At the People’s Assembly march in Manchester having allowed people into the official protest area at the Tory party Conference yesterday the police then proceeded to kettle them. DPAC activists then blocked a tram line in protest at what they saw as an unfair move by the scores of extra police who had been drafted into Manchester to protect the Tories.
Sadly the police in Manchester reacted rather aggressively to this and 2 disabled people were arrested and a veteran activist in his 80s was left badly bruised by being man-handled by them.
Rick burgess of Manchester DPAC said “DAN (Direct Action Network) veteran & MDPAC member Dennis Queen has been charged with Public Nuisance after their arrest yesterday. We reject utterly the heavy handed policing and targeting of disabled people, all to protect a government found guilty of Grave & Systemic human rights abuses. If there are any arrests to be made it is of the Conservative party government over their democide of disabled people. Whatever costs Dennis incurs we pledge to meet with a crowdfunding drive. Our community shall not be victimised like this.”
Another member Sharon Hooley has been cautioned by police for protesting yesterday. Rick said “Full respect and support for her brave stand in defiance of quisling security forces protecting an unlawful government.” At one stage Sharon another wheelchair user was surrounded by 13 police officers.
For more info contact email@example.com
LABOUR! STOP SUPPORTING TORY POLICIES
When a Labour government swept to power in 1997, it could have restored those rights which had been under attack since the 1970s. Instead it chose to ally itself with corporate tax-shirkers, company bosses, grasping landlords and rich investors, to turn Britain into a paradise for the privileged.
Now we have a Coalition intent on breaking open every last part of our public services for private profit, and threatening millions of us with homelessness and destitution. Yet Miliband and Co. just stand on the side-lines or actively cheer it on, because Labour still agrees with every cut, every sell off, and every assault on the rights of working people.
Labour supports cuts in the name of austerity. Despite the fact that the financial crisis was due to the gambling of greedy unregulated bankers and that trillions of pounds was spent on bailing them out, it has been used as an excuse to launch a vicious attack on the public sector. Since the crisis the income of top earners has rocketed while the rest of us face frozen pay, crippled services, and job and housing insecurity.
Labour scorns those reliant on benefits. It was Labour that introduced US-style workfare schemes, which it still approves of, and employed Atos to force the sick and disabled off benefits through the iniquitous work capability assessment. No wonder Liam Byrne is promising to help the Tories salvage the shambles of Universal Credit, which is planned to punish all those on low incomes.
Labour supports privatisation. Hardly surprising, after all it introduced academy schools, tuition fees, NHS foundation trusts and the Private Finance Initiative. Labour talks of saving the NHS in 2015 – but there won’t be anything left to save.
When will Labour stop embracing Tory policies and remember who it is supposed to represent. We already have one major party for the wealthy and privileged, we don’t need another.
LABOUR IS CALLED ‘THE OPPOSITION’
TIME TO ACT LIKE IT!
I have been fortunate enough to be entitled to the receipt of funding from the ILF for all of my adult life; and have consequently enjoyed a high standard of life thus far. I have multiple disabilities ( including severe physical impairment, severe visual impairment, and Type 1 Diabetes), and the ILF has meant that it has been possible for me to have my support needs met.
These considerable care needs mean that I require round-the-clock assistance to do pretty much everything. I need help with washing, dressing, toileting, all aspects of personal care, managing my diabetes, preparing food, eating it, undressing, physiotherapy, moving in bed over night, and those are just my very basic requirements. The extra funding from the ILF means that I can afford to get the support to live a little, rather than just meet these basic needs.
Directly because of the support that the ILF has given me, I have been enabled to achieve a high level of education, including a BA and an MA living on campus at university, and I am also now pursuing my second BA with the Open University. The ILF has enabled me to travel abroad and see a bit of the world, and it opens many other social opportunities to me; for example, I love to see live music, and I am keen on visiting the theatre and eating out. I am able to spend time with my family and friends, in my hometown and further afield, and the ILF means that I Have been able to maintain these relationships, because it has meant that I can have assistance with doing so. The ILF has also made it possible for me to now live independently in my own flat, and I am so glad that I am able to exercise some choice, and am not yet forced to live in a residential care home.
When I think about the ILF closing in 2015, I know that I only have two years left to live. I may exist for a little longer, but I can’t see how I will be able to maintain any quality of life, without the funding to live independently.
Despite having multiple disabilities, I am in quite good health; but I know that this will change if the ILF is closed. I am sure that I would have to use agency staff, and I know from experience that they are so badly equipped to help manage medical conditions, that their clients are frequently admitted to hospital. As a diabetic, the only way for me to properly manage my diabetes is with an insulin pump. This requires very frequent blood testing, and specialist training to use, which is not a problem with my direct employees at the moment, but would be impossible with agency staff. I would have to change to another, inadequate, system for attempting to manage my diabetes, as I would be limited to a couple of visits a day from the district nurse to attempt to control my diabetes. This regime will fail to control it, and so I can look forward to a future where I spend a lot of time in hospital. Until they decide that it would save everyone money if I were in residential care.
I am usually a sickeningly optimistic person, who can’t help seeing the silver lining to any cloud; but this time I don’t see anything positive in what the government want to do. If they have the capacity for shame, then they ought to feel it and the inhumanity of their proposal.
Pay a Visit to Your Local Atos Office as part of the Atos Games, a week of action against poverty pimps Atos, the company who profit from pushing disabled people to death and despair – we are calling on members and supporters to take the protest nationally by paying a visit to your local Atos office.
How you do this is entirely up to you but there is a set of resources to download below that might be useful to ensure you get as much local publicity as possible and could give you more time to concentrate on building bigger protests.
Thanks to the local groups who have shared these with us and if you have any resources that other actions and campaigns might find useful please do send them in.
We can help promote your actions on the DPAC website to build as much support as possible so send us information that we can publish about when and where local actions are taking place.
We will also have anti-cuts and Atos kills sticker and stencil packs we can post out to you on request by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming soon…. Barbie shows us how to organise a demo….
You don’t need to take part in a direct action to be part of the Atos Games. Here we have a list of ways that you can be involved even if you only have a small amount of time to spare and from wherever you are.
i) Order a free sticker pack from DPAC and spread the message of opposition to the cuts and to Atos in your home, on your windows or wherever you go.
ii) Order or print off and cut out a stencil to create a piece of street art to carry the anti-cuts message across towns and cities throughout the country. We suggest that you stencil using damp sponges or brushes and water-based paints or chalk to avoid accusations of damage and be environmentally friendly – still a great effect!
iv)Write to your MP asking him/her to sign up to Early Day Motion 295 condemning the International Paralympic Committee’s promotion of Atos as its top sponsor and deploring the trauma and injustice caused by Atos’ Work Capability Assessments.
There is just one week left until the first wave of Remploy factory closures begin.
If the Tories and Remploy management get their way, a number of the 27 factories earmarked for closure will have shut by next Friday 17th August and by Christmas, 1,700 mainly disabled workers will be on the dole.
By calling off the strike that was due to take place on Monday 6th August, Unite and GMB national officials have squandered the massive support for Remploy workers shown by tens of thousands of ordinary people and many trade unionists and activists that have brought solidarity and donations to the picket lines during last month’s strikes.
In calling off the action on Monday, Unite and GMB officials promised that they were:
“developing a new strategy which will have more effect on the Government”
So far this has consisted of a token “symbolic” lobby of little more than a handful of Remploy workers holding a lobby at the DWP offices in Westminster.
No wonder then that many Remploy workers are angry, they realise that more needs to be done to build on the momentum from the strikes, more workers and supporters need to be involved if there is to be the kind of effective action that can halt the Tories’ plans.
But that anger should not be allowed to turn into demoralisation. There is still time, just.
Remploy workers have called a protest for this Monday at their Birkenhead plant.
