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!
Hands up all those Crips who know what's going to happen in 2013.
Yes, you've got it, the Government are stopping Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing it with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment or PIP. This is the new system by the way that most disablity organisations claim is not fit for purpose and will leave some half a million disabled people without benefits after change over.
You'll remember that the government pushed through these changes under the Welfare Reform Bill* which received royal assent and became an Act on 8th March 2012. In a nutshell the act abolishes DLA and replaces it with PIP.
This is all part of the government's smoke and mirrors routine where they are trying to convince people that the financial sector is not responsible for creating the current crisis and are placing the 'blame' increasingly at the door of the poorest in society - those who need welfare support.
Even the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) agree that 500,000 current DLA claimants will not receive any PIP at all. They base this on their own figures that show only 1.7 million people between 16 to 64 will receive PIP. They state that, if there was no reform, the number of people getting DLA in the same age group would be about 2.2 million, which the country could not sustain.
So, why are the Government pushing ahead with a replacement system that would appear to be even more flawed than the current one? And why are they ignoring all of the feedback that came as a result of a nationwide consultation process which recommended that they undertake a full equality Impact Assessment before pushing ahead with this new scheme? Oh yes, I forget, Cameron has just abolished Impact Assessments hasn’t he!
Already ATOS and CAPITA, two of the big private sector organisations have been handed great chunks of the PIP assessment process and are rubbing their hands in delight at the prospect of yet more profit to be made at our expense.
BTW by abolishing DLA and introducing PIP the Government has by sleight of hand removed 20 years of case law. All DLA Tribunal decisions are now just history!
Welcome to Cameron's caring Big Society!
* The Welfare Reform Act will not only be responsible for those disabled people not qualifying for PIP losing their 'passport' to other benefits and entitlements, but is also responsible for a large reduction in local authority funding (who are expected to provide a safety net for those people effected by benefit cuts). The Act also places a cap on housing benefit, ends legal aid for welfare and benefits issues and is closing down the Independent Living Fund (ILF) which many of us rely on in order to remain in the community.
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
This week I’ve handed my blog spot over to an artist whose medium is being creative with the airways.
Her name is Merry Cross who, apart from being a presenter on Reading community radio, is also well known as a disabled activist and one of the organisors of the Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts movement.
Here’s her contribution:
Community Radio for disabled presenters
"Years ago, it struck me that radio is an ideal medium for virtually all disabled people, except obviously you Deafies!* I even drew up schedules for an entire radio station devoted to our issues, and tried, naively to float it (it sank without trace).
But then the internet and community radio stations came along and I leapt at the chance of a weekly show on Reading’s ‘Make Yourself Heard’ - blissfully unaware of how much work it would be! But I’m so glad I did it, because not only can it publicise local issues and give local Crips a voice, there’s nothing to stop it covering national issues too. And then there’s nothing to stop English speaking people from all over the world contributing or hearing it!
Also, not being part of a posh outfit run for profit by a bureaucracy, there is no pressure to support the status quo. FREEDOM! What’s more I’ve found some hugely supportive people through it, and formed many new relationships.
So, whilst I’d quite like never to have any competition (!) I’d recommend daring to take the step to anyone.
And of course there are some other disabled people doing radio shows, with 'Alan Commonly Known as Maglite' trying out Skype as his prefered medium. So I’ll just have to keep upping my game!
*And it’s finally dawned on me that I could at least make the scripts available on request, to make it somewhat accessible to Deafies."
You can find out more about Merry and her work with Reading community radio by clicking on this link.
Several people have commented recently that my cartoons have become more 'dark' of late.
I suppose that it's inevitable considering the subject matter to hand these days; disabled people dying after having their benefits stopped, the government disassembling the welfare state and taking equality back to the dark ages, what can you expect?
I'm not consciously looking for bleaker material you understand. It's just that it's being thrust into our faces everywhere we turn. Even the so called 'right wing' press have started to recognise that all is not right with the way the government is running the country ... and that's saying something!
So you'll be pleased to hear that I've been working on a new strip cartoon for Disability Arts on Line (DAO) that takes a look at disability from a slightly lighter perspective. The characters all belong to a Disability Arts group ... but you're going to have to wait until we publish to see more!
But what was that I said about the dark ages? Now there's an idea for a cartoon ...
I read a letter in a local newspaper the other day. The writer was praising David Cameron for reducing the number of people who were on benefits and for making them work for a living instead of scrounging off the state. He seemed to think that some 60% of those people on benefits had now been found work by the government, freeing up a considerable amount of money from the welfare fund.
Where on earth had he got this evidence from? Surely he didn't just rely on the government or the right wing newspapers for his information? Surely he realised that the "facts" supplied from these sources would be biased?
