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!).
One of the things I enjoy about being part of the Disability Arts on Line (DAO) family is that it provides for me a unique platform on which I can present my more adventurous cartoons.
Take the Criptarts for example. I haven't a clue where it's going each week and the end result is usually more of a surprise to me than to you. Of course I've got a rough outline in my mind for each episode, but it's as though the characters come alive once I've started to lay them out in the strip and they just take over.
You've only got to look at the last but one episode for an example. I'd decided to make some sort of comment about the heavy snow we'd been experiencing. I'd got a story-line mapped out and was pretty sure where it was going when Bonk, the self-defined 'nutter' with the purple spiky hair, suddenly jumped in with his joke. Just as I was about to make some serious comment about reduced access. As Aadila said: "Gross!"
You can go to the episode by clicking here.
And last week. Inspired by Liz Carr's performance as Clarissa Mullery on Silent Witness, I'd decided to 'guest' her on the strip. But what happens? The characters take over again and use it as an opportunity to take a poke at the government!
Click here and you'll see what I mean.
It was the same when I invited Penny Pepper onto the strip. I still haven't got the felt tip off the laptop!
Click here ...
So as the strip continues, be prepared for further undisciplined behaviour from Bonk, Liz, Aadila, Ben, Ranj, Val, and their guests. I will try and exercise some editorial control, but as Colin Hambrook, DAO Editor, knows from past experience (especially with me!), I don't hold out much hope!
Living on an island we could be forgiven for thinking that the harsh cuts that are being inflicted on us Crips in the UK are unique and out of step with the rest of Europe.
Listening to disabled people in France, Greece and especially Spain, we hear that the exact same policies of cuts to benefits and services, along with an orchestrated move to get us all back into institutions, is taking place throughout Europe.
Thousands of disabled people rallied in Madrid last week to protest against a €60 billion cut in spending. Similiarly to the UK, many of these cuts have been targeted at the disability community.
Speaking on Spanish television, Luis Cayo, president of Spain's Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities who have over 4 million members, said:
"This is an historic day. Disabled people [in Spain] have never taken to the streets before!"
Another protester Ricardo de Lugo told a BBC reporter:
"This is our cry for help. They are taking away our aid which has taken us many years to achieve ... why are they doing this to us?"
Alberto Alvarez, a disabled activist from Barcelona told reporters:
"It is as if this is part of a big move to get us all off the streets and back into the institutions that many of us were forced to live in. They think that by allowing the blind to work on the streets with their lottery that this is sufficient. We are here to tell them that it is not!"
With this amount of concentrated activity across Europe aimed at disabled people one wonders why there's not a pan European disabled people's organisation taking the lead in these protests. Why are we not sharing our resources and our expertise with other disabled people across the length and breadth of Europe, people who are being threatened by their governments in the same way that we are?
The right wing strategy of 'divide and conquer' has never needed to be challenged more than now.
We can only do this effectively by working in solidarity together.
Solidarity - Solidaridad - Solidarité - Solidarität - Solidariedade - αλληλεγγύη - Solidarność - Solidaritat
Last week at the Shape media conference I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina Veasey. She has taken part in two Paralympics and talked about her own experiences competing as a disabled athlete.
For most of us non-athletic Crips, and in particular those of us involved in disability arts, the world of the Paralympian seems remote to say the least. We see them as single minded Super Crips with no interest or involvement in disability politics and protest. What we do hear about are those sporty wheelchair users with amazing upper body strength telling non-disabled people that they don't need ramps!
The media love them as well, providing photo opportunities of 'good' disabled people (as opposed to 'bad' disabled people who are scrounging on disability benefit and can't be arsed to find a job!).
All this media hype of course goes to reinforce the stereotypes of disability that Mr and Mrs Jo Public know and love. The acceptable face of disability versus the unacceptable.
But having chatted to Kristina after her talk, I learned a few things. For example did you know that all Paralympians have to sign a contract that specifically prohibits them from taking part in any political protest during the duration of the games?
This means that if they did protest for the duration of the games, (against ATOS for example) they would have sacrificed years of training and would have to return any medals that they had won.
But some paralympians find ways around the system. For example Kristina told me that was why, as a retired paralympian, she became Amnesty International's paralympic ambassador during the Beijing games - "so I could give voice to protest."
Perhaps between us all - paralympians, activists, disabled artists - we could start to tear down the wall that the media & society have erected and start working together.