Work needs to be done to ensure the biggest possible turnout from the trade union movement and activists on Merseyside to ensure that disabled workers are not left to fight alone.
David Cameron should read out the names each Wednesday at Prime Minister’s questions of those who have died after the Government stripped them of sickness and disability benefits an MP has said. Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, in a speech last weekend (Saturday 4 August) accused David Cameron and Nick Clegg of launching launched a ‘vindictive, vicious campaign to strip people with disabilities of their fundamental rights’.
The MP was speaking at a Community union conference held at Wortley Hall, South Yorkshire . He said :
“We judge a society not by how well it pays its bankers or how many gold medals are won but how well it treats the weak and vulnerable.
“Between January and August last year on average 32 people died every week who the Government said were fit to work. One man Stephen Hill died of a heart attack after the Department of Work and Pensions said he was fit to work and he was denied sickness benefits.
“David Cameron should read out each Wednesday the names of those who have been sacrificed to meet his targets for increasing poverty and misery among the weakest in society while he rewards his millionaire mates with tax-cuts worth £40,000 a year.
“The Government has handed over to a private medical constractor Atos, the task of carrying out medical tests to judge eligibility for these new benefits. Appeals against incorrect decisions by Atos are costing £50m a year, with tribunals having to sit on Saturdays and increase staff by 30% to deal with the backlog. Appeals find in favour of the claimant in at least 30% of cases though some experts reckon 9 out of ten appeals would be won if the victim was helped by an expert welfare adviser.
“The most terrifying letter in Britain today is the brown envelope from the DWP instructing a sick or disabled person that they must submit themselves to this firm making £100 million a year by carrying out these tests.
“Charities report that up to half a million disabled people of working age could lose their benefits when the tests are further tightened up next year.
“Yesterday Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, said ‘Assessments carried out by Atos have led to many people being forced to appeal against decisions that are plainly wrong. How can someone with Parkinson’s – a progressive neurological condition – have an assessment report that implies they will be ready for work again in six, 12 or 18 months?’
“Labour MPs and our excellent Shadow Minister Anne McGuire have been constantly attacking the Government on this. Before May 2010 Lib Dems would also have stood up for disabled people. Not any longer. The record of LibDems MPs and Minister in acting as cover for this Tory attack on the weak and vulnerable is a disgrace.
“But it is part of a wider attack on working people and those who are not millionaires sitting in the Cabinet.
“We have seen this with the outrageous decision to close down Remploy factories. In 2007, Chris Grayling the Tory MP, now DWP minister, said ‘Let me assure Remploy and its employees that the next conservative government will continue the process of identifying additional potential procurement opportunities for them and the public sector workforce.’
“We know those words to be a lie. Remploy factories have been closed down and one of the proudest achievements of the post-war Labour government, setting up factories for the disabled, are now being destroyed. The Remploy workers and their unions are right to protect and strike though I doubt if it will have any impact on this hard-hearted government.
“ Anti-union attack dogs are on the rise everywhere. There is a braying Toryism that hates trade unions and like a child pulling bits off a daddy longlegs Tory MPs seek every opportunity to bash, trash and lash unions. Their main objective is to force a renunciation of the European Union’s social rules.
“The Tory onslaught on social Europe is an ideological and cultural attempt by Thatcher’s and Tebbit’s children and grandchildren to harness the anti-EU feeling in the nation against trade union rights in general.
“It is almost as if the end of communism which the Thatcher-Reagan Tories claim as their great victory is incomplete unless unions are also eliminated from their world. There is a constant grind of anti-union laws and policies. Access to industrial tribunals are made more difficult; backbench bills are introduced to deny shop stewards time off to carry out union duties; modest British financial support for the International Labour Organisation is axed; every time workers vote in a secret ballot to stop work there is a hue and cry about banning or limiting strikes.
“Long standing national pay structures are threatened by proposals for regional pay as if an army Colonel at Catterick in Yorkshire should be paid less than an army Colonel in Aldershot in Surrey.
“From a right-wing ideological point of view there might be some justification for this if the nation was being put back on the path of growth and job creation.
“As we know this is not the case. George Osborne is making a new film ‘Honey, I shrunk the Economy.’ We have the longest recession since the 1930s. Manufacturing output has hit an all-time low. Housing investment has been cut from £2.4 billion in 2010 to under £800 million today. We can win all the gold medals the Olympics can offer but unless we invest in our own nation, in our own people, in all of our regions, and in people like those with disabilities who need a helping hand not a slapdown then our nation will get weaker and weaker.
“The poet Oliver Goldsmith wrote
Ill fares the land, to gathering ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay
“Britain’s wealth is being accumulated by the undeserving rich while the disabled are expected to decay as their life chances are removed from them by Tory ministers and their LibDem helpers.
“It is still 3 years to go to the next Government. And have no illusions that despite negative opinion polls as the Fabian Society recently reported there is no support for higher taxation amongst rank and file Labour supporters.
“Labour needs to build a new 21 st century coalition of support that includes unions like my good friends in Community to whom I pledge my commitment and support but goes out to the young, to women, to graduates with and without work and speaks for all the nation not any single group within it.
“It is very hard after voters have lost confidence in a party after a long period of power to win that confidence and trust back again. The Tories have all the off-shore press on their side and on most issues the BBC and Sky reflect the interests of the better-off in Britain and the London dislike of social Europe.
“So the challenge is bigger than at any time in Labour’s history. In 1945 it had been 16 years since Labour won power and the country was changed by the egalitarian sacrifices made necessary by war. In 1997, it had been 18 years since Labour held office and the nation was ready for change and new leadership. It is only two years and a bit since we were defeated and although the nation is saying no Cameron it needs more persuasion to say yes again to Labour.
“That is a political challenge we must rise to. The party and its MPs are more united than ever before in period of opposition like the 1980s or the 1950s. Ed Miliband is making a bigger and bigger impression in the Commons. We have a brilliant intake of new MPs who are the smartest political generation in Labour history.
“But now we need to reach out beyond our comfort zone of Tory bashing. That is the challenge and I am sure with Community’s support we can start pedalling hard to win for Britain.”
Rt Hon Dr Denis MacShane | Member of Parliament for Rotherham House of Commons | London SW1A 0AA email: email@example.com | telephone: 0 20 7219 4060
As Remploy workers take to the streets again and GMB leader Phil Davies asserts the unions’ position, stating that its chairman has betrayed disabled people who work in the factories, the disability movement remains quiet and divided on the issue of the factory closures. This silent division relates to a fundamental guiding principle of disabled people’s liberation, that is achieving inclusion and ending segregation.
Disability activists, whose struggle against the oppression of a disabling society is rooted in their everyday experiences of being denied opportunity and told what they can’t do often because ‘it’s too expensive to change’, are fierce in their responses to matters of segregation. And for many activists, including myself, on the face of it, what Remploy represents is segregation, not inclusion. This appears a simple matter then, end segregated employment to achieve inclusion. If only it were that easy.
But what of the disabled people who work in the factories? They oppose the closures. They want to keep their jobs, they believe their views have been overlooked, they are protesting and they are right to do so. They stand to lose their jobs in a hostile recession where disability discrimination in mainstream employment is on the rise. For many workers, the Remploy workplace provides a supportive community network, which if lost will no doubt increase their isolation and all the stresses that go with it. Indeed, workers carry out skilled jobs in workspaces where disabled and non disabled people interact in ways not dissimilar to some community Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs). Those activists who have engaged with the Remploy workers, are asking what has happened to the rallying cry of the disabled people’s movement, ‘nothing about us without us’? The slogan that essentially commits us to the emancipation of ourselves, by ourselves, alongside one and other, strong, proud and together despite difference, background and preference.
