Having been out of things for most of the last 12 months I was saddened to hear that the political activist and god-father of the disabled people's movement Vic Finkelstein had recently died aged 73.
Originally deported from South Africa in the 60's for his support of the anti-apartheid movement, Vic was the main architect of 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability', published in 1975, which argued that the problems faced by disabled people were caused by society's failure to take account of their needs, not by their impairments.
In 1972 when Paul Hunt wrote his now famous letter to the Guardian, calling for a radical new disability organisation to be formed, Vic eagerly got involved along with other politically active disabled people in the UK.
It was the resulting organisation, called the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, that published 'The Fundamental Principles of Disability'. Not only was Vic a key participant in the discussions that produced this document, but he was the main drafter of it.
He was also prominent in setting up the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People in 1981 and became its first chair. In the same year he represented Britain at the first world congress, established by Disabled Peoples' International.
'To deny or not to deny disability' by Vic Finkelsteinhas been hugely influential to countless numbers of both disabled and non disabled people new to the Social Model. Both simple and profound, it shows how that it is society that creates the barriers, and not our ‘defective’ minds and bodies, as the Medical Model would have us believe.
Vic was also instrumental in setting up the first Open University Disability Study courses, working with Colin Barnes and others at Leeds University.
My own memories of Vic are based around the comments he used to send me whenever one of my cartoons had caught his attention. Not one to mince words was our Vic and I learned a lot from him in this way. He'll be sadly missed.
The Guardian's obituary of Vic, by Mike Oliver, can be found by clicking on this link.
I have also reopened my Crippen Cartooning Blog in conjunction with this blog on DisabilityArtsOnline web journal.
Non-disabled people are warned not to visit this other blog if they are of a delicate and sensitive disposition.
Like my work on this blog, all my cartoons have text description inbuilt. Just click on the cartoon to bring it up.
You can view Crippen's Cartoon Blog by clicking here
Hi boys and girls.
You'll be pleased to hear that I've made about 200 of my more recent cartoons more accessible by uploading them to a unique Flickr site. The cartoons have been split into sets and you'll find a hot button for each set on the right hand side of the page. Alternatively you can hit the 'slideshow' link and see them that way.
If you want to use any of them as part of our continued struggle towards full equality, please do so (you can cut and paste).
All I ask is that you direct people to my web site - www.crippencartoons.co.uk - Thanks.
Click on this link to access the Flickr site.
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!
Well, it's all been happening whilst I've been away. Apart from such regulars as young Dolly, Joe Mc, Tanya and Ms. Pepper, a quick glance at the DAO blog lists brings up a host of fresh names. But are they what they appear to be?
Take for example Rich Downes. Obviously a pseudonym (and I see he's done the reverse of what I do and has used a picture of a much older man in order to establish more credibility). I actually have it on good authority that he's only allowed out after 7pm with a note from his mum!
But he is a good writer. Take for example his latest blog. I don't know if Rich invented the term 'chugger' but it fits so well doesn't it? Those muppets who dress up like idiots and solicit money from punters outside of shops and supermarkets.
Their collecting bucket usually has some vague reference to 'the handicapped' or one of the big charities like Scope, or Blind Dogs for the Guides! (Read Rich's blog - he puts it far more eloquantly than I can).
So, as my re-entry into DAO blog land, and in support of those young contributers like Rich, I thought I'd resurrect and old favourite, the ultimates chugger 'Captain Pratt', getting it wrong yet again!
It also ties in quite nicely with my last blog about the A4e debacle (see Sept 2011) which is still going on. Apparently Margaret Hodge (Ed: Bless her!) has told the coalition that they got it wrong when they took away the Direct payments contracts from disabled people led groups and gave it all to A4e. Not the only thing they've got wrong eh!?
Just when you'd all been lulled into a false sense of security and felt able to visit the blog section of the DAO web site without the need for extra double-gusset strength protection, I'm afraid we have to break the news to you that ... he's back!
