Nov 242015

Last week John Pring highlighted a case showing not only that the system dealing with unemployed and disabled people has not improved, but is reminiscent of the worst days under Atos


But this time, it is Maximus which is the henchman. It is Maximus which had been informed by Mandy McGuire, project manager of the charity Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC), that Alan McArdle, whom she had supported for 16 years, was too unwell to contact Maximus as he had just left hospital, and it is Maximus which referred him to the DWP for sanction. One hour after reading the DWP letter telling him he was at risk of losing his benefits because he failed to contact Maximus, Mr McArdle collapsed and died of a heart attack.


His case embodies the long catalogue of failures associated with the WCA and DWP that we have become accustomed to seeing.

To start with, he was wrongly placed in the Work Related Activity Group, and with a prognosis short enough that he had to attend the the Work Programme. Suffering from diabetes, he had no feeling in his arms and legs, and also suffered from other medical conditions, in addition to being alcoholic.  It was his lack of feeling which caused his fall, leading to his hospitalisation. He was so unwell before his fall that Maximus had agreed to keep in touch by telephone as Mandy McGuire found it impossible to transport him to the meetings because his mobility was so poor.

Once in the Work Programme, he had to keep in touch with the Work Programme private contractor Maximus in order to receive his benefits. When he failed to do so, he was referred to the DWP for sanction. The likely response of Maximus to any criticism is that private contractors don’t legally have the discretion to review good cause. This is true, but it does not take away the fact that Maximus is now in charge of administering 2 lethal schemes, the WCA and the Work Programme, both of them fundamentally flawed.  Obviously Maximus has no interest in seeing their ‘clients’ dying, as it makes a huge amount of money out of their misery.

In other news, Maximus share prices have floundered as it is not processing the required number of ESA assessments. The explanation given by Maximus is the recruitment, training and retention issues the company faces.  Which explains why it is offering such attractive salaries.

Maximus salaries



But it takes a certain kind of person to knowingly deprive some very disabled people of benefits because they did not tick the right boxes. Although the salaries are attractive, are they big enough to buy a conscience?

The last words are left to people by Trinity who cared of Alan McArdle:

“One of the people we work with, from our day centre in Slough, died recently. He wasn’t living on the streets – he had found housing. He had multiple health problems and had recently been in hospital. The private company who had been tasked with deciding who was fit for work – no longer the job of the civil servants employed by the jobcentre – had put him on the work programme. This meant he had to keep a number of appointments, apply for jobs and was expected to work. He missed an appointment. He had just left hospital and one of our people had written letters and made calls on his behalf to ensure that the people from the work programme knew why the appointment was missed. He was too poorly to leave the house.

He received a letter telling him his benefits had been stopped – he was being sanctioned for not attending his appointment. His ill-health was irrelevant. He died after opening this letter. He collapsed and was gone. They say your life flashes before your eyes before you die, I would hazard a guess that it was his future that flashed before his: losing his home, returning to the streets, perhaps dying there.

Does his life matter?

It matters to us”


It also matters to us. You were a precious, unique human being. Rest in peace, Alan

 Posted by at 23:30
Nov 242015
Thank you again to Nick Dilworth for this important post: (



Sickness claim levels fall for
first time in 2 years


It was only a question of time.

For sometime I’ve been tracking signs of movement on the Maximus front.

On the face of it, the latest Work Capability Assessment (WCA) statistics from the DWP provide a very limited insight into how busy they are finding sick people ‘fit for work’ or placing them in the Work Related Activity or Support Group of the Employment & Support Allowance.

The current outcome statistics tail off dramatically showing a much lower number of assessments being carried out (see previous posts and others on ‘ESA Chaos‘)

But don’t be fooled, Maximus are coining it in and the latest claimant count figures for those on the sick show us that for the first time in two years, the numbers have fallen.  In my estimation, it’s only the start, the worst is yet to come.

Fist pumping Duncan Smith will be secretly delighted, but he’ll not make any noise over it; – for now.

Here’s the figures….

Note the fall from 2,533,220 to 2,521,160 between February 2015 and May 2015?

Not a huge drop, but all heading in the right direction as far as Duncan Smith is concerned.

Don’t forget these figures from the DWP are always living in the past.  Although, from looking at separate figures fromDWP expenditure tables we can get a much more up to date idea of just how busy Maximus – aka – Centre for Health & Disability Assessment Ltd – have been.  In the 7 months from March 2015, the start of the their new contract with the DWP, they’ve raked in over a cool £60Million pounds.  Nice to know our corporate friends are starting to coin it in….

Yet, a look at the DWP’s record of assessment outcomes tells us that in March 2015, a limited number of assessments have been carried out by Maximus.  There are no figures available beyond March because these are the latest available.

The DWP ‘outcome’ statistics tell us that in March 2015, Maximus conducted a grand total of 56,400 assessments, 42,400 for new ESA claims and 14,000 for ‘repeat’ assessments – there are no figures beyond December 2014 for claims migrated from old incapacity benefits. In the month of March 2015, 36% of new claimants were found fit for work.

In the preceding six months from September 2014 to February 2015, the average percentage of new ESA claimants found fit for work was 29%.  In six month sector from March to August 2014 the fit for work percentage was also 29% and for the sector September 2013 to February 2014 we were looking at 28.6%.

Under Maximus, in the first month alone, the numbers found fit for work has jumped to 36%.

As previously stated, Maximus are said to be working to a target of 1 million assessments by the end of 2015. This averages out at around 100,000 a year, the assessment records are only showing us 56,000, the payments indicate considerably more assessments are being carried.

It amazes me how the DWP are always unable to produce up to date statistics due to ‘data lag’, yet Maxmimus appear to have no difficulty in invoicing the DWP to get their payments – I assume they do so on the basis of up to date information detailing precisely how many assessments they are carrying out?

Like I say, this is the first clear indication that Maximus are putting the boot in, Duncan Smith is looking to cleanse the sick of their illnesses and knock a few billion off his welfare bill, now he’s cleared the election he’ll not worry too much about a few thousand more on Jobseeker’s Allowance.  “That’s because our new measures at improving Labour’s broken Employment & Support Allowance system are now working, we’re getting people off the sick and in to work just as we said we would” – that’ll be his words in a few months to come.

The real casualties will be those in the Support Group.  Moving thousands from this group is fraught with potential disasters as is limiting the number of formal appeals along with the restriction on re-claims.  I dare say we will see an increase in the number of deaths associated with the wretched process – no matter how much IDS tries to deny it.

 Posted by at 16:57
Nov 222015

[Reblogged from Doug Paulley’s Blog, with thanks]

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is!

And when we want your opinion, we’ll tell you what it is!