Why didn't he know that the Department of Work and pensions (DWP) has subcontracted out this benefits reduction work to the French-based company ATOS, which has cost the country over £110 million to date. Or that some 20,000 of this year's assessments had been declared sub-standard, resulting in 37% of those disabled people who'd had their benefits stopped having them reinstated under appeal?
Why didn't he know about the estimated 25,000 people who have died whilst participating in this so-called welfare reform, many of them undergoing the Work Capability Assessment managed by ATOS? (The figure of 10,600 people who died during the period between January and November 20011 was recently substantiated by the DWP's own records.) Or that this 'fitness for work' test continues to kill, on average, 32 people each week, due to stress induced by the process or by suicide as a result of their benefits being stopped? (The actual death toll is estimated at just under 72 people per week, but this includes people who have died of impairment/illness related causes.)
Why didn't he know that Margaret Hodge, as Chair of the Public Accounts committee, has recently issued a statement to the effect that ATOS, during the period 2011 - 12, have been taking the DWP (and this country) to the cleaners and are still exploiting many loopholes created in the process?
The letter-writer could research the figures for himself. They're all in the public domain - though admittedly not published by the likes of the Daily Mail or the Telegraph - but available to everyone who has access to the internet. I've even made it easy for him by putting links to these various sources in my blogs!
The real problem with our letter writing friend is the true facts do not support his predudices. It's more comfortable for him to accept the pap he is fed, without analysis. He's been told that we're either super hero Olympians or despicable scoungers and he's bought it! He's lazily accepted the version that slots into his existing pre-conceptions.
Of course, he'll rationalise, there are bound to be a few genuine disabled people who get caught up amongst the fakes, but that's inevitable. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs can you?!
But at its core, our letter writer's perspective is one without compassion, without understanding, without generosity of spirit and certainly without intelligence.
There's a phrase for what's happening to disabled people you know. It's called colateral damage ... and that's what we've become. The colateral damage in Cameron's callous financial missile-firing.
Oh and by-the-way, welcome to the Big Society!
Several nights ago, a young disabled woman was at home on her own when a knock at the door heralded the arrival of police officers from the local constabulary. She claims that there aim was to intimidate her into stopping posting comments on Facebook critical of government cuts and specifically the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and their attacks on the rights of disabled claimants!
Several other reports have now filtered in of similiar tactics by police in other areas. It's alledged that they're acting on complaints from the DWP who say that disabled activists are distorting the truth and making unfounded claims against them.
If they're refering to unfounded claims as being the number of people who are dying under the new welfare reforms (10,600 between Jan to Nov 2011) then I'm afraid that these figures were released by their own department (see my earlier blog with links to DWP documents released under a freedom of information order).
If they're refering to the actual number of people who have committed suicide as a result of the welfare reforms then I'm afraid that this has also been substantiated by a recent survey amongst GPs in the UK (also see my earlier blog with links to this survey and it's results).
And if they're claiming that disabled people are not being effected by the changes to benefits, the closing down of the Independent Living Fund, and the other draconian measures being introduced by the government then I invite them to log onto Face Book and read some of the heart breaking comments from disabled people that are on there.
Whatever the DWP's reasons for complaint, I would think that employing the boys in blue to make intimidating night calls on disabled people was totally the wrong way to go ... although having seen the increase in feelings of anger and outrage being expressed by disabled people across the country, perhaps it was the right way to go!
You can read the full account on Tom Pride's blog by clicking here.
The young woman in question has just posted a comment on her Face Book wall which says:
"Thank you to everyone (in the disability community) for the many wonderful private messages of support, means a great deal. I'm ok, feeling much better than a few nights ago. Been in the care of some great friends ... Thank you everyone for your kindness, means more than I can possibly say."
Disabled people across the country are furious following the Prime Minister's comments at the Tory party conference about his own experiences based on his late disabled son and father.
He painted a rosy picture of the lives of disabled people in the UK following the recent Paralympics and that people were now "seeing the person and not the wheelchair". Although as one pundit commented, thanks to his policies people saw neither the person or the wheelchair, but instead saw a welfare scrounger!
His speech came at the same time as the results of a survey about the true cost of the government's welfare reforms were being circulated.
The survey, highlighted by Exaro, the investigative website and targeted at GPs, confirmed that many disabled patients have been driven to suicide due to the Government's fitness to work test.
Six per cent of doctors have experienced a patient who has attempted - or committed - suicide as a result of “undergoing, or fear of undergoing” the Government's fitness to work test.
The survey also found that 14 per cent had patients who had self-harmed as a result of the test and that a further 20 per cent of GPs had at least one disabled patient who had thought about suicide because of the test.
