Oct 062012
 

A successful conference held in London on the 27th September called for a new UK network to challenge the attacks on disability rights in the UK. The conference supported by DPAC, Inclusion London, ALLFIE, Norfolk Coalition of Disabled people and the Joseph Rowntree Trust brought together leading Disabled Peoples Organisations and leading disability activists.

Key speaker Jenny Morris said that the ‘disability movement’ was more vibrant than ever, and that this Government had launched a number of attacks on disabled people and their rights. However others suggested that there may not be a disability movement anymore, but pockets of activity. What was clear was that challenges by disabled people and disabled peoples’ organisations (DPOs) must increase. Speakers also raised issues of how ‘the movement’ could be more inclusive in the speakers ‘from the frontline’ slots.

DPAC was there to add commentary and information on what was happening to disabled people under the regime of Atos and the ESA processes as well as the everyday crisis disabled people were facing under this Government. The whole day was brilliantly co-chaired by Tracey Lazard ( CEO of Inclusion London ) and Tara Flood ( director of the Alliance of Inclusive Education) . Speakers included Jenny Morris, Andrew Lee, Eleanor Lisney, Chris Edwards, Debbie Jolly, Linda Burnip and Geraldine O’Halloran, yet, there was also plenty of time for discussion.

Catch up on conference and presentations with the livestream (with BSL)

Catch up on all presentations and discussions through live stream and see Stephen Lee Hodgkin’s brilliant time-line at http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/

Read the excellent John Pring’s ( Disability News Service) account of the day at

 http://www.thefedonline.org.uk/federation-news/item/1828-new-network-aims-to-unite-disability-movement.html

Another option to keep up with what’s happening and have a chance to dicuss your views is to tune into Make Yourself Heard on Tuesdays 2-4p.m with Merry Cross  www.Reading4u.co.uk 

Join up to the new UK network: be part of the increasing outcry on our injustices!

Send an email to mail@dpac.uk.net with subject line ‘UK Network’ to be kept in the loop on this exciting and much needed new network of DPOs and activists.

We can also put you in touch with any local DPAC groups in your area or help you set up your own local DPAC group. We now have 26 DPACs across the UK and along with our sister organisation Black Triangle in Scotland we have made sure that disabled peoples’ issues are vibrant and will continue to be-never again must we allow our ‘movement’ to get sleepy- join the challenge!

 

Jun 032011
 

Indications of shock and disbelief came from all quarters of social media from watching the Panorama program Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed. While I had to force myself to watch, it was sadly not news for me. Like the whistle blower, disabled people have long been voicing our misgivings about how people with learning difficulties[i] bear the brunt of disability hate crime. It is not so long ago that Fiona Pilkington committed suicide [ii] because she could no longer bear the abuse; she contacted the police no less than 13 times in the year of her death.

When a case such as the Panorama program highlights these real occurrences, there are knee jerk reactions and  righteous noises about the support workers – and rightly so, some of them were arrested. But these abuses are, sadly, not rare and it also misses the crux of the issues.

These support workers were working in an environment (and society) which has no respect or regard for disabled people. They see them as ‘patients’ to be restrained and vent their boredom in bullying and abusing the people in their charge to pass their time. There was no supervision, no managerial support. It’s all very well to vilify them but there are some bright ideas afloat that unemployed people should be sent ‘to serve the community and take care of disabled people’. Disabled people are held hostage by the label as the ‘most vulnerable’, as subjects to be ‘taken care of’ and also, in this scenario, as punishment. Support workers are badly paid and as we can see in the program, scarcely trained. I am fortunate enough to know many support workers who care about the people they support in the community but these sterile ghettos/ care institutions where people with learning difficulties are kept locked up are not the type of places they would chose to work given a choice. These ‘inmates’, because that’s what they are effectively are rather than patients,  are not for all intents and purposes, ill. They are disabled people. Moreover the  treatment meted out to them by being kept in such institutions causes additional mental health issues.