Clare Pelham, Leonard Cheshire’s Chief Executive Officer, was interviewed by Peter White today on Radio 4 “You and Yours” about disabled peoples’ difficulties in accessing buses. This is because their survey of 179 wheelchair users found “over nine out of ten (92%) wheelchair users had been refused a space on a bus” and “three in five (61%) people identified buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they faced. This was way ahead of other problems faced by those using wheelchairs“.

Peter White asked her specifically if she thought that the Paulley vs Firstbus case would find in my favour at Supreme Court.

Peter White: “So this case, that is still going to the Supreme Court, are you expecting that to be restored? Mr Paulley‘s right to get on the bus?”

Clare Pelham: “I don’t think I would even presume to guess what Supreme Court judges would find. But actually, I think this shouldn’t be a case for the law. This should be a case for the people, the people to do what’s right, whether they are bus drivers or passengers, we all want to have public transport that enables all of the public to travel.”

That obviously works well, doesn’t it. People with pushchairs, other passengers, drivers, they all know and understand that if the wheelchair space isn’t made available, a wheelchair user can’t travel. Yet by her own figures, 61% of wheelchair users identify buggies in the wheelchair space as the biggest problem they face. Just how does she think the few people with pushchairs, other passengers and drivers who currently prevent wheelchair users traveling are suddenly going to realise the error of their ways? How, precisely, is she going to instill this magnanimity into the British populace? Through simpering on Radio 4?

Leonard Cheshire try to claim to be the voice of disabled people, a campaigning force to be reckoned with. That’s why they spend £735,000 per year on “campaigning”, and why they have posh offices in Vauxhaul – ostensibly so they can toddle round the corner to lobby Parliament. (They grew too big for their previous offices in Millbank.) Yet they don’t have any legitimacy. They don’t have a constituency, and politically active disabled people despise them. They also don’t walk the walk for the talk they talk, as demonstrated by Northumbria University’s research – an apposite quote below.

“One of the problems it (user involvement) causes is when residents become more empowered and aware of the opportunities of life they’re likely to ask for more. In asking for more, it usually involves staff, and resources are already very scarce and limited, and centred mainly in providing basic daily care in washing, dressing, eating and they occupy an awful lot of time. Empowerment creates problems of staff support. And if the choice of empowerment involves travel then that’s a further added burden. Not necessarily to pay the cost of travelling but to have the opportunity with limited transport or escort.” – A resident in a Leonard Cheshire care home.

Yet even Leonard Cheshire recognise that the Firstbus case is an important fight. Andy Cole (Minister for Administrative Aff – sorry, Director of Corporate Affairs) told BBC News that Leonard Cheshire was disappointed with the Appeal Court judgement as it did not provide “clarity and certainty for disabled bus passengers that the space they need will definitely be made available“, and further that if the case moved to the Supreme Court he hoped any judgement would provide that certainty. (He even gave me a back-handed compliment; “The case shows the immense impact that individual campaigners can have“).

One wonders what planet Clare Pelham is on. Out of touch with service users, disabled people, her own care-workers and even her own campaign team (or at least her Ashley Maddison rep – sorry, “Director of Corporate Affairs”.)

Non-disabled and on £150,000 per year plus private medical treatment and other benefits – surely Clare Pelham should shut up or carry on her disempowering self-serving greasy-pole-climbing elsewhere?

With thanks as ever to the wonderful Dave Lupton / Crippen for his excellent cartoon.

 Posted by at 16:27
Nov 162015

From the WCA, the disability assessment test which was supposed to be the panacea for all ills, helping 1 million disabled people moving into work and thereby reducing the employment gap, supporting financially those not well enough to work, the WCA has turned to be a blunt and lethal instrument. What DPAC has known for years, through the letters sent by thousands of disabled people, has now been confirmed by a scientific study.


The WCA is linked to more suicides, mental ill health and antidepressant use as evidenced by experts from Oxford University and Liverpool University’s study, which found  that after taking account of the impact of baseline deprivation, economic trends, and long-term trends in mental health,  there were around six extra suicides, 2,700 more cases of mental ill health and an extra 7,020 prescriptions for anti-depressants for every 10,000 people reassessed during this period, which equates to 590 additional suicides, 279,000 extra cases of mental ill-health and 725,000 more prescriptions for anti-depressants across the country as a whole between 2010 and 2013.

Linked does not always mean ‘causal’, although several coroners’ inquests into suicides have now shown it to be the case.

Despite mounting evidence, the government has always refused to acknowledge the harm done by the WCA, and keep parroting that work is good for health.


What this study shows is that harm is not only done by benefits loss, but by the fear of it, a testimony to the arbitrary nature of this assessment. Harm is done by giving too short prognosis, in case somebody would spend an extra day on benefits than he/she should have done, leading to endless reassessments. Harm is done by cancelled appointments, and assessors’ lack of sensitivity. Harm is done by having to prove endlessly your impairments or chronic health condition, and by not being believed. Harm is done by mistakes or deliberate and systematic errors. Harm is done by being left destitute after the loss of ESA. Harm is done by the Work Programme and its long litany of sanctions, misery and suffering


As early as 2010, the DWP knew that this test was the direct cause of at least one suicide. Somebody at DWP decided to sit on it. Prior to that, in the last weeks of the Labour government (who introduced the test, the DWP were warned of the harm it would cause

Not only has the time come to scrap the WCA, but also to hold people, from whichever party, accountable for this atrocity.

 Posted by at 23:47
Nov 132015

[Originally published in the Annie Agitator Blog. We are grateful to Annie Agitator for this meticulous research and for allowing us to republish in this form]

It’s ok if you call it research. Is the DWP carrying out an unethical and coercive social experiment on people claiming tax credits?

Following the mini success in the House of Lords in October, one could be forgiven for thinking that the first battle in the war on tax credits has been won. In reality, the first battle in this war was waged back April 2015. And it’s already been lost.

In April the DWP began a research project to use sanctions to take away tax credits from the lowest earning working poor. The DWP have called this a research project, more specifically a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). An RCT is a research model in which people are randomly assigned to an intervention or a control (no intervention) and compared. These kinds of trials have very strict safeguards to ensure the fair and ethical treatment of all participants, and these safeguards are especially essential in government trials given the obvious power imbalances and potentials for abuse.

As far as this trial is concerned there is limited information available and it is hard not to conclude that the DWP is deliberately exploiting a research framework as a way to test out highly unethical policies as well as using the research exemption in the FOIA 2000 to keep this work hidden from public view.

However, what is available to view is shocking. The DWP have misled parliament about the research. They have shown contempt for governmental ethical safeguards. They appear to have deliberately misinformed people about their involvement. Most alarmingly they would appear to be subjecting vulnerable groups to unnecessary harassment from the jobcentre.

