The DPAC team would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, peaceful and safe festive season and to provide a brief round-up of what has been happening over the past 12 months.
It has been both a triumphant and tragic year for DPAC, with some of our biggest ever achievements coming to fruition after years of work, but also the loss of some dearly loved and respected friends and colleagues.
Its been a year of continuing struggle against the cuts and other measures that have blighted disabled people’s lives, with steady progress being made. For the first time since 2010, this was the year that Tory MPs started to rebel against further cuts targeted at disabled people. We believe that this is a significant turning point in our struggle. We are still a long way from reversing the cuts that have caused us so much harm but at least we may have prevented further attacks from being made.
All this activity was against a backdrop of the biggest political upheavals in decades, possibly in most people’s lifetimes as the UK voted to leave the EU, the resignation of Cameron, sacking of Osborne and the ushering in of Theresa Mayhem’s chaotic government.
So hear is a month by month account of DPAC’s tumultuous year……
January began with Southampton City Council backing down over its proposals to cap social care support awards. The Council terminated the consultation early as a result of the feedback and concerns they received, including those of DPAC and our supporters.
January also saw the first ever strike action in NHS History by the Junior Drs and DPAC members showed solidarity and support to them by joining them on the picket lines at London hospitals and across the country.
The end of January it saw the Tories have their worst ever week in Parliament with three welfare reform defeats in the House of Lords with the cuts to ESA WRAG Group, bedroom tax, and redefining child poverty and David Cameron getting slagged by all sides for the appalling use of “bunch of migrants” during PMQs on Holocaust Memorial Day
February saw lobbying of parliament around the Cuts to ESA WRAG Group, with DPAC writing to MPs; protest outside parliament with table tennis to highlight the ping ponging going on between the House of Lords and House of Commons.
There was also a continuation of DPACs support for striking Junior Doctors with an online campaign for DPAC Supporters to give their own reasons why they supported the strike
February saw the start of the campaign led by MHRN, with DPAC and Boycott Workfare support, about a trial of having DWP Workcoaches in GP Surgeries in Islington, a Labour London Borough. There was a war of words between MHRN and Islington Council Leader, which we reproduced online.
DPAC, Inclusion London and individual ILF Activists had a huge win against the Tory Government, with the news that the government was to provide local authorities with four years of transitional funding for former ILF recipients taking this to the end of the current parliament in 2020.
We supported MHRN and Boycott Workfare with a protest in Islington with a protest called “Treatment for Surgeries, Job Centres for Jobs” to highlight Maximus job coaches based in GP Surgeries in Islington as part of the pilot for the health and work programme, which ended with a roadblock of Old Street Roundabout.
We sent more letters to MPs about the ESA Cut (here) and (here) and then when finally after a hard fought battle in both Commons and Lords, the ESA Cut was finally voted through we took our revenge on some of the MPs that voted for the cut, with Operation #ToryDump.
Operation #ToryDump was a campaign aimed at lobbying disability charities to drop Tory MPs who had voted for the ESA Cut as their Patrons. We had a lot of success with Richmond Aid Dumping Zac Goldsmith as its patron, Kit Malthouse was asked to step down as Patron of Andover MS Society, James Cleverly had to resign as Patron of Advocacy for All, Amber Rudd resigned as Patron of Snowdon Trust and Jo Churchill had to putt out of a Charity event following a petition
We hadn’t finished bugging Zac either: DPAC ambushed Zac Goldsmith in Croydon and again at Northumberland Park while he was on campaign trial for mayor of London elections to challenge his decision on voting for ESA WRAG Cut, and disrupted his photo shoot with Chancellor George Osborne.
The week ended with IDS resigning and DPAC holding a celebration party to celebrate his demise!
But the biggest protest came at the end of the month when DPAC, Winvisible, MHRN, Occupy London, Unite the Resistance and other groups, occupied the Lobby of Parliament during the last PMQs of the session. We shut down the lobby area inside the Parliament building and broke into Live BBC TV Coverage of PMQs
We got massive media coverage for this protest partly due to the commons authorities shutting down the BBC Live broadcast live on air. Here is some of the Media coverage we got from the protest with DPACs Ellen Clifford appearing on the main BBC news bulletin:
We began the month by telling the big corporate disability charity Scope to #EndtheBullshit
Miriam Binder of Brighton DPAC did an interview with Radio Free Brighton about Operation Torydump
We supported the Student Nurses Bursary or Bust campaign
And we supported Lambeth library activists occupying Carnegie Library for 10 days, and DPAC gave support and solidarity, joining the Lambeth Library March with the occupiers.