Clare Wrightman, Director of Grapevine, Coventry, a charity that helps people with learning disabilities to grow their lives tells us:

‘As an advocacy organisation we know that people with a learning disability are on the receiving end of abuse and ignorance, especially in the new institutions. In the Panorama expose independent advocates were completely absent. Our workers are a vital part of safeguarding the most vulnerable.
Why did we close long stay institutions run by the State as part of government policy only for local government to commission new ones from the private sector? People can be supported to live in their communities close to the people who really care about them’

Ellen Clifford, who has worked within the People First movement said:

One point I do think needs to be made is how traditionally there is such a risk averse approach to support for people with learning difficulties, favouring segregated institutional based care. This programme shows  the extent of the dangers that are faced by people placed in exactly those type of settings that are purported to be safer for them as opposed to being supported to live independently in the community.

She continues:

the Quality Care Commission (QCC)  clearly failed when it was given evidence of abuse on a plate which it ignored. There needed to be improvements in its systems. However as Panorama rightly identified, the core issue is that locked institutions should not be allowed to exist. The programme at times described people as “not being able to look after themselves” and as having the mental age of children, however that approach fails to recognize the abilities, talents and contributions which all people with learning difficulties have; as one of the programme experts said at the end, there is no reason why any of those people could not live better in the community with support.

The privatisation of care homes must be seen as a factor contributing to the existing abuse at places such as Winterbourne. Private companies are seeking to make a profit from an industry which is already severely underfunded, the outcome can only be inadequate quality of support with the subsequent incidences of abuse. Supporting people with challenging behaviour is a complex and difficult job which requires intelligence (high levels of both IQ and EQ), understanding and training. You do not get support workers with that mix of skills and attributes for the kind of wages that the the so-called care sector pays. Not when you consider the executive salaries which are also paid out to the Directors.

The coalition government is pushing for a Big Society but without state intervention and regulation to ensure people get the support they need, there is every danger, as the Panorama programme provided evidence, of cultures of abuse becoming more widespread and accepted.

The programme highlights the key value of user led organisations: one of the experts described how the staff cannot have viewed the patients as “human beings just like them” in order to have engaged in the treatment they did. Where disabled people are visibly part of service commissioning and provision we can provide a constant reminder that we are indeed people just like them. If we don’t want people in our society to be abused as seen on Panorama then society needs to invest in our organisations.

Jim Mansell from the Tizard Centre, Kent University was one of the experts in the programme. What is highlighted on the Panorama programme is already detailed in a chilling report by him and his colleagues.[iii]

What we want to know is when is this austerity driven government going to see that this privatised, institutionalised care is not cheaper but that it costs disabled people and their families dear in depriving them of their human rights to live independently with support in the communities that includes them.

—-Eleanor Lisney


[i] Disability hate crime needs to be tackled  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/01/disability-hate-crime-keith-philpott

[ii] Fiona Pilkington case: police face misconduct proceedings http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/may/24/fiona-pilkington-police-misconduct-proceedings

[iii] Exploring the incidence, risk factors, nature and monitoring of adult protection alerts, Jim Mansell et al.

https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/adult-Social-Services/adult-protection/tizard-report.pdf

Apr 302011
 
May Day march Birmingham

May Day march in Birmingham

Today there was a demonstration called by Birmingham Trades Union Council to celebrate May Day— International Workers Day.

May Day celebrates International Workers Day and is marked traditionally when the Trade Union Movement gathers with the community to celebrate our achievements and to commit ourselves to achieving economic and social justice for all.

Birmingham TUC worked together with Birmingham Against the Cuts and invited trades unionists, students and the public to join this demonstration to stop the cuts and fight for an alternative based on our needs, not bankers greed!

DPAC was there with our stall and banner at the start at St Philips Cathedral – we were to march through part of the city centre to Victoria Sq where there were speeches. I joined Matt, Linda and Paul there to hand out leaflets and chat to the people there. It was a lively crowd and people seemed genuinely interested to stop and chat and to take up handouts. There was a UKuncut group dressed up in white body suits with black tipped markings – they said the body stockings were what the UKuncut people (Fortnum and Mason Solidarity Bloc) had to wear after the Fortnum and Mason event in London, 26th march. Next to our stall was the Confronting Anti Muslim Hatred stall. There was also an anti war stall.

Soon after 12 noon we set out on the rally – it was a rather good natured crowd and we hardly saw any police. A bit of noise but not much chanting with a few kids. All in all, there was a rough estimate of 200 perhaps. The UKuncut group stopped outside Primark to protest about non payment of taxes I think. I wound my way through the marchers with Linda and Paul holding the banner taking photos and handing out leaflets about DPAC. Linda told me later that someone asked her if she was taking care of me and if I had enough battery in my chair to last out the march! I had an older gentleman tell me he was buying me an ice cream but it never materialise!

