Dec 132011

A contribution to the debate on campaigning by a Socialist Party member active in the disabled Peoples’ movement

Following The Hardest Hit campaign’s dozen regional marches and rallies on 22 October where more than 5,000 disabled people, family carers and supporters demonstrated against the Con-Dem’s Welfare Reform Bill, its next ‘action’ on Tuesday 13 December is to send a giant Christmas card to David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The card has been illustrated by Gerald Scarfe, partner of Jane Asher who as president of Arthritis Care was prominent on The Hardest Hit’s London demo on 11 May.

About 20,000 signatures or messages will be included in the card, double the original target.

The card reads:

Dear David Cameron and Nick Clegg, While we don’t expect gifts this Christmas, we do want our basic rights protected and the support to enable us to live independently and with dignity.

             Please make the New Year something disabled people can look forward to by:

  • Not bringing in an arbitrary time-limit on Employment and Support Allowance for those who’ve paid into the system and still need support.
  • Making sure that those who rely on Disability Living Allowance continue to receive the financial support they need through Personal Independence Payment.

Those disabled people who have signed the card physically or online did so because they support its message, but what is noticeable is both the limited demands and ambition of the charity directors and disabled activists running this campaign.

The Welfare Reform Bill is a continuation of neoliberal policies that have been promoted by successive Tory and New Labour governments since the 1980s, only the scope of this one is much broader as Cameron, Clegg and Osborne attempt to do what Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown never dared and cut the welfare budget by £18 billion.

If passed in its present form, the bill will:

  • Introduce Universal Credit which on paper promises a simpler benefits system but will witness caps on housing benefit and other payments. 133,000 households in London will soon be unable to afford their rent, many of whom will be disabled people or carers.
  • Introduce a much stricter sanctions regime with the loss of benefits for up to 3 years, a risk particularly to people with learning disabilities or mental health needs who find it difficult to cope with the demands of looking for work at the same time as having little prospect of finding employment.
  • Replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) with the explicit aim of cutting entitlement by 20%.
  • Time limit contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to one year, therefore from April 2012 people who were assessed even by the brutal Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as being unfit for work could find themselves on Jobseekers Allowance.
  • Abolish the discretionary Social Fund, Community Care grants and most crisis loans, with responsibility being placed on local authorities to provide alternative support.

Combined with the current programme to abolish incapacity benefit for 1.5 million, cuts in housing, social care and health services, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and huge increases in the cost of utility bills and essentials, the future for disabled people and their families looks bleak if the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.

Limited Demands

The Hardest Hit campaign has for some months called upon the coalition government to: improve the WCA run by Atos Origin; abandon the plans to time-limit ESA; ensure Universal Credit recognises the additional costs of living with an impairment or disability; and make sure no disabled person loses his or her independence when PIPs are introduced.

It also confusingly combines these with a list of four things it wants to achieve: no cuts to services vital to disabled people; and the government to ensure that changes to DLA do not make disabled people worse off, that ESA works by improving the assessment process, and for the welfare system to support people with the additional costs of living with a disability.

What is striking about the two demands in the Christmas card is they are even more limited than the ambitions above.

Following an independent review by the peer Lord Low that was funded by Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability, the government has announced that mobility allowances will not be taken away from those disabled people living in residential care when PIPs are introduced.

But more significantly, following a second review of the WCA by Professor Malcolm Harrington, employment minister Chris Grayling has accepted its recommendations.

These include giving more discretion to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officers when making benefit decisions following the WCA ostensibly to reduce the number of successful appeals, ‘improved support’ for people pushed onto Jobseeker’s Allowance, and working with disability groups to help develop guidance for Atos Origin staff and DWP decision-makers.

It is vital the organisations involved in The Hardest Hit campaign distance themselves from any measures that support the continuation of the WCA.

The fear for activists is that the failure to even mention the limited demand of improving the WCA in their Christmas card is because The Hardest Hit campaign believes Harrington’s recommendations satisfy this.

