much needed funds and could draw a lot of attention away from the charitable/medical model approach that CIN rely upon to get those hard earned pounds from your pockets.
Many of you will be aware of the Facebook group ‘We shot Pudsey Bear’ which is facilitated by Richard and other Disabled activists. It quite rightly encourages debate about the stereo typing of Disabled people that is the main focus of the CIN fund raising. Portray us as pitiable and incapable of managing our own lives and the emotional blackmail kicks in and the public respond. Never mind that it reinforces the negative image that people have of us when they buy into this sort of thing.
Richard offers up some prospective recipients for any funding raised by a Technothon and these currently include Brent Advocacy Concerns (advocacy theme) and the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (political theme). What he’s also asking for are names for any group or organisation that you feel would represent disability arts for the arts theme?
I’m starting the ball rolling by putting up ‘Disability Arts on Line (DAO)!
Just leave your own nominations in the comments section of this blog and we’ll make sure Richard gets them.
Lord Mayor of London Boris
Johnson is under pressure to uphold
according to a survey undertaken by the London Development Agency (DLA),
A London 2012 spokeswoman said that around nine million tickets are expected to be sold for the 2012 Olympics but could not say how many of these are expected to be purchased by Disabled people.
The Mayor had ordered an audit of the capital's 100,000 rooms to check that enough are wheelchair accessible. The LDA is also spending £20.6million this year improving facilities for tourists and is seeking to convince hotels that it makes good business sense to increase their accessibility.
Currently there are around
11 million Disabled people in the
What’s in a name?
Still on a sports theme, spare
places for runners are being offered by the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity
for the Clarendon Run Marathon and half marathon (from
And the name of the person organising this?
Well I thought it was funny!
I’m hearing from groups and organisations of Disabled people who are continuing to have problems with fund raising. Some of this funding relates to events, performances and exhibitions that are being planned, whilst other funding is actually needed to keep these organisations running. We’ve already lost two of the biggest Disability Arts Forums due to a lack of available funding and it now looks as though many other smaller groups and organisations are considering closing down.
The problem is plain enough to see. The 2012 Olympics is continuing to be a large black hole into which most of the funding originally earmarked for charitable projects is being sucked. From the first estimate of 2.5 billion pounds, the amount of money that the 2012 Olympic Games has cost us so far is now over SEVEN BILLION pounds, and there’s still another couple of years before it opens.
If any of you have tried to obtain funding for an arts project recently you’ll find that an additional criteria has crept in … you now have to show just how your project will interact with the 2012 Olympic Games! This is the clearest indication to date just how the event has taken over so called charitable spending, diverting government spending, lottery earnings and many other established grant provision.
Apparently this is not new. The Roman emperors used to divert social funding to their own games whenever they felt that the general public needed a diversion; something to take their mind off of what was happening within the corrupt political arena. Sound familiar?!