Some of the people there were from the general public and quite a few of the older people there spoke of their own fears to me. I would have liked to be able to chat more except I had to keep up with the crowd.  They were quite a few open to chatting – it might be due to the weather!

We had the speeches about the cuts in Birmingham and how it affects the workers and service users in Birmingham and the recent legal case won against the council. I also read out the DPAC speech prepared for the day.

We did some networking and packed up at about 3 pm. I was not aware till later that the UKuncut group took some rough treatment at the Bull Ring shopping centre where they demonstrated against the non payment of taxes against Phil Green. (Fortnum and Mason Solidarity Bloc off Birmingham Mayday demo organised by Birmingham against the cuts  after the demo the bloc went to topshop in the bullring to raise awareness about the £300 million pound tax dodge by Philip Green) Photos of this event is at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/04/478508.html

May Day Photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626615066674/

—Eleanor Lisney

Eleanor Lisney speaking

Eleanor Lisney

Speech at the rally

Disabled people continue to face a multitude of attacks against their ability to live independently in the community and to take a full and active part in society along with their non-disabled peers.

These cuts include the abolition of Disability Living Allowance, a benefit awarded to meet the extra costs of being disabled, where even before further  testing of disabled people starts the Coalition government have said they will remove  20% of disabled people from entitlement to it and that we are financially unsustainable. This benefit in  particular allows many disabled people to work and therefore pay taxes.

1 million disabled people – not fraudsters as many newspapers would have people believe, are also being thrown off Incapacity Benefit and forced to seek non-existent jobs. But rather than removing the barriers to work for disabled people the coalition government have put even more obstacles to employment in place and with changes to Access to Work funding, a reduction to the Health and Safety Executive and the massive reduction of public sector jobs which provides employment for far more disabled people then the private sector.

Planned changes to social housing tenure and changes to housing benefits will also affect disabled people very badly and are likely to lead to an increasing number of homeless disabled people as well as pushing many into further poverty.

At a local level disabled people are already losing funding for care and support and together with the closure of day centres many are becoming isolated in their own homes. Social care is not free for the majority of disabled people either and locally in parts of the West Midlands people living on already meagre incomes are being expected to pay up to £50-£60 a week towards their care.

Mental Health services are also being drastically reduced in many areas due to cuts in NHS jobs and funding.

While many of you here today may think that what happens to disabled people is of little interest to you it’s important for everyone to realise that most disabled people have acquired an impairment  due to illness, accident, or old age., so helping us to fight for our rights and not be reliant on charity could help you or someone you care about in the future.

What I believe we all share in common however is that we are all being attacked by this millionaire government and that we have to fight for our futures together.

So what have DPAC done over the last 6 months?

All around the country together with others we’ve made it impossible for Condem politicians to leave the safety of Westminster and go out to visit places. Here in Birmingham MPs either were forced to use the back door on several occaisons or didn’t turn up. In London Boris Johnson was seen to cycle away from a group of protesters. We need to keep this up and make sure when they venture out into the community they can’t use the front door anywhere.

Secondly in Birmingham the council have been stopped from removing 11.000 disabled people  from receiving care by changing the eligibility criteria, This has been partly through pressure and partly through some disabled people winning a recent legal case. Other disabled supporters of DPAC  also have a Judicial Review pending against the heavily criticised Work capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance. A further case about Housing Benefit case is going to the Court of Appeal also.

We also now have several local DPAC groups around the country as well  and our campaigns against ATOS the private firm raking in millions of pounds for testing disabled people’s fitness to work are supported by politicians, union branches, and over 55 local claimant and anti-cuts groups. This campaign has so far involved three national days of action which resulted in ATOS offices all over the country, from Dundee to Truro, being closed down for the day.

We have been involved in organising an International week of protest against ATOS starting on May 9th again aimed to close down their offices all around the country. We have also and will continue to picket their recruitment fares when they try to recruit vaguely medical staff to carry out their tick box computer assessments. Of those tested by ATOS and found fit for work 70% who have representation and 40 % without any representation have the decision overturned on appeal, although it can take up to 12 months to reach a tribunal hearing because there are so many cases wrongly assessed.

