May 252013

Any campaign from this Government which claims to support disabled people should be viewed with suspicion and the latest offering from the DWP is no exception.

The department yesterday put out a press release boasting: “Celebrities have joined forces with the government to help launch a campaign aiming to promote positive role models for disabled people.”

This campaign features a youtube channel where 50 videos have been posted which have “been produced with a focus on overcoming barriers”.  Many of these videos are unsurprisingly about disabled people who have high flying careers, such as Dame Anne Begg, or are stories of disabled entrepreneurs.

The accompanying press release includes a gushing quote from Emmerdale actor Kitty McGeever explaining how after becoming disabled it ‘took some time to get back into work’ but she managed it with the help of the Government’s Access To Work scheme.

This scheme provides funding for workplace adaptations, travel or some care needs for disabled people in employment.  The number of people benefiting from Access To Work has plummeted by over a third since this Government weren’t elected showing the true situation for disabled people currently seeking employment.

Whilst this campaign may be a cheap attempt to improve those figures, it comes against a background of savage cuts to benefits, services and housing for disabled people.  It is a campaign run by a government which is declaring hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people to be ‘fit for work’ with the aim of stopping their benefits.  A government which has been only too happy to force sick and disabled claimants onto workfare as part of the Work Programme –  with no public scrutiny of where they are being sent or for how long.  A government that is set to force potentially hundreds of thousands of disabled people from their homes due to the bedroom tax, benefit cap and other measures.

And when Personal Independence Payments (PIP) fully replace Disability Living Allowance, this is a Government which will have slashed completely a vital benefit for 20% of disabled people.

This move alone is likely to mean that over 50% of disabled people are forced to leave work as funding for specialist equipment, care and transport disappears*.

Vast numbers of disabled people are set to be plunged into poverty by these measures, and it is this which reveals the true intentions of this latest DWP run project.  One of the charities involved in the campaign is quoted as saying that the “project is about showing what disabled people can do – not what they can’t”.

This is eerily similar to David Cameron’s line when interviewed shortly after the opening of the Paralympic games when he said: “It’s about the inspiration and it will change people’s minds and that’s what matters. It’ll teach people about what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.”

It is also the line used to justify the benefit-stripping Work Capability Assessment which according to the DWP focuses on “what an individual can do despite their health condition, rather than simply what they can’t.”

Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Esther Mcvey also pops up in this week’s press release, and whilst not quite so explicit, her underlying message is the same:  “young disabled people tell me they want to see more inspiring role models to show where disabled people have achieved their ambitions despite the odds being stacked against them”

For young disabled people the odds are stacked against them like never before due to this Government and in this context the true nature of the DWP’s latest campaign becomes clear.  This is not about providing role models for young disabled people or helping people fulfil their potential or even changing perceptions of disabled people as is claimed.  This Government doesn’t care about any of that.  This campaign is yet more insidious DWP propaganda attempting to give the impression that those plunged into poverty due to the ruthless cuts to disability benefits will only have themselves to blame.  If only they’d learnt to play wheelchair rugby, or been a fucking Dame, then they could afford to put the heating on.

The campaign also has a facebook page which might be a good place to share experiences of what people can no longer do due to the vicious cuts to benefits:

Dawn Willis writes well about this kind of narrative: ‘I’m not Stephen Fry, how damaging is that?’ from Dawn

*this figure comes from a survey carried out by Disability Rights UK (DRUK) which reported that 56% of those asked said they would have to leave work if they lost their DLA.  DRUK are notoriously in the pockets of the DWP, with Chief Executive Liz Sayce writing a report which recommended the closure of the Remploy factories.  The survey relating to the number of people likely to leave work due to PIP seems to have disappeared from DRUK’s website, for which there is surely an entirely innocent explanation.

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With massive thanks to the brilliant Johnny Void for letting us re-post

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  4 Responses to “Achieve your Potential or Starve, The Government’s Real Message to Young Disabled People”

  1. The Disability Rights UK survey was never actually published. It was information gathered for our response to Disability Living Allowance reform and was quoted within that document. This response has always been available on both the old Disability Alliance website and the old and new Disability Rights UK websites. You can view it at

    We posted the news item about celebrities promoting positive disability models but decided to hang fire on any negative criticism to see what emerged. However, whatever results from this initiative there is always the danger that it overshadows longer lasting and worthier work done by other organisations.

  2. Sorry I can’t write more, I’m too tired. My wonderful husband is helping me, I have a neurological condition and sometimes I just have to sleep/rest, but I fully agree with the above. Thanks to those who give their time to fight this dreadful battle. I was so pleased to see Ian Duncan Smith ticked off for misusing statistics, shouldn’t the papers that wrote down his words issue and apology, even though they were correct in their reports & it was IDS that was wrong?

  3. Comedian Laurence Clark shows why he hates being called inspiring:

    (I hate the way so many disabled people from history are remembered for being ‘inspiring’ rather than their actual achievements – Helen Keller for instance is rarely remembered for her left wing activism)

  4. Why is it that The Government has not done it’s homework into the cause of disability in young people in this country. The most common cause of disablement in young people are neurological diseases, and mental health conditions. These are not the kind of disease conditions that positive role models will make much of a difference to. It is not a question of self belief but a question of being able to survive a day in the work-place which necessitates a certain amount of energy, organisation, legistics, support, accessibility to transport. My daughter has MS and she works, but she can only work in a place where there is understanding about the condition that she suffers and how it affects her capacity to work. This effectively means that the places she has worked at have been health/disability related charities. Until more places of employment are prepared to recognise the value of people with disabilities as well as their difficulties they encounter to get to work and survive once at work, no role model is going to make a difference to the disabled person’s ability to hold down a job.

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