Paula Peters and Ellen Clifford (interpreted by Brigitte Francois) spoke at the People’s Assembly #4demands Rally in London
In May DPAC highlighted the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) Independent Living Day
We supported the Not Dead Yet UK Protest against the negative portrayal of disabled people in the film Me Before You, with real disabled people ambushing the fake Hollywood disabled people on the red carpet at the premier of the movie.
Video Credit: Eleanor Lisney
DPAC, along with the TUC Disabled Workers Committee organised a quick lunchtime direct action during the TUC Disabled Workers Conference and shut down Tottenham Court Road with a demand of #NoMoreBenefitDeaths.
Video by letmelooktv
June saw Doug Paulley’s Case against First Bus go to the Supreme Court which could set a precedent for Mobility Scooters and Wheelchair users to access buses and DPAC supported Transport for All’s protest outside the Supreme Court.
Rick Burgess from Manchester DPAC went to represent us in Ireland at an Anti Austerity Alliance conference to inform them of welfare reform in the UK and what was happening to fight it as the government there had begun proposing some measures (there it all comes under the spin of ‘labour activation’) that appear similar. When they heard of what had gone on in the UK, there was stunned and horrified silence.
The remainder of June was concerned with the build-up to two major protests in July, DPAC’s National Day of Action against PIP and a protest against “Work Cure Therapy” which DPAC were supporting.
June will also be remembered for the shocking murder of MP Jo Cox just before the EU Referendum and a week later UK voting to leave the EU and PM David Cameron’s resignation.
July began with the shocking news of the horrific murder of 49 Japanese disabled brothers and sisters in Sagashihara Japan, and DPAC supported the vigil outside the Japanese Embassy in London as disabled people in the UK paid their respects and showed solidarity to the Japanese people.
Some of London’s finest DJs did a benefit night for DPAC, known as “Beats Against Cuts”
We published “Winning From The Left” by Ellen Clifford, in which she explores, from a disability perspective, the winning power of left wing policies
DPAC took part in the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance conference in Sheffield in the middle of the month
DPAC held a national day of action against PIP on 13th July with 15 local actions taking place across the UK to highlight the appalling loss of disabled people’s Motability vehicles and loss of support after assessments, cumulating in a big central London action supported by DPAC, Winvisible and MHRN where Capita HQ, DWP HQ, and roads around parliament were shut down.
The second resignation of the year happened with Stephen Crabb (or was it really David Brent, we were never quite sure) when Crabb/Brent resigned following a grubby sex-text scandal. He’d been in the job for such short a time and had done so little, DPAC didn’t even bother to comment, let alone celebrate his departure. We did however produce some memes to welcome in his replacement Damien “The Omen” Green
Nothing happened during the month of August, no protests, no twitterstorms, no ambushes of top politicians. Not a dicky-bird, nowt, nothing, nada.
But if the government thought we had all given up or gone on holiday they were very wrong! DPAC might be a nuisance when we’re active, but when we go quiet, that spells even bigger trouble on the horizon, and we we back in September with a full on Week of Action.
September saw the Paralympic Games in Rio Brazil, sponsored by ATOS. DPAC highlighted the appalling cuts to services and the tragic human impact of the cuts on disabled people with our Week of Action entitled #RightsNotGames.
The week started on Sunday 4th September with “A Very Disobedient Exhibition” at Tate Modern, in which a pop-up exhibition of disabled people’s art appeared, as if out of nowhere at Tate Modern in London.
Tate modern had not invited nor had they expected this exhibition within their gallery. This exhibition and protest was organised, created and enacted by disabled people as part of the week of action organised by DPAC supported by PCS Culture Sector.
Monday 5th saw the launch Inclusion London’s “One Year On” report about the effects of the closure of the Independent Living Fund, to which MPs and activists were present to see the report unvieled, including some harrowing personal testimony on what life is now like for some former ILF recipients.
Following the launch of the report, DPAC and ILF Activists took to the streets for some street theatre protests in Whitehall
Video Credit: Occupy News Network
Tuesday 6th was our National Day of Action with 17 protests happening all over the country from the Isle of Wight to Glasgow.
