Rob prepared this statement for the recent Disability Rights UK conference (18th July) He was not allowed to give his statement- we publish it here so people can understand why all voices should be heard and listened to.
The Fight for Our Lives
My name is Robert Punton I am a disabled person and an Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipient I come here today to oppose Disability Rights UK stance on the closing of the ILF.
I have been a disabled activist for over 30 years both in a paid and unpaid capacity. The money I have received through ILF funding has in no small part enabled me to achieve this, I have employed the same two guys as my Personal Assistants Mike Orme and Darren Harrison for over 25 years and now I am employing their son Daryl Harrison-Orme in the same capacity. If the closure goes ahead this puts our partnership (family) in serious jeopardy.
I make no bones about the fact that as a person with high support needs without this extra funding I would be languishing in a Scope home or one run by some other likeminded establishment. In saying this I am not in anyway denigrating the lives of anyone living there but I much prefer my lifestyle and will fight to my last breathe to save it. Make no mistake everyone using ILF is in the same boat and none of us want to sink.
I am a member of DPAC and Co Director in Community Navigator Services with Clenton Farquharson MBE and Jack Nicholas it is a Community Interest Company we all identify as disabled; we aim to build capacity within communities to allow them to participate within society to their fullest n need or want. We all agree the closure of ILF will severely destroy the advances that disabled people that achieved in last 3 decades.
Disability Rights UK and Simon Stevens advocate that when they close ILF it will make it a level plain field when they pass on funds to local authorities and everyone will be treated equally, equality only works when you use the highest possible denominator, in other words no one wants to be treated like their neighbour if they are being treated badly. The term we like to use now is fighting for social justice for all, hence wanting the best standard of living (in this case support plans) for everyone.
Simon Stevens and his supports say that the ILF has made users of their scheme elitists in their communities. I can’t argue that this may be perceived in that light. However, I would argue this two-tier system in society cannot be blamed on the independent living fund or its users; it was the Conservative government who closed the ILF in 2010 under the guidance of Maria (Killer) Miller, and in doing so cut off thousands of possible or probable new users of ILF, Con-Demning them to the level of substandard support given by most Local Authorities.
This substandard support shows the priority most local governments, and therefore National Government accord to people requiring high support – they are more than willing to leaving wallowing in our own shit!
Anyone following the campaign to SAVE the ILF led by DPAC and Inclusion London must know that we the major goal is to reopen the ILF to all people who fit their criteria. In doing so raising the standard of those people’s support. We believe this is the only solution not butchering the funding of the so called “lucky” ones it in all honesty won’t help anyone.
I would love to know where the advocates of this Don’t Save ILF think the monies to raise everyone’ standards of support will come from. The money release from ILF we be swallowed up by incompetent politicians looking after their powerful votes, not us the people they view as worth less. In Authorities like Birmingham who have amassed debts of £600m you think the money given up by ILF will not even make a drip in their ocean of debt.
While I disagree with Simon’s argument I support his right to voice his opinion. However, it is an understatement to say I am flabbergasted to hear Disability Rights UK supports this argument. I thought you represented disabled people not the establishment!
What really exasperates me though is that we never learn from our mistakes. Once more we are doing the governments work for them fighting between ourselves while they sit back laughing at us. We must stop fighting and work together to defeat the Con-Dem coalition
I will finish with message to the camp supporting shut ILF. If you can’t support don’t fight us.
Today we fight for our lives, if we lose today there will be no Tomorrow just an eternity of marginalisation and isolation either trapped our own homes or corralled in Care(less) Homes run by unscrupulous privateers only interested in profit not people
Thank you for listening I hope you hear me!
see also: https://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/disability-rights-uk-independent-living-or-new-visions-in-neo-liberalism/