May 062013

Adding Insult to injury
The majority of disabled people, whether service users or not, are unlikely to know that this event is taking place. The fact it is ‘about them’ rather than an event seeking to involve them perhaps gives us the clearest message yet regarding the utter disregard the Coalition government has for the rights of disabled people. Sadly, with the shadow spokesperson on disability issues also participating in this patronising farce, it would seem we have a tri-partisan approach to displaying disabled people and service provision in the brave new ‘market place’. Every aspect of this National Disabilities Conference stink to high heaven – ideologically and politically – it adds insult to injury by stealing the language and concepts of the Disabled People’s Movement and transforming them into tools that will assist in the dismantling of the Welfare State.
Janus politics – creating a new culture of social exclusion
On the agenda are issues such as employment, independent living and disability hate crime, however, none of these subjects are likely to be discussed in the context of current government policies; policies that have contributed to disabled workers losing jobs, done nothing to challenge disabling barriers in the labour market, resulted in claimants losing benefits and many severely impaired people having their services reduced or removed. How can there be a discussion on independent living against a backdrop of the closure of the Independent Living Fund? How can people listen to a presentation on Disability Hate Crime and not round upon the role played by the Department of Works and Pensions in feeding material to fuel the ‘scroungers’ agenda? The answer is these issues will be discussed in terms of ‘opportunities’ – providing workfare programmes, making money by providing services within the voluntary and private sectors or increasing marketization in the public sector.
Since the mid-1990s we have seen the development of Janus politics where disability charities, parts of the voluntary sector and certain disabled people’s organisations have launched a new Disability Movement that speaks of rights on the one hand, whilst seeking to serve the neoliberal agenda on the other. The NDC is populated by individuals and organisations who want to foster the Big Society and buy a piece of the action as the services are hived off – it is an auction and disabled people’s lives will be placed under the hammer.
Nothing about us – without us!
This Conference employs patronage and an oppressive methodology. The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Disabled People advocates self-determination – nothing about us without us – yet, the blurb for the NDC is clearly at odds with the methodology that underpins the Convention because it portrays disabled people as passive receivers of ‘care’. Consider the following:
This event will provide delegates with the opportunity to debate and discuss the key issues around supporting disabled people across the UK. With key speakers, high level policy makers & drivers and important stakeholders present, this event is one not to be missed.

Add to this statement, the central purpose of the event:

Network with peers from across the health, work, crime and academic sectors, as well as stakeholders for central and local government. Just in case you are still unconvinced by the social exclusion of disabled people from this “Disabilities” event, take a close look at the Delegate price list: 1. Private £470 + VAT
2. Central Government £420 + VAT
3. Local Government £370 + VAT
4. NHS/Emergency Services/Police £350 + VAT
5. Third Sector/Charity £320 + VAT
6. Academic £350 + VAT
7. Trade Association £325 + VAT

Can you imagine the shock among disabled people who have come across this Conference and its agenda? Disabled activists fighting the austerity measures and promoting disability politics are being encouraged to take a stand against this Conference because it upholds everything the Disabled People’s Movement has fought against for the last forty years. The NDC 2013 epitomises the very essence of Janus politics by employing a dependency model approach to those sick and disabled people cast in the role of ‘deserving of care’ and a phoney ‘rights approach’ to those considered ‘lazy and workshy’ – in the words of Iain Duncan Smith, “….a hand up and not a hand out.” The Conference therefore can be seen as a watershed; it sets out the market stall for future government policies and draws a line in the sand vis-à-vis any progressive steps towards inclusive practices or the equalisation of opportunities for disabled people.
Protest and Resist
It is time to say enough is enough to this sheer hypocrisy; time to defend our struggle for emancipation against the patronising service providers who seek to exploit us and keep us dependent upon them; now is the time to demand Esther McVey sticks her disablist policies where the sun fails to shine!
There will be those who will fail to see what the fuss is all about; it is only a conference. The truth is the NDC is more than a conference; it is the first glimpse of a route map that will take us away from building an inclusive society and towards further marketisation, social exclusion, poverty and greater exploitation of both disabled people and those who work alongside them. It is vital to see this conference as yet another ideological and political attack on disabled people’s rights and welfare. We cannot afford to how the NDC to go ahead unchallenged.