The following video is from the Bromley protest:
Video Credit: LetMeLookTV
Wednesday 7th saw the main central London protest of the week of action. It was timed to coincide with Prime Ministers Questions, and a A 90′ long banner reading “No More Benefit Deaths” hung from the embankment opposite Parliament during Prime Ministers Questions and was visible to the MPs inside.
Following the banner drop DPAC and allied activists shut down Westminster Bridge for over two hours.
Saturday of the Week of Action consisted of DPAC hosting an International Conference with activists from around the world coming to show solidarity and discuss how to build the global resistance. The one day conference brought together perspectives and allies in the fight against austerity and neo-liberalism from the UK, Europe and Canada to look at geographic resistance and independent living. Speakers include John Clarke (Canada), Antonois Rellas (Greece), Catriona Kenny (Ireland), Kapka Panayotova (Bulgaria), The ak MoB (Germany) and John McDonnell Shadow Chancellor.
To end the week of action on Saturday evening and Sunday 11th there was the opening of “Assisted Suicide, the Musical by by writer/actor/activist Liz Carr which was being performed at the Southbank Centre in London.
We also published our “Guide to Disabled People, for Non-Disabled People” during the week of action, so that it could be shared amongst the Paralympic coverage online, in order to raise awareness in the general population about disabled people and the social model
October brought the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham and along with it DPACs campaign to Toxify the Tory Party in revenge for all they have done to us. As well as protests in Brum during the conference, we organised a Social Media protest during the week to invade coverage of the conference on the hashtag #CPC16. And to make the week a little less doomladen with all the Tory Conference speeches, we invited people on social media to play Tory Party Conference Bullshit Bingo
October saw the launch of the Tory Government consultation of the Disability Green Paper and naturally, we had a lot to say about it
We released our video “DPAC’s Top 5 Most Appalling Sanctions” to show just how arbitrary and absurd, not to mention harmful sanctions are.
At the very end of October, we joined MHRN’s protest against Mind Charity and Tom Pollard, their national and campaign policy advisor being seconded to the DWP! DPAC and MHRN were there to see him off from MIND and offer him a bag of silver coins.
Our campaign to get the cut to people in the ESA Wrag reversed continued with more lobbying of MPs on this issue and a campaign on twitter to change MPs minds over the cut, there was also a video, by Jason Batchelor for DPAC to raise awareness of the battle to prevent the cut happening and telling why DPAC are continuing to try to get the cut reversed
But the biggest moment of the year came with the publication of the UNCRPD report which found the UK guilty of grave and systematic human rights violations against disabled people. And how hard the government worked to see this report was hidden and not highlighted when they leaked the story to the Sunday Mirror forcing the UN to publish it just before the US election. However we have the report now and as the UN has said it is unprecedented in history – the very first time any country has been found guilty in this way. Predictably the government rejected the report findings and refused to implement any of the 11 recommendations made in the report.
So the focus of our campaigning into the next year will now move to forcing the government to implement the recommendations, more news on this in the coming weeks.
The original complaint to the UN Committee was made by DPAC, we had been working in the background on this since 2013, you can read more of the story of how the Inquiry came about in this 2015 article.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) November 7, 2016
But at a time that we would have been celebrating a massive victory, we lost our co-founder, friend, advocate and leading light in our movement, Debbie Jolly.
Debbie made disability rights the focus of her life’s work. She was one of the key people in putting in instigating the UNCRPD investigation into the UK Government’s treatment of disabled people. Debbie was one of the co-founders of DPAC in 2010, and remained an important member of the organisation, helping to shape it into the campaigning force it is today.
As a tribute to Debbie, DPAC, along with Black Triangle and individual campaigners gathered for a memorial and protest outside the houses of parliament to highlight the grave and systematic violations of disabled people under the UNCRPD.
December and the end of 2016 saw the Boycott of Language Line with a protest organised by NUBSLI and supported by DPAC, to highlight language line being awarded NHS contracts outside their Canary Wharf Offices.
There was a twitterstorm for International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, where we used social media to tell the world what this government had been doing to disabled people in the UK
There was more lobbying of MPs to highlight the appalling use of sanctions against claimants on JSA, ESA and Universal Credit with the Public Accounts Select Committee hearing into Benefit Sanctions.