As ever the challenge is to be able to communicate more openly with each other and to be prepared to let go of those unhelpful stereotypes. I include myself in this as a veteran of creating and maintaining some of these stereotypes. My exchange with Kristina was a kick in my assumptions which I found very helpful and thought provoking.
Perhaps all disabled people, all working together could create a power base strong enough to bring this government and their draconian measures to a shuddering halt.
We can but hope.
BTW if you do have tickets for Paralympic events you may be asked to participate in an on-line survey. Why not use this opportunity to voice some of our concerns about the dichotomy between the experiences of paralympians and many other disabled people. Here's your chance to comment on the gap between the portrayal of paralympic athletes and the daily struggle against barriers that most disabled people face.
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 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.
Excuse me for seeming a little confused here, but hasn't the Prime Minister just been telling us how little money we have and that we're all going to have to tighten our belts and that Disabled people have to accept benefit cuts to the tune of 12 billion pounds ...?!
So, what's with this sudden appearance of seven billion that is going to be paid into the Irish banks as a token of the "particular economic relationship" that exists?
I suppose the key word here is 'economic'. This government has convinced itself that we are in effect 'useless eaters' and a terrible burden upon society - especially as most of us are supposed to be fiddling the system anyway - and that we are therefore far from being an economical asset!
You don't have to read between the lines any more. The ConDems are writing it large that unless we can contribute in a meaningful way (and for meaningful read productive) then we are a burden to their big society. You can almost hear the jackboots marching down Whitehall can't you!
So, perhaps we should invaded the Isle of Wight, set up an independent Cripdom, max out all of our credit cards, borrow even more money, and then we can ask the government for a nice big payout to get ourselves out of the red?!
Works for me.
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.
On Tuesday 26th October 2010 at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park at 1300 hours, the campaigning group MAD PRIDE have organised a day of action to oppose welfare benefits cuts for people labelled Mentally Ill.
UK mental health service users and survivors will publicly assemble to re-enact the opening chapter of Michel Foucault´s seminal book ‘Discipline and Punishment’.
A life-size effigy of a prominent Conservative/ Liberal Democrat merger politician will be publicly executed by method of hanging, drawing and quartering, after which the remains of the body will be burnt. There will also be a variety of other visual and subliminal stunts on the day.
Speaking to one of the organisers of the demonstration, she told me that “the economic downturn caused by the irresponsibility of bankers and big business has led to the Coalition government to enact the biggest cuts in public services since the Second World War.
“Further, that instead of targeting bankers’ bonuses and rich people’s profits, they are hoping to make huge savings by attacking the welfare benefits of vulnerable people unable to work, including people with severe mental health problems.
“In particular, they would like the public to think that people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental ‘illnesses’ are malingerers and scroungers – when in fact all of us find it a terrible day to day struggle just to get by.”
As we are now aware, in George Osborne’s recent emergency budget he has pledged to take 360,000 people off of Disability Living Allowance by 2013 – which will plunge over a third of a million vulnerable people, most of whom will have mental health problems, into dire poverty.
This will put lives at risk. Already, 6000 people are thought to have committed suicide a year in the UK, although the true figure is definitely far higher. The stress caused by the threat of welfare benefits cuts, as well as the impact of the material deprivation that will result, will undoubtedly lead to a huge increase in suicides amongst people with mental health problems – an outcome that members of MAD PRIDE and other survivor support groups wish to prevent through campaigning and giving each other one-to-one support.
Mike, another member of MAD PRIDE adds, “This is no time to cut benefits and services for people labelled mentally ill. Our numbers have swelled significantly over recent years because so many members of the armed forces have gone through two very long and desperately hard wars. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Iraq and Afghanistan, those conflicts have taken an exceptionally heavy toll on the mental health of so many of our brave troops.”
More cuts to disabled people’s benefits are promised in George Osborne’s upcoming ‘shock and awe’ spending review to take place on Wednesday 20th October. Added to cuts in housing benefits, the VAT rise, and a whole range of other austerity measures, the future looks grim for the poor and those less able to object or protest – whilst the bankers will get to keep their bonuses.
“We’re not taking this lying down!” is the united cry from survivor groups across the UK.
MAD PRIDE can now also announce that, also on 26th October 2010, there will be a Nationwide 24 hour medication strike.
