Apr 072014
 

DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__biggerWe are very much looking forward to seeing everyone who can come to our national conference on Saturday but it is also important that those of you who can’t get there in person are able to take part. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Send messages of support and your ideas for what DPAC should focus on over the next year to mail@dpac.uk.net or @dis_ppl_protest.These will be put up on the graffiti wall at the conference and included in the notes from the day.
  • Watch the conference live on:

https://bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon and https://bambuser.com/channel/DPAC

  • Live tweet your questions and contributions to @dis_ppl_protest

  Or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

 The program for the day is at DPAC Conference 2014 Saturday 12th April – Conference Programme

Dec 102013
 

 

From University and College Union –

UCU has produced this film as a contribution to Disability History Month (22 November to 22 December). We have aimed to make this film accessible to all members and welcome any feedback. Please use this film to commemorate Disability History and as a trade union and teaching resource to raise awareness of the importance of the social model of disability. Please send any comments to: hcarr@ucu.org.uk

Nov 172013
 

1. Government’s plans for the future of the Independent Living Fund

On Monday 18 November, Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams will ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith:

‘What plans he has for the future of the Independent Living Fund.’

It is unclear what the Government’s response will be, but the question will be asked at 2.30pm.

It will be live on the BBC’s Parliament channel.

2. Sad News From Norway

 We regret to report the sad news of the death of Bente Skansgard, the former President of the European Network on Independent Living and founder of ULOBA, a self-organised personal assistance cooperative with about 1000 disabled members throughout Norway. The following links to articles on the European Network on Independent Living web site provide more information about Bente’s life and work:

https://www.enil.eu/news/in-remembrance-bente-skansgard/

https://www.enil.eu/news/hall-of-fame-bente-skansgard/

The link below is to the pages on ULOBA’s web site in English which give background material on this significant organisation which so few disabled people know anything about in Britain:

https://www.uloba.no/english/Sider/About-Uloba.aspx

3. Scotland

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan has announced she is seeking nomination as Labour candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Falkirk.

More information from: https://pamduncan.com

Anyone wishing to express support for Pam can do so on Facebook at ‘Pam Duncan for Falkirk’.

4. News from the Independent Living Fund

Following the Court of Appeal’s quashing of Esther McVey’s decision last year to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the DWP has stopped all processes within the ILF associated with preparing the Fund for closure. This is consistent with the Government’s assertion during the legal challenge to the ILF’s closure that no irreversible decisions or actions would be taken until 2014.

The ILF has suspended the Transfer Review Programme (TRP) that began in April 2013. It has instructed local authorities to destroy all information gathered so far during reviews that have taken place of ‘Group 1’ users that they did not have contact with previously. Consent for the data shared was specific to the TRP, therefore local authorities no longer have permission to keep it.

An ILF user is in Group 1 if they first received funding from the Independent Living Fund before 1 April 1993. While many have since 1993 approached their local authority for additional support on top of their ILF funding, there are hundreds of ILF users who have never had contact with their local social services. Any files on Group 1 users, who only have contact with ILF, that have already been handed to Local Authorities must now be destroyed.

The ILF is writing to all Group 1 users this affects. The ILF will also be writing to all its users to explain what will happen next. If there are any significant developments, the ILF has a ‘News’ section on its web pages through which it issues any statements or information. This can be found at:

https://www.dwp.gov.uk/ilf/news/

5. DWP’s response to the Court of Appeal judgement

On 6 November, the Department for Work and Pensions issued a short statement through the ILF News page about the Appeal Court judgement which included the assertion:

“The judgement upheld the Departments position on the consultation exercise itself, accepting that it had been carried out properly and fairly. They found that more documentary evidence was required to demonstrate that the Minister for Disabled People had considered all parts of the public sector equality duty fully.”

This is not an entirely accurate representation of what the Appeal Court said.

Information about the judgement can be found on the web site of solicitors Scott-Moncrieff Associates at:

https://www.scomo.com/061113.html

6. ‘Victory For Independent Living Rights In English Appeal Court’ Statement

The statement issued by three ILF users involved in the ILF legal challenge can be found on Disabled People Against Cuts web site at:

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/victory-for-independent-living-rights-in-english-appeal-court/

It has also been published on the web sites of: Inclusion London, Disability Action In Islington, the European Network on Independent Living, We Are Spartacus, Disability Wales, The Hardest Hit Campaign, Disability Wales, Independent Living In Scotland, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland and the Sisters of Frida. The statement has also been published by a number of blogs including False Economy, and the Scottish Campaign For A Fair Society and National Shop Stewards Network.

7. Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network ILF statement

Tanvi Vyas, Trailblazers Project Manager following the judgement said:

“We are delighted that the Government are not appealing this decision and will be reviewing it’s future based on further advice. However we would urge the Government to secure the future of the ILF as it is a lifeline for many disabled people who lead active independent lives. Many other disabled people could benefit from this, and the fact that future applications have closed is to the detriment of many disabled people who want to lead fulfilling independent lives.”

8. Responses to the Appeal Court judgement

    Disabled People Against Cuts

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/appeal-court-quash-decision-to-close-indepdent-living-fund/

    Inclusion London

https://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/Independent-Living-victory-for-disabled-people

    Equality and Human Rights Commission

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2013/november/commission-welcomes-court-of-appeal-decision-overturning-the-abolition-of-the-independent-living-fun/

    Disability Rights UK

https://disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2013/november/our-response-ilf-court-appeal-victory

    Public and Commercial Services Union

https://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=F6BA54F8-8445-41F1-A44D6FDB0FCABAE0

9. Articles responding to the Appeal Court judgement

    Tourette’s Hero arguing for ‘The Right To An Active Life’ and what it means not to have the option of applying to the Independent Living Fund:

https://www.touretteshero.com/2013/11/06/the-right-to-an-active-life/#comment-615

    A very positive and supportive article by Ros Wynne-Jones in the Mirror which includes a video of ILF users outside the Royal Courts of Justice:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ros-wynne-jones-disability-fund-court-2684500

    Disability Now article featuring support for the Appeal Court victory from John Evans, one of the founders of the independent living rights movement in Britain, who said:

“I was surprised by the judgement because I was expecting the worst. We’ve had such a drastic and terrible five or six years. I’d painted a really black picture so this has made it even better for me. I’ve got nothing but admiration for those five people who put their lives and bodies on the line, who took the government to court, damaged them and won.”

https://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independent-living-fund-campaigners-celebrate-successful-legal-challenge

    An interesting article from Simon Stevens satirical blog in the Huffington Post which uses the devices of ‘incoherence’ and ‘drivel’ to shed new light on disability matters:

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/independent-living-fund_b_4231378.html

    Comment from Stephen Naysmith in the The Herald:

https://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/inside-track-court-victory-brings-little-certainty-for-disabled-people.22673410

    Kate Belgrave article and video on False Economy:

https://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/great-result-disabled-people-celebrate-victory-over-government-to-save-the

    BBC TV report and article by Clive Coleman about the Appeal Court victory

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2IxmiYhPG0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQ2IxmiYhPG0

    An agnostic article by Rich Watts on his Arbitrary Consent blog which manages to combine welcoming the Appeal Court victory with the defence of Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson’s appalling ‘independent review’ of the Independent Living Fund in 2006 which recommended it should close given the planned introduction of personal budgets, a key component of the ‘personalisation’ policy. Watts blog will no doubt have been welcomed by his employer, the quietly influential National Development Team for Inclusion, because if the rationale and methodology of the Henwood/Hudson report is ever scrutinised and discredited, it would throw the door open to a re-examination of ‘personalisation’ and its consequences, and the role of those who have developed and championed it:

https://arbitraryc.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/should-the-ilf-close-yes-but/

and here is DPACs scrutiny of the Henwood and Hudson report including a critique of the appalling methodology and time-scale of it.

https://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/why-the-henwood-and-hudson-report-failed-in-justifying-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

with thanks and acknowledgement to Independent Living Rights News

Oct 242013
 

‘My Voice Matters, Listen to My Demands’

Come and have your say on the issues that matter to you Talk about: Access and Transport, Education, Welfare Support & Housing, Employment and More Share your experiences and present your demands to your local councillor and MP

Date: Tuesday 19th November 2013
Time: 10.30pm to 4pm
Venue: Morden Assembly Hall, Tudor Drive, Lower Morden SM4 4PJ

If you are a deaf or disabled person or supporter living or working in Merton, then this event is for you.
To book your place or to get help organising transport on the day contact us on:

p: 020 3397 3119
w: www.mertoncil.org.uk
f: Mertoncil
t: @MertonCIL
s: merton.cil

A map and agenda is available on our website www.mertoncil.org.uk (easyread coming soon)

see My Voice Matters Flyer

see: CIL Matters Autumn 2013 Newsletter

Aug 212013
 

Sunday 1st September, 12.30 – 4.30pm

Venue: 128 Theobalds Road, Holborn, London,  WC1X 8TN

 Key speakers: Anne Rae: former UPIAS and current chair of the Greater

Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), Colin Barnes: Professor of Disability Studies at Leeds Centre for Disability Studies

 As government and the private sector increasingly use a so-called ‘modern understanding of disability’ to redefine who is and who isn’t disabled it is more important than ever that we understand, defend and promote the social model of disability. This isn’t helped when the social model is not fully supported within our movement.