Yes, that old curmudgeon* Crippen is back from his bed of pain and incontinence and has once again picked up his pen ready to do battle on behalf of crips everywhere.
"It's good to be back" he told us when we spoke to him at the home for the terminally bewildered yesterday. " I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in again and creating some sleepless nights for young Mr Hambrook as he waits for the writs to pour in again!" (Ed: Groan!)
*A crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas (Ed: Sounds about right!)
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!
Recent legal advice given to 38 Degrees, the 'Save our NHS' campaign group, makes sobering reading. It states that the government’s changes to the NHS plans could pave the way for a shift towards a US-style health system, where private companies profit at the expense of patient care and those without money go untreated.
Barrister Rebecca Haynes found that the government's plans could pave the way for private healthcare companies and their lawyers to benefit most from changes, not patients. Another barrister, Stephen Cragg, found that we were right to be worried that Andrew Lansley was planning to remove his duty to provide our NHS.
Conservative MPs are being told by their bosses these changes fit with party ideology. But many would be horrified to know that the NHS would be subject to European competition laws and front-line services could be held up with procurement red tape. 38 Degrees are urging people to lobby these MPs who are due to vote on massive changes to our NHS in a few days time.
They state that if enough people email now, it could tip the balance. To find out how to do this, click on this link.
38 Degrees' independent lawyers have identified two major problems in the new legislation:
- The Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide a health service will be scrapped. On top of that, a new “hands-off clause” removes the government's powers to oversee local consortia and guarantee the level of service wherever we live. We can expect increases in postcode lotteries – and less ways to hold the government to account if the service deteriorates.
- The NHS will almost certainly be subject to UK and EU competition law and the reach of procurement law rules will extend across all NHS commissioners. Private health companies will be able to take new NHS commissioning groups to court if they don’t win contracts. Scarce public money could be tied up in legal wrangles instead of hospital beds. Meanwhile, the legislation lifts the cap on NHS hospitals filling beds with private patients.
So who are MPs going to listen to when casting their vote – you, or lobbyists from private health companies? This is our NHS, and it’s up to us to defend it. Email your MP now by clicking on this link.
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!
Not wanting to be accused of venturing into Medical Model territory too much, I've hung back from providing too much detail about the various health issues that I've been experiencing lately! However, as one of the issues impacts upon my art in a more direct way than the other stuff, I thought that I'd share some of my experiences regarding the deterioration of my eye sight with you.
My sight has been deteriorating for quite a while now and I'd put it down to the aging process. Well you do don't you?! I've worn glasses since I was about 12 (Ed: Hadn't realised that they'd been invented that long ago Dave?!) and every now and then during the past couple of decades I'd had to have stronger lenses fitted.
It wasn't until I went for my last eye test and the optician mentioned that my cataracts had got a lot worse, that I realised I had any (cataracts, not eyes!). This explained why I'd been having to cut down on my computer useage and was finding it increasingly difficult to drive at night. Apparently bright light can't penetrate the cloudy lenses too well and it just creates a dazzling effect.
It also explained why I'd lost the subtle differences between some of the colours that I use in my cartoon work. I'd been convinced that 'they' had changed some of the colour palettes on the arts software I use and had sent off a couple of grumpy emails to the software nerds at Adobe!
So, cataracts. No big deal. At least treatable, albeit a bit painful and involving laying down in a darkened room for a while afterwards with sandbags either side of my head (how wrong was this piece of information?!).
A letter duly arrives from the hospital inviting me to attend for an eye test and, after a few more appointments and examinations, I'm sitting up in the assessment ward having a cup of coffee and a chocolate digestive (ED: You sure this is the NHS?!). They've confirmed that my eyes are bad and that the left eye is worse and will be done first - say in about two months time as the current waiting list dictates. But then the crip fairy of good fortune intervenes ...