Despite what the workers want, the government are going ahead with what they see best. That is to close the expensive and unproductive factories and pump the savings into access to work; the disability employment support scheme that you will know if you’ve ever used it, is quite difficult to access. Let’s be clear, the Remploy closures are coming at a time of severe cuts and while it promises a better deal for the workers, this is much more about making savings rather than the social inclusion of a group of disabled people that have been sidelined. If it were, it would have begun long ago and in a way that focused on participation, coproduction and the de-institutionalisation of both worker and workplace
So how did we get here, workers disgruntled, disability activists divided, the government seemingly supporting inclusion, and how could it have been different? Well, the Remploy management could have committed to their people and not their profits and handed over the ownership and management to the workers and created disabled people led factories, that were inclusive to the whole community and valued within the market. And the government who gave tax payers monies to the factories could have forced this issue much sooner, indeed by drawing in expertise from disability activists to create perhaps what could have been a model for accessible employment, that promoted flexible and more socially responsible ways of working that would benefit the whole of society.
But this unfortunately didn’t happen, the Remploy workers were left to get on with their failing management. On the outside too, some within the disabled people’s movement negotiated a closer position to government in the hope of change. There were some wins too, the DDA, personalisation, and non-means tested benefits, some might say. During the good times, time past quick, as there was no need for a fuss as there was money for the Remploy factories as well as for some disabled people’s organisations to create elite infrastructure if they were to advise on and implement government policy. With so much going on the disability movement seemed to forget about the workers and the issue of segregated employment went quiet. While the unions have been fairly solid in ensuring representation in the work place, the lack of opportunity to collaborate and develop campaigns collectively with disabled people’s organisations proper, has meant a more progressive strategy, where the disabled Remploy workers self determined their liberation and right to work and free choice of employment has been unable to be realised.
So where do we go from here? Considering disabled people’s position within society, our lack of mainstream voice and political power, disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) need to come together and reorganise despite our differences in spaces outside of our comfort zones. We need to consider the Remploy issue very carefully, because it gives us insight into how ‘change’ can be easily subverted to suit the agenda of powerful, and how this can be used to distract and divide a movement. As we are starting to realise, the government has stolen the language of the disabled people’s liberation movement, and is now being used against us, to serve their own interests. Theoretically, whilst it could be argued that the closures are right, given the ecomomic crisis, inhumane cuts and the fact that many of the disabled people affected are working class and do not have the same glowing CVs as the reformists in the ivory towers, they are at this time, morally wrong.
From this Remploy struggle, we can learn some important things about how to move forward. Disabled people must be ever vigilant of the power of government, for it will easily corrupt and subvert our voice for its own gain. We need collective and independent space to, develop our liberation and to articulate that our lives are to be proud of. We must draw on and develop a language of human rights, that is both aspirational and enforceable. To do this we need to forge further alliances with non government bodies, like Unite’s new community initiative that offer opportunities to organise beyond the workplace, to create a society that values equality, dignity and respect above everything else, as well as new radical groups, such has been done by DPAC and the anti-cuts movement.
The Remploy issue wont go away, indeed we must make sure we remember this as a pivitol moment in the history of our movement, when we were reminded again that inclusion begins in our back yards, is often messy and challenging of our established ideals. If you disagree with segregation, but support the right of the remploy workers to self determine their emancipation then you can connect with their struggle on the picket lines, in person or in spirit, by way of virtual messages via DPAC website. Remember, power is corrupt but resistance is liberatory and there is nothing about us, without all of us, including Remploy.
Sid Baility, DPAC, August 2012 – firstname.lastname@example.org
The dangers of throwing several thousand people from paid work into unemployment should be obvious to anyone. The fact that a majority, although not all, of the Remploy workers are disabled people should signal a further problem: disabled people who want to work, are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in all official statistics since records began. For example in 2011 the employment rate was 48.8% for disabled people compared to 77.5% for non-disabled people .
It is dangerous, misguided and completely ludicrous to claim that all disability organisations and the disability movement have decided that a new perverse way of supporting disabled people is to make them unemployed and subject to the ravages that disabled people must endure under this government, as the Sayce report suggests. For those of us that have spent years arguing for an equality agenda for disabled people the arguments put forward in the Sayce report are dangerous, misguided and wrong.
1. Remploy factories due for closure are “unviable” and too costly to run.
Remploy is no more unviable than the Royal Bank of Scotland, yet the Government found billions to bail out bankers. Remploy was set up before the end of the Second World War to provide employment and employment placement services for disabled people.
Labour MP Geraint Davies exposed the mismanagement of Remploy in Parliament recently when speaking as part of the Opposition Day Debate on disability welfare and support on 20th June :
“When I started becoming actively involved with my local Remploy factory about a year ago, the orders it was receiving were not high enough. I went round to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the local health service, the local university, and so on, and now the factory is working flat out, getting more and more orders. That just shows that if the central command in Remploy were more effective, the factories could be successful and could work.”
If the factories are not financially sustainable, then why have there been 65 bids to save 31 Remploy sites (all but 9 were rejected)?
2. Remploy workers don’t do “proper” jobs.
This is a myth peddled by the Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith, who said that Remploy workers were “not doing any work… just making cups of coffee”.
This sneering insult is far from the truth.
Workers at Remploy are involved in a range of jobs from producing medical equipment to CCTV operators, and from assembly for car companies to book-binding.
3. Each Remploy place costs some £25,000 per year.
This was the figure used in the Sayce report which recommended the closure of the factories.
The report does not explain that that this figure was calculated on the basis of how much it costs to run the entire factory network including layers of unnecessary of overpaid management, their bonuses and company cars, and under-performing central posts filled largely by non-disabled workers at a time when managers were running the factories into the ground and not using resources to capacity.
Mark Holloway a worker at the Barking factory in east London said, “They say it costs £25,000 per disabled person to keep the jobs, but over 400 senior managers are on salaries of £40,000 to £60,000”.
For 2010-2011, as recently 4 months before the beginning of this closures process, Remploy management received 1.8 million in bonuses at a time when the factory floor was on a pay restraint.
The cost of running the factory network was calculated without taking into account income earned from provision of training placements, which although delivered through the factory network was used to generate income instead into Remploy Employment Services.
Trade Unions representing the workers estimate that when the profit from sales is considered and taken into account the cost per disabled worker to the State could be as low as £7,000. When you also take into account the fact that tax and insurance is being paid in and benefits are not being paid out this figure could be substantially lower.
The cost of per worker needs to be compared against the £18,880 per year cost to the tax payer for those on long term benefits. There is also a hidden cost to the NHS. It is commonly accepted that once a disabled person stops work their health deteriorates and more medical intervention is needed. Add this to the increase costs of the £18,880 and the actual final cost could be £30,000 to £40,000 per year in increased costs. If we add in the cost of the 2008 redundancy of £40+ million, plus the impact on family members having to give up or reduce work in order to support disabled relatives now at home during the day and you can soon see it will take years, if ever to recover the costs.
4. Money spent on Remploy factory placements could support thousands more disabled people through Access to Work.
Access to Work can only support disabled people once they are in jobs, it doesn’t help people find jobs.
Access to Work has a lower success rate than the Remploy factories with supporting disabled people from impairment groups that are under-represented in the workplace. In 2010-2011 people with mental health support needs made up just 1.4% of disabled customers helped by Access to Work compared to 5% of Remploy employees. When you look at learning difficulties, Access to Work provided support to just 5% compared to 17.2% working in Remploy.
Access to Work provides support to different groups of disabled people than are employed by Remploy.
Increasing its budget alone will not enable Access to Work to more successfully reach these under-represented groups: government policy is to reduce resources invested in individual disabled people through Access to Work support. Instead of stretching the budget to cover more disabled people this effectively stops the programme from being any use to many disabled people. Jobcentre Plus disability equality advisors have told us they have stopped referring disabled job-seekers to Access to Work because the growing restrictions on what the programme will cover make it pointless.