Alongside of these alarming statistics are the figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirming that 10,600 people participating in the welfare reforms had died during the period January to November 2011.
These figures are derived from administrative data held by the Department for Work and
Pensions and assessment data provided by Atos Healthcare and confirm that upwards of 72 people a week involved in the government's welfare changes have died and that 32 deaths per week are linked directly to people having undergone the ATOS Healthcare fitness to work assessments.
You can see more of Crippen on his alternataive cartoon blog. Please click here for a link to the site.
Like hundreds of other disabled people in the UK today, Adam Lotun has experienced verbal and physical abuse, has been spat at, pushed off the pavement in his wheelchair into oncoming traffic and accused of single handedly bringing this Country to the brink of bankruptcy by claiming disability benefits.
Now on top of this, like thousands of other disabled people in the UK, Adam has been subjected to the ATOS work capability process and as a result has had his benefits cut and his accessible Motability vehicle taken away.
However, unlike most of his disabled peers who have been left feeling disempowered by the heartless actions of the coalition government, Adam Lotun has decided to make a public statement and say "no more".
Taking his fight straight into the enemy camp, Adam is standing as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Corby By-Election on Nov 15th 2012. His aim is to show that the age of the career politician with their selfish, self promoting attitudes has ended and that the caring and compassionate society that he was brought up to believe in still exists.
Speaking in his Blog, Adam argues that today's politicians have lost their way and no longer care about those very people that they are supposed to represent.
"I'm arguing against injustices by those in power ... it is no longer acceptable that the 1% should be ruling over the 99% ... that Parliament needs to be reformed so that we can secure a future for my children and future generations."
Adam has been working with other disabled people to achieve disabled people's rights and equality for over 20 years. He has played a leading role in recent direct action initiatives, chaining himself to other wheelchair users in attempts to block roads and raise awareness of the damage resulting from cuts to disability benefits.
During this time he has heard many examples of discrimination and injustice, but the stories that are emerging from those disabled people who are being abused by the ATOS work capability process are causing him the most concern.
In his latest blog Adam comments on a recent CH4 television news item that focussed on one example of just how badly disabled people are being treated by this system.
"I have heard of a great many injustices to disabled people and have often taken up the fight with them to redress their wrongs ... but I have never witnessed anything so deliberate as to lead to the tragic and needless death of the disabled person upon who the CH4 news item was based ... it left me feeling sick to my stomach."
This particular news item has become a clarion call for Adam and those other disabled people who are working with him towards winning the Corby By-Election. Adam feels confident that the people of Corby will turn out in force to elect him as their parliamentary candidate, influenced by the support that he is receiving from across the country by the disabled community.
He added: "I know that the people of Corby believe that all of my supporters from around the UK who have offered their time, support and resources to enable me to represent them, will continue to assist us in our fight for true democracy.
"That they now have friends from as far afield as John O'Groats to Lands End who will have their hopes pinned on the people of Corby to make a stand against those outdates ideas that have led this country into the state it is."
They will do this by putting Adam forward as their choice to represent their community on the 15th November 2012.
If you feel able to spare time to assist Adam in his fight for parliamentary recognition then please contact him by clicking on this link to his blog. Any and all offers of help will be gratefully recieved, not just by him but by the people of Corby.
Can we dare to believe it ...
According to a report in the Daily Mirror on-line, outraged athletes have lined up to slam PM David Cameron and his beleaguered Chancellor George Osborne in a storm that threatens to taint tonight’s Paralympic closing ceremony.
It claims that Team GB’s Paralympic athletes have launched a furious attack on the Government over savage plans to slash vital disability payments.
Last week George Osborne was booed as he appeared in front of an 80,000-strong crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London, to present medals to triumphant Paralympians.
Now competitors have told of their own fury at the Coalition cuts which will see benefits worth between £20 and £131.50 a week slashed next year.
The article then goes on to give quotes from several disabled athletes who speak about their own experiences when faced with cuts.
Well, if this is true it must mean that our trusty Super Crips have been listening to what we've all been saying for the past few months. Only a protest at the Paralympics will capture the world media and bring our battle for equality to the forefront of British politics.
Let's hope that it's not just a dream and that they will make a protest during tonights finale ... we live in hope!
You can read the full Daily Mirror article by clicking here
You can also update yourselves on the ATOS protests still taking place by clicking here
So, let's take the suggestion a little further shall we?
We've already decided if disabled athletes AND disabled artists work together then we have a real chance of putting a spanner in the works of this divisive government, even if it's a small one.
Because let's face it, some of those disabled athletes out there are only a hair's breadth away from falling into the benefits trap that many of us currently find ourselves in.