Misleading Parliament:

The trial is called the In Work Progression Trial. Esther Mcvey and Lord Freud state that is about encouraging people on tax credits (as part of Universal Credit) to earn more either by getting more hours or a better paying job. Although McVey managed to duck the issue at the Legalisation Committee in January (an initial step in having the law changed to allow the trial to run), the trial is very clearly about ‘conditionality’ or the use of sanctions, as further FOI requests reveal. In January, McVey ( shamelessly downplayed the use of sanctions and the amendment passed without too much opposition.

Next stop House of Lords. Lord Freud presented it here ( ) and was subject to a slightly harsher grilling. Freud told the committee that ‘some of the activities we set will be mandatory’. This is not true. Underneath the rhetoric of ‘tailored interventions’ and ‘coaching’, the message is clear. The trial is about imposing mandatory activities with the use of sanctions if they are not done. Given the growing evidence on the destructive and punitive application of sanctions, it is alarming that those with a job are to be punished by the DWP for not earning enough. Freud dismissed the need to consider ethics as part of this trial as he stated conditionality is something the DWP enforce already. This disregard for ethical standards has set the precedent for how the trial has been conducted to date.

Disregarding ethical safeguards: Excluding vulnerable groups from the trial:

One of the supposed safeguards of the trial was the exclusion of certain vulnerable groups. These included the recently bereaved, recent victims of domestic violence, those with physical illness or those with caring responsibilities over a set amount of hours per week. In a typical RCT the excluding of certain people is done from the outset. This is to ensure they do not have any involvement in something that might be unhelpful or could cause them harm.

In what at best could be seen as a display of ignorance and, at worst a gross abuse of power, the DWP have eschewed this basic ethical principle. They are hauling people into the jobcentre to have a ‘challenging conversation’ about why they should be earning more, regardless of whether they fall into these groups or not. So someone who is recently bereaved, or someone simply in a position where they cannot do more hours is sent a very threatening letter and told they have to attend or lose their benefit. A FOIA response shows that people are excluded AFTER the interview with the job coach, if they happen to fall into one of these groups. But are they even told they are being assessed for a research trial. Are they given an opportunity to give the information that would have them excluded? Could they even tell the job coach about an abusive partner during this ‘challenging conversation’?

Recently released Universal Credit documents state that if someone is on Universal Credit there will be an expectation that they increase their earnings. There is no mention of a research trial. There is no mention of groups to be excluded. This is not ethical research. This is an intervention that is actively seeking to harm people (i.e. earn more or be punished by sanctions). People do not appear to be told about its status as research in any meaningful way and there seems to be very little effort made to ensure identified groups are excluded. Freud mentioned that the hope is to have 15,000 people on this trial within the year. There are already over 500 people in the intervention arm with only 125 in the control. So clearly there is a strong push to get people on the trial, suggesting that the exclusion criteria exists on paper only.

Disregarding ethical safeguards; deceiving people who are included in the trial

An FOIA request asking about how consent is discussed and obtained from participants had a telling reply. The DWP provided documents about a one off interview rather than the ongoing trial. This information says participation is voluntary and it won’t affect benefits. But it is only referring to one interview. So is this the only consent and information document that the person is sent home with? If they are given other documents about the trial and their participation, why not just provide the documents as asked in the FOIA. Why would the FOIA responder deliberately provide information that was known to be inaccurate?

This is very serious, as it suggests that the DWP is deliberately misleading people about what the trial will involve, e.g. there is no mention of mandatory activities and sanctions but there is one document that says their participation is voluntary and won’t affect tax credits. If it is the case that the DWP is wilfully deceiving people in this manner, just as they attempted in the FOI then this is a very worrying breach of research ethics and needs to be immediately reviewed by the SSAC who are according to Freud ‘monitoring the trial as it goes along’.

In summary the DWP appear to have misled parliament about this trial. They have shown utter contempt for ethical safeguards, which essentially means contempt for the respectful and humane treatment of human beings. Given the widespread condemnation of sanctions and the growing awareness of destruction they cause, it is hard to believe that the trial has been approved. What it amounts to is a punishment system for those who are already working, on the pretext of testing out a punishment that the government already know to be ineffective in its aims.

Cowering behind the label of research, the DWP refuse to disclose how many people have been sanctioned to date as part of this trial. Equally, it seems that if the DWP choose, the trial can be extended for another two years without having to revisit parliament. This raises the obvious question of whether the aim is to simply carry out an endless trial, in which the DWP has found a clause to avoid holding any public accountability for it’s unethical treatment of people and wanton abuse of the privileges of research.

Is the DWP willing to go to any lengths to push people off benefits? To push them into poverty, to destitution, to death? Anything to ensure that the DWP numbers look good?


FOIA Requests:

For information including letters in the trial:

Information on how many people in the trial:

Information on consent:


Information on the content of the trial:

and here, note research is now not mentioned at all but the word regime appears to be used instead:….pdf


DWP UC document: note again no mention of research

 Posted by at 11:20
Nov 112015

From the front page of Friday’s Morning Star:


Friday’s front: Lightning post strike shocks bosses – Unofficial walkout wins job back for MS sufferer

Previously :

80 Royal Mail postmen and women at Bridgwater Delivery Office in Somerset defied the Tory anti-union laws today when they walked out without a ballot to protest at Royal Mail’s refusal to reinstate Andrew Mootoo, a postman who has MS/Multiple Sclerosis. Andrew has been waiting so long for Royal Mail to support his return to work that his pay has been stopped and he has to rely on benefits. 

Dave Chapple, CWU Rep, said:

Most decent employers would do their best to try and get a disabled worker like Andrew Mootoo off benefits and back to work on a properly adjusted duty. Instead, for 18 months, since MS was diagnosed, Royal Mail, nationally and locally, have tried every dirty trick in their book to get Andrew the sack and reduce him to a lifetime of benefits dependency.

18 months ago they tried to sack him. We stopped that by proving they would have acted illegally. Then Royal Mail tested Andrew back at work: when he passed this with flying colours, they invented a new test, which they ensured he would fail, for example, by deliberately using a faulty chair!

The last straw is Royal Mail saying that Andrew has no rest room for his meal break, because it is in continuous use by managers for disciplinary purposes; and that his MS means he will get stuck in the toilet. What offensive rubbish from the country’s second largest employer!

Justice for MS sufferers at work! Justice for Andrew Mootoo!


Andrew, who is of Indo-Mauritian parents and who is also profoundly deaf, lives a full life: he drives a car, shops, goes to sport matches, goes shopping, walks down busy high streets, goes to the gym once a week, all without falling over, getting stuck in a toilet or endangering anyone else. 

All Andrew’ s friends at Bridgwater Delivery Office want, is for Royal Mail to sit down and give him a chance to come off the dole and work for his living, as he wants to do. The work is there. The CWU have even accepted that Andrew could return on a monitored trial basis.