All UK mental health service users will default on their psychiatric medication for one day, in protest against the coming welfare benefits cuts. Further, all UK mental health service users will not engage with any mental health services whatsoever on that day, in a bid to demonstrate the collective power of mental health system users and survivors everywhere.
Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.
The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.
By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.
Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner.
Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.
I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.
Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!
So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.
Change to original artwork following comments
Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?
Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.
A moving tribute to disabled activist Rowan Jade, who died suddenly at the age of 40 whilst on holiday with her partner and child.
The tribute is by Baroness Jane Campbell and echoes many of our own thoughts and feelings regarding this amazing young woman.
Jade will be sadly missed by all who were fortunate to know her.
To access the tribute please click here.
A recent survey shows that society has completely fallen for the latest piece of CONDEM misinformation that millions of pounds are being claimed fraudulently, especially those benefits that are designed to assist Disabled people to compete more equally in the work place. They also endorse the use of paid Bounty Hunters to track these alleged cheats down.
The fact that the government’s own figures show that this fraud claim is a complete nonsense and that millions of pounds lay unclaimed by those people who are entitled to them, doesn’t stop them from continuing to spout out this dangerous rubbish.
Disabled people have once again been identified as being either frauds and not entitled to the benefits they are claiming (and this particularly applies to those of us with a hidden impairment) or as being vulnerable members of society that need caring for (us crips having been lumped back in again with the ‘vulnerable members of society’ definition!).
So much for all of the hard work that has gone into identifying the disabling barriers that exist within society; the attempts to make society a more level playing field with Disabled people having an equal opportunity to live, travel, work and play along with our non-disabled brethren.
What next - licences for Disabled people to beg in the streets as ‘deserving poor’ as was the case a hundred or so years ago? With this lot in power nothing would surprise me!
PS. It looks as though there will be the biggest turn out ever of Disabled people and their allies for the planned protest outside of the Tory Party conference on 3rd October. Watch for some quick changes in the law as the CONDEMs declare us all terrorists and ban everyone from the streets during that week!
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.
On Wednesday the 16th June the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (D.A.N) will take to the streets in solidarity with the National Day of Action against the dismantling of the Welfare State.
D.A.N demonstrations will be taking place in Manchester and London and will welcome all people who identify, or who are regarded as disabled, whatever their background or impairments.
For those of you who have never been on a D.A.N demo it's important that you know that D.A.N. uses the strategy of non-violent civil disobedience and does not beg for the right to protest. This means that all of D.A.N's protests are without permission and participants could be seen as breaking the law and leaving themselves open to arrest. However Robert Lizard Solicitors will once again represent any Danner who may be arrested during the demonstrations.
There are usually PA's available to offer support to Disabled protesters but you are encourage to bring your own support team if possible. British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters are being recruited for the event on the 16th, so if you are an interpreter or know of someone who could help in this respect, please let the organisers know.
Log onto Clair Lewes' blog for more up to date information about the event. Regular danners are requested to contact Becca Y and Steve G as usual.
Information about the general protest can be found on the Defend Welfare site.
To see D.A.N members in action visit this You-Tube site
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
Crippen is currently in the UK meeting up with his many contacts in the world of cripdom and
gathering fresh material for this cartoon blog and other projects that he has underway.
He'll be back with us next week, and in the meantime has left us with one of his typical 'us and them' creations!
Our hardworking Editor Colin has been on a drive to get membership of dao's facebook group site increased.
He's just got another 30 members to join in the past couple of days - so we're now up to 555!
To join, please click here and it will take you to the appropriate page.
Crippen has reworked his cartoon gallery and now has many more cartoons for you to use
within your own publications, training materials and newsletters.
Please click here to go to the new, improved Crippen web site.
I have been getting some rather disturbing messages from Gay Disabled friends in Northern Ireland in relation to a recent conference promoting 'conversion therapy'. This is the process where people can be 'cured' of their homosexuality through prayer.
The conference, which was held back in February was organised by Core Issues, an evangelical Christian group in Northern Ireland which promotes this so-called therapy and claims to have 'saved' numerous homosexual Christians. The star speaker is the Rev Mario Bergner, a Chicago-based Anglican preacher and leading proponent of conversion therapy, who claims to have been cured of Aids and homosexuality through prayer.
Despite a big presence at a protest rally organised by the Queer Youth Network and the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce (Scott), a new lobby group set up by gay journalist Patrick Strudwick, many Gay people in Northern Ireland are being badly affected by this new move by organised religion in the area. So much so that, according to one source, many are taking their own lives.
