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Death by Indifference

The health secretary, Alan Johnson, is setting up a confidential inquiry which will look at why at least six learning disabled people have died while under NHS care. The move is part of an overhaul of how the NHS treats learning disabled people after a government-commissioned independent inquiry last July uncovered evidence of serious failings in care. Led by Sir Jonathan Michael, it followed the publication of a report in 2007 by the charity Mencap, called ‘Death by Indifference’. It accused the NHS of ‘institutional discrimination’ against such people and highlighted six individuals who it claimed died after their health needs were ignored by NHS staff as a direct result of their learning difficulties (sic).

Accusing the NHS of breaking the law in relation to those with learning difficulties, Sir Michael added: ‘It was shocking to discover that the experiences of the families described in Mencap's report are by no means isolated, despite a clear framework of legislation against discrimination.’ (Imagine how shocked he’d be if he discovered that this so called ‘clear framework of legislation against discrimination’ also failed to protect most other Disabled people on a daily basis!)

The heath service ombudsman, Ann Abraham, will deliver her verdict in the next few weeks on the standard of care which the six people in the Mencap report received. The charity has also referred to her six other cases which it says illustrate scandalous treatment of, and attitudes by, NHS staff.

Other measures being unveiled include improved training for all NHS staff; annual health checks for anyone with a mental disability and also personal health action plans. This is to be funded by an extra £20m a year into family doctors' contracts.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 30 January 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 February 2009

God Father

I was once asked to be god father to the baby of a couple I knew back in the UK. I agree with the principle, but being somewhat agnostic I didn’t feel that I could go through with the religious mumbo jumbo that would accompany the ceremony (oops, wait for the emails from outraged Vicars!).

They had a non-religious blessing ceremony in the end, and I and a couple of other friends were named as … I forget what we were eventually called, but it meant that we’d always be there for the little one, to which I agreed wholeheartedly.

She’s now in her teens and has decided to change the name that she was given during that ceremony. Apparently the name had given her a lot of grief at school from the other kids and she felt that she wanted to be called something that she felt fitted her better.

Funny thing names, I told her. People go through life being called something that someone else has chosen for them, and it doesn’t always work. I told her that it was great that she’d decided to rename herself when she felt old enough (and confident enough) to do this.

Take Disabled people for instance. We’ve been called all sorts of things during our long history, many of them loaded with political meaning such as handicapped (cap in hand, beggars), invalids (in-valid, unsound) cripples, spastics, the list goes on. The term Disabled people is the one that most of us have now chosen for ourselves. It simply means that we are disabled by the barriers that exist and that stop us from participating fully in today’s society (and we have impairments, not disabilities by the way!).

I suppose the fact that some of us have also reclaimed the term Crip and now use that as well, must confuse the hell out of some of you non-disabled people out there!

Work placement with the BBC - Extend is a BBC-wide work placement scheme which offers appropriately experienced and/or qualified disabled people the opportunity to gain six months paid work experience within the BBC. Although the scheme doesn't necessarily lead to a full-time job, last year more than half its intake gained further work at the BBC.

24 placements are being advertised now offering a range of posts across the country. Deadlines for applications are 5 February. More placements for this year will be advertised in April.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 23 January 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 February 2009

Maureen Bruce: Obituary

As I mentioned earlier, friends and colleagues will be holding a special celebration of the life of Maureen Bruce, Disabled activist and one of the main pillars of the East Sussex Disability Association on her birthday, Sunday 18th January.

It was Maureen, along with other Disabled people in Sussex who worked hard at getting the Association changed from being controlled by well meaning but politically naive non-disabled people to the present organisation run and controlled by Disabled people. Both Jeni and I have had the privilege of working for the organisation in the past.

Loved and respected by all of us who knew her, Maureen was totally uncompromising in her approach to anything that attempted to keep us crips in our place and proved to be an untiring advocate when it came to challenging the barriers that disempowered Disabled people. She was heavily involved in getting the Direct Payments scheme up and running in East Sussex and was one of the first Disabled people in the area to run and manage her own scheme.

Maureen had a wicked sense of humour and I must admit to taking some of the inspiration for some of my more controversial cartoons from her! When she died earlier last year, she left a massive hole in the ranks of Disabled people who are fighting for Equal Rights in our very unequal society.

In keeping with Maureen’s own style and approach to life, the Celebration event will have a definite musical theme, mixed with memories of Maureen’s humour and her amazing impact on everyone who knew her. As you’ll gather from the cartoon, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was high on her list of must have films. I have it on good authority that readings of ‘What have the Roman’s ever done for us?!’ (which is what the cartoon is obviously inspired by), ‘The Stoning’, and ‘The ex-leper’ will feature amongst the cakes and scones that Maureen would have insisted on for any party.