Every reasonable compromise CWU offer to Royal Mail has been spurned: every patient CWU plea to Royal Mail to give Andrew a chance has been ignored.

80 Bridgwater trades unionists are right now, a day after the Tory Anti-Union Bill passed the House of Commons, breaking these vicious laws to fight for workplace justice for a severely disabled and much respected colleague. 

They, and Andrew, deserve your support.”

Please contact Dave Chapple, CWU Rep, on 077007 869 144, or e-mail on


 Posted by at 23:49
Nov 112015

International Women’s Conference

Sat 14 & Sun 15 November, 9am-5pm

WAC Arts Hampstead Old Town Hall, 213 Haverstock Hill, London NW3 4QP (near Belsize Park tube, Northern Line)
On 14/15 November, the Global Women’s Strike is hosting an amazing range of international and UK speakers at the international women’s conference‘Caring, Survival and Justice vs. The Tyranny of the Market’.

Featuring on disability, welfare and carer rights, independent living and NHS activism:

Nicole Als NICOLE ALS – Nicole was married and a drama practitioner when she got pregnant. At the time of the birth she had a Sickle Cell crisis and ended up in a coma. Glad to be alive, she faced homelessness, the threat of having her baby taken away, and then being rehoused away from her support network. Despite all the obstacles, Nicole loves being a mum: “It’s the best job in the world!”
Dame Philippa Russell DBE DAME PHILIPPA RUSSELL DBE – former Chair of the Government’s Standing Commission on Carers. Philippa is the mother of a son with a learning disability and has worked for respect for those who need care, and independent living.  Her contribution to raising the profile of carers of all ages, including young carers, cannot be overestimated.
 Gill Thompson GILL THOMPSON – campaigner for justice against benefit sanctions.  Her petition calling for a full independent inquiry into the sanctions regime that killed her brother, David Clapson, gained 211,819 supporters.  David was diabetic, starving and had no electricity when he died.  He had cared for their mother for many years.  Gill is a mother and supports other bereaved relatives and welfare campaigns.
 Dr Louise Irvine Dr LOUISE IRVINE – GP, mother of two and chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign founded in October 2012, which defeated the government in court with a ruling that the Health Secretary had acted outside his powers when he announced casualty and maternity units would be downgraded. Louise helped to secure the British Medical Association policy opposing the Work Capability Assessment and Atos.
Kevin Caulfield

Debbie Domb

Though they are not be able to travel to speak, we would also like to acknowledge:


KEVIN CAULFIELD and DEBBIE DOMB — Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Cuts (HAFCAC).  They led a successful eight-year campaign for abolition of local Council charges for homecare.  These charges are often paid from disability benefits, impoverishing disabled and older people.  Their hard-won victory brought in free homecare in Hammersmith & Fulham from April 2015, and kept the Independent Living Fund money ring-fenced until 2018. This breaks with the market approach to people who need care services, and is an example for all of us.

For more information, contact WinVisible 020 7482 2496 Facebook

 Posted by at 23:34
Nov 102015
Louise from Bromley DPAC on the DPAC Stall at the Anarchist Book Fair

Louise from Bromley DPAC on the DPAC Stall at the Anarchist Book Fair

For a while now DPAC have been running stalls at political events with awareness raising leaflets about what we do, we’ve also been taking along DPAC Tshirts, Mugs, Bags, Badges and Pens to sell to raise a bit of funds for the cause.

The people who run the stalls for us frequently get asked if we sell any items online – and up until now we haven’t but we have finally got around to setting up online sales on the website. 

So if you fancy a bit of DPAC stuff for presents or for yourself, the sales page is here. All proceeds will go directly to DPAC campaigns



Mugs £5.99 plus £4.50 p&pMaterial Bags £4.50 plus £1.00 p&pTShirt (White) £10 plus £3 p&pBottle Opener Key Ring (front shows DPAC logo) £1.50 plus £1.25 p&p


 Posted by at 15:29
Nov 092015

[Reblogged from Johnny Void blog, with thanks ]
"killing with Kindness" poster telling people not to give money to homeless people as it will be spent on alcohol and drugsPicture yourself trying to get to sleep on a hard concrete pavement, whilst biting wind and rain swirls around you and the risk of abuse, arrest and even violence is ever present.  Imagine thinking that this could go on for ever, that you have no-one and nothing left, and that only the instinctive fear of death is preventing you from taking that final step.  So you do what half the country does before going to bed.  You have a fucking drink.

This is how a life on the streets begins and as weeks turn into months routines and habits, bad and good, develop.  You might learn where you can get free food, make allegiances, and hopefully genuine friends.  Perhaps you spend a few nights, or even months in a nightshelter or hostel.  Perhaps you get kicked out for breaking one of the endless petty rules like not being back in time for curfew or having a sneaky can of lager.  Or you get beaten up, or piss off someone who might beat you up if you don’t disappear.  Homelessness hostels are strange places, often full of tolerance and even love, but they are not safe spaces.  All it takes is a vindictive charity worker or a violent argument and you can be back on the streets in a heartbeat.

Homelessness strikes when lives fracture, whether due to relationship break up, debt, eviction or domestic abuse.  It often happens to those who have lived through harrowing circumstances – ex-squaddies scarred by war, refugees who have seen loved ones slaughtered,  kids who grew up in care or were abused in the family home.  At the heart of the problem however is money, and a society that values that above all else.  Landlords refusing to accept tenants on benefits, eye-watering deposits to secure even basic accommodation, the chronic lack of social housing and ever more vicious benefit cuts – these are the reasons that street homelessness has risen to record levels over the last five years.

Homelessness endures because the scant social structures in place to prevent it focus on the symptoms – the perceived individual failings of homeless people – not the causes.  Just like Iain Duncan Smith blames unemployed people for a lack of jobs, politicians and the charity bosses who suck up to them for funding blame homeless people themselves for their plight.  To do otherwise would be to acknowledge their own role in creating the homelessness crisis.  That is why in many major cities charities which claim to help homeless people are running anti-begging campaigns to smear them all as drug users or drunks and warning if you give them money you will kill them.

Ask anyone begging what they want, right there and then, and if they are foolish enough to be honest they will say money.  That does’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate a sandwich, a cup of tea or a warm coat as well.  But what they need is cash.  They may want that money for drugs or booze, or they may want it to choose something to eat or wear themselves.  They may be in debt, to someone you really don’t want to be in debt to.  The propaganda on display in anti-begging campaigns insists that street homeless people do nothing but scrounge and shovel drugs down their necks, never stopping to eat, pay hostel service charges, buy a clean pair of socks or get a bus across town.  Yet even the most chaotic substance users still need money for other things as well.  Because they are real people, not grotesque cartoons.