This event will be a chance to hear from a range of speakers and to discuss why the social model is still relevant today to our lives and our futures and to map out what we need to do to fight for it. The event will be live-streamed with the opportunity for people to participate in the discussion virtually.

We want everyone to be included in this -livestream link for the day  https://bambuser.com/channel/Bencavanna

You can also tweet questions/comments to: @Dis_ppl_protest (hastag #dpacrofsm) or email: mail@dpac.uk.net throughout the event.

Bus number 243

Nearest tube Holborn (not wheelchair accessible)

Directions Google maps https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=directions+to+unite+house+128+theobald%27s+road+holborn+london+wc1x+8tn&ie=UTF-8&hl=en

 Please note we are unable to provide any food or drinks- please bring your own if wanted: tea and coffee machine by meeting room

Places are limited so please book to guarantee entry or for access requests:

Ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk

 

theory (Small)

Aug 132013
 

dpacxx

Reclaiming Our Futures UK

 

Join this year’s week of action to protest against austerity, fight for our rights and celebrate disabled people

 

From 29th August – 4th September DPAC and other campaigns will offer a range of activities you can get involved in. These events will bring together our anger at what is happening now, and celebrate our victories won, both in the past and to come.

 

 

Our rights are being stripped away day by day, by the neo-liberal policies being imposed on us all by the Condems, leaving us without much hope for our futures – or our children’s.

 

We have been here before. Our history is littered with examples of how our community has come together when under attack to fight – and win. From the early campaigns of NLBDP (National League of Blind and Disabled People) through to the founding and manifesto of UPIAS (Union of

 

the Physically Impaired Against Segregation) and on to DAN (Direct Action Network)- Now we have DPAC leading direct action and a host of other key grass root campaigns working towards reclaiming our rights and futures.

 

We have fought our corner over 3 centuries. And those fights have brought victories; the Independent Living Movement, our early CILs (Centres for Independent Living) and early active DPO’s (Disabled Peoples Organisations) and the significant rights for disabled people (which are now under attack). They represent big victories, brought about by mobilizing in our communities around our common cause – and having the will and determination to see our demands met without compromising our rights. We have consistently united in anger and celebration.

  

Download easy read information about the week here:

DPAC easy read (2)

 

DPAC Reclaiming our Futures Action

 

This autumn, we are asking our community to come together in anger, and celebration again – and to unite around our demands

 

We will be launching the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto setting out our vision of how the resources, structures and institutions of our society today can be re-designed to empower disabled people to take part in life on our terms. Disabled people are, and always will be, the experts on our lives and our self-determination. It will be a vision and practical plan that we can take forward in our communities, workplaces and lives to reclaim our futures.

 

In the build up to the manifesto launch, DPAC is leading The ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’, seven days of action to protest against the targeting of disabled people by austerity measures, to fight for our rights for inclusion and independence as equal citizens and to celebrate the value, pride and self determination of disabled people.

 

From 29th August – 4th September DPAC and other campaigns will offer a range of activities you can get involved in. These events will bring together our anger at what is happening now, and celebrate our victories won, both in the past and to come.

 

The plan below is only half the story. We want YOU, your Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisation, your campaign group, your community, your friends to put on events and get involved too. Can’t get to our exhibition? – then put on your own. Can’t get to our direct action? – then do your own. Barbecues, debates, quiz nights, family days, picnics – whatever! ACT – in celebration or in anger! (PS don’t forget to let us know what you’re doing).