This month, The Independent published the results of a year-long investigation by Patrick Strudwick, which exposed how evangelical therapists – some operating within the NHS – try to "convert" homosexual men and women to heterosexuality. Strudwick explained the protests were to reassure any gay man or woman tempted to try conversion therapy that homosexuality is not an illness which needs to be cured. "The message of our protest is simple," Patrick told the Independent. "Love needs no cure. We want to remind the young people in the conference in the midst of so-called treatment that they are healthy, normal, valuable people; they are perfect how they are; they don't need to try to change something unchangeable and they can be happy being who they really are."
One of my sources in Northern Ireland is working with others to get Disabled artists involved in the protest and told me: "There is splintering amongst some of the queer/gay groups but a group has formed that has an ambition for artistic intervention. I have been saying F**** the divisions - that's what Northern Ireland’s sectarian history thrives on. I would like to rally the Disabled artists I connect with. They need to see that this is a humanitarian issue."
If anyone feels that they would like to become involved in this issue, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass your contact details on.
It's not unexpected that people who experience severe mental distress generally find night times the worst time to be alone. This is compounded by mental health trusts not being required to have any more than a tick box quota of staff available at night. In fact, most don't bother providing any real service during this time other than fielding a token Crisis Team often consisting of only two people.
I talked to a survivor who attended a recent workshop regarding mental health Crisis Teams. She was told that team workers see themselves as delivering a home treatment service - the teams are in fact called 'Crisis and Home Treatment Teams'. This involves delivering drugs to people at home in order to keep patients out of hospital and to allegedly save money in terms of expensive admissions.
Whilst they are out on these so-called 'drug runs' there is usually no-one else available at their base to answer phone calls and respond to requests for assistance. So one would assume that the trusts, needing someone to cover this out-of-hours service, would turn to an experienced private agency or mental health charity in order to check that any phone call, for example, is met with an appropriate response. WRONG!
In fact mental health trusts often ask the police to carry out a 'Safe and Well' check on any patient that they are unable to visit themselves. Unfortunately the police have little or no training in mental health issues, and seem to regard this duty as a bit of a nuisance, to put it mildly. In the experience of our survivor a lot of police officers are extremely prejudiced and will often view anyone presenting with mental distress as a potential axe wielding killer. Forget the loveable village copper image. The description of one such response team fitted more the heavy booted descendants of the notorious Special Patrol Group (SPG).
Therefore, if the police go to a house and can't get a response, often because the person is too scared to open the door, they have been known to break it down. Even if they don't have to break their way into a home, they often forcibly drag people out, usually handcuffed (more them once this has happened to our survivor when she's only been wearing a night dress - no slippers even!), before being taken to a police station to be locked overnight in a cell; this is their definition of a Place of Safety! As you can imagine, for people who are already in an extremely distressed and often confused state it is a terrifying experience to also be treated like a criminal in this way.
It was estimated that in 2006 around 250 people killed themselves within 48 hours of being detained in this way. Are we surprised?!
Disabled activists, who campaign to raise awareness of those disabled people who are currently incarcerated in one of the many homes run and controlled by the big disability charities, are often asked, "but surely in this day and age, no one is kept in these places against their will?"
In answer to this, I want to tell you about John (not his real name), who resides in a Leonard Cheshire home for young disabled people. We've exchanged emails a couple of times and I've sent him a copy of my 2010 cartoon calendar. He told me that he has to hide the calendar because the staff wouldn't approve of some of the cartoons in it, especially those that parody the type of behaviour that the staff participate in!
John, like hundreds of other disabled people in his position, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life trapped in the Leonard Cheshire system. There is no support offered to those disabled people who want to break away from this institutionalised care; no advice on how to navigate through the bureaucracy that prevents him and others from accessing the sort of care package that would allow him to live on his own, or with friends. He talks of being patronised and treated like a child; visited by 'do-gooders' whose sole objective, it seems, is to get another dose of that 'feel good' factor at his expense.
John has given me permission to reproduce the following extract from his last email...