"Anyone turned up yet for today's sessions?" queries a theatre sister, bustling into the ward, "Only we've had to send Mr Smith home due to an eye infection."
"Nope, nobody due for another half hour" replies the ward Sister, "Although ..."
They both turn to look at me. "Fancy having your eye done now?!"
Five minutes later I'm laying on a trolley having drops put into my eye and having the procedure explained to me by the surgeon. I'll be in and out in 20 minutes he explains. No general aneasthetic (all done by eye drops), no pain, no discomfort, no laying in a darkened room afterwards. I should be driving my car tomorrow and getting used to being able to see without my glasses. So much for the very out-dated information that I'd got from the internet!
He would put a distance lens in my left eye today, then in a few weeks he'd put a reading lens in my right eye. Apparently the brain sorts out the signal from each eye and adjusts automatically from distance to near. Talk about science fiction becoming reality.
The procedure itself was completely pain free. All I could see was the strong light from the microscope over my head and some vague shadows as the surgeon did his stuff. When I heard him say "Putting the lens in now", I was treated to an amazing display of colours as the lens unfolded and the light from the microscope lit it up. My "Wow" was greeted by a soft chuckle by the surgeon. "Good eh?!" he commented.
And true to his word, the next morning I was able to remove the plastic protective cover he'd taped over my eye for the night, and WOW ...!! (Sorry, but if you're from my generation you'll know that 'wow' is the ultimate term of amazement!).
For the first time ever (even with glasses) I could see into the distance with so much detail; colours were so bright and vibrant that it was almost unreal. Quite overwhelming I can tell you. If I closed my right eye (still murky from the remaining cataract) I got a Steve Austin (Bionic Man) type 'sight jump' and another meter or so of distance vision clicked in. And all this on the National Health!
So, for all of you out there who've been in touch wanting details of the operation (mainly because you're going through the same thing yourselves) I hope I've put your mind at rest regarding the lack of pain and just how uncomplicated the procedure now is.
The only down side, especially for someone like myself who relies for their living on being able to access a computer, is the wait between having the other eye done. At the moment, I can see the screen great from about two meters away, but can't reach the keyboard from that distance! I'm having to wear my old computer glasses and close my 'new' eye when I want to do any detail work on the screen, or keep scooting the chair back so that I can get a clearer picture of what I've just created. Not conducive to my usual style of working. Although it has given me a better insight into the sort of problems those of you with more permanent visual impairments experience.
I'm seeing the Consultant again next week and will hopefully have the other eye sorted in a week or so's time. I don't expect any problem, and I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for all of your messages and good wishes by the way. They've been greatly appreciated. :-)
A non-disabled friend of mine expressed suprise that not only was I unwilling to help him ensure that assisted suicide would be made fully accessible to disabled people, but that I was also very much against the idea of assisted suicide being made legal in the first place!
Recently retired from a life in the medical profession, John is now serving in a voluntary capacity on a panel set up to address the issue of making assisted suicide legal. In his - in other areas commendable - awareness of disability equality he wanted to make sure that assisted suicide would be equally accessible to disabled people and he wondered if I would be able to help him think through some of the associated issues.
It became clear as I started to explain my position on this subject, that he hadn't considered there would be people vehemently opposed to the whole concept of helping someone commit suicide. His rational medical mind had seen it purely as a way of helping people who were too ill to continue living, and who had made a decision when they'd been able to do so, to obtain assistance to end their life in a dignified and peaceful manner.
Part of his argument was that it was something that was already happening; doctors and other medical staff assisting a patient to end there life by witholding treatment or by increasing the dosage of pain killers. Making it legal would mean that there would be controls put into place and that medical professionals wouldn't be able to randomly end someone's life as they saw fit.
I started to explain that disabled people in particular were adamantly opposed to assisted suicide becoming legal because this would inevitably mean that a medical professional would have the power of life or death over a disabled patient, and that it would inevitably lead to pressure - however subtle - being put on people who felt that they were becoming a "burden".