Given that the simplistic, function-based questionnaire that makes up the WCA was introduced by New Labour as part of a policy to drive one million off incapacity benefits, and the WCA process will be used as a model for the reassessment of mobility and care benefits when PIPs are introduced from 2013, any demand short of the scrapping of the WCA would be a betrayal of both the thousands who marched on 22 October and the million plus whose income will be slashed by it.

Missed opportunity

Unfortunately, from the start the Hardest Hit campaign has failed to weld the enormous anger amongst disabled people and family carers against the Tory/Liberal coalition’s programme of benefit and public service cuts into a mass campaign to stop the Welfare Reform Bill.

The thousands who demonstrated in London on 11 May and across Britain on 22 October could and should have been organised into campaign groups in towns and cities across Britain.

The Hardest Hit campaign has been top down and focused on trying to amend the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords rather than calling for it to be thrown out.

We have even witnessed in November the widely-respected independent peer Jane Campell arguing for the term Disability Living Costs Allowance to be used instead of Personal Independence Payments, instead of using her authority to condemn the Tory/Liberal proposals outright.

Whatever name is used won’t change the fact that hundreds of thousands will lose mobility and care benefits to achieve a 20% cut.

In its publicity material for their Christmas card, The Hardest Hit campaign says: ‘The Welfare Reform Bill is now making its way through the final stages in Parliament.

The next month provides us with our last real opportunity as a sector to influence the bill and we need to make our next action BIG and LOUD.’

Whilst some further concessions may be won in the next week, unless a mass campaign is built now to stop the Welfare Reform Bill, what will be introduced from next April will have a profound impact on the lives of disabled people and their families.

If it becomes law, the one thing though that will be BIG and LOUD will be the questions asked by many disabled people and family carers as to why more was not done to oppose such an obscene piece of legislation.

The Hardest Hit campaign

Some left-wing disabled activists have refused to take part in The Hardest Hit demonstrations, primarily because of the involvement of the Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) charity.

But this position ignores the central role played by the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) in The Hardest Hit campaign, with a new generation attending their first demonstrations becoming aware of UKDPC’S existence for the first time.

The opposition to LCD’s involvement stems from its role in developing and maintaining residential homes for disabled adults over the last sixty years.

A small layer of activists in the 1970s and 80s who were influential in the development of the disabled people’s movement in Britain were themselves residents in Leonard Cheshire homes because there were no alternatives in the community for people with complex conditions at the time.

Their long struggle to live independently forged for themselves and the broader movement they influenced a very strong opposition to the segregation of disabled people in social care, education and broader society.

While there are historical roots to the opposition to LCD’s involvement, it was mistake for some disabled activists and their organisations not to participate in The Hardest Hit demonstrations for this reason.

This isolated them from a new layer of disabled people on their first demonstration that they could have influenced with leaflets and other political material.

We do though need to recognise that at a national level the directors and leading trustees of some large disability charities see public sector cuts and the privatisation of services as an opportunity to expand their business side.

However, many thousands of disabled people and family carers who are members of these charities also currently look to them and The Hardest Hit campaign as the best option to defend their benefits and services against cuts.

It is vital the disabled people’s movement builds a bold, energetic campaign against both welfare ‘reform’ and the public sector cuts.

Particularly by developing a programme that articulates the day-to-day concerns and issues facing family carers and disabled of all ages and impairments.

But it is essential that such a campaign explains the neoliberal origins of welfare reform, the privatisation of public services, and attacks on pay, pensions and conditions.

In particular, the way the capitalist class are increasing their wealth at the expense of the working class and middle layers in society, producing contradictions such as 25,700 excess deaths of older people due to cold weather in 2010/11 whilst the top 1% enjoy their rich lifestyles.

Such an approach will help disabled people and family carers to develop the confidence to challenge those in both the impairment based charities and the disability movement who prefer to compromise or openly collaborate with the Tory/Liberal coalition’s agenda rather than face up to the task of building a mass campaign against cuts to services and benefits.

The disabled people’s movement must also be wary of being used by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and as a minimum it should demand it drops its support for welfare reform and commit itself to opposing all benefit and public sector cuts.

But the natural allies for the disabled people’s movement are the millions of public sector workers who are moving into action to defend public services and their pay and pensions.

If the full resources of the trade union movement had been mobilised in support of The Hardest Hit demonstrations on 22 October they could have been many times larger.

It is also vital for disabled activists to develop links with trade unions at all levels if a movement to stop welfare reform is to be built.

Although The Hardest Hit campaign is likely to continue in some form after the Welfare Reform Bill is passed, it is questionable whether it will be more than just publicity stunts or a vain attempt to convince the better nature of MPs of all persuasions that their support for the worst aspects of welfare reform and public sector cuts is wrong.

Disabled people’s movement

However if the Welfare Reform Bill is passed largely in its current form it is likely to lead to a serious debate about the role played by disabled people’s organisations since the government coalition came to power.

Some organisations at a local level such as Inclusion London and the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People have opposed the Con-Dem’s cuts from the start, and used their resources to both explain in detail the implications for disabled people and mobilise support for The Hardest Hit demonstrations.

The strong opposition of disabled people’s organisations at a local level certainly influenced the decision of the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council to call the meeting in January that initiated The Hardest Hit campaign.

Unfortunately, while thousands have been mobilised on The Hardest Hit demonstrations, the UKDPC made a serious mistake by allowing this campaign to develop a limited set of demands based on a strategy of amending the welfare reform bill in the House of Lords.

It also maintains a misguided confidence in the role the Human Rights Act can play in defending disabled people’s rights – when in July the retired prima ballerina Elaine McDonald lost her Supreme Court case to defend her need for overnight care arguments in support of her human rights were a very blunt weapon.

The UKDPC is faced with considerable financial pressures and has historically relied on project grants from charitable trusts and government programmes.

Increasingly this kind of funding is linked to support for neoliberal policies and practices, placing considerable pressure on the ability of disabled people’s organisations to maintain principled rights-based work.

But the UKDPC is still seen by a majority of disabled activists as the national representative organisation for the disabled people’s movement.

It is vital though that it develops a programme independent of those charities and disability organisations that are prepared to support the privatisation of public services.

While funding itself and conferences to encourage debate amongst disabled people will always be a challenge, the UKDPC can potentially play a historical role in helping to build mass opposition to the Con-Dem cuts.

But the UKDPC needs to develop stronger links with the trade union movement at all levels and look to its considerable resources for support.

RADAR/Disability Rights UK

Whilst the UKDPC has emerged from The Hardest Hit campaign with increased authority, the opposite is true of RADAR, the Royal Association for Disability Rights.

At the same time as disabled people and family carers were becoming aware of what the Con-Dem cuts would mean for them and marching in their thousands on 11 May, RADAR’s chief executive Liz Sayce was carrying out an ‘independent’ review of supported employment services.

This was commissioned by the Tory/Liberal coalition as part of George Osborne’s Autumn 2010 spending review, and Sayce had the support of a team from the DWP.

When published in June 2011, the Sayce Review disgracefully included proposals to remove government funding from residential training colleges and the closure of the Remploy factories that could lead to more than 2,500 disabled workers being thrown on the dole.

Sayce’s review “is supportive of the direction of travel towards a simplified welfare state and the introduction of a new Universal Credit” and therefore supports a key component of the welfare reform bill.

So when thousands marched on 11 May to oppose this legislation, Sayce and RADAR were already giving it their tacit support. With a friend like Liz who needs enemies?

Sayce is now the chief executive of Disability Rights UK, a recent merger of RADAR, Disability Alliance and the National Centre for Independent Living.

When minister for disabled people Maria Miller announced on 13 December 2010 the closure of the Independent Living Fund on the grounds it was “financially unsustainable” – news to its 21,000 disabled users – she said the government had “consulted informally with disability organisations”.

The fact that representatives of NCIL and Disability Alliance were among these, and met Miller on the day of her statement, doesn’t suggest they will temper RADAR/Disability Rights UK’s cosy relationship with the Con-Dem government.

Disability Rights UK will continue to support Radiate, a network of disabled ‘high-flyers’ set up by RADAR.

While Disability Rights UK will attract support from the 1% of disabled people trying to break through the ‘glass ceiling’, the 99% who are locked in the basement and don’t know what the glass ceiling looks like will develop a deep mistrust of Disability Rights UK or any other organisation for that matter that fails to fight against cuts to benefits and public services.

Disabled People Against Cuts

One positive development in the last year has been the emergence of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and campaign groups such as Black Triangle in Scotland.

While DPAC was mistaken in its decision not to participate in The Hardest Hit campaign, it has been important in the organisation of demonstrations that have successfully highlighted the impact of the brutal WCA run by Atos Origin for both New Labour and the Tory/Liberal governments.

DPAC’s first conference in October was attended by about 65 activists and demonstrates the potential this group has to organise not just dozens but hundreds of disabled people if it can successfully establish local campaigning groups across Britain.

As well as electing a steering committee and establishing a number of working groups, DPAC is developing a Charter of Rights for Disabled People.

This will articulate a broad range of demands that reflect the many issues arising from disabled people’s day-to-day experience of discrimination, exclusion and poverty.

It is vital that this Charter also sets out an explanation as to why neoliberal policies such as welfare ‘reform’, the privatisation of public services and the contraction of social care have been adopted by successive Tory and New Labour governments.

In particular, it needs to argue that the defence of services, benefits and what few rights disabled people have in the ‘age of austerity’ is inextricably linked to the success or failure of the anti-cuts movement – a struggle disabled people and family carers should play a central role in.

Finally, for socialists within both the trade union and disabled people’s movements, a key task in the next period is to link the defence of family carers and disabled people’s services, benefits and rights to the need to fight for a socialist society based on meeting social need rather than creating profit for a greedy minority.

The Socialist Party calls for:

  • No cuts in benefits, jobs and public services.
  • Mobilise now to stop the Welfare Reform Bill through a united campaign involving disabled people and carers’ organisations, trade unions and the anti-cuts movement.
  • Decent benefits, education, training or work for all, without compulsion.
  • No privatisation of services. Take back in-house all privatised services.
  • Sack Atos Origin and scrap the Work Capability Assessment.
  • A living wage and provision of respite services for all family carers.
  • Provide free health and social care services to all who need them.
  • Central government and councils to stop using children and family members as a substitute for professional social services.
  • A national campaign to save the Independent Living Fund.
  • Oppose the closure of the Remploy factories – expand them to create employment for both disabled and non-disabled people.
  • Massive investment in social housing, services and infrastructure to create jobs and meet need
  • A mass movement against all cuts and further coordinated trade union action to oppose cuts in pensions, jobs and pay if needed.
  • For a socialist society that puts the needs of the millions before the profits of the millionaires.





Apr 132011
Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

At one time within the Disabled People’s Movement there was the belief that disabled people ought not to “wash their dirty linen in public” and to always show unity at all times just in case those that oppress us attempt to use the divisions against us. This was utterly unhealthy and helped to restrict the voice of minority opinion. Personally, I have no problem with acknowledging that disabled people, just as with our non-disabled counter parts, come from a variety of social and political backgrounds and as a result don’t always share the same opinions on issues affecting disabled people. There are political differences among disabled people and we shouldn’t be afraid to say so. Often these differences influence our take on mainstream politics, but they also impact upon people’s views on disability politics too. The debates around the social model, inclusion and the right-to-die, for example, reveal differing ‘world-views’ and I would argue the current struggle against the cuts is now throwing up alternative political perspectives as well.

Over recent weeks there has been much discussion in some quarters as to Disabled People Against Cuts’ (DPAC’s) decision to withdraw support for The Hardest Hit campaign. Here I want to discuss some of the differences that have emerged since we took the stance we have. Before anyone else says it for me, I recognise the irony behind the fact that a campaign group called Disabled People Against Cuts has turned it back upon a campaign that has a focus on disabled people and the cuts – however things aren’t always as simple as they seem. How did DPAC become involved in The Hardest Hit campaign in the first place?

The Hardest Hit campaign

The United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) finally took the decision to voice its opposition to the Government’s attack upon disabled people and DPAC had continued to urge UKDPC to come out make a stand. UKDPC took the initiative to invite the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) to work in partnership with them to establish a campaign. DPAC isn’t a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) and therefore had no expectations as to being invited to participate however when an invite to attend a meeting arrived, we accepted. Prior to the meeting the co-founders of DPAC discussed how we felt about working in partnership with DBC because it contains some of the major disability charities. The Disability Benefits Consortium involves many different types of organisations who have had differing types of relationships with disabled people and their organisations and DPAC therefore wants to make it absolutely clear that there is no intention on our part to tar DBC all of its members with the same brush. We do assert however that the major disability charities have had historically very distinctive relationships – often socially oppressive – with disabled people and their organisations.

In all honesty, we were concerned about working with the major disability charities because unlike Tom Shakespeare for example we do not believe these major charities have completely broken with their past practices or have acknowledged their role in disabled people’s social oppression. Many DPOs remain critical of how they behaved during the Rights Now campaign and believe some of them colluded with New Labour to marginalise and undermine the Disabled People’s Movement. The big question for DPAC was: could they be trusted? What we concluded was:

An organisation should not be judged by its stated aims
and objectives, the ‘PC’ language it employs or the friends
it seeks to make alone; an organisation should be judged by
its practice.

In our opinion this can be applied equally to DPOs as it can be to major disability charities. Using this as our principled position we were prepared to consider the nature of The Hardest Hit campaign in terms of whether or not it would be a genuine partnership and we could only do this if we were round the table with them. During the meeting I attended I did state that DPAC wasn’t refusing to work with all disability charities but we did reserve the right not to work with any organisation that had been questioned again and again for abusing disabled people’s human rights; I didn’t directly name Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD). After the meeting a senior disability activist expressed the view that LCD was unlikely to be involved in The Hardest Hit campaign therefore there was no need to worry about them. It was only days after this meeting that DPAC learnt that UKDPC had agreed to work with LCD to organise the rally on the 11th of May. People may be asking themselves the question, does DPAC seriously believe LCD is any worse than the other disability charities and our answer is that this is exactly our opinion based on evidence obtained by us. In our opinion LCD continue to undermine disabled people’s rights and engage in oppressive activities.

Given the dominant role being played within The Hardest Hit campaign
by LCD, the co-founders of DPAC felt that it would be unprincipled of us to remain involved and in support of this campaign. We agreed to explain our position, however, we would not seek to actively discourage disabled people from participating on the 11th of May. This said, I feel justified in also stating that the early promotion of The Hardest Hit campaign by a number of the Disability Benefits Consortium members failed to mention the partnership with UKDPC or include any DPOs.

This website for example: contains the statement that:

The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the
Disability Benefits Consortium and the UK Disabled
People’s Council, brings together individuals and
organisations to send a clear message to the
Government: stop these cuts.

however around its edge there are no logos belonging to DPOs (as checked today 13th April) including the absence of UKDPC’s logo. Was this agreed with UKDPC? For a number of disability activists this brought a flashback to the Rights Now days. Having outlined the background, I now want to move on to examine some of the issues involved.

Different perspectives: what are the issues?

One criticism aimed at DPAC is that principles are all well and good, but with the situation being as terrible as it is, shouldn’t we cut the charities a bit of slack? I call this the principles versus pragmatism debate. What are principles and why do we have them? There are many definitions of what principles are and I believe DPAC employs “principles” as being: “a specific basis of conduct and management”.

In our opinion it is vital to establish a framework for ourselves – are we prepared to work with people who are knowingly racist, disablist, sexist or homophobic? Do we ignore the fact that organisations might be viewing disabled people as ‘helpless cripples’ so long as they are prepared to come out and oppose the cuts? We believe it is precisely because we are facing severe attacks upon our rights and lives at this moment in time that there is even more reason than ever to ensure that the messages we’re sending out and the actions we take are clear and work in the long term best interest of all disabled people. I make no apology for saying that DPAC refuses to “turn a blind eye” and betray certain groups of disabled people for some mythical “greater good”. Some may accuse us of cutting off our noses to spite our face or needlessly creating barriers where none exist, however, it is our view that it would be hypocritical of DPAC to speak of defending people’s rights, including the right to independent living and self-determination, if we gave a nod and a wink to anyone who is engaged in activity undermining these rights. How many Catholics are proud of their Church’s record on addressing child abuse?

This leads onto a simple definition of pragmatism where it is seen as being: “a practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems”. Here I’m talking about a common sense understanding of pragmatism which implies ‘ends justify means’. It has been argued by some DPOs that major disability charities have resources, influence and power; areas where DPOs are lacking, so we need to be practical and hitch our wagon to their horses. Forgive me for pointing this out, but wagons don’t lead! What kind of “partnership” is this when the inequality between UKDPC and the major disability charities is so vast? ‘Ah, so you are anti-working with the charities?’ And again our answer remains, not necessarily. The Hardest Hit campaign, in our opinion, by applying a pragmatic approach to this ‘partnership’ has resulted in UKDPC allowing itself to be held as a hostage to fortune and this means disabled people are being asked to accept their historical role of going ‘cap-in-hand’ to the charities. The message coming from UKDPC and some others is that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ (sic). We could debate the reasons behind the inequalities between the ‘of’ and ‘for’ organisations but these are well documented elsewhere and our central concern here is to note the failure of UKDPC to provide political leadership for disabled people in order to mitigate against the unequal partnership they formed. This partnership or ‘united front’ reminds me of the bankrupt politics during the 1930s when sections of the Left surrendered their principles in order to form a ‘popular front’ based upon the lowest common features. This decision proved extremely costly and I hope UKDPC hasn’t made the same type of error.

Throwing ‘principles’ out with the bathwater has led to a situation where UKDPC can argue:

We fully understand the feelings expressed by DPOs
and individuals towards some of the ‘for’ charities in this campaign, however, at a time when disabled people are facing harsh cuts and breaches of rights, we have to
campaign with organisations whose policy and/or practice
is not in keeping with the DPO philosophy.

What exactly does this mean? Where are the boundaries drawn and by whom? UKDPC, mistakenly in my view, believe they have things covered when they state:

The charities ‘for’ recognise that we are working from
human rights framework, and that our agenda forindependent living is not negotiable.

Within the context of The Hardest Hit campaign, what is there to negotiate? UKDPC are not going to influence how LCD operate; so this ‘recognition’ is utterly meaningless. However from a disability equality perspective, UKDPC claiming it works from a human rights framework but is prepared to ignore allegations of human rights abuse against one of its partners ‘beggars belief’ (sic). In our view this simplistic pragmatic approach discredits the Disabled People’s Movement.

Another issue raised is that of allies and the justification of working towards a ‘common good’. UKDPC state:

In common with other liberation movements, we are
having to find a common way forward with those who
are not immediately obvious allies

DPAC know from our own experience that there has been a great deal of time and energy discussing our relationships with disabled and non-disabled organisations and much of this activity has centred upon how best to work with people outside our traditions. This requires an understanding of what an ally is.

Over the last few weeks a few disabled people have asked DPAC to remember that: “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. It’s a saying DPAC is very familiar with and believe that both British and American governments have adopted this opportunist approach with disastrous consequences in Iraq and Libya for example. What actually determines who is a ‘friend’ or an ally. According to Webster’s, an ally is someone who is “joined with another for a common purpose.” It is reasonable therefore for both UKDPC and DBC to claim they are allies, but what are we supposed to understand by this term ‘common purpose’? In UKDPC’s statement they assert:

We cannot turn organisations away from the Hardest
Hit Alliance as long as they are prepared to fight the fightwith us and sign up to our leadership and mission of this
particular campaign. (emphasis added – BWF)

Again, these are fine words but, why is it so hard to take them seriously? At no time have DPAC questioned the view that the big disability charities are opposed to cuts aimed at disabled people, but this is not the same as accepting that idea that these charities share the same agenda as the majority of DPOs. DPAC sees no evidence to suggest that DBC is taking its leadership from UKDPC; as I have already stated, this remains a concern and a criticism of UKDPC’s role. There is however clear evidence to show that some charities have priorities which place certain disabled people’s interests (and in doing so, their own interests) above those of other disabled people. In addition, there are times when the criticism levelled at the cuts or reforms by particular charities are couched in terms which accept at least in part the ideological agenda being forwarded by the Government.

Call us cynical, but this again has echoes of the early 1990s and Rights Now, therefore we can’t help but question whether or not there is a possibility that some of the forces within the Hardest Hit alliance have their own hidden agendas. Are some charities using it as a bargaining ploy; we ask this because as things stand, along with the bankers, particular charities and third sector organisations could end up benefiting from the Government’s restructuring of the State.

The Disabled People’s Movement has campaigned for many years to obtain independent living for disabled people and DPAC believes Government policy is undermining disabled people’s ability to achieve or maintain independent living. Against this backdrop we can’t help but note that LCD makes a vast amount of money from ‘social care’. This area of service provision is their biggest earner as shown by the increase in revenue (8%) for the 2009/2010 year. Elsewhere on our website DPAC has written about the proposed change from DLA to PIP and how this will impact right across sections of the disabled community. We oppose the Government removing the mobility element from disabled people in residential care, however we believe this move has been aided by oppressive and questionable practices within residential care management. We pour scorn on Cameron’s claim that, “we’re all in this together”, but how should we interpret the decision of disability charities such as LCD to create a specific campaign around the residential care mobility issue? Just looking after their clients best interests?

For DPAC, being an ally should mean more than sharing a common purpose; disabled people are subjected to social oppression, therefore we want to work with people who want to further disabled people’s collective interests as well as their own. We would subscribe to this definition used by a section of the LGBT community: “An ally is someone who works as an advocate for an oppressed population to which he or she may or may not belong.” Given the historical social relationships between disabled people and major disability charities, many disabled people remain distrustful of these charities motives and use of power.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a body of opinion among disabled activists that holds the view that a leopard doesn’t change its spots by stealing another animal’s skin or by imitating its victims. If charities are changing and will work in true partnership with disabled people and their organisations, then it would be counter productive to stand in the way of progress. However as things currently stand the promised ‘cultural shift’ and changes in practice are hard to notice and in some cases are clearly ‘masks’ to hide the traditional roles charities play in disabled people’s lives.

The Fight Goes On

Disabled People Against Cuts only exists to protect the interests of disabled people against unjust and damaging policies and practices arising from the present and the previous government’s actions. As our own mission statement said:

We welcome all to join us in fighting for justice and human rights for all disabled people.

We attended the UKDPC meeting to see if members of DBC were serious in their commitment to ‘fighting for justice and human rights for all disabled people’ – we would’ve supported the Hardest Hit campaign if this commitment had been visible; instead, they have elected to work with an agent of disabled people’s social oppression and in so doing forced DPAC’s hand. From our perspective our non-involvement in the Hardest Hit campaign will be judged not by what we or others say about the decision we took, it will be judged by our ability to continue the fight against the cuts and to work tirelessly to assist in the creation of meaningful and principled alliances involving disabled and non-disabled people. DPAC took no pleasure or comfort in our withdrawal and we don’t consider ourselves to have staked a claim to the moral high ground. We took the decision did because each and every one of us believes it was the right thing to do in order to best further the interests of our community.

—-Bob Williams-Findlay