We have also protested against the scandalous lies printed in the Daily Mail and are now involved in further campaigning against them. Its only in unity that we can achieve some success so we salute solidarity! in working together in the future.

Apr 082011
 

According to John Pring’s report on the TUC 26 March rally, many disabled people were there ‘

to protest against cuts to disability benefits and other aspects of the government’s welfare reforms, while others were angry about the impact on inclusive education, and cuts to local services and support.

Peter Purton, the TUC’s disability policy officer, said disabled people were the “worst affected” by the cuts, including disability benefit reforms, the loss of public sector jobs, and cuts to legal aid. He said he was “delighted” that so many disability groups had taken part in the protest.

The Labour MP Dame Anne Begg said she had taken part in the protest to show “solidarity” and that “there is an alternative and we know that the priorities of this government are wrong”.

She said:

“It seems to me that those who have least seem to be losing the most and that is simply not fair. Disabled people in particular feel very strongly because they seem to be in the forefront of many of the cuts.”

Criticisms were made of the TUC’s access arrangements, with some complaining that they had had to fight through crowds to reach the allocated “safe space” for disabled people near the front of the march.

The TUC had also said that the disabled people at the front would be able to set their own pace, but they were soon swamped and separated from each other by thousands of marchers who overtook them soon after the march began.

A TUC spokeswoman said it had made “extensive efforts” to make the event as accessible as possible, but was now carrying out an assessment of the access arrangements.

She said:

“We would not pretend that everything was perfect or could not be improved, but we are pretty sure that this was the most accessible demonstration of its size ever organised in London.”

She added: “Some reported issues were simply due to the greater than expected numbers.”

That might be true but we hope that this assessment means that they will be improved in the future. We are not convinced that the stewards were briefed enough to afford the right access to disabled people. Hopefully they will give more training to stewards in the future especially if they want disabled people to continue being able to take part in marches of this kind.

There was some disappointment that the Labour leader Ed Miliband failed to mention disabled people in his speech in Hyde Park, even though he mentioned maternity services, Sure Start centres, small business owners, teachers, students, “families struggling to get by”, libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaux, community centres and the NHS.

His spokeswoman said later that other groups had also not been mentioned, and that Miliband had raised the government’s plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from people in residential care at that week’s prime minister’s questions.

She said:

“It is an issue he cares about and it is an issue the Labour Party cares about. He is actually aware of the deep concerns and anxieties that disabled people have about the effect of the cuts.”

As disabled people who bears the deepest impact of the cuts on our individual and collective lives we should hope he is more than ‘actually aware’ and that it is not mere ‘deep concerns and anxieties’ but actually feeling the effect of the cuts and drawing blood – that those cuts have taken the toll of a few lives already.

The report also mentioned DPAC’s online protest (which received more than a quarter of a million views) for those unable to attend the march or rally saw an estimated 200 people email messages of support, which were “pinned” to an online map of the UK.

—Eleanor Lisney

Mar 032011
 

For International Women’s Day 100 years Celebration but just as importantly to show solidarity in Ending Male Violence in all it’s forms against Women and Girls in the UK and Internationally.

Million Women Rise demo/march

Million Women Rise

Meet 12pm Hyde Park (Speakers Corner End, Nearest Tube: 1 Minute from Marble Arch)
set off at 1.30/pm March through Oxford St, Regents St to Trafalgar SQ

3.30 – 5.30pm Rally and Celebration in Trafalgar Square (Nearest Tubes: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, and Charing Cross)
Coaches, Buses & Mobility Access for the march – Drop Off: Park Lane (Park Side) and Pick Up: Pall Mall – West Regents Street, Central London


Stalls

If your organisation would like to book a stall for the rally at Trafalgar Square, please contact the Million Women Rise Info Line on 07727 419634 or email info@millionwomenrise.com

Access information from last year

A guide for access from last year can be found at http://connectculture.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/million-women-rise-6-march-from-hyde-park-corner-to-trafalgar-square/

Michelle Daley and Eleanor Lisney spoke last year for disabled women – for which there is a video with transcript.

Party after the March

5pm – 1am: Food and Networking Party at The 52 Club, 52 Gower Street WC1E6EB, a wheelchair accessible venue.

All Women Welcome. Food, performances, swimming pool, DJs and chill–out space and raffle.