I told John about disabled activist Jane Campbell, in the forefront of the 'Not Dead Yet' campaign who had woken in a hospital bed to hear a doctor discussing whether or not they should place a 'do not resuscitate' notice in her medical notes. And this had taken place without any prior discussion between Jane or her family ...
He replied that this was exactly why legislation was needed. If there was a legal framework around such medical intervention, Jane would have had to have been consulted before any discussion about this took place. I pointed out to him that current legislation already protected Jane's rights in this way and that by making assisted suicide legal this could undermine those rights.
My medical friend - a good, thoughtful and thorough man - was none the less unaware of the groups of disabled people who were campaigning against legislation or of the arguments that we are putting forward against it. From listening to him it seemed that the panel had proceeded with the assumption that making assisted suicide legal was not only a positive thing but was also in the best interests of everybody. I think he was suprised to learn that there were so many people against the idea, despite the recent 'End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill' by Margo Macdonald suffering an overwhelming defeat by a 85-16 margin last November because MSPs were convinced that its ‘safeguards’ were not safe.
I concluded our discussion by suggesting that perhaps people would not see assisted suicide as the only option if support services for people at all stages of their lives (and death) were adequate and appropriate.
I've offered to give my friend some information compiled by disabled people who are against legislation being passed and to provide him with the contact details of those people who would be prepared to discuss the issues with him. If you have something to say on the subject, please leave your comment in the following section and I'll make sure that it is forwarded. Thanks.
There are currently several other sites covering this subject. Here are the links for a few of these.
Click here for the Scope article
Click here for the 'Not Dead Yet' article
Click here for the Disabled People Fight Back blog
Click here for the Face Book page for Mental Health & the Wider Disabled People's Movement
Click here for the London School of Economics blog
A non-disabled heavy metal fan seems to have met his match when stumbling into a debate being currently aired on the Pesky People blog.
Having tried to establish just what arrangements had been made for access to the 13 venues that would be hosting a tribute to Heavy Metal music, our disabled sister Alison ran into a brick wall. Not literally, you understand, but an equally effective wall of silence from the organisors.
In the end, the only response that she did get was that she should check out each of the venues herself in order to establish just how accessible they were. Apart from the impracticality of her travelling around Birmingham and the West Midlands in order to see which venue she would be able to access, the response fell somewhat short of the legislation laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act (1996) and the Equalities Act (2010) regarding access to such venues – both acts clearly state that any service must make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible and that any service must anticipate what those needs might be.
Enter our non-disabled Heavy Metal fan who thought that not only was Alison's request unreasonable but was in some way antagonistic! Had she not considered the feelings of the event organisors when posting about this ommission from their programme? How dare she?! He then went on to compound the situation by suggesting that Alison was being a Dick!
Bring it on my son... Needless to say quite a few fellow crips have jumped in with responses, including yours truly. But then I though, hang on, we should all have access to this debate, so I'm posting the link to the blog here and suggesting that you all join in! His name is Pete Ashton by the way ...
To join in the debate to access Pesky People's blog site please click here. It's worth taking the time to read the comments from the top down to the latest one in order to get the full picture.
So, over to you gentle readers. : -)
It strikes me as strange that this government haven't safe-guarded themselves by keeping the police forces around the country happy.
As more and more people take to the streets in protest against the ConDem's slash and burn tactics, I would have thought that they are going to need the boys and girls in blue to maintain public order and keep party members safe. But with the various police forces up and down the country being faced with their own cuts, there's now a strong possiblity that some police officers will be joining in the protests.
I suspect that this government would initially react by playing one force off against another - having the Met control a protest march by the Yorkshire Constabulary for example. Although apart from adding further to the North-South divide if they did do this, I think it would allow for the more anarchistic elements of protest to exploit this and capitalise on the divisions created. Not something that Mr C and his cronies would want I suspect!