5. It’s segregated employment.
This is one simplistic argument popularised by the Sayce report, however the Remploy factories do not employ disabled people exclusively. In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Of these, 1,700 employees were disabled. The 2012 closures will affect around 80% of employees who are disabled.
6. The closure of factories will lead to greater inclusion for disabled people.
The inclusion of disabled people in society is at greater risk under this Condem government than it has been for decades. Inclusive education is fundamental for achieving inclusive communities, yet Condem education policy (name it/link it) is to bring back segregated education through what they call ‘removing the bias of inclusion’ and the promotion of Academies which notoriously discriminate against disabled pupils. For disabled adults the closure of the independent living fund signals a return to institutional care as local authorities such as Worcester seek to cap social care support forcing disabled people with higher levels of support need to go into care and denying them the right to live in the community.
Against attacks on disabled people’s right to inclusion on this magnitude pushing a few thousand workers into joblessness will achieve nothing.
On the other hand through employment Remploy workers have access to life chances that would be denied to them through joblessness. Remploy employee Tony Collins, a middle distance runner with the Great Britain Learning Disabled Athletics Squad who uses his salary to travel the world attending international athletics events, will not only lose his job when the factory where he works closes but his whole life will change for the worse.
7. The workers will be supported when the factories close.
During 2007 and the early part of 2008 the company gave promises of support for those leaving in the round of closures(being) carried out under the Labour government, but history has shown that very few of the 1,700 disabled people received even a phone call from Remploy let alone any practical support of any kind.
Remploy workers will be given access to a person budget but a recent Community Care survey showed 48% of social workers do not believe personal budgets are of high enough monetary value to achieve personalisation, while a survey by the Learning Disability Coalition into the impact of cutbacks on frontline services revealed that 47% of people with learning difficulties spend most of their time at home.
In 2012 there is a community pot of 1.5 million offered to charities and disabled peoples’ organisations to support the workers into jobs by the DWP. This may explain the keenness of the illogical ‘equality into unemployment arguments’ that some were producing but it is unlikely that Disabled People’s Organisations and the usual list of disability charities or voluntary organisations can find jobs for ex-Remploy workers where they do not exist.
8. The workers will be able find mainstream employment
A survey by GMB of disabled workers made redundant in 2008 revealed 74% left on State benefits and of the 26% who had found alternative work only 5% of those had found work on equal or better terms.
From the round of Remploy closures before that in the 1980s, 85% of disabled ex-employees remain unemployed . This was in a better economic climate than that of today. Some committed suicide, many threatened suicide and many experienced mental health issues, for those that already had mental health issues these were exacerbated.
Thousands of disabled people rely on funding from the Independent Living Fund to enable them to live independently with choice and control over their lives. ILF users have been left shocked and extremely anxious since it was announced in 2010 that it would be closed down by government in 2015. Already closed to new applicants since May 2010 this decision was taken with no evidence of an equality impact assessment having taken place nor any consultation carried out with current and potential beneficiaries of the fund.
“The Independent Living Fund is a ring fenced resource, for a priority group of disabled people with high support needs that can provide a better lifestyle and outcomes for service users whose full needs would not be met by local authority funding. “
The Local Authorities have had their resources severely reduced and therefore now only provide basic personal care. Without this extra funding ILF user’s only options will be placement in residential care or more responsibilities being placed on already over stretched family carers, that’s if the disabled person has family support.
Either option will have huge cost implications to government as residential care costs far more than assisting a disabled person to stay in the community and family carers would have to leave employment and manage on very low Carers Allowance and other benefits.
Since 2010 the Minister for Disabled people, Maria Miller, has assured users we would be consulted on this issue initially in 2010 then early 2011, but as users of the ILF fund we have heard little since. Maria Miller issued a speedy statement (5th December) saying that ILF will be discussed in Spring 2012 in context of the reform of the Care and Support system- Yet, ILF is too important to be discussed as a side issue.
Leaving severely disabled people in such anxiety over their lives is violating our human rights to be involved in decisions that may affect us and indicates a total ignorance of how important this funding is for severely disabled people to live with some quality of life. In addition, ILF users have not received any increase in funds since 2010 meaning they cannot increase pay to P.A.s
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in particular
Article 19: “Living independently and being included in the community”, states that “disabled people have a right to live in the community; with the support they need and can make choices like other people do”.
It also says they should be included in things that other people in the community do. Countries, like theUK, who agree to the rights, have to make this happen. Two of the things they must do are:
Make sure that disabled people get the help they need to live in the community, this means things like getting personal assistance
Make sure that disabled people can choose to do things in the community along with other people
Article 4 states; the general obligation on government to consult with disabled people, before not after decisions or policies are changed.
Article 17 states; we are to be treated with inherent dignity
In addition, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) states that we have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to an adequate standard of living. TheUK has a duty to work progressively, to the maximum extent of its available resources, to deliver these rights even in a period of economic downturn.
The changes in the ILF priority system have obvious implications for theUK’s chances of meeting all such obligations, in terms of the resources available to do so as well as in the actual delivery of them e.g. ILF offers disabled people the flexibility to “choose to do things in the community”.
We have heard ministers state that funding disabled people is ‘unsustainable’ yet we see millions of pounds ‘found’ to fund whatever programs the government finds politically appropriate yet not severely disabled people?
We ask that the government continues to provide care and support for those with the most complex needs via the ILF.
The Independent Living Fund must be retained and reopened to new applicants with adequate funding for this.
It should not be restricted to only those in employment as this means those who cannot sustain paid work, but can contribute to society in others ways, will be unable to participate in their communities, families or faith activities.
The funding must NOT be given to local authorities; it is meant to meet the needs of severely disabled people which means that there may be more in one region compared to another. Also the LA will use the funding as they wish, it will not be ring fenced, and we suspect it will not be directed appropriately for the particular disabled people it is meant to be.
We wish to have input into the design of the consultation process and assurances that the 21,000 already in receipt of ILF will be assured of continued funding.
We the undersigned believe this arbitrary decision to close the ILF without assessing the impact this will have on current and potential users, and without consultation, violates the Human Rights of disabled people who depend on ILF to live.
Cases that give examples of impact of losing or not getting ILF
A– 55 year old lady has 35 hrs allocated from LA and 36 hrs from ILF per week, if she loses the ILF and the LA does not find funds to continue support she will lose the following aspects of her life; Volunteering, faith activities, visiting grandchildren, unable to get out of home, do her own shopping, no social activities, trapped. She was awarded an MBE by the Queen this year 2011 for her initiatives raising awareness of disability hate crime and helping disabled peoples organisations, all such activities will cease with no ILF funding. She feels her life will have no purpose if she loses the support ILF gives.
B – “My Son’s care package comes to over £50,000 per year of which the ILF package makes up over £23,000. The Local Authorities “Indicative Budget” maximum level for someone living at home is £31,094 so without ILF his total care package would be slashed by almost 50% and leave it impossible for him to manage to live at home”.e slashed by almost 50% & probably leave it impossible for him to manage to live at home. e slashed by almost 50% & probably leave it impossible for him to manage to live at home.
C – 25 year old man with ILF funding has been able to live independently for 7 years and get a 2:1 in Politics and International Relations plus an MA with merit in Journalism. As part of his degree course he spent almost a year working unpaid as a senior researcher for an MP. He has also worked on a self-employed basis and is now working in the media industry, in spite of being placed in the Support group for ESA previously due to his physical limitations. Without ILF funding none of this would have been possible and he would not be contributing to the economy as he is now doing. He would never have had the chance to go to university like his peers and would no doubt instead be incarcerated and abandoned by society in a residential care home costing the taxpayer much more.