Although not the messiah, Maureen was a very naughty girl … and we all love her and miss her.

If you can’t make it I’m sure that her partner Andrew will be pleased to hear from you. You can contact him on: – tell him Crippen sent you!

Accessibility - For those of you using descriptive or transcribing software there’s a text version of the cartoon linked to it. You can also click anywhere on the cartoon to get an enlarged version of it along with the descriptive text.

Posted by Dave Lupton, 16 January 2009

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 28 January 2009

Never give up?!

Someone sent me a video clip the other day of an Australian motivational speaker called Nick Vujicic. Born without any arms or legs Nick has made it his life’s ambition to tell people to ‘Never give up’. language cartoon

He’s pretty self assured and plays his audiences with a skill that borders on the manipulative. Close-ups of impressionable youngsters with tears running down their faces as he talks to them at their schools, and hardened business professionals giving their testimonials along the lines of ‘If a guy with no arms and no legs can do it, anybody can’ can be found on his web main site. All pretty powerful stuff, but as I say, just this hint of covert manipulation going on in the background along with the message that doesn’t really leave room in the world for those of us that don’t have the emotional or psychological well-being to just shrug everything off and get on with life. A ‘what’s your problem – if this guy without any arms and legs can do it, why can’t you?’ sort of thing.

When I looked on the web to try and find out a bit more about him I found another site that he runs. In this one he talks about God having put him on the earth to inspire people (as a guy with no arms and legs) and to spread the word of Jesus. I’ve got absolutely nothing against Jesus or his teachings. As far as I’m concerned he was one of the good guys in the past who tried to get us all to rub along a bit better than we do. I’m sure he’d be equally amazed and a little bit disturbed about what some people are now doing in his name, but still.

But perhaps that’s what I’m picking up when I watch Mr. Vujicic in action. Not just the ‘you don’t have any excuses if this guy with no arms and legs can do it’ angle but also the message that God put us crips on this earth purely as an example to others (hit’s all of the pity, brave, and super crip buttons doesn’t it?!). And did I mention he hasn’t got any arms or legs …?!

Have a look for yourself.Here is the link for the video clip I was sent. You can also Google his name and other stuff will appear about him. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

PS: I was going to run with the cartoon I did last year of the guy with only a head sitting in a wheelchair saying that he liked to think of himself as being differently abled! But then I thought of this one. Funny how the mind works isn’t it?!

Accessibility - For those of you using descriptive or transcribing software there’s a text version of the cartoon linked to it. You can also click anywhere on the cartoon to get an enlarged version of it along with the descriptive text.

Posted by Dave Lupton, 9 January 2009

Last modified by Dave Lupton, 28 January 2009

Bread line

OK. I know that my New Year resolution was to stop being a grumpy old man. But I did go down with a terrible case of man-flu on Boxing Day, which I’m only just recovering from - What, never heard of man-flu? Well it’s like what women get, but about a 100 times worse! (Oh oh, wait for the emails – Ed!) And then what happens? I brush the cobwebs off the computer, log onto my email account, and get another request to use my Darlek cartoon! Darlek cartoon

For those of you who’ve followed my ramblings through the years, you will know that I have to repeatedly inform people that I had nothing to do with the cartoon that shows a Darlek at the bottom of a flight of stairs saying something like ‘Well, there goes our dreams of world domination!’ A brilliant cartoon and great for Equality trainers to use as an example of barriers in a Social Model context; but not mine! (As I’ve said before, I think it was Steve Cribb’s). It’s out there somewhere on the World Wide Web if you hunt for it …

So what I’ve decided to do in future is to say: ‘Fine, no problem, I’ll email you my Darlek cartoon straight away’ and send them this cartoon that I created wearing my Sox cartoonist hat. I’m sure they’ll see the humour of it?!

Oh, Happy New Year by the way!

Free calendar - Incidentally, if you want me to send you a free copy of the 2009 Crippen calendar just drop me a line – – I’m afraid that I’ve not got the resources at the moment to produce an accessible version, but maybe next year - if the bloody 2012 Olympics leaves some funding for other people to apply for! (Oh no. Don’t get him going on that one! – Ed)

Celebration - Some of you may already have had an invite to the Life Celebration next week for Maureen Bruce, the gutsy young Disabled activist who died last year. I’ve created a cartoon for her which I’m hoping to put up on this blog later in the month. I’m sure you’ll all join me in sending our best wishes to Andrew, her family and all of her many friends who’ll be there. I understand that Monty Python is to feature strongly!

Accessibility - For those of you using descriptive or transcribing software there’s a text version of the cartoon linked to it. You can also click anywhere on the cartoon to get an enlarged version of it along with the descriptive text.

Posted by Dave Lupton, 2 January 2009

Last modified by Dave Lupton, 28 January 2009