History has shown us that in this sort of situation governments start to manipulate information, creating an atmosphere of fear that allows for new 'emergency' measurers to be implemented. New laws are rushed through that allow for people's civil rights to be ignored or crushed under foot by those seeking to establish scapegoats for the situation that the country finds itself in ... seem familiar?!
Let's hope that there's a whistle blower in government who is keeping watch for those signs of yet more political control appearing. Bulk orders for jack boots and black uniform material, the building of accessible internment camps to house those of us who are deemed too dangerous to be at large. It wouldn't really suprise me as to what lengths the present government will go in order to recreate society in its own distorted image.
Keep a careful watch brothers and sisters. It's not a big step for us to be branded tomorrow's terrorists if this government has its way.
It was a tough decision for those disabled people who went on the anti-cuts march on Wednesday 11th May. Do they march and appear to be supporting the non-user led charities and organisations that organised the event, or stay away in protest that the charity Leonard Cheshire was one of the lead organisations?
Some people found a compromise and went there with the specific purpose of meeting those crips that weren’t usually involved in public protest, and weren’t aware that there was a user-led alternative to the charities that supported them. Our own Liz Carr and Penny Pepper were two such people and who made quite a few new friends and contacts on the march; disabled people who had never had the opportunity to talk with politically aware crips before.
Others went on the march for a similar reason but also carried placards that had a message on both sides; ‘Stop the cuts’ on one side and ‘Rights not Charity’ on the other side. Richard Downes of Brent Advocacy Concerns (a user led organisation) was one such person and reports that he was able to guide a few more disabled people towards those crip organisations that are fighting the cuts AND the charities!
Other politically active disabled people, including myself, were of those who decided that any involvement with such an organisation as Leonard Cheshire was a step too far, especially as we’re constantly receiving information from former and existing clients of Leonard Cheshire, all claiming to have been abused and discriminated against by that organisation.
Probably because it speaks to my prejudices regarding some of the organisers of the march on Wednesday, the comments that I’ve heard from disabled people who did take part, and some of the video I’ve seen on UTube all seem to confirm my worst fears.
“The march was over-organised with charity workers telling us when to smile at the cameras, what to shout out and generally treating us like children!” was one comment expressed by a woman wheelchair user.
Other people commented too:
“I’ve never felt so disempowered and patronised [by the organisers]!”
“I came all this way to protest and now they’re telling me to quietly make my way back home. I came here to protest and I WANT TO PROTEST!”
Having watched excerpts of the march on video and seeing disabled people herded like docile sheep by tabard wearing organisers – each tabard carrying the logo of their specific charity – I personally feel that it did little to challenge the government’s slash and burn tactics. There was nothing on display that reflected the raw anger that crips throughout the country are feeling. Anger that was elegantly expressed by one protester who, despite struggling to articulate her feeling due to her impairment, managed to say to camera “This government don’t give a fffff ...FUCK!”
The best video of the march that I’ve seen so far is, ironically the one by Scope. And it does pick out the more positive aspects of the march. Click here to watch it.
For further information about groups and organisations OF disabled people who are fighting the cuts, please click on the following links:
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Brent Advocacy Concerns
Mental Health & The Wider Disability Movement
Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN)
And for those of you living in Brighton and area, there is going to be a Brighton Disabled People Against Cuts (BDPAC) meeting on 19th May. Go to the Creative Cafe website for full details.
PS. For those who aren't familiar with disabled people's stand against Leonard Cheshire you can read a pretty good summing up by clicking on this link.
The Big Society Sucks! - a poem by Ann Young
I will not go quietly
Or rebuild bridges burnt
I'll make my own way now
With many lessons learnt
Hard work needs reward
It's the only way
A good day's work
For a decent pay!