The stark truth is that even someone who does beg to maintain an addiction will not be helped by no-one giving them any money.  They will simply beg for longer to get what they need, whether that’s a bag of smack or three litres of White Lightening.  If the begging is good, and the sun’s out, then once they have that they might beg for something for dinner as well.  Or to be able to have their drink of choice rather than rough cheap cider.  Or to buy their kid they hardly see a birthday present.

If the begging is bad that day then they will sit there all night, or resort to other means to get money such as crime or sex work.  The faster they can meet the needs of their addiction – needs which are real, the street is no place to go cold turkey – the more likely they will have time or money to do other things.  What they are really begging for, in many cases, is a bit of stability.  A drug law reform poster that occassionally appeared on the streets of King’s Cross a couple of decades ago summed it up: “Heroin addiction is not hedonism but constant medication with a very powerful painkiller”.  Until withdrawal symptoms can be medicated away then most people can barely roll a cigarette let alone try to sort their housing out, seek treatment, or get a fucking job.  You are unlikely to kill someone with a drug or alcohol dependency with kindness by giving them a quid as hysterical homelessness charities claim.  You are not prolonging their addiction, only they can do that.  What you might do is give them a bit of space and time to do something else that day other than sit outside a shop doorway and risk arrest by asking people for money.

It is the presumption that homeless people cannot be trusted to be actors in their own lives that reveals the flaws embedded within charity.  To make a decision about what someone needs, whilst ignoring what they tell you they need, makes giving all about the giver not the receiver.  Charity becomes a way for people to feel better about themselves and for the wealthy to erase the guilt that comes from living in such an unequal and fractured society.

Few things expose this self-indulgence better than the horrifyingly named Crack + Cider initiative which was featured in today’s Huffington Post.  This Hackney based pop-up shop was established so that people can help homeless people without worrying whether they will spend the money on alcohol or drugs.  They can do this by donating the price of a coat, pair of gloves or umbrella, which Crack + Cider will then buy and give to a homelessness charity.  And then it will probably sit in a store room for the next decade along with all the rest of the tat that arrives in charity fundraising offices that they have neither the resources or the will to distribute.

There is of course nothing wrong with buying a homeless person a coat.  You can do that very easily without the act being mediated by charity.  Go into a shop, buy a coat, give it to a homeless person.  Fucking simples.  Or join up with #opsafewinter who distribute supplies to homeless people directly.

What is wrong with Crack and Cider, apart from the obvious, is that this is not a project designed to help homeless people, but to help the urban middle classes feel better about homelessness.  It does this by not only re-inforcing prejudices people feel towards the homeless, but also allowing them to buy their way out of any sense of personal responsibility for the problem.  After all, there might be a poor person walking round now in a coat they paid for. If homeless people are still homeless after that kind of lavish generosity then they only have themselves to blame.  Serves them right anyway for taking all those drugs.

In a gushing press release those behind the shop  warn that even Kensington and Chelsea council say “giving to rough sleepers contributes to their early death”.  There is no evidence that this is true because this is a political lie, used by a Tory council to justify forcing beggars out of one of London’s richest boroughs rather than providing the homes and services they need.   A borough that could soon be selling off up to 97% of their socially rented homes.  Better to blame people hooked on Special Brew for the homelessness this will cause than the Tory government’s housing policy.

There is no doubt those behind Crack + Cider are trying to be well-meaning – they are not taking any money from the project.  The name they say is merely intended to stimulate a conversation about homelessness in that kind of wacky and ironic way that normal people who don’t live in Hoxton probably don’t understand.  They say it was inspired by a beggar telling them that people didn’t give them money because they thought they’d spend it all on crack and cider.  “Oh yah, that’s what we think too” they no doubt decided.  Let’s set up a shop and call it something edgy.  And so homelessness, as far as coat-buying Hackney hipsters are concerned, is sorted.  Meanwhile down the road a beggar just got stabbed because they tried to pay off a drug debt with a pair of gloves and a fucking umbrella.

 Posted by at 23:14
Nov 082015

by Bob Williams Findlay

It’s often said that history only remembers the victors. Recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission produced a video to, and I quote, “Celebrate twenty years since the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995.” For disabled people who were involved in the struggle to have the inequalities we face acknowledged and addressed, I doubt there are many of us who will be putting the flags out or popping champagne corks in celebration of the Act itself.

The bulk of us who were actively involved remain true to the belief that the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was a significant defeat for disabled people and the struggle against social oppression. This is not to say the passing of the DDA had no positive impact upon disabled people’s lives or had no influence on social change, it did, but acknowledging this shouldn’t detract us from recognising the fact the DDA restricted our progress, was of limited use to disabled people and was never likely to challenge the status quo.

It is impossible to produce a balance sheet of the DDA’s true impact because all kinds of external factors operate to mask the truth. It can be argued that the overall struggle for anti-discrimination legislation and specific actions such as the Campaign for Accessible Transport were more instrumental in bringing about organic social change. Over the last twenty years the whole of society has radically changed, and how disabled people have been both seen and treated have been part of that process whether that’s been via Tony Blair’s “rights and responsibilities” agenda or the neoliberal business case for ‘including disabled people’.

To fully appreciate our position on the DDA it is necessary to strip away the sugar coated presentation of this historic piece of legislation in order to reveal how the collective voice of disabled people and their many allies were silenced by acts of betrayal and brute force. The real story isn’t really about the twenty years since the passing of this piecemeal, ineffectual and oppressive Act, but rather it is about how the Civil Rights Bill and the ideas contained within it were buried both physically and politically by those who felt threatened by the potential impact it would’ve had on society.

The aim here is not to romanticise the campaign for full civil and human rights for disabled people, but instead to recall the major events that led up to the Tories introducing their own Disability Discrimination Bill in order to head off the Private Member’s Bill on Civil Rights Bill and why the passing of the DDA should be viewed as a significant and negative watershed in our emancipation struggle. Neither is it possible to critique the nature or merits of the Disabled People’s Movements campaign, although there’ll be signposts to various opinions on it.

Over the last twenty years we have seen various ‘interpretations’ of the struggle for our emancipation and many of these place tremendous emphasis on the fact that legislation was adopted to give disabled people ‘rights’. Here is a lengthy quotation from one such interpretation:

‘The Disabled People’s ‘Rights Now!’ campaign had a rich and diverse membership, including representation from many trade unions. It encompassed direct action, mass lobbies of parliament, petitions and awareness-raising campaigns to support civil rights for disabled people, and the issue was raised in Parliament on 14 separate occasions. The campaign won over a number of MPs and Peers, including Alf Morris, Roger Berry, Tom Clarke and Harry Barnes, who provided much needed political support and sponsored various Disabled People’s Civil Rights Private Members Bills.