Entry fee on the door – donation if unwaged, £5 low-waged and £12 waged.

Including:

  • Swimming
  • Films
  • Raffle
  • Sauna
  • Live performances: Drumming, DJ Shyeye and Nicki Lucus.

Doors open 5pm until 1am (although for women particularly traveling from outside London the venue is open all day for you to rest and freshen up.)

Last swim 10pm

Door charges include swim and sauna and set for every budget but please don’t forget to bring your own swimming hat!

It will be a great chance to meet the million women rise crew and Network with other women find out more about the next National women’s march 2012 or just to relax, have a swim and soak in the vibes.

Call the info line on 07727 419 634 to book a place in advance. Group bookings welcomed.

Please feel free to print and share the invite with your colleagues, women who may use your services, friends and loved ones

Feb 132011
 

Organised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Right to Work, Labour Representation Committee

Over 800 people came together on Saturday 12th in London to talk about the cuts and the way forward for the TUC march on the 26th March. Disabled people were there and the stage sported a big DPAC banner in the middle. The day was videoed and the DPAC workshop was also videoed. The report of the day overall will be elsewhere. Here we look at the great turnout by disabled people and celebrate the central place we had in this day.

Morning

The morning open floor brought great comments from some disabled participants, including, Richard Rieser, Adrian Whyatt and Sasha Callaghan on the effect of the cuts for disabled people, including the human rights abuses and the closure of poverty pimps ATOS offices across Scotland on the national day of protest against cuts.

DPAC Worksho
p

The DPAC workshop was held in the afternoon. It was great to see so many people at this with 50 or 60 people, some attendees from as far as Scotland. Speakers on the panel were Richard Rieser, Debbie Jolly, Sue Bott and Kevin Caulfield. The workshop was chaired by Eleanor Lisney. There were many comments and questions at the workshop, these included:

We are being sent back to Victorian times: we should all be involved in local anti-cuts groups, emulate DAN protests, disabled people need to be at front of things and be united

We are incensed by the coverage in newspapers against disabled people

Need to make sure we include Deaf people and those with invisible disabilities, but not impairment based- we cannot go back to arguing about impairments- we must all fight together, must be inclusive

Mental health resistance network couldn’t all get to London today but want to support and be included: facing difficult times being given ‘talking treatment’ but they (the government) concentrate on getting us ‘well’, but they just want to get us into work

Participant remembers Richard speaking at European Social Forum; there are many more people here and comments that Sasha did a brilliant job when speaking this morning about ATOS

We need to come together and find common ground, not just disabled people but across the board. We all need to fully support the campaign and get the trade unions behind this too

There are not many disabled millionaires and certainly none at the convention. This is an attack on working class people. We need to get joint campaigns with all anti-cuts campaigns. Disabled people need to link up, need to unite: Every single local group should make contacts with disability groups in the area

We need to stop people from the Charity sector taking over: Rights not Charity

Issues were raised with the dropping off of people from buses at Wembly for the 26th March TUC London march. Right to Work have sent a statement to Brendan Barber not to drop in Wembley because of access issues and cost of getting to central London for the march. Disabled people need to email too.

John McArdle of Black triangle reminded us of the story of Paul Reekie.

It was noted that sometimes people aren’t getting messages re demos and protests, but also that the police always seem to know where we are going to be.

It was suggested that a boycott of newspapers following the government line and producing rhetoric on disabled people as scroungers are boycotted including the Scottish Mail, Daily Mail and others.

A video of the workshop will be available soon

Afternoon

The afternoon was made up of invited speakers, feedback from the workshops and debate. The highlight of the afternoon was Liz Carr’s speech which received a standing ovation from the audience.

Video of Liz Carr’s speech

A full list of actions proposed by Disabled People against Cuts and accepted by the Peoples’ Convention

The protest on 26th March needs to be fully accessible with disabled people involved in the planning. There needs to be representation of disabled people with and without visible impairments on the platform.

We propose a day of national demonstrations against ATOS.

We propose a month of action over the month of July to coincide with the second anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention.

We propose that every local anti-cuts movement has an autonomous disabled people’s sub group.

We propose support for UKDPC’s day of disabled people’s protest proposed for 11th May.(to be confirmed)

We propose that we speak to our colleagues at Unison about how the cuts are being implemented.

Debbie Jolly