We fought so hard
For our equality
Don't throw all that away
By wanting work for free
I'll not work for nothing
It seems so wrong to ask
I'm a disabled woman
Reclaiming my working class
I was offered voluntary work but rejected it. I have worked so hard to get where I am and giving away my hard earned knowledge for free goes against everything I believe in as a disabled women with strong working class values. I do believe there is still a mainstream view that we have nothing of value to offer, so I just wanted to voice my own thoughts regarding Cameron's Big Society rhetoric.
Ann Young April 2010
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.
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!
More and more disabled people are turning out for the various anti-cuts demonstrations that are taking place across the length and breadth of England and making their voices heard. And it looks as though the big rally planned by the TUC in London on 26th March will include members from all of the anti cuts groups run and controlled by us crips; in effect the largest turn out of disabled protesters that this country has ever seen.
Even those of us who can’t be there physically are being facilitated by groups like ‘Black Triangle’ (who originated this idea at the Inclusion Scotland Conference earlier this year) and ‘Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)’ who are both planning on carrying banners with absent disabled protesters names printed on them. There is also going to be a virtual protest blogs set up so that those who can’t participate physically can do so on-line.
Accessible transport is being arranged, a buddy support system is being organised and the TUC have announced the setting up of a large video screen for those who can get to Hyde Park but can’t access the actual march itself. I’ve also just heard that there’ll be a static protest point in Hyde Park for those of us unable to participate in the actual march.
And it also looks as though the mainstream press are starting to take notice of us too. The recent demonstration in Birmingham at which our own Bob Williams Findlay spoke was shown on television that night. Also several excellent videos about the protests from the likes of John McCardle and Craig Lundie from Black Triangle, and Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip from DPAC are currently doing the rounds on UTube.
Protest groups that mainly consist of non-disabled people are also now beginning to realise that we have a vital part to play in the nation wide protest against this government’s punitive actions. Albeit with some heavy lobbying by disabled activists, they seem to be taking on board issues around accessibility and inclusion.
Call me optimistic but I think that after the 26th March demonstration, bully-boy Cameron and his cronies will be in no doubt that disabled people in this country are determined to put a stop to their slash and burn tactics. I can forsee the biggest U-turn in political history coming up with regard to benefits reforms and this will be down to those disabled people who protested and shouted ‘rights not charity’!
As many of you will be aware I've been experiencing malicious attacks on my FaceBook accounts over the past six months or so, which, by a strange co-incidence, is also the same amount of time I've been creating cartoons about the Coalition government and their horrendous attacks on disabled people.
I've also set up another blog in order to take any heat away from this DAO one, which, thanks to the expert care of my web manager Ken, who also runs my web sites, continues to go from strength to strength. You can find my political blog by clicking here.
The other day I had a message from a disabled colleague advising me that their was now a way to protect your FaceBook account by passing it through FaceBook's new encryption server. Similiar to the system used by on-line banking etc., this is very easy to set up (takes a couple of minutes) and which I thought I would share with you all. I've also had this information verified as authentic by Ken (see above) and also by FaceBook themselves.
By following these simple steps it will stop your FaceBook account being accessed by an unauthorised user (hacker). So here we go:
While on FB, look at your url address. If you see http: instead of https: then you DON'T have a secure session (not encrypted) and you are wide open to people assuming your identity and accessing your account.
To change this, first go to 'Account', which is at the end of the FaceBook blue bar at the top of your page (usually on the right). Click this and then select 'account settings' from the drop down menu. Then scroll down the page that opens to 'account security' and then click on the 'change' option (black printing on the right).
The page will refresh and you'll now have 'hide' instead of 'change' and also two new tick boxes underneath the account security heading. Tick both of these boxes with your mouse and this will change your url to a secure pathway and also trigger an email alert if your account is accessed from another computer.
The final and most importent thing to do next is to click on SAVE (under the ticked boxes).
Your url should now show https://www.facebook.com which means that it will be very difficult for your account to be hacked now as it will be encrypted.