D – “As half my care package is ILF I would first have no control over my toilet needs, this may result in me being catheterised. I am not unable to get out of bed or in bed myself, nor can I dress myself. I need support in all personal care needs, including keeping clean etc. I would not be able to attend any meetings when various government and NGOs ask me to be part of their various consultation plans. I would have no control over what time I got up or what time I went to bed therefore I would have no social life whatsoever. When ILF finishes in 2015 I will not have any social life. This will mean I will not be able to visit friends, attend the cinema or theatre, go to my bridge club or attend a primary school to assist children to read. I will no longer be able to use my car for shopping taking my dog to the woods etc. Having campaigned for the last 26 years this will end as I need support to do this. I regularly attend course on photography and employment issues – these will not be possible without ILF funding.”
E. “I am 27 years old female, and I currently live in my own flat, with 24 hour PA’s who I have directly employed. I have had various levels of funding from ILF, ever since becoming an adult. It has meant that I was able to live on campus at theUniversity ofWarwick, where I completed a BA in History and an MA in Modern British History. I was then forced to move back to my family home, because I did not have the high level of support that I need, and I have only recently been able to start living independently in the community, with funding from my local authority and ILF. This amount was not as much as would have previously been the case because a freeze was put on the amount that they, ILF, could contribute to disabled people’s care packages in April last year, before my current care package was agreed. As a result, I was only entitled to receive the same level of funding that I had been awarded in my previous, much less expensive, care package. This meant that my local authority was put under increased pressure to fund my entire care package, and after the ILF is abolished, it seems very likely that all local authorities will find it difficult to provide care for severely disabled people living in the community. I have had to really fight against my local County Council in order to get funding for my current care package, but what scares me is that although I will always be disabled (and actually, my needs will increase in time), there is no kind of guarantee that I will receive my current care package even past my next review. ”
F. I am a 44 year old digital artist/editor & film maker, a lot of time is spent travelling to locations for shoots, I can’t imagine how I would manage without ILF which funds a third of my care package.. to lose such vital funding will probably change my life in a way presently I do not want to think about, however, as the government is pushing this legislation through regardless, I have to consider my position. Ultimately I fear that any real & significant control in my life and how I presently choose to live my life will be significantly curtailed. I know in this present political climate, any changes will be presented to the general public in a way that suggests no “significant” change, “the disabled” are worrying needlessly etc, but the reality has to be heard. I will have to make my PA’s redundant, relying on goodwill of friends or volunteers would not be feasible. I would lose control of my life.
H. I am a 40 year old ex archaeologist, living in busyEast London, and it would be impossible to manage if I lost my ILF. This funds 50% of my care package, so the loss of ILF would mean that I would lose my independence. At the moment I live independently and use my ILF to maximise my independence, to access the community, to do voluntary work in three different places. This government has pushed legislation through in a way which challenges human rights. Without ILF I would lose my home and my independence and would be forced to rely on my aged father and sleep on his floor as his house is inaccessible.
I. I am 39 years old and my ILF contributes roughly 25% to my 24/7 package. It is thanks to the ILF that I have been able to study at University, become involved in voluntary work and, more recently, have been able to hold down a full time job in a disability organisation, helping other people make the most of their care packages. The ILF has allowed me to contribute financially to the economy yet there are many more people who, thanks to the ILF have made contributions to society that are every bit as important, and often times more, than my one contribution. In a time where disabled people are classed as undeserving scroungers it is vital to point out these invaluable contributions and also to not that, without ring-fenced funding that affords people more than survival care we will be forced into a position were we can’t give back to society. I have already seen this in my line of work where people who would have benefited so much from funding from the ILF are just left with a couple of visits a day – literally for “feeding, watering and toileting” – of course there is no willingness by Social service to put that extra little bit in any more, as they know that the ILF won’t be there to part fund! This is a real disgrace. Personally, any negative change to my care package will have not only a severe affect on me, but also on the 6 people that I employ as Personal Assistants. The loss of the ILF really is a return to the dark ages!
J. Jane has Downs Syndrome. In some ways she appears to be quite a capable lady, but has a severe learning disability and also and most importantly has severe health problems which could prove life threatening if not handled immediately and in the correct manor.
Karen has a profound mental and physical impairment. She is mostly a happy lady but with no means of communication other than her body language.
Jane and Karen’s families have come together with the help of their local learning disability team and have enabled them to live in an apartment together, for the past 4 years, with the care of personal assistants 24/7, employed directly by them using funding from the Independent Living Fund. The ladies both live very productive and worthwhile lives together accessing activities in the community and interacting with everybody they come into contact with.
This is exactly what the Independent Living Fund was intended for and Jane and Karens lives have improved considerably. They have a future to look forward to rather than spend the rest of their lives in a care home
Now it appears that the Independent Living Fund is going to be withdrawn at the end of the present parliament, with no promise of anything to replace it with. How will Jane and Karen continue their lives living independently in the community?
Signatures at 07.01.12
ILF Users 39
Alison Barrett – ILF user, Peer support Coordinator Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living
Anne Novis MBE, ILF user, Trustee UKDPC
Anne Pridmore – ILF user and director ‘Being the Boss’
Anne Whitehurst – ILF user
Andrew Hardy, ILF user
Brian Hilton, ILf user
Cath Gibson, ILF user
Elizabeth Baily – ILF user
Francesca Digiorgio – ILF User
Gabrielle Pepper – ILF user
Glynis Dawes – ILF user
Ian Burnip- ILF user
Henry Langen – ILF user
Jenny Hurst – ILF user
John Evans, OBE-ILF user
Katherine Arienello – ILF user,Comedian
Kevin Caulfield – ILF user
Laurence Clark – ILF user, Comedian and Writer
Lianne Bayliss – ILF user
Lisa Morrison- ILF user
Liz Carr – ILF user, Comedian and broadcaster
Lucy Trengrove – ILF user
Mark Williams – ILF user and DEF Co Chair
Natalie Meadows – ILF user
Nicki Myers – ILF user
Noor Homayoun – ILF user
Peergawsan Lotun – ILF User
P.J. Banyard MA (cantab) – ex CEO international Spinal Research trust, ILF user
Penny Pepper – ILF user
Roxanne Homayoun- ILF user
Ruth Bashall – ILF user
Sarah Morrison – ILF user
Sean Mc Govern – ILF user
Shabaaz Mohammed – ILF user
Sue Elsegood – ILF user
Terry Egan – ILF user
Terry Rothwell – ILF user
Trevor Palmer – ILF user and small business owner
Parents of ILF users – 13
Barbara Horsewood – Mother of ILF user
Laura Scott – Mother of two ILF users
Linda Burnip- disabled mother of ILF user
Margaret Jones – Mother of ILF user
Pam Robinson – mother of ILF user
Paul Taylforth – parent of ILF user
Dr Saddi Chillingworth -Parent of ILF user
Vincent Lloyd Jones – Father of ILF user
Disability Organisations – 55
– Access Dorset – CE, Jonathan Waddington-Jones
– AgeUK- Mary Cox
-Alliancefor Inclusive Education – CEO Tara Flood
– Atos Victims Group – Paul Smith
– After Atos ‘Counting the Disabled Back In’ – K. James/J.Knight
– Being the Boss – Sheila Blair
– Black Triangle campaign group – John McCardale
– BreakthroughUK– Elaine Astley, Policy and Research assistant
– Broken ofBritain- Kaliya Franklin
– Carer Watch – Rosemary O’Neill
– Carmarthenshire Disabled Access group – Chairman F.R. Allen MBE
-ChesterAdult Phab Social Club – Chair Person Lynda Hesketh
– Choices and Rights Coallition – Chair Mark Baggley
-CornerstoneChurchproject – Ann Whitmore
– Different Strokes – Debbie Wilson, Chief Executive
– DisabilityCornwalland Isles of Scilly – Theo Blackmore
– Disability Equality ForumBristol
– Disability Equality LTD – CEO, Melanie Close
– Disability Hate Crime Network – Coordinator, Stephen Brookes MBE
– Disabilty Wales – Chief Executive, Rhian Davies
– DPAC – Disabled Peoples against the Cuts
– DPAC Islington – Julia Cameron
– DPAC Lambeth, Roger Lewis
– DPAC,Brighton, Jill Goble
– DPAC,Chester- Lynda Hesketh
– GAD (GreenwichAssociation of Disabled People) – CEO, Joanne Munn
– GreaterManchesterCoalition of Disabled People – GMCDP, Brian Hilton
– Green Party Trade Union Group – Alan Wheatley Disability Spokesperson
– Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts – HAFCAC