"Do you know we have Father Christmas coming round on Christmas Day? I mean, some fat patronising bloke in a red suit comes round with his stupid sodding bell saying "Ho Ho Ho" and giving out presents (invariably tins of shortbread; there's a glut for the next few weeks.) We're all adults, it's a home for young adults (though some people are now elderly having lived here for years) and that's what they do; treat us like little infant kids. What's perhaps even worse, is that a lot of the people here don't get to go out. I mean practically never, not for weeks upon end; as they don't have the support they need and family don't bother with them. We could really do with volunteers from (say) the local Lions to get people out of this depressing and distressing place. But we only ever see them on Christmas Day when they come and make themselves feel better about themselves by patronising charity towards us cripples.
I hide from him. I mean - a 30-odd year old man hiding from Father Christmas in his own home. It's not pretty, I tell you."
So the next time you see a member of the Disabled people's Direct Action Network (DAN) shouting out "Free our people!" think about John and hundreds of other Disabled people just like him.
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!
Following on from Bob Williams-Findlay’s comment last week about his experiences with the Spastics Society (now Scope), I invited him to write something for this week’s blog.
“It is very difficult to explain my mixed emotions regarding the Spastics Society, now renamed Scope. In many ways I feel I achieved what I did despite being subjected to psychological abuse whilst in one of their segregated schools.
There is little doubt that, up to the last two years at the Society-run Thomas Delarue School, my formal education was of a high standard and I obtained a range of ‘O’ levels. However the impact of activities outside the classroom was to have a massive affect both on my ‘A’ level studies and the rest of my life.
I’ve never been an Angel, but I doubt I was that much different to most 16-17 year olds. I became interested in my own sexuality, and attracted to a young girl at the school. This was viewed as a threat to the establishment, and my refusal to stop the relationship had dire consequences. The first sign of trouble was when I had my collection of poetry seized. I was banned from writing ‘pornographic filth’ and could only have my work returned at the end of term when I had to take it home. The offending line was: “I want to run naked through the long grass/ Feel the warmth of the sun on my skin…”
I was deeply unhappy about the many injustices that occurred at the school and this affected by studies. I failed my A levels and left school and went to another Spastics Society-run institution where I floundered for another year. At this time two important events took place; my father died, and I got engaged.
When I got engaged, the Spastics Society sent a social worker to talk to me about why I had done this. Unknown to me at the time, after our meeting the Social worker asked my mother if she knew what I had done and wasn’t she worried that I was probably an “over-sexed young man”.
Now, how one works out that somebody’s over-sexed from an hour meeting is beyond me but really that isn’t the agenda is it? The agenda is that at that time – we were talking about the early Seventies – disabled people were supposed to be asexual and incapable of intercourse.
My treatment wasn’t a one-off; others have revealed similar tales; including physical and sexual abuse. At no time have I been approached by Scope about what went on at Delarue, nor have I seen them take ownership of their ‘discriminatory history’, so forgive me if I don’t take their stance on disablism too seriously.”
Contrary to public understanding, we Crips spend more time overcoming the negative effects we get from the various charities that claim to represent us, than we do benefiting from the services that they are supposed to provide.
“But where would you be without them?” I hear some of you ask.
Well, for a start we wouldn’t be seen as a pathetic, needy, homogeneous group of people, to be treated with either pity or contempt. We wouldn’t be made to jump through the many hoops that these organisations have set up for us, nor would we have to perform as grateful crips in front of an audience set up to applaud the achievements of the said organisations.
The damage caused to Disabled people by most of the bigger charities over the whole of the past century is incalculable. From locking us away in institutions and away from the mainstream society, to diagnosing our physical impairments as a ‘mental handicap’ and therefore denying us the right to an education, these organisations have a lot to answer for. Representatives of charities have also caused us to suffer sexual and physical abuse as well as instigating a programme of control which sole purpose was to disempower us and make us even more dependent upon them.
This ‘abuse’ still continues, albeit in a more subtle way than in the past. Each year an example of this ‘charitable model’ concept of disability is given hundreds of hours of air time on national radio and television as celebrities compete with each other to see who can perform the most embarrassing stunts in the name of Disabled children. The children are then trotted out and made to show how grateful they are.
Little wonder that one of the more popular groups amongst Disabled people on Facebook is the ‘I shot Pudsey Bear’ campaign. Admittedly some of the bigger charities are slowly starting to get their houses in order and have begun to recruit Disabled people to positions of influence on their management teams. Scope is one example of this.
However, others, having hijacked a lot of ‘our’ language from the Social model understanding of disability and presenting a more enlightened image, are still controlling the Disabled people that they claim to represent.
The old slogan ‘Rights, not charity’ is still as valid today as it ever was.