A final point. If you access your FB account by opening it as a 'Favourite' or as a 'Bookmarked' item (Firefox) it might pay to resave it as 'Facebook secure log on' or similiar, and then delete the original listed item. A bit belt and braces I know, but then I've become very twitchy about this!
Incidentally, my new FB page is listed under my name 'Dave Lupton' instead of Crippen so if you lost me as a friend when the original one crashed, please feel free to join me on this new one!
Anyway, I hope this helps. Please feel free to pass the link to this blog on to other friends.
I was recently privileged to see Liz Carr make a brilliant, gutsy speech at the People's Convention on 12th February 2011. She spoke from the heart on behalf of every disabled person facing the uncaring attitude of this government. I'd like to share it with you...
"Thank you … I can only dream of being on the platform. One day … One day we’ll make it" (this was due to the fact that Liz was relegated as a disabled speaker to the area in front of the stage - the stage, as usual being inaccessible!).
"Disabled people make up 20% of the population. That’s a conservative estimate. We are hidden impairments, we are visible, we are old, we are gay, we are lesbian, we are black, we are white, we are all sorts of people, that’s who we are.
But what we are not is… We are not victims. We are not scroungers or frauds. We are not vulnerable or work shy. We are not charity cases or burdens or ‘unsustainables’ or useless eaters. We are fighters, survivors, leaders, comrades, brothers & sisters in arms, campaigners, citizens and equals.
This, like for many of us, is not a new struggle. Our history is littered with disabled people being scapegoated, demonaised, discriminated against and oppressed. It is also a history of disabled people fighting back against this.
From the League of the Blind who unionised in the 19th Century to fight for their rights, to the war veterans who marched on Whitehall for the jobs and respect they were due, to disabled people fighting to escape residential care in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s forming the Union of Physically Impaired Against Segregation, to those of us in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s who chained ourselves to buses to secure equality in public transport and in law … We have been here before.
However, we are faced with a horrific onslaught of attacks from all directions. The cuts that we’re all talking about today, we encounter those cuts too – whether it’s the increase in VAT, privatization of our basic services, of the NHS, of cuts effecting the public sector – we experience them too as disabled people but on top of that we’re having our benefits whipped from us, we’re being assessed by ATOS. People in care homes are having the mobility component of their DLA (Disability Living Allowance) removed. We’re being charged for the basic right to have a wee, our Independent Living Fund money that allows us to be independent within the community is being removed in 4 years time, Incapacity Benefit is being scrapped and replaced by the unforgiving ESA (Employment Support Allowance), on top of that there is hate crime, limits to housing benefit, Access to Work, to transport and if we want to challenge it, to Legal Aid too. That’s fucked as well.
Disabled people are living in fear. We are living in poverty. We are going to be living in the Dark Ages where they decide between the deserving and the undeserving poor. But, we will not let this happen. Because through our history, what we have learnt is that the media, the policy makers and the Government will try to separate us into our different groups. They will try to weaken us. They will try and make us compete against each other for whatever crumbs are on offer, fighting amongst ourselves, individualizing this struggle, dividing us so that they may conquer and change the balance of society in favour of financial capital rather than social capital and equality. That’s what happening. We cannot afford to let this happen.
We are fighting for our lives, for our freedom, for our existence. That’s how important it is to disabled people and for everybody here today. It is about our basic liberty, our basic right to life. We will not be hidden away. We will not be hidden away behind close doors, out of sight out of mind, in our homes or institutions.
We will not settle for charity rather than rights. We will not be forgotten. We will not be silenced. We must mobilise and in doing so not forget those who cannot take to the streets in protest but who can through virtual protesting.
We must politicise. We must educate ourselves and others in what’s happening in our own and wider campaigns. We have to radicalise. This is about revolution not reformation anymore. We must unite. As disabled people, as disabled people and allies, as everyone - we must unite. Together we are stronger. Thank you."