– InclusionLondon- Chair, Kirsten Hearn, CEO Tracey Lizard
– InclusionScotland- Manager, Bill Scott
– Jubilee Sailing Club – CE Alex Lochrane
– Kensington Centre for Independent Living – CEO, Theo Harris
-KingstonCarers Network – Director, Kate Dudley
– Limbcare – Gordon McFadden, Chief Officer of Policy, CEO and Chair, Ray Edwards MBE
– IpswichMencap – Chair, Barbara Thorn
– Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People – CEO, Mark Harrison
– NorthEdinburghFights Back
– National Centre for Independent Living, NCIL – CEO Sue Bott
– Ouch Too online disabled peoples organisation
– Public and Commercial ServicesUnion(PCS) at the ILF – Branch Secretary, Paul Martin
– Remploy Trade Union National Convener – Les Woodward
– Shaping Our Lives network – Chair, Professor Peter Beresford OBE,BrunelUniversity
– Sisters of Frida, cooperative of disabled women – MD, Maria G Zedda
– Social Work Action NetworkLondon– Dan Morton, Rich Moth Deputy National Convenor
….a range of false accusations against disabled people and those with long term health conditions are visible in the media. Rather than offering support to disabled people, certain sections of the media prefer to label disabled people as unsustainable, unproductive or immoral members of their communities. The major accusation, however, is that disabled people are not disabled at all, but profiting from fraudulent benefit claims
Eight months on there is a clear escalation of the negative portrayal of disabled people in the UK media. These attacks are no longer confined to screaming newspaper headlines in the Daily Mail and Daily Express declaring that the majority of people on disability benefits are frauds, but a whole host of television programs setting out the Saints and Sinners, even programs with usually good credentials such as Panorama have jumped on to the band wagon of who’s responsible for ‘Broken Britain’. Since March 2011 negative and unbalanced reporting has become worse.
Social and Economic facts versus ideological messages
At the same time unemployment has increased to the highest rates ever recorded for youth and women, and the highest since 1992. On average vacancies have decreased from an average of 2/1 (2005) vacancy rate to a 6/1 (2011) with six people chasing one job according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Figures on averages hide local variations which are often much higher.
Yet, still unemployment or any need for state support is consistently identified as a personal failing regardless of personal circumstances or societal limitations: it’s this ideological message, rather than economic and statistical facts that gathers pace and shouts out loud and clear from some sectors of the media, with disabled people most often identified as the group needing to leave welfare and get jobs because they are ‘faking it’.
How the Newspapers are reporting Disability
A recent report commissioned by the organisation Inclusion London and carried out by the Strathclyde Disability Research Group and Glasgow Media Studies group at the University of Glasgow: Bad News for Disabled People: How the Newspapers are reporting Disability, found significant changes in media reporting of disabled people which show a clearly defined increase in stories and views identifying disabled people as ‘undeserving’.
The report identified changes in reporting through comparative content analysis of tabloid newspapers in 2005/6 and 2010/11and through focus groups. The researchers found that incidents of negative language regarding disabled people in print media had more than doubled over the time period, while what they termed ‘sympathetic’ stories had more or less disappeared in the tabloid press. Terms such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’, and ‘cheat’ were used repeatedly in 2011with a rapidly decreasing use of articles on disability discrimination. In addition stories outlining the political and economic context were rare. When the focus groups were asked to describe a typical disability story in the newspapers: disability benefit fraud was the top theme.
The media examined were the Mirror, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and for balance the Guardian. The researchers also carried out a number of focus groups asking what each group thought the level of disability benefit fraud was, there were variations from rates of 50% to 70% of perceived disability fraud from focus groups.
The reality in terms of incapacity benefit it is just 0.03% according to the ONS the report states. The Department of Work and Pensions own figures on Disability Living Allowance are 0.05% both stats also include administrative errors within their figures. The media strategy appears to be working when focus groups state perceived incidents of fraud of up to 70% which is more in line with Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines, than any statistical realities.
The report’s timely commission by Inclusion London, a London wide Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation provides more evidence for further campaigns and for those who doubted that the print media in particular were objective. In addition, there have been several examples of stories usefully backed by a quote or two from Iain Duncan Smith MP welfare and pensions’ secretary. The most stunning in the Sun newspaper in 2011 when he happily implied that disabled people were responsible for the UK deficit, the most recent quoting him as ‘enraged’ and ‘shocked’ based a story that carried false figures regarding mobility cars. He wasn’t shocked by the inaccuracies but by the figures which weren’t checked before publication, but false figures are par for the course, as are false accusations.
The Cuts, Media and ‘real life’ Implications
Sheffield Hallam University have also produced a report outlining the impact of the cuts in incapacity benefit, claiming that almost half of those now receiving incapacity benefits will lose them, not because of fraud, but because of a tightening of the qualifying criteria for the replacement of lower income benefit Employment Support Allowance. The report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, estimates that the reforms will cut the number of disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits by nearly one million in just three years. Add to this other reforms set to take away any support from disabled people and those already carried out removing over 9 billion pounds worth of support and we see a very different story from one of fraud. We see a story of ‘cuts’ to a group that the UK public had consistently agreed to be deserving of support in national surveys such as the British Attitudes Survey.
Professor Fothergill author of the report on Incapacity Benefit changes said
The large numbers that will pushed off incapacity benefits over the next two to three years are entirely the result of changes in the benefit rules” and added that this ..’would impoverish vast numbers of households and cause untold distress to countless more. The incapacity numbers need to be brought down, but this is not the way’
He is also clear that this is not about fraud, but about ‘changes in the benefit rules’ see Jolly . He adds: “Incapacity claimants often face multiple obstacles to working again and their concentration in the weakest local economies and most disadvantaged communities means they usually have little chance of finding work.”
Yet, it is the benefit fraud stories that abound despite the 0.03% figure; people believe the figure is much higher. A rise in disability hate crime has been linked to the media strategy on the demonising of disabled people. One example was reported on 4th December, one day after the International Day of People with Disabilities. It tells of Peter Greener’s constant barrage of abuse from his neighbour.
Sometimes, it was eggs thrown at his house, stones thrown at his windows or paint thrown at his fence; more often, it was words hurled in his face: spastic, cripple, scum, scrounger. These assaults went on for months, leaving the former Nissan car-sprayer in floods of tears, feeling suicidal and on antidepressants. He was scared to leave his home in Hebburn in South Tyneside and blamed himself for the upset it caused his wife and two children. “It made our lives hell,” he said.
Like many people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Greener’s regressive condition fluctuates. One day, it affects his memory, the next his speech. Sometimes, he uses a wheelchair; at other times, he can haul himself around on crutches. But this only led to more abuse, with angry shouts he was faking his disabilities and exaggerating his problems to get benefits
This is just one story; but the climate of fear is clearly working, there are disabled people who are frightened to leave their homes because of verbal and physical abuse, and accusations of being scroungers and frauds. There are those who refuse to claim their entitlement to support in spite of previously paying years of national insurance when they were in work, because they do not want to be labelled as benefit cheats. In total 16 million pounds worth of entitlements goes unclaimed. There are also those denied entitlement to support through the tougher regimes for claiming any benefit such as the replacement for incapacity benefit through the work capability assessment, carried out by the private company Atos who are being paid 100 million pounds per year by the government. The sums do not add up, but the strategy seems to:
A further report carried out by BT showed that a third of those questioned demonstrated increasingly negative attitudes towards disabled people. Reasons cited for this ranged from disabled people being seen as a burden on society (38%), ill feeling around the perceived extra support given to disabled people (28%), and the personal worries and sensitivities which rise to the fore during a recession (79%).