Disabled athletes are currently the flavour of the month, especially with all of the Paralympic hype that's going on. But what happens afterwards? When their 'special' status changes and they become just another disabled person, ripe for attack by the ConDems and subject to the brutal fall of the cutting blade.
We all have our moments. Currently for disabled athletes it's the 2012 Paralympics. For the rest of us Crips it's the workhouse.
So come on you Super Crips. How about directing a bit of that limelight onto the rest of the disability stage. We need your help to highlight the reality for thousands of fellow disabled people who are being put through the ATOS wringer - with some failing to come out the other side.
Together we can make changes and have this unique opportunity to do just that. By all means compete and get your medals, but also, when the members of thepress want to interview you, talk to them about the real plight of disabled people in this country!
Thanks for listening.
Crippen's strip cartoon
And don't forget that you can visit Crippen's latest strip cartoon episode of the O'Crype family and their involvement with the Cultural Olympiad.
Why is it that the companies that Cameron and his cronies pay to handle such diverse matters as the Direct Payments Scheme (A4E) and now the stewarding of the Olympic Games (G4S), when they foul up, they get let off with little more than a slapped wrist?
Nothing about Breach of Contract, Penalty Clauses, or being made to give back the millions that they've been paid! No, the British tax payer coughs up yet again and we bail out yet another balls-up!
But what about all of the pieces that are left laying around after each 'jobs for the boys' project fouls up? Here we have the biggest corporate ... sorry I mean 'sports' event ever to take place within the UK and we're now told that there's insufficient people to actually steward it.
Rest assurred, Cameron is sure to have something up his sleeve to overcome this slight set-back ...
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 present government, seemingly run and controlled by a small clique of ex Public schoolboys, seem intent on taking us back to the 1950s where people did what they were told, without question. And the alarming thing is that this tactic seems to be working!
Let's just look at what has been happening with regard to Disabled people. Seemingly overnight the ConDems have managed to reverse the process in which society was begining to view us in a more positive framework.
People were beginning to accept and support our right to accessible housing, accessible transport, access to mainstream education, etc., and also the right to represent ourselves, rather than be beholden to the big charities whose main preoccupation seemed to be to keep a lot of non-disabled 'disability professionals' in work.
The view that we were helpless, pathetic creatures who needed to be cared for and detained within 'special' institutions - basically kept off the streets - was also slowly changing thanks to the pioneering work undertaken by disabled activists and academics over the past 60 years or so.
We'd started to succesfully challenge the negative stereotypes of disability that were portrayed on television and in the cinema and also encouraged some of the media to write about us in a more positive framework. Slow work and constant hard graft, but we were getting there.
But, in the short time that this lot have been in power, they've managed to reverse much of the progess we've been making. They have been sabotaging many of the tools we had aquired for creating our independence, encouraged the press to portray us as benefits scroungers and a drain upon society, and effectively set us back some 50 years. And what's even worse, is that the general public are falling for it all!
But are we down hearted? Too blooming right we are! So what are we doing about it?
I'd be interested to hear ...
One of the main problems affecting many disabled people at the moment is a lack of income. And, as a result, a reduction in the ability to make those choices that affect the quality of our lives.
Until recently, many disabled people earned a reasonable income from providing professional services to organisations which provided disability equality training for their workforce, as part of complying with their legal obligations in relation to employment and providing services. But recently this, and other equality training, seems to have slid right down to the bottom of the agenda - if not off the agenda completely.
Crippen the cynic believes that this is all part and parcel of the present government's efforts to undermine our status as equal citizens in society. First, they labelled us all benefit scroungers and a burden on society. Then this gave them licence to go ahead with their cuts in support services, giving a bit of encouragement along the way to those charities that claim to represent disabled people. So this - among their many other evil acts - has resulted in a reduction in funding everywhere and signposts a one-way route into residential care for many of us.
Many disabled people spent several decades wrestling disability action and equality training away from the "simulationists". Those were (and alas still are) largely non-disabled people, who think that making people wear a blindfold for 5 minutes enables trainees to understand what it is like to have a visual impairment or sending people out into the high street in a wheelchair shows trainees just how brave it is to tackle life on wheels. Having slogged to make disability equality training more meaningful, apparently now our skills are no longer recognised as valid or having any value.
Apart, that is, in those organisations which seem to have revived the old tradition of inviting a disabled people to come in and talk about their own experiences, providing them with a cup of tea and a sticky bun for their trouble.
So if you are one of those crips providing your services for free, could I just remind you that it took years of hard graft to establish our role as professional disabled people in the field of equality training. The last thing that we need is for our disabled brothers and sisters to undermine us in this role and to devalue the importance of this work.
It also goes without saying that we need to earn a living and be in a position to fight against those right wing bigots who don't want us to have any part in their Big Society!
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!?
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.
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’!
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