Bob Williams-Findlay, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts and member of the Social Work Action Network steering committee.
May 2013

update: cartoons by Dave Lupton aka Crippen

 Posted by at 17:32  Tagged with: , , ,

Feb 122012

Cross posted from Disabled People Fight Back with thanks!

dignity not death

Disabled people: the first to go. Understand why & how to prevent the current backslide which threatens all groups who are discriminated against. RESISTANCE: a crucial & inspirational exhibition in Manchester til 3 Know this history to help fight current misinformation and hatred centered around the same ideals, spreading the idea that disabled people are unworthy and our state cannot afford us. Very similar propaganda is how the holocaust began – allowing it to happen led to the deaths of millions of other people too. Liz Crow tells us how the resistance of disabled people and our allies was central to bringing this to an end, as it still is now.


I had the opportunity on Friday to visit and participate on a panel discussion at Liz Crow’s hard hitting and inspirational installation “Resistance”  which I believe to be one of the most important projects about disabled people I have ever seen. It covers some of the hardest issues to cover in a radical and sensitive way and leaves people thinking about what we can all do to make sure nothing like a holocaust ever happens again. I found the discussion very inspiring and learned lots from the other (frankly, awesome) participants.

Then I finally went to see the installation RESISTANCE, which I have been waiting to see for years now, featuring some of my very favourite actors such as Jamie Beddard, Lindsay Carter, Mat Fraser and Ali Briggs.

It left me breathless.

I watched half of it with my head dropped in defeat on my friend Becca’s arm, soaking her sleeve. I felt grief stricken and angry. I felt euphoric seeing some fight back.

I felt confused at seeing highly skilled kickboxer Mat Fraser getting shoved into the death bus.. nothing like the man we know, no kicks in the face to his assailant, just the fear and confusion our people faced before the fightback started, before they knew what was happening. I wanted to scream KICK HIM MATT!

It sounds like I am mentioning this through frivolity but this is a perfect example of how people capable of so much more were institutionalised unwittingly slaughtered like lambs when taken for a ‘day out’. (If someone tried and do this to the real Matt.. I don’t think they’d live long..)

I felt afraid at how current beliefs are now so very close to the beliefs which led to the deaths of almost all identifiable disabled people in Germany, not so very long ago. I felt overwhelmed that the public accepted this and that their acceptance of such hatred against disabled people then also led to the deaths of millions of Jewish people, LGBT people, Roma people and others.

I felt determined I would continue to fight and advocate for our equal right to exist. My brain was exploding with the question WHAT MUST WE DO? What can I do that I am not already doing?

The first thing I’m doing is talking about Liz Crow’s installation and I am asking you come and experience it and / or to tell others about it too – share this blog, blog about it yourself, tell other people, ask people to support us in our current fight against fatal prejudices.

The fundamental MODERN belief that disabled peoples’ lives are of different value to others underpins ALL the prejudice we currently face – especially the dehumanisation we currently face in some areas of media and public opinion. The same beliefs which led to the holocaust now lead to cuts against every service which affects our lives, including those which keep us alive, hatred, attacks and murders, leaving disabled people destitute, locking 340,000 people in institutions in the UK, the killings of unborn disabled babies any time until birth, the do not resucitate procedures and withdrawal of treatment from disabled people of all ages, and the focus on ‘helping’ us to die by setting up special death centres to administer lethal drugs (‘assisted suicide’ centres).

Liz’s project is a crucial installation for all of us to see, disabled people and everyone else. Not just because it exposes our hidden history which is ignored by so many (because they just don’t mind) but because it also draws attention to how current government propaganda is leaning very close to that which was spread before the killing started. And most of all because Liz tells us how disabled people began to resist, inspiring us all to resist, continue to resist and resist harder.

Many people do not realise the Nazi holoucaust began with the extermination of disabled people and having perfected techniques of mass killing on our people, the Nazis went on to exterminate millions of Jewish people, travellers and queers. Disabled people were the testing ground – would the methods work? Would the public accept the annihilation of their fellow citizens? The answer was yes and then the creep began, into every community the Nazis believed did not fit their ideal of humanity.

This part of history must never be forgotten so we never allow it to happen again and Liz Crow questions what we will ALL do to make sure it does not.

It is crucial to understand disabled peoples’ history to understand how we got where we are today. It is esential to recognise that the politics of the past continues to affect contemporary strategies – which, having thrived uninterrupted are now on a steep increase in these ‘Times of Austerity’ – while government is intent on convincing the population that disabled people are a burden on the other citizens of this country which we cannot afford and we are worth less than others.