European Media Strategies
The media attacks on disabled people are not just happening in the UK. In Holland up to 90% is being cut from support for disabled people, similar media demonization is taking place in the popular press identifying perceived ‘undeserving’ cases. In Sweden cuts are being made to assistance to support disabled people with tougher qualifying criteria being put in place, they too have a focus on those who defraud the system highlighting such stories while record numbers of people loose entitlement to support.
The figures for fraud are just 0.05% in Holland. Yet, the magazine Vrij Nederland, a major quality magazine in Holland reproduces outrageous comments from the Secretary of State, responsible for the drastic 90% cuts:
The State Secretary of Health, Marlies van Zanten Veldhuijzen finds it unacceptable that some thirty percent of people with a personal budget (PGB) wrongly receive it. She said in an interview this week: “It can have you on the internet looking for the name of a disease, and then think: look, I can get 2000 Euros per month. With PGB we need to sort the wheat from the chaff.
She states that 30% receive a budget without having the right to receive it, as if it is a fact. Yet, here is no existing evidence or research confirming or even indicating this. Before receiving a PGB, as in most countries, a strict assessment is carried out. However, here we have a government minister saying that individuals can simply choose a disease at random by searching the internet to gain these funds.
Stories used by media to usher in cuts to disability support appear to converge into strategies by particular populist media to create a media panic around the extra perceived support given to disabled people for the extra costs of disability. This is proving effective , especially when there are examples of ‘undeserving’ cases being presented to shift the traditional view of disabled people as ‘tragic victims of circumstance’ –the claim of ‘tragic victims’ has always been rejected by many in the disabled peoples’ movement –maybe this will change as the 21st century welfare reform policies and the media strategies in the UK and Europe reinvent millions of disabled people as the tragic victims of the circumstance of recession and easy targets for savings from the state budget.
The political use of media to promote demonization of disabled people is aiding the work of governments’ intent on cutting the support and the human rights of disabled people. There are rising cases of verbal abuse against disabled people such as that endured by Peter Greener and rising cases of suicide amongst disabled people with one couple entering a suicide pact after surviving for a year by walking 10 miles to receive food parcels which they made last all week.
Ann McGuire Westminster Shadow minister for work and pensions wrote recently:
Disabled people say they are fed up with being labelled as scroungers in the media – and are beginning to point the finger in the direction of the Government. Yesterday at Work and Pensions questions I asked the Minister for Disabled People to assure the House, and disabled people up and down the country, that Ministers are not behind the stories knocking disabled people that seem to be emerging with alarming regularity…
McGuire called on the minister for disabled people to quell the insidious media attacks, a challenge that was also made directly to Miller at a recent disability conference in London: McGuire said:
The Minister for Disabled People has a responsibility as the champion of disabled people inside government to challenge some of the more outrageous and outlandish comments by some of her senior colleagues and others associated with her government…And I call on her to do so.
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Article 8(2c) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states:
‘Encouraging all organs of the media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the purpose of the present Convention’.
This would include any change in reporting over time: it seems that there has been a change in reporting which is clearly not in line with the convention’s principles of promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms nor with promoting respect for disabled peoples’ inherent dignity. In fact the opposite seems to be occurring.
Inclusion London, the pan Deaf and Disabled Peoples’ organisation that commissioned the Glasgow University research into the media have led a response on the Leveson Inquiry. The response: titled ‘Open Season on Disabled People?’ supported by Disabled People against Cuts and others states:
The Government must issue a clear and public rebuttal every time the media release inaccurate information citing Government / Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics.
That the Government commit to full transparency in their dealings with the press including keeping a publically available record of all communications between Government officials, Ministers, their aides and special advisors and the media.
That there needs to be an independent review of how the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) releases and provides commentary on its statistics to assess how fair and balanced this data is presented and communicated.
That the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) must carry out further research on the impact of media coverage on disabled people and the implications this has for disability hate crime, disabled people’s protection under The Equalities Act and the UN Convention on the rights of disabled people.
We call on the Leveson inquiry, Press Complaints Commission, and OFCOM to:
Carry out an independent investigation into the media reporting of disabled people. This investigation needs to include the impact this coverage is having on disabled people and the implications this biased and inaccurate reporting has for the culture, practices, ethics and standards of the press. It must also examine the opportunities disabled people should have for effective redress.
Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the assistance and kind support of Jamie Bolling Executive Director of the European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) and Peter Lambreghts of ENIL and the Expertise Centre Independent Living
Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) were shocked to learn of the events of 28th July in Sofia, Bulgaria in which members of the Sofia Centre for Independent Living (CIL) were abused by another group of disabled people while protesting against reductions in the PA scheme for disabled people.Disabled people in Sofia were told by the government that it was ‘not fair’ to allow the same disabled people use the limited funds for employing personal assistants to live independently.
Provision for Personal Assistance Reduced
Unfortunately the systemof Personal Assistance (P.A.) Provision in Sofia is not promoting independent living and a better quality of life. An inquiry among PA users proved that most of them ‘improved their social contacts’, ‘INCREASED THE FAMILY INCOME’ and only 3. 7% found a job. In Sofia the PA salaries are most likely to go to family members while the situation of disabled people remains unchanged. The PA scheme budget has doubled over the last 4 years whereas the number of users has grown by a factor of four. As a result people are receiving fewer and fewer hours to allow for more users.
Disabled people get their PAs for one year and have to be assessed on yearly basis regardless of their situation. The new assessment system involves two stages: a) points based on the individual situation, which determine access to funds; and b) transfer of points into hours (by a panel of experts who will not see the applicant at all), which determine the size of individual funding.
Reductions in PA lead to Confrontation
The issue of reduced support for disabled people to live independently is, sadly, no longer news: it is something that is happening all over Europe. It is no surprise that there have been protests all over Europe by disabled people. What is a surprise is when those protesting for their rights are confronted and mistreated by another disabled peoples’ group.
In this case CIL – Sofia, an organisation highly respected throughout the European Independent Living Movement were confronted by other disabled people from the National Disability Council: an umbrella organisation of well subsidised Disabled Peoples’ Groups.
On one of the hottest days of the year supporters of CIL – Sofia were left reeling from the opposition demonstrated by the National Disability Council (NDC) members against them.
In addition, Sofia CIL were left waiting outside the government building from 9:00am to 5:00pm in intense heat while the NCD were invited inside by the local government officials to see the results of the Metropolitan Council voting.
Kapka Panayotova, the founder and CEO of CIL – Sofia, said
“Police officers who were providing the security measures for our protest were shocked… They couldn’t believe it was happening!”
NCD supported the key notion of the local politicians in Sofia: each year different disabled people should enjoy PA support; access to the scheme with the number of hours awarded dependent on the employment/schooling status of the applicant for PA not on the daily needs alone. In fact, the PA scheme in Sofia will become a tool for employment, not for better quality of life or independent living.
A couple of weeks before the action a monitoring report on the performance of the National Council on the Integration of Disabled People (NCIDP) dominated by national Groups was made public. It was conducted by a consortium of advocacy NGOs – Institute for Modern Politics (IMP), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and Bulgarian Centre for Non-Profit Law (BCNL), it showed that:
(1) The NCIDP does not operate in line with the ‘good governance’ principles;
(2) Six out of its nine functions are not performed at all; the remaining 3 are partially performed;
(3) The NCIDP and its member groups are being subsidised in a non-transparent and unaccountable way, which takes them away from the status of ‘independent’ organisations;
(4) Despite the consultative process between the government and NCIDP, Bulgarian policies are not inclusive and far behind European human rights standards.
