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On the eve of the closure of the Independent Living Fund, Disabled People fight back

It was great to see the news of the protests against the disbandment of the Independent Living Fund… I've always had a huge amount of respect and admiration for John Kelly and it was great to see him on the news singing 'Which Side Are You On My Boys'. Much warmth, respect and solidarity goes to all the protesters who stormed Parliament yesterday!

I think this cartoon by Dao cartoonist Crippen from 2012 says it all about how despicable the puppet figurehead of our overlords is.

This is no human being! This is a man who will use any emotional trick in the book to draw sympathy from an unthinking, drugged by TV, drugged by Gaming, populace into colluding with his death-dealing campaign against disabled people. 

As the Black Triangle Campaign commented: “The use of one’s dead family members to push policies which amount to passive euthanasia must be unprecedented in British political history.”

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 25 June 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 25 June 2015

Defend disabled people's right to independent living

The Government's plans to do away with the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on 30th June are going to have an immense impact on many individuals Dao works with either directly or indirectly.

The ILF helps over 18,000 disabled people with high support needs to live independent lives in the community rather than in residential care. The fund was introduced in 1988 as the Conservative party at that time realised that supporting disabled people with personal care needs to live independent lives, in their own homes, was cheaper by far than residential care.

After June 2016 there will be no additional funding for already cash-strapped local authorities to meet their legal obligations. The LA’s budgets have already been cut by £991 million in 2011, £890 million in 2012, and they are being cut by a further 28% in 2013-15. 

There is no overall scheme to ensure the safety of the people who depend on the ILF. The overall sense of what will happen is that LA’s will not be able to supply the budgets needed for disabled people to continue to have the same levels of PA support. Individuals will be left to fight for their support needs to be recognised. 

The policy to scrap the ILF is not designed to save money. The implication is that most group 1 users will no longer be eligible for any funding due to tightening of local authority eligibility criteria. The average cost of the ILF is just £345 a week compared to the average cost of residential care being £738 a week. 

This is a direct attack on disabled people designed to divide, weaken and  destroy the spirit of an already fragmented community. More than 18,000 disabled people will lose an essential lifeline, devastating their quality of life. 

Please write to your local MP, and sign the 38 Degree Petition 

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 3 June 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 26 April 2016

Congratulations to Mat Fraser for the recent award given to Cabinet Of Curiosities: but isn’t Disability being firmly put back in a box?

It was good to hear that Mat Fraser has won the Arts and Culture Award category in the Observer Ethical Awards 2014 for his show Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability was kept in a Box.

I interviewed Mat before the show went on tour and was wowed by his performance in the Science Museum earlier this year. For me it was akin to the kinds of cabaret performance we, in the disability arts movement, were lucky to see Mat do 20 years ago: Mat, angry, proud, projecting a cynical humour advocating for disabled peoples’ rights by giving exposure to the Social, Medical and Charity Models of Disability.

Always anarchic, linking karate-kicking raps with observations of how 'disability' is a personal and social role, which simultaneously invalidates people with impairments and validates those identified as 'normal'.

So it surprised me to read in the Guardian’s coverage of the award by Rhik Samadder that the journalist interprets the show, by saying “One of the show's aims is to normalise disability.”

Disability will never be ‘normalised’. Paul Darke, argued back in the late 1990s in his Now I know Why Disability Art is Drowning in the River Lethe paper, that the inclusion agenda was always in danger of sanitising disability to the extent that endangered disabled peoples’ rights.

The assertion of the potential normality of disabled people to fit in - went against the principles of Disability Arts precisely because it sought to ally with the cultural agendas of the arts establishment, rather than the values of the disabled peoples’ movement.

And it looks like Paul’s warning is coming to pass as the current dismantling of the welfare state continues to threaten disabled peoples’ lives. With precious little comment from the media, measures which, under the pretext of saving taxpayers money (but which with a  terrible irony are costing more than the sums allegedly saved) are leaving more and more disabled people in a desperate state of poverty.

The latest epistle under the reign of the current unelected government, is to do away with the Independent Living Fund - a fund set up because it was realised from an economic viewpoint that it was more cost-effective to give disabled people direct support in their own homes - as opposed to locking people away in institutions. So we are going to see disabled peoples’ support needs taken away and replaced once again with high cost institutions allowing little, if any, quality of life.

I wonder if the subtext of Mat’s show should be How Disability is being pushed back in a Box. In his show Mat compares Nazi propaganda images and asks how easily those images can be applied to the strategies of Atos and the DCMS, working specifically to disenfranchise disabled people.

The ILF helps over 18,000 severely disabled people to live independent lives in the community rather than in residential care.

The government announced on 6 March 2014 that it will close the ILF in June 2015.This is the second attempt by the government as last time the Court of Appeal found that the government had breached the equality duties.

The government now claims to have got around the court findings and says it will devolve the money to Local Authorities for 12 months with no ring-fencing.

After June 2016 there will be no additional funding for already cash-strapped local authorities to meet their legal obligations.

Please, help us in the campaign to stop the government's latest attack on disabled people.

Four easy steps to campaign:
1.    Email your MP now to help save the ILF and encourage all your friends and family to do the same
2.    Sign the ILF petition to government
3.    Tweet #savetheILF and Facebook the link to the e-action - www.pcs.org.uk/savetheILF - so others can join the campaign

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 16 June 2014

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 26 June 2014

Colin Hambrook on the 10,000 Cuts and Counting, memorial service and protest

I was asked by Occupy London to find disabled performers to take part in the memorial service and protest against ATOS and the Work Capability Assessment which took place on Saturday 28 September in Parliament Square.

And so my thanks go to Sophie Partridge, Penny Pepper, John Kelly and Dickie Lupton who took to the stage to join their voices with those of many other disabled activists, MPs, GPs, the War On Welfare (WOW) petition and the Dean of St Paul's, the Reverend David Ison, who was instrumental in the organising of '10,000 Cuts and Counting'.

The title of the service acknowledged the 10,600 people who died during or within six weeks of being put through the Atos Work Capability Assessment between January and November 2011. The figures relating to the numbers who have died since that date have not been released by the Department of work and Pensions. 

It seems that the climate of silence in the media surrounding the fact that disabled people with the highest level of support needs are being hit 19 times harder than the average person is something the government want to suppress. Why else would the ATOS boss Thierry Breton have been awarded a bonus of nearly £1million in 2012? 

Many people have said that the austerity cuts have taken us back to the situation we faced in the 1980s, fighting the struggle to organise and get our voices heard. In truth it feels like we have stepped back further in time into the climate of Victorian England when lives were cheaper than ditch water. 

Without the backing of the Church of England last Saturday's protest would have been deemed illegal. The Rev David Ison gave us the parable of Jesus' curing the blind, which was something many of us would have taken umbrage against, but his heart was in the right place, comparing the story of the plight of disabled people now to that of the struggles of disabled people in Palestine 2,000 years ago.

The efforts of those engaged in the event focussed around handing in a letter titled The Downing Street Demand to David Cameron. The letter supported by the British Medical Association and signed by the Reverend Ison calls for an end to work capability assessments.

10,000 Cuts and Counting also gave a platform to the WoW petition, which is seeking another 40,000 signatures to bring it up the 100,000 needed to bring a debate about WCA into the House of Commons.

Please urge everyone you can think of support WoWs demands and click on this link to sign the petition.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 29 September 2013

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 25 October 2013