I reaffirm my foundational belief that while our lives continue to carry unequal status to the lives of others, most importantly our very right to exist in the first place and to continue to exist, we remain at great risk and the symptomatic discrimination we face is to be expected.

We must fight back on those core beliefs and not shy away from them as so many do, we do have a right to fight these beliefs, to fight for our very lives, to encourage disabled people, our families and our allies to fight back and to never ever stop. Not even just a right – we have a responsibility.

Please support Liz’s installation by visiting it during it’s time in Manchester at Zion Arts in Hulme. Please share this blog. Please talk about the issues it raises. Please keep fighting deadly prejudice.

Miss Dennis Queen (was Clair Lewis)

Sep 152011

After all the fuss of the Welfare Reform Bill in the house of lords yesterday I wasn’t expecting much for a couple of weeks when it will reach committee stage. However, I woke up today to find that the government had tabled a motion in the lords to send the bill to the grand committee, held in a side room.

This is in fact the normal procedure for legislation moving through parliament. The committee stage is where the bill is examined line-by-line and objections from the debate at the second reading turn into amendments to the bill before it goes back to the house for the report stage and the third reading. Parliament’s own web page states:

Any Bill can be referred to a Committee of the whole House but the procedure is normally reserved for finance Bills and other important, controversial legislation.

So you can see, controversial bills are supposed to be debated by a “committee of the whole house” rather than a “grand committee.” As one lord stated in the debate today, no one can argue that this legislation is not controversial. The peers have stated over and over again during debate that they have been inundated with letters, emails, and phone calls from people concerned about this bill. They show surprise at the scale of concern shown to them. Unfortunately, despite a heated debate this afternoon in the end the lords voted 263 to 211 to pass the motion and move the bill to the Grand Committee. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted for the motion, and Labour voted against it. Some of the reasons given were that it would block up the chamber and delay the passage of other bills, and that too many people would want to speak in the debate and it would take too long. (Yes, really! Democracy apparently takes too long.) One lady stated that several of the bills going through parliament are really three bills in one, and that of course it would take longer. (As an aside, I would urge you to look up Shock Doctrine for reasons as to why changes are being made so quickly.)

The difference between the two options for committee stage are quite important, I think. Here’s the official description of the committee stage:

Line by line examination of the Bill

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of the Bill takes place during committee stage. Any Member of the Lords can take part.

Committee stage can last for one or two days to eight or more. It usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

Before committee stage takes place

The day before committee stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.

Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published on the day.

What happens at committee stage?

Every clause of the Bill has to be agreed to and votes on the amendments can take place.

All proposed amendments (proposals for change) can be discussed and there is no time limit – or guillotine – on discussion of amendments.

What happens after committee stage?

If the Bill has been amended it is reprinted with all the agreed amendments.

At the end of committee stage, the Bill moves to report stage for further examination.

Here is the critical part though:

Grand Committee

The proceedings are identical to those in a Committee of the Whole House except that no votes may take place.

As compared to:

Committee of the whole House

In the House of Lords the committee stage of a Bill usually takes place in the Lords Chamber and any Member can take part. The Committee may choose to vote on any amendment and all Members present can vote.

So you can see, apart from being in a less-accessible room, with space for far fewer peers to discuss the bill and no public gallery, sending a bill to the Grand Committee also means that the amendments cannot be voted on individually. I think, on the whole, this can be viewed as a bad thing. Even worse, though; in the Committee Of The Whole Chamber, voting on amendments would enable a majority vote to fix some of the worse points. Instead, the Grand Committee must agree unanimously on an amendment which means that just one person siding with the government can block any attempt to fix this bill.

However, please keep sending your messages to peers. They have noticed our objections, and we can’t let up now. Details are on my blog.

Feb 162011

Man in bed reading bookDescription: David Cameron is sitting up in bed, partially lit by a candle on a bedside cabinet. He is wearing blue striped pyjamas and his bedding is also blue. In his hands is a copy of the book ‘Brave new world’ by Aldous Huxley. He is thinking: “That’s the answer – we just clone more Tories!”

Visit Crippen’s latest blog where he attempts to penetrate the fog surrounding Cameron’s big society … you can also leave a comment