And in a surprise move we saw the resignation of Lord Freud as Minister for Welfare Reform since 2010 and previously an advisor to the Labour government on the hated Work Capability Assessment. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
And then once again, tragedy struck as we heard of the death of Robert Dellar. Robert was one of those people who never sought publicity but behind the scenes, he worked tirelessly and was and influential and well respected as a campaigner for mental health survivors. Robert was one of the founders of Mad Pride in the UK and an inspiration for the setting up of Mental Health Resistance Network. Robert leaves a partner and many friends in the campaigning community for whom the world will be less of a place without him.
Also in December a picture of DPAC supporters has featured on the lids of LUSH charity pot hand and body cream lids. The monies raised from the sale of this will go to groups fighting for social justice and systemic change around the world.
DPAC took part in the MHRN Protest at the “Transforming Mental Health” Conference, in London. One of the Keynote speakers at the conference was Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind.
And then finally we ended the year as we began with a victory when we shamed Islington Council into providing an adequate care package for disabled tenant Alex. Alex had fought the council for 18months trying to get safe accessible accommodation, with no result, when we published the case with a video on the blog and asked you to tweet to the council to shame them into action. Within just a few days, magically an appropriate funding package was agreed so that Alex could finally have a decent, safe and accessible place to live. It just goes to show that collective action in the age of social media can be used as a power for good against intransigent authority.
Throughout the year people have spoken for DPAC at meetings around the country and it is brilliant to be able to email someone and ask them to speak as far away as Bournemouth or Bridgewater. Within London demand for us to provide speakers has led to us adding Vicky and Nicola to the team. They both made their excellent debut speeches recently.
As always we’ve continued to provide valuable advice and peer support to hundreds if not thousands of people with many success stories.
Our on-line presence on social media is omnipresent and another valuable campaigning tool. We’ve organised many twitter storms and have trended on twitter numerous times.
We now have about 35 local groups some of which are still small but others that are now well established and taking part in regular protests including in Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Thank you to our allies, Black Triangle Campaign, Mental Health Resistance Network, Winvisible, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Boycott Workfare, Sisters Uncut, UK Uncut and so many other groups and individuals, who turn out to campaign side by side with us.
Thank you to all the people who have donated their time and effort to help with research, specialist advice, graphics, video making, banner making, and so many activities far too numerous to list, that make DPAC happen. In this post we have mentioned by name many of the people who have worked for DPAC over the year, and in addition we particularly wish to thank Miriam Binder, Brian Hilton, Nick Dilworth, Rick Burgess, John McArdle, Gail Ward, Kate Belgrave, Jason Batchelor, John Slater, Rupert Harwood, Sally Kumo, but we could not list everyone and others prefer to remain anonymous, but you know who you are, and we thank you for your contribution.
Thank you to all the people and affiliated organisations who gave money donations to DPAC, both big and small, we really do appreciate every donation you make, to enable us to keep taking the fight to the government for change for the better.
Thank you to all the people who have read, commented, tweeted, shared our blog, helping to spread information and awareness.
But most of all thank you to all our members and supporters. Its your support and goodwill that lifts us up, keeps us going and carries us onward. We couldn’t do this without you.
The DPAC Steering Group, December 2016
[Text by Paula, Linda and Bob]
Looking forward into 2017….
As for next year we need you all to contact your MPs and ask them to come along to our meeting in parliament to launch the UN report. We also need any of you who can to come along as well.
Guilty of grave and systematic violations – What next after the UN disability inquiry? Briefing and Discussion
The meeting is January 24th 2-4pm in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House.
On 7 November 2016 the United Nations published the findings from a UK inquiry carried out by their disability committee under Article 6 of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The inquiry was triggered by extensive evidence submitted to the UN over a number of years by ordinary people concerned by the impact of UK government policy on Disabled people. It is the first time a state has ever been investigated in this way and the UK is now the first state in the world of whom the UN has found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights.
The inquiry report was published alongside the UK government response to the findings, rejecting all eleven of the UN recommendations.
Critics of the inquiry point to discrimination and the terrible living conditions to which Disabled people in other parts of the world are subject. However, by ratifying the CRPD, the UK government signed up to the progressive realisation of social and economic rights. The UN inquiry investigated and found evidence of systematic and serious retrogression of Disabled people’s rights due to welfare reform. This supports concerns raised separately by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteurs on Housing, Disabilities, Poverty and Food.
This meeting will provide a brief introduction to what the CRPD is, the inquiry process and how it was triggered and provide an over-view of the report and its recommendations, as well as raising the question of what next.
You can read previous DPAC Reviews of the year here: