Oct 302011
 
Mike Higgins

Mike Higgins

What is this struggle of DPAC all about?

It is not about charities keeping their funding. Why, when the Disabled People’s Movement was at its strongest and most vibrant during the 1980s, was its central demand ‘Rights not Charity’?

It is surely not ok for Disabled People to have to go to charity ‘cap in hand’ to have our needs met. We should not have to beg or be grateful for:

  • Enough money to live and make ends meet
  • Accessible information
  • Wheelchairs or other equipment to live independently
  • Human support
  • Accessible transport
  • Decent housing to live in

We should certainly not have to beg for the maintenance of segregated or so-called ‘special’ (i.e. inferior) services. Equal access to jobs and services ought to be our right. The Con-Dems are ushering in a revival of the notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor.

Charity, by definition, makes us compete with other ‘deserving’ or ‘less deserving’ causes for public sympathy and scarce resources. We do not have common cause or common interest with those who need to perpetuate our oppression. We do not have common cause with those who beg on our behalf without our permission.

The struggle of DPAC is not about fighting to keep funds for the big charities. It is not about us saying that we are affected more or worse than others who are also under attack from the Con-Dems and New Labour. Such a ‘divide and rule’ approach plays directly into the hands of the Con-Dems.

We do have common cause with:

  • Trades unionists facing the sack because of privatisation and service cuts
  • Trades unionists fighting for better pensions for all
  • Trades unionists fighting against ATOS, which is now also being used by the Government to discipline and sack public sector employees on so-called ‘ill health’ grounds
  • People having to wait for NHS treatment and those whose GPs say that their needs are too expensive
  • Social and private housing tenants being evicted due to cuts in housing benefit
  • People who desperately need more and better social housing
  • People who cannot afford inflated fuel prices
  • People who need legal aid to fight injustice
  • People who cannot get advice or advocacy because of service cuts
  • A million young people looking for work
  • People unable to afford the ‘privilege’ of higher education

DPAC should be justly proud. In the UK at least, it is the first mainstream campaign against injustice led entirely by Disabled People.

We (Disabled People) are in all of the groups affected by the Coalition attacks. Many will try to divide or weaken our campaigns. Our opponents will try every possible tactic of ‘divide and rule’, even perhaps within DPAC itself!

Cameron says “we are all in it together”. Well we – pensioners, trades unionists, tenants, jobless, students, asylum seekers, refugees and Disabled People – are all in it together and must work together to defeat these attacks.

These are our services; our benefits; our taxes. These are our hard-won rights that they are trying to take away. We must struggle alongside all others facing these attacks as this is the only way we can win.

Oct 302011
 

First report from Louise Whittle @HarpyMarx, many thanks for letting us repost.

Mike Higgins, Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, John McArdle (morning speakers)

Mike Higgins, Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, John McArdle (morning speakers)

I attended the DPAC first conference yesterday. Here are some pictures and video to give a flavour of the day. Workshops were held to discuss the priorities for DPAC work and this will be written up put on the website. My favourite demand was, “Get rid of capitalism” as it makes people ill. Too true!

Thomas Butler

There were speakers, I just about caught the end of Mike Higgins talk (I was late to conference). John McArdle’s (Black Triangle) talk I videoed. I enjoyed Mik Scarlet’s talk about the challenges ahead, lots of humour added and especially his anecdote about a certain presenter of a certain dance show parking his Rolls Royce in a disabled only space and claiming he had every right to park there as he’s a “star”…….

John McArdle (Black Triangle)

John McArdle (Black Triangle)

Finally, John McDonnell MP was the final speaker (I videoed his talk too). Overall, the day was about, for me, hearing about the experiences of disabled people being constantly demonised and vilified by this government and previously, NL. Individuals spoke about their terrible experiences at the hands of Atos and the dreaded assessments. As one speaker correctly said, “If you have a pulse you are fit for work as far as Atos is concerned”.

Patrick Lynch (in white teeshirt) and Andy Greene (seated next to him)

Patrick Lynch (in white teeshirt) and Andy Greene (seated next to him)

There were discussion about demands and the way forward. One area is dispelling the lies and myths circulated by the ConDems and Ed Miliband aided and abetted by a media who is only too happy print to reiterate the rubbish. Example, Panorama has a programme coming up about benefit scoungers.

delegates

delegates

John McDonnell is correct when he said we need to make alliances and work together in challenging and fighting against the lies about disabled people but also uniting with others makes up stronger.

Lianna Etkind of Transport for All

Lianna Etkind of Transport for All

Finally, I would like to say thanks and solidarity to committed activist Eleanor Lisney, who I first saw at a Women Against the Cuts at an International Women’s Day event, and met her in cyberspace via Twitter when I came across DPAC. She is standing down from DPAC National Steering Committee.

Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip

Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip

Mik Scarlett

Mik Scarlett: speaker

John McDonell MP
Lani Parker, Svetlana Kotova with John McDonnell

Lani Parker, Svetlana Kotova with John McDonnell

Oct 142011
 

Mike Higgins kindly allowed us to re post his letter here – first published on the DISABILITY-RESEARCH@JISCMAIL.AC.UK listserv.

An anonymous and perhaps facetious call out today was made for DIAL staff across the UK to attend the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) annual conference at the end of October and, as the old comedy series had it: “take it from here”. For a less cryptic clue, e-mail me off-list.

Cynics like me will of course say “I told you so”. Spookily enough, SCOPE (yet again) appears to have hoodwinked a section of our movement controlled by Disabled People, stolen its clothes, money, reputation, good will and status (or as SCOPE would have it: it’s ‘branding’). Lock, stock and both barrels, SCOPE hijacked the DIAL network a couple of years ago, subsuming it within SCOPE’s monopoly. This meant that  with a couple of chews, a gulp,  swallow and suppressed burp, SCOPE could enhance its pretension to be part of the Disabled People’s Movement.

In-line with its providing space for window dressing (such as the project led by Andy Rickell and others) and the subsequent office space it gave to Disability LIB, SCOPE has ended its short-term whoring with DIAL. Having slept with DIAL, it is now administering the morning after pill to the DIAL network. Closing down DIAL’s national office and sacking all of DIAL’s nationally employed staff as of next month, November 2011, is just one of the ways in which SCOPE is ensuring that any established expertise in network support for Disabled Peoples’ Organisations is expunged.

SCOPE has abolished the national trustee body for DIAL and is instead imposing a SCOPE-appointed (i.e. unelected) steering group with responsibility for SCOPE dis-information services. As part of its declared ‘regionalisation’, SCOPE nationally is appointing a top-heavy management structure with an emphasis upon recruiting people with backgrounds in health and social care services (rather than in the Disabled People’s Movement). Staff at a national level within DIAL, including many disabled staff, are apparently surplus to requirements. The new ‘regionalised’ version of SCOPE will in reality compete directly with DIAL groups for funding. As we know from all too bitter experience, SCOPE has the power and resources to play dirty and win contracts away from local Disabled People’s Organisations. It seems to me at least extremely likely that this will happen as part of the latest moves by SCOPE  – thinly veiled as ‘restructuring’ – to silence and suppress the only self-organised groups to be associated with it.

Just in case you’re thinking, is this about money? The answer from SCOPE is ‘no’. Of course it is! It is about taking money from Disabled People’s Organisations. It is not however about a cash shortage within SCOPE, according to their own official propaganda about this ‘change’.

Please circulate this information to anyone you know who is involved with a DIAL group so that their network can discuss openly how to respond to this predictable attack upon its integrity and viability. I personally am not involved with DIAL UK (or SCOPE) but would hope that as a minimum the DIAL network will decide to dissociate itself from SCOPE and refuse to lend it any further credibility, publicising this decision as widely as possible. Whilst DIAL UK national staff are under strict instructions from their erstwhile employer not to share information about the attempted back door abolition by SCOPE of the DIAL UK network, I am under no such restrictions or constraints. The National DIAL office has also made it clear that whilst SCOPE is attempting to tie their hands, they will not avoid answering direct questions put to them by interested parties. Those who want the inside track on these developments could therefore call the national office directly to discuss strategy for resisting these attacks on telephone:             01302 310 123      .

This is also perhaps a chance for a timely reminder to those in bed with SCOPE, through for example such networks as the Disability Benefits Consortium and other public campaigns, that the hardest hit appear to include SCOPE’s disabled staff, a number of whom are being made redundant. In passing, didn’t something similar happen to Leonard Cheshire’s latest pretend network of User-Led forra about a year ago when they also sacked a swathe of Disabled People?

I would say that Disabled People’s Organisations need (again) publicly to dissociate themselves from SCOPE and the latest in its long and chequered series of attacks on our Movement. SCOPE continues to pretend to be a friend of Disabled People’s Organisations as part of its long-term cynical endeavour to plan the decimation of organisations run and controlled by Disabled People and their replacement with a consortium of unaccountable charity businesses in their own image, like Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire et al.

I will leave it to others to formulate demands and a strategy as regards dealing with the immediate fallout from this latest debacle, as I am proudly ignorant of the internal workings, structures and mechanisms for putting pressure onto SCOPE. Suffice to say, from my perspective as an activist, this latest news simply reinforces the vital need to rebuild our Movement from the grass roots up (for the avoidance of doubt, I mean the Disabled Peoples’ Movement of organisations run and controlled by Disabled People) perhaps starting with the excellent example being set by DPAC.

Best wishes,

Mike Higgins (in a personal capacity)