The campaign reached a turning point in 1994 when the Conservative Government and the then Minister for Disabled People Nicholas Scott were found to have misled Parliament by stating that the cost of implementing civil rights legislation for disabled people would be greater than the sum previously calculated by civil servants.

In 1995, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) became law and although it was a watered-down version of what disabled people wanted, it was nevertheless a huge victory for the Rights Now! campaign.’ (Aspis, 2011:3)

There are many aspects of this account that needs to be placed in a wider context and, as a consequence, it can then be viewed differently. Let’s begin by looking at important historical moments as a backdrop to the Rights Now campaign. Barnes and Oliver remind us that:

…the move by disabled people to form their own organisations…
fostered a growing collective consciousness amongst disabled people…. [which] began a process of reformulating the problems of disability, shifting the focus away from the functional limitations of impaired individuals towards contemporary social organisation with its plethora of disabling barriers. It also set in train a political divergence between organisations for the disabled and organisations of disabled people. (Barnes and Oliver,1991: 4)

The political divergence spoken about here between organisations for the disabled (sic) and organisations of disabled people permeates right through the history of the struggle for anti-discrimination legislation and beyond. Significantly, Barnes and Oliver go on to say:

Many of the traditional organisations for the disabled had advised the government that discrimination was not a problem for disabled people and that legislation was unnecessary. Yet in 1979, the Silver Jubilee Access Committee drew attention to a number of ‘blatant acts of discrimination against disabled people. The official committee which investigated the allegations was unequivocal in its findings: discrimination against disabled people was widespread and legislation was essential. (Barnes and Oliver,1991: 5)

Ian Bynoe picks up the story when he writes:

….1992 marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Report of the Committee on Restrictions against Disabled People
(CORAD).This is the only report on disability and discrimination ever to have been received by a UK government. It found discrimination to be commonplace in the experience of disabled people and recommended anti-discrimination legislation. Its
proposals were dismissed by the government of the day and there has since been no evidence of a change of mind to revive hopes that the CORAD proposals might be implemented. (Bynoe, 1991: 1)

For the record the CORAD committee defined discrimination as: ‘the unjustifiable withholding whether intentional or not, of some service, facility or opportunity from a disabled person because of that person’s disability’ (Large, 1982:7)

The stark reality is that since the early 1980s there were no less than fourteen attempts to introduce anti-discrimination legislation via Private Members Bills largely introduced, but not exclusively, by backbench Labour MPs. Not only did each fail, they nearly all followed a similar pattern where in Parliament the Tory spokesperson would state that, ‘there was nothing but good will towards the disabled’, and of course, ‘education was better than legislation’ if any problems were to exist. On the other hand, the supporters of the various bills would mainly focus upon employment issues. Meanwhile outside of Parliament there was the ritualised farce of the big disability charities shipping in bus loads of disabled people to parade around Parliament Square before sending them home again.

Barnes and Oliver inform us that:

The formation of Voluntary Organisations for Anti-
Discrimination Legislation (VOADL) was a sign that many organisations for the disabled had been converted to views articulated by disabled people themselves. However, there
remain, perhaps inevitably, significant differences between the
philanthropic and liberationist elements of the disability lobby.
(Barnes and Oliver,1991: 5)

Those of us who were involved with VOADL and later, Rights Now, might take issue with the view that the “for” organisations were actually ‘converted’ to the views held by disabled people. Their practice then and since would cast a long shadow over this assumption. An alternative view is that for a long time disabled people’s organisations were only granted observer status within VOADL however the growing momentum behind the British Council for Disabled People’s campaign for anti-discrimination legislation (ADL), began to shift both the focus and the exercising of power and so this ‘conversion’ by the charities had more to do with their fear of being outflanked by BCODP than [it did to] any serious commitment to disability politics.

John Evans provides us with information on BCODP’s campaign when he says:

It was 1991 when BCODP (British Council of Disabled People) which is the national, representative and democratic organisation of disabled people in the UK launched its ADL campaign as its future main objective. (Evans, 1996: 2)

There are two important points raised here. Firstly, the fact BCODP made this their main campaign has been debated off and on within the Disabled People’s Movement ever since and it’s an issue that continues to divide opinion. This article isn’t the place to unpack the issues, however, the significance of the decision will be returned to later. Secondly, a major contribution to the launch of BCODP’s ADL campaign was the publishing of commissioned research undertaken by Colin Barnes into discrimination against disabled people in the UK. Evans points out that “Discrimination and Disabled People in Britain” was so comprehensive ‘…. it provided more than enough evidence supporting the whole case for ADL and it became a very useful tool in the campaign and a symbol for empowerment and inspiration. It was the first authoritative piece of research done in this area and was carried out by disabled researchers and disabled experts.’ (Evans, 1996: 2)

The momentum generated by BCODP’s campaign and the emergence of the Disability Action Network (DAN) made VOADL look staid and stuffy. As mentioned previously the differences between the philanthropic and liberationist elements of the disability lobby became increasingly marked. The Executive Committee of BCODP recommended that VOADL had a make-over and with a bloodless coup, Rights Now was launched under the stewardship of the Disabled People’s Movement. John Evans again broadly captures the period between 1992 and 1994 when he writes:

Direct action no doubt heightened the profile for the need for civil rights legislation in the eyes of the general public and did a lot to shake up the politicians complacency on the issue but it could never be enough by itself. Without the lobbying of parliament and meetings with politicians putting forward constructive arguments based on available evidence of discrimination and seeking their support the cause would have been lost. Any changes in the law have to be done through Parliament so you have to get some politicians fighting for your cause. At the same time disabled experts and lawyers have to work alongside other lawyers and politicians in writing up the Bill. This work was co-ordinated by a group called the Rights Now…. which was a coalition of about 50 disability organisations and charities who were formed to work together to help bring about ADL. (Evans, 1996: 3)

Two central features mark the difference between VOADL and Rights Now. Disabled people drove the agenda and increased the public profile of the ADL campaign, but at the same time worked directly with members of parliament to put together the Civil Rights Bill. Many of us believe that this displacement of the ‘big six’ disability charities resulted in them watering down their commitment to full and comprehensive legislation and a growing willingness to accept compromise as the price of regaining their power position over disabled people. This watershed moment sees the birth of what has subsequently become ‘Janus politics’ – where the charities look back towards the radical language and concepts from the Disabled People’s Movement, but actually creates ‘new meaning’ which transforms them into tools which then help maintain their status. For example, the concepts ‘independent living’ and ‘choices and rights’ now employed by organisations such as Scope and Disability Rights UK are a million miles from their original meaning.

Mike Oliver noted that:

Speaker after speaker from non-representative organisations for disabled people claimed the social model as their own in the Trafalgar Square demonstrations of 1994. Additionally, the Disability Rights Commission established in 1997 by the New Labour Government declares that it is guided in everything it does by the social model of disability. (Oliver, 2004: 28)

Caroline Gooding and Bob Findlay advised the opposition parties on behalf of Rights Now, including writing a briefing paper on the social model and the definition of disability. Once in power New Labour set up a Disability Task Force, but this body steadfastly declined to change the traditional definition of disability to one in keeping with the social model.