NDC the umbrella of the impairment based Groups and the European Disability Forum
This is not the kind of group most would want representing their interests. It seems that they may not be representing the interests of disabled people at all, but those of the government in agreeing with cuts in return for continued subsidies.
What is even more shocking is that NDC are the spokespeople for Bulgaria at the European Disability Forum (EDF): a large organisation set up to be ‘The Representative Organisation of Persons with Disabilities in Europe’ and ‘the frontrunners for Disability Rights’. We are not sure if EDF are aware of the behaviour of their member organisation or their activities, but would like to draw it to their attention and ask them if they agree with it.
DPAC condemns all cuts to funds to help disabled people live independently according to the framework of the European Convention of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
DPAC also condemns disabled peoples’ groups that abuse other disabled people fighting for independent living and disabled peoples’ rights.
We welcome comments from both NDC and the EDF on this issue. We urge all to help them and Sofia Metropolitan Council understand that independent living rights extend beyond education and employment to day to day living as recognised by article 19 in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Call for Action
Contact the Sofia Metropolitan Council on why the PA scheme should be used as a tool for independent living rather than exclusively supporting employment and study and on their behaviour towards Sofia CIL
A lobby at the council house was held yesterday, called jointly by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Social Work Action Network (SWAN), UNISON Birmingham Council Branch, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts.
The five groups have come together this month to campaign on cuts to social and care services that the ConDem council are seeking to bring in, as part of the £212m council cuts.
The council plans to cut back services to disabled people in particular, with care only being available to those adults judged to have “critical” needs. This means that adults with only “substantial” needs will no longer have access to care services. Originally the council said that this would affect 11,000 people, but have more recently said that it will only be 4,500 people who are affected – we, like Graeme Horn from UNISON, are inclined to believe the original figure as the council are likely to have tried to massage the numbers down following an outcry from the people of Birmingham about these horrendous cuts.
Following the announcement of the cuts, a legal case was started which resulted in a judicial review in May that the cuts were unlawful, as the council had not done an equality impact assessment or consulted properly over the cuts. This review has forced the council to start a new consultation, which begins shortly. DPAC and SWAN decided to use July to campaign on this because the UN is currently monitoring the convention on the rights of disabled people – so at the same time the government is monitoring the report from the UN, they are cutting services to disabled people. They then contacted UNISON, Right to Work and Birmingham Against the Cuts to build a united campaign which can be effective in its resistance to these cuts.
Graeme Horn from UNISON Birmingham said:
We need to make sure that during the consultation as many people as possible examine what the council are doing and speak up in defence of vulnerable and disabled people
Rich Moth from SWAN added that
We have chosen to start the campaign now because of the court victory under the Disability Discrimination Act concerning the £33m cuts to care and support services. What we want to do coming out of that judgement is to build a campaign because Birmingham City Council will come back with proposals that we expect to be more or less the same and we need to build a campaign to fight these discriminatory cuts which kind of show who is really going to suffer – not the bankers who caused the crisis but disabled and vulnerable people.
Godfrey Webster from Birmingham Against The Cuts spoke about how it is important to make sure that the narrative of the neccesity of cuts is defeated
The problem is that the majority of people think the cuts are inevitable and there is no alternative. We need to get the message out that there is an alternative
False Economy is a good website to start with to explore the alternatives to cuts, which broadly speaking encompass ideas such as closing the £120bn tax gap – especially the £25bn of tax avoided each year by wealthy individuals and large corporations; a robin hood and/or bankers bonus tax to ensure that the people and organisations that caused the crisis play their part in helping to get us out of it and investing in the economy (particularly in green manufacturing) to stimulate growth and prevent a double-dip recession which would cause tax revenues to fall, welfare payments to rise and the deficit to increase.
Matt Raine from Right to Work chose to highlight one particular cut
Mobility allowance is being stripped from old people. This will mean that they are effectively prisoners in their care homes
He talked about the importance of linking up this struggle with the wider struggle against cuts, mentioning the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham in September, and the Tory conference in Manchester in October.
Finally, DPAC Sam Brackenbury spoke about how disabled people need to be active in this struggle. He said that he was fighting so that he could have the support that he needed to have an independent life, to not be dependent on other people or have to accept the scraps that fall from the table. Calling for all disabled people to be proactive in this struggle and to join DPAC in taking action to defend their benefits he said
Don’t cause a fuss, stop a bus
referring to this action that he took with Members of the Greater London Pensioners’ Association took to highlight issues of access and the cutting of mobility allowance, as well as broader cuts to benefits (Sam is one of the activists handcuffed to the back of the bus)
There will be more events from this campaign this month, as well as ongoing work as we seek to prevent the council from cutting vital services. To steal SWAN’s slogan we want the budget to be based on peoples needs, not private greed.
On Thursday (7th July) Birmingham Trades Council has its monthly meeting, at 7:30pm in the Council House. Bob Findlay-Williams from DPAC will be speaking.
On the 20th July there will be a public meeting at Transport House on Broad Street (TGWU/UNITE building) with speakers from the groups and services affected by these cuts. Join the Facebook Event and invite your friends.
Come along to these events and help the campaign to ensure that the consultation that the council are being forced to undertake is not a sham, and that vital services for vulnerable and disabled people are protected.
All photos (c) Geoff Dexter Sherborne Publications – see more photos in his Flickr stream
Over a dozen claimants and supporters managed to get our message out about Atos, that ‘They Rob From The Poor To Give To The Rich’ to hundreds of shoppers and people going home from work outside the Atos offices at 45 Gordon Street in the centre of Glasgow between 5pm and 6pm. Banners proclaimed that ‘Atos Are Making The Sick Pay For The Greedy Bankers Debt. ‘Atos Make A Profit Out Of The Misery Of The Sick’ was screamed out to passersby.
New people signed up to take part in the next anti-Atos demo on Monday 6th June between 6pm and 8pm at the Atos recruitment evening at the assessment centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street
Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite bull statue in Bullring centre DPAC was joined by supporters for leafleting and street theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit Campaign play.
'Atos Kill' protestors DPAC Birmingham
DPAC co founders Linda Burnip, Eleanor Lisney and Bob Williams-Findlay and supporters were at Birmingham handing out leaflets to interested shoppers and doing an adaptation of ‘The Computer Says No’ . The bystanders /audience were supportive and responded with gusto.Visitors who dropped by to say hello included Birmingham People First and from nearby EHRC regional office.
It was suggested to us that disabled people should also add their placards to the collection – so those of you who still hung on to their placards please try to get it to the Museum. You might want to ring up beforehand if they are still collecting.
DPAC supporters will be meeting with activists from London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) and other allies at Savoy Street near Charing Cross at 11am to join the TUC march.
Some others will be meeting slightly earlier at 2 neighbouring accessible cafes: Caffe Amici , 7B Kingsway, London WC2B 6YA and the Costa next door. The Costa opens at 9am. Many thanks to Jan Pollock for finding and suggesting them.
Largactyl Shuffle against the cuts – a history walk about disabled people’s right, Saturday 26 March 2011, 12noon, Start at CoolTan Arts, finish at Imperial War Museum
CoolTan Arts and Disability Lib join forces and organise a Largactyl Shuffle against the cuts, an alternative inclusive demo for disabled and non disabled people to march together and make their voices heard against the cuts.
On the same day Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are going to take part in the main TUC march in protest against government cuts. See http://www.dpac.uk.net/ for more info.
The Largactyl Shuffle against the cuts supports the main march, but aims to be a bit more low key so as to accommodate those of us who just don’t do big crowds. We will however be connecting with colleagues from Disabled People Against the Cuts on the main march through the web.