Due to ill health Crippen has had to cut down his workload for the moment, including his regular postings on this blog. He's hoping to be back soon however and is looking forward to continuing the arts protest debate that was started on an earlier posting.
In the meantime you can visit his alternative political blog by clicking here and leave your comments as usual.
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
A little while ago I did a round robin email to specific folks that I know who are concerned or who are involved in the cuts protests going on around the country.
It seemed to me that we needed to think of a way that we can protest without switching people off and being associated with violent confrontation, whilst at the same time getting in people's faces and making an impact. In effect cutting through the stereotypical perception that the general public have of us crips and putting an end to the apathy that seems to grip people in times of crisis, including many disabled people.
We have a huge resource in the shape of a large disabled artists community. We should be able to utilise this talented group and come up with some pretty unusual ideas with which to attract the general public to our cause. At the same time we should be able to provide a vehicle that those disabled people who haven't yet become involved could identify and join in with.
One of the best demos I've seen involved environmental protesters dressed in black, moving slowly through the streets one evening carrying large canisters. They all eventually converged on one of the large oil companies HQ's and proceeded to dump the oil they had in the canisters on the doorstep of the building. Nothing was said and the protesters remained expressionless. Then they all turned around and walked slowly away in all directions. This had such an impact and was covered by the press and television in full the next day.
Imagine several hundred (dare I say thousand) disabled people all gathering at one point and all doing something so imaginative that it would make the whole country sit up and take notice. It doesn't have to be elaborate; just different enough to grab people's attention.
I then gave a few examples of different ideas and waited for the responses ...
Well, I wasn't disappointed. My inbox is still gets several responses in it every day and they are still coming in. So the time has come to try and get all of these ideas out for further discussion; which is why I've created this blog.
The plan is to winnow out the main ideas and put them up on a further blog here for further discussion. We'll eventually end up with a group of ideas that we all feel confident with and that we can start to recruit crips to implement up and down the country.
The cartoon, by the way depicts fellow disabled artist Liz Crow appearing on the Anthony Gormley plinth in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 8th August 2009. She presented a dignified but powerful statement against extreme right wing politics in its worse manifestation. This was also an example of how disability art and disabled people's protest could come together and send a strong, clear message to the rest of society.
Do government ministers need disability equality training?
"Do government ministers need disability equality training?" That was the question asked by a member of the public at an all party parliamentary group on disability earlier this week. It's surely a sign of how disabled people's trust in the government agenda around this issue has broken down that someone even felt it appropriate to ask this question - even if it was slightly facetious!
Lord Freud, minister for state for welfare reform, was present to discuss the government's benefit reform agenda with MPs and members of the public. Apparently, according to people at the meeting Lord Freud didn't seem to appreciate that ESA was aimed almost solely at disabled people and that Contributory ESA is only open to disabled people when he insisted that disabled people would be protected against these changes. This apparently caused several people to ask if he fully understood the issues?!
Vern Pitt, equalities journalist commented: "There are elements of disability benefit reforms which are sensible and easy for disabled people and the sector to get behind. No one would argue the form for disability living allowance should remain huge and complex, or that there needs to be better employment support for disabled people.
"But the way the government has handled it, in a rather blunt manner (often pandering to the right wing press' depiction of those on benefits as scroungers), has made it untenable for most to get behind these aims."
Disability Alliance, the disability organisation which focuses on benefits, was quick to point out that the consultation on disability living allowance reform is only running for nine weeks, not the usual 12. It is measures like this that make disabled people rightly suspicious of the motives for change.
Vern added: "All the little things add up. The lack of information, the lack of consultation and the subsequent lack of clarity are making it hard to find a solution that both the government and service users can support. Worse still it's clearly beginning to make disabled people question if the government even know what disabled peoples lives are really like!"
Commenting to me by email, disabled activist Alan Wheatley told me: " As a lifelong disabled person, I have long suspected that those who give the order have no idea what my life (as a disabled person)is like."
You're not the only one Alan!
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"