Stepping back a little, the first test for the new wave militancy and Parliamentary campaigning came when Harry Barnes tried to push through the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Ian Parker, in an article called ‘SPITTING ON CHARITY’ which appeared in the Independent, wrote:

In May 1994, however, a private member’s bill, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, was killed messily by the Government, and the minister for disabled people, Nicholas Scott, eventually had to resign. (Parker, 2011: unpaged)
This caused an outcry and came about because as Parker acknowledged:

Last year – another Great Leap Forward – the civil rights argument was won. At some point, legislation may follow. (Parker, 2011: unpaged)

Parliament was finally ready to pass ADL, but the Tories and big business weren’t prepared to see the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill go through. As Lorraine Gradwell states, ‘… the Tory government were so concerned about the increasing popularity of anti discrimination legislation that they brought forward this fudge of a compromise’.(2015)

Their only course of action was to head off our Bill by introducing the weaker Disability Discrimination Bill led by William Hague. This was eventually passed into law twenty years ago as the Disability Discrimination Act.

What followed was a two horse handicapped chase. Roger Berry picked up the gauntlet and re-introduced the Civil Rights Bill, but Hague had the advantage of proposing a Bill supported by the Conservative John Major government. It was under these conditions that the ‘big six’ charities made their move.

Parker reports:
Thanks to his position at the head of a fairly well-funded “for” organisation, and thanks to his support for incremental methods, and thanks to his recent claim to see some (flawed) virtue in the Government’s Disability Discrimination Bill, Massie is regarded with great hostility by many “fundamentalists”. Rachel Hurst, a radical with a sharp political sense, says, “Our voice has been shut out by the established charities. Some staff at Radar I’ve got more time for than I can say. [But] I wouldn’t mind shooting the man at the top. He is an Uncle Tom, Mr Massie… He actually doesn’t care a toss about the rights of disabled people.” (Parker, 2011: unpaged)
Evans also recalls in 1996 that:

The DDA took only 6 months from beginning to end in becoming law.

Unfortunately the DDA was flawed from the start as being a weak piece of legislation which was unenforceable and was considered a drop in the ocean, as it was certainly not going to protect disabled people from the many forms of discrimination which existed. It outraged the disability movement because it denied them the fully comprehensive civil rights legislation which they had worked so hard campaigning for and consequently they refused to have anything to do with it. (Evans, 1996: 4)

Perhaps even more forcibly Marian Corker wrote in ‘The UK Disability Discrimination Act – disabling language, justifying inequitable social participation’:

What has been ‘achieved’ is a legal instrument that has variously been described as ‘confusing, contorted and unsatisfactory’ (Gooding 1996); ‘a dissembling law not an enabling statute’ (Doyle 1997: 78); and ‘one of the most ill-conceived pieces of legislation ever to reach the statute books’ (Corker 1998: 115). This is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) (Corker, 2000)

She went on to say:

However, there is little doubt that the DDA represents a muddled combination of prohibition, justifiable discrimination and reasonable adjustment that can themselves act as a barrier to claimants who may be ‘isolated, possibly ill-informed and under-resourced’ (Gooding 1996: 6). Further, because the DDA legally justifies direct discrimination on the grounds of ‘disability’ in what Gooding (1996: 6) describes as ‘dangerously vague’ terms, and fails to incorporate a notion of the indirect discrimination experienced by disabled people, it seems an ineffective legal instrument for tackling the institutionalised oppression of disabled people. (Corker, 2000)

The DDA, unlike the Civil Rights Bill, wasn’t designed to tackle the institutionalised oppression of disabled people. Any hope of repealing and replacing the DDA with the Civil Rights Bill when New Labour came to power was quickly dashed. First, Labour’s Tom Clarke refuted BCODP’s claim that Labour in opposition had promised to do just that. Second, the Task Force already mentioned was hand-picked with more radical elements of the Disabled People’s Movement blacklisted throughout Labour’s terms in office. Margaret Hodge in 2000 when Minister for Disabled People, instructed the BBC to ‘edit out’ criticism of the DDA in its Disabled Century TV program. Third, Labour looked towards the new ‘Disability Movement’ driven by the charities and DPOs willing to buy into Blair’s ‘Third Way’ and the neoliberal market economy. Finally, it was New Labour who brought in Atos to hound sick and disabled people.

So, when we’re told the DDA was a victory, what does this mean? There has been a paradoxical development; just at the moment when inadequate legal rights were established for disabled people, the movement for emancipation was outflanked by the big disability charities and made an outcast by successive governments. Since 1995 the Disabled People’s Movement has gone into decline. Internal division and criticism followed the defeat of the Civil Rights Bill, with senior disabled activists accusing BCODP of ‘putting all its eggs in one basket’ by having ‘legislation’ as its prime focus and failing to cultivate grassroots structures and organisation.

Does this look like a victory? Merely getting legal recognition that disabled people have limited rights not to be discriminated against? Are they saying we should be celebrating being granted crumbs from their table? In 2005 the Public Interest Research Unit reported, ‘Ten years of the Disability Discrimination Act: Anniversary research indicates qualified failure.’

The DDA gave individual rights, but simply asked for employers and service providers to behave ‘reasonably’. The last five years in particular has witnessed savage attacks on both disabled people’s rights, services and lifestyles. A reverse of disabled people’s fortunes added to by the threat of legalised ‘assisted suicide’ is the reality, not this empty rhetoric of ‘equal citizenship’. Disabled people have been silenced and sidelined for the majority of the last twenty years apart from piecemeal changes in the social environment and attempts at tokenistic ‘inclusion’ here and there.

Now the whitewash begins. We see video clips from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scope on 20 years of the DDA, producing ‘false history’ via safe narratives and the worst of all, the Heritage Lottery Fund supporting Leonard Cheshire’s empire to write ‘disability history’ (sic). Ellis’s piece for the HLF on the DDA is another example of revisionism with a dash of criticism thrown in.

Those of us who lived and fought through the 1980s and 1990s see no cause to celebrate. Politically, we were defeated in 1995; our slogan, “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, has still to be realised. Although the last twenty years has been an uphill struggle to keep the fight for emancipation alive, we are seeing yet again a new wave of determination among disabled people; people who believe in freedom and social justice. These green shoots are what we should be celebrating today, not the results of the falsification of history written by our oppressors and shameful or misguided collaborators.


