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!
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.
The present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
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!
Now you see him, now you don't ...
The CONDEM Coalition has replaced the disabled director of its Office for Disability Issues (ODI), Tim Cooper, with a non-disabled civil servant.
Rumour has it that the switch, which wasn't even advertised, was due to problems around Cooper being forced to give a public defence of the government’s record after disabled activists criticised its programme of spending cuts and attitude to human rights.
Cooper, who has refused to discuss the reasons for his departure, is moving to a new job as chief executive of Advance, a supported housing and employment charity, after two years as ODI’s director.
You\'ll recall that the ODI was set up in 2005 by the Labour government to help deliver equality for disabled people by 2025 and act as a champion for disabled people across government.
The person replacing him is civil servant Jeremy Moore, who is NOT disabled and will also be taking on the role of director of independent living. He was actually appointed before many ODI staff were told Cooper was leaving. He will now be responsible for all disability issues across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), including employment, benefits and the ODI.
A DWP spokesman said Moore was appointed because he “has a lot of experience working on disability issues and was the best candidate for the job”.
Oh yes?! Apart from having held "various roles in the Department, most recently as director of the departmental transformation programme" (whatever that is?!) I haven't met one Crip who knows anything about him. In fact, apart from his resemblance to the late Eric Morecombe, he appears to be just another Tory clone in a grey suit.
He certainly seems to be Maria Miller's (minister for disabled people) blue eyed boy though. Here's what she had to say about his promotion: “Jeremy brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise and I look forward to working with him in engaging with disabled people and disability organisations to ensure they are fully involved in the decisions which affect their lives."
She added: "Bringing all disability issues together under one director reflects our commitment to a more joined up approach in ensuring disability issues are given the attention they deserve.”
And we all know what attention she feels we deserve ... bugger all!
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.
As many of us will know, being a disabled artist and not allied to any group or organisation, it has always been extremely difficult to obtain funding. And those of us who produce work that has an overt political edge are even more handicapped (sic) by the funding system.
That's not to say that groups and organisations of disabled people who have applied for funding have had it any easier. For example I'm aware that our esteemed Editor Colin Hambrooke spends a large amount of his time searching for funding and then completing the endless application forms that inevitably go with this - and Disability Arts on Line (DAO) is one of our more established disability arts organisations.
And now the bloody CONDEMs, not content with slashing our benefits and support services have declared their 'Big Society'.
This involves not only the big disability charities coming back to haunt us with a vengeance (click here to see Crippen's political blog ) but also brings in the big corporations. These corporations will be encouraged to offer sponsorship to artists, including disabled artists who will be expected to compromise their art in order to obtain funding from a specific commercially oriented funder. Funding organisations like the Arts Council may well become redundant in this scenario.
And let's not forget the new funding process called the 'National Portfolio (NP)'. This is going to change the funding landscape yet again as the system of having Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) is overturned. As usual most of the funding will probably go to organisations like the Royal Opera House (ROH). The subsidy on bums on seats at the ROH exceeds any other subsidy for the arts. So the toffs are being subsidised at everyone else's expense ... what a suprise!
Cartoon in the pipeline re the National Portfolio ... watch this space!
here's hoping that you had a great holiday and are all fighting fit for 2011?!
I'm just getting over man flu (second dose) so have been a bit lax with regard to posting here for a couple of weeks. I am, however putting the final stages to the follow-on from my last blog where lots of you mailed and messaged me with ideas and suggestion about involving the disability arts movement with the current anti-cuts protests throughout the UK. I hope to have this up within the next couple of days. It will be well worth waiting for, I promise.
As I've previously mentioned. I'm now running a seperate blog to carry my more political work and you can see what I'm up to there by clicking on the following link.
It's a scary time as this government are gradually clicking all of the pieces of their 'Big Society' into place, and the recent white paper intended to change the way that people give to charities in the UK is a part of this. This will affect all aspects of disabled people's lives and is part of the bigger plan to get us off the streets and back into Care Homes!
Click here to visit this article and leave your comments