Aspis, S. (2011:3) Campaigns in Action – Disabled People’s struggle for Equality

Barnes, C. and Oliver, M. (1991) ‘DISCRIMINATION, DISABILITY AND WELFARE: FROM NEEDS TO RIGHTS’ in Bynoe, I. et al.,
Equal Rights for Disabled People: A Case for a new law – IPPR.

Bynoe, I. (1991) THE CASE FOR ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION in Bynoe, I. et al., Equal Rights for Disabled People: A Case for a new law – IPPR.

Large, P., (1982) Report of the Committee on Restrictions
Against Disabled People


Oliver, M. (2004) ‘The Social Model in Action: if I had a hammer’, in Implementing the Social Model of Disability: Theory and Research edited by Colin Barnes and Geof Mercer (2004); Leeds: The Disability Press, pp. 18-31

Parker, I. (2011) ‘SPITTING ON CHARITY’ from the Independent,

Gradwell, L. (2015) Comment on her Facebook page, 4th November.

Corker, M. (2000) ‘The UK Disability Discrimination Act – disabling language, justifying inequitable social participation’, in: The 10tk Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, edited by Anita Silvers and Leslie Francis, Routledge

Additional material used as research:

Corker, M. (1998) Deaf and Disabled or Deafness Disabled? Buckingham: Open University Press

Doyle, B. (1997) Enabling legislation or dissembling law? -The Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Modern Law Review, 64

Gooding, C. (1996) Blackstone’s guide to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, London: Blackstone, in association with RADAR

Public Interest Research Unit (2005) ‘Ten years of the Disability Discrimination Act: Anniversary research indicates qualified failure’

Ellis, L. (2015) ’20 Years of the DDA’, Heritage Lottery Fund

 Posted by at 12:55
Nov 042015

[Reblogged from GMCDP Blog with thanks]

Foreward: Many disabled people are angry that the national lottery has awarded Leonard Cheshire Disability almost £300K to document the history of disabled people. We therefore thought it quite timely to reproduce the following article (first published in our Coalition News – May 1987), which is as powerful and relevant today as when our friend and colleague Ken Davis wrote it almost 30 years ago.

Disability and the Bomb

Disability and the Bomb – the connection
By Ken Davis

I am writing this on August 6th, 1986—the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the unsuspecting, defenceless and innocent civilian population of Hiroshima.

There was no warning. After the explosion, some 140,000 ordinary people lay dead or dying. Men and women; old and young; teenagers and tiny tots; the sick in hospitals; babies in their mothers’ wombs. There was no escape.

They called the bomb “Little Boy” (what an insult, that humanity should be incinerated in the name of children!). The U.S.B29 bomber, the Enola Gay, carried more than one connection with disability. Little Boy was carried not only to inflict death—but to cause physical impairment in countless thousands of people. The Enola Gay also carried a person called Leonard Cheshire, founder of the international chain of segregated institutions for disabled people.

The disabled peoples’ movement has much to say on these matters. As it gains strength, it will add to the growing condemnation of war and violence as a means of resolving human conflict. Many more thousands of innocent people since Hiroshima have become disabled through war. The plights of our brothers and sisters in disability across the world cannot be imagined by us here in Britain. The suffering of those disabled people displaced by war into refugee camps is unutterably intolerable.

Back in 1982, the Disabled Peoples’ International made the following Peace Statement at Hiroshima:
“We, the representatives of all the world’s disabled peoples, have come to Hiroshima to make known our resolute condemnation of the arms race.

“We affirm, in the strongest possible terms, our determination to join with others and take our rightful place in the forefront of the worldwide movement of disarmament.

“We, the 500million disabled people of the world, declare that we will fight for the exclusion and annihilation of wars and nuclear weapons from the earth.”

Again, as our movement grows, Leonard Cheshire VC, and many others like him, how have used “compassion for the disabled” as a convenient stepping-stone to lucrative social careers, will be called to account for their actions. The Honours Lists are littered with the names of such people, who have chosen to speak and act in the name of disabled people without our authority.

This year—1986—is the International Peace Year. In a world besotted by war and violence, it is a timely reminder that there are higher ideals and finer values which can guide human conduct in the struggle to establish a better social order. It is also timely, on the 41st anniversary of Hiroshima, to remind ourselves of the long legacy of disability stemming from this shocking event.

The 1965 survey of the Hibakusha—the survivors of the bomb—showed their rate of physical impairment to be 350% higher than the Japanese national average. Some 44% of the survivors were sick or injured—a figure which had risen up to 59% by the 1975 survey.

Truly, those who died were the lucky ones. Obviously, cancers figure high in survivors, as does the incidence of leukaemia. These are caused by exposure to radiation and radioactivity, which guarantees long-term agony.

Many of those whose eyeballs didn’t burst in the intense heat now suffer from eye disorders. Microcephalic (small head size) victims have found their condition degenerating over the years. Gross disfigurement, e.g. from keloids on the skin, adds another dimension to disability. The psychological and social effects are profound and still imperfectly understood.

Many disabled people will be able to identity with the effects of these impairments. The Hibakusha share with us many of the same problems of rehabilitation and social integration. They suffer discrimination in employments, and even marriage. Their incomes are small, and they know as much about the poverty trap as any British claimant. Their families are the main source of support and, as they begin to age, carers come under increasing stress.

Through our membership of the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People, the Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People is directly linked to Disabled Peoples’ International. Japan cones within the Asia-Pacific region of DPI, and the Regional Chairperson of himself Japanese—a spinal injured wheelchair-user, Senator Hita Yashiro. Hita is a living example of the additional grit and determination disabled people have to find if they seek high office.

Interestingly, the Chairperson of the DPI Human Rights Committee brought the news to the last DPI World Congress that putting disabled people away in institutions in Japan had been ruled a violation of human rights.

Relentlessly, the connection between disability and the bomb becomes clear. The mentality that made Leonard Cheshire a compliant participant in the mass creation of disability at Hiroshima is the same mentality which made him the instigator of the mass incarceration of disabled people in a chain of segregated institutions.

In the first place he went over the top of the heads of disabled people in a B29 bomber; in the second he went over our heads in the name of charity. Increasingly, over the years, both actions have come to attract just abhorrence.

In our struggle to realise the aims of the International Year of Disabled People—full participation and equality—we have to find the strength to insist that our representative organisations are fully involved in decisions about the dismantling of disabled apartheid. And we have to add our insistent voice to the clamour for world disarmament—with the aim of removing, for all time, this particularly horrifying cause of unnecessary disability.

Footnote: 1. Later research indicates that Leonard Cheshire was on the Big Stink (a B-29 support plane) on 9 August 1945 when the Enola Gay aircraft dropped the second atomic bomb, named Fat Man, on Nagasaki, and that he was not onboard the Enola Gay on 6 August 1945 when it dropped the bomb named Little Boy on Hiroshima as previously thought.

Source:, accessed 16 May 2015.

 Posted by at 16:52