 

 

Day by Day: 29th August-4th September

 

 

Thursday 29th August – YOU launch our 7 days of action

 

A range of resources will be available for your use as we ask all supporters to start our week of action with an online blitz. You will be the ones creating the buzz and the hype sending letters and twitter messages to targets of your choice ranging from MPs to disability charities to the media. We will be producing twibbons and memes but make and circulate your own. If you haven’t got a Social Media account (such as Facebook & Twitter) set one up now, link to DPAC ( twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest) and let’s create a cyber wave. #dpacrof

 

The launch will coincide with Transport for All’s Day of Action to make CrossRail accessible: https://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/day-of-action-to-make-crossrail-fully-accessible-thursday-29th-august-2013/

 

 

 

Friday 30th August – Local Protests

 

Last year during the ATOS Games over 30 local actions took place around the UK Local actions mean you get to choose the target of your choice. You could take the Reclaiming Our Futures manifesto to present at your local MP’s constituency office, spread it through social media, protest on the streets against segregated education, the proposed ILF closure or show solidarity at your local Remploy site (for those few factories in their last weeks of operation). Alternatively, you might want to lobby your local Council on the Bedroom Tax and cuts to local services/support. Oh, and as we know ATOS offices are still around too….we’re sure you have other great ideas to add… Remember to let us know what you are doing so we can promote your actions. We will be producing local action resource packs but any materials you develop please send us copies to share with other protests and online.

 

 

Saturday 31st – Disability, Art & Protest Exhibition and Fundraising Gig

 

An exhibition and sharing of work exploring disability, art and protest followed by a ticketed fundraising gig run in partnership with Madpride and Tottenham Chances. Come during the day and join in our banner making workshop to prepare for the big Freedom Drive on the 4th September. If you would like to nominate an artist, collective and/or piece of work please let us know (including any links) and we will try to get them involved. If you want to do a local, street or online art protest too-this could be the day to do it.

 

Venue: Tottenham Chances, 399 High Road, London, N17 6QN Times:

 

12 – 7pm Exhibition: disability, art and protest

1 – 3.30pm Banner and placard making workshop

 

4 – 6pm Work Sharing

7.30pm till late Gig

 

 

Sunday 1st September – Reclaiming the Social Model: the social model in the 21st Century

 

Anne Rae: former UPIAS and current chair of the Greater

Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP),

 

Colin Barnes: Professor of Disability Studies at Leeds Centre for Disability Studies

 

 

As government and the private sector increasingly use a so-called ‘modern understanding of disability’ to redefine who is and who isn’t disabled it is more important than ever that we understand, defend and promote the social model of disability. This isn’t helped when the social model is not fully supported within our movement. This event will be a chance to hear from a range of speakers and to discuss why the social model is still relevant today to our lives and our futures and to map out what we need to do to fight for it. The event will be live-streamed with the opportunity for people to participate in the discussion virtually. We will also be promoting a range of resources around the social model.

 

Venue

UNITE House, 128 Theobald’s Road, Holborn, WC1X 8TN

Time: 12.30 – 4.30pm

 

 

Monday 2nd September – Direct Action

 

Despite the huge efforts of thousands of disabled people throughout the country, it is increasingly difficult to find spaces where lies, inaccuracies and mis-use of statistics can be challenged. DPAC recently released a study into how the DWP uses all of these to vilify and demonize disabled people.

 

See more at: https://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/lies-damn-ids-and-statistics/#sthash.MAk5nTiU.dpuf

 

But why is this down to us? People should be presented with both sides of the story and this isn’t happening. Disabled people are having to find ways to make sure our truths will be heard. Watch this space…

 

 

Tuesday 3rd September – ‘I Dare’ day

 

A day of online action to reinforce that we want ‘Rights not Charity’, and a society where we are able to operate on our own terms as disabled people. Dare to ask for Rights not Charity. Dare to be an activist. Dare to ask more of ‘our’ organisations. We aren’t asking for Care, we want Power: Power to write the script for our own lives, and not to be written out or written off by others. A range of actions and captions will be available for you to capture in an image and circulate online.

 

 

Wednesday 4th September – UK FREEDOM DRIVE

 

A final-day march and events in and around Parliament. Four

 

themed ‘blocks’ will meet at 4 Government departments, central to the lives of disabled people. After handing over our demands, blocks will then move towards Parliament for a lobby where we will formally launch the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto and present our demands to our

 

elected representatives.

 

Choose your ‘block’ and meet at 12.45pm at one of:

 

·        Department for Education to oppose government attacks on inclusive education and a return to segregation (Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT)

 

·        Department of Energy and Climate Change if you’re angry about the numbers of disabled people living in fuel poverty while the energy companies rake in ever growing profits (3 Whitehall Pl, City of Westminster, SW1A 2AW)

 

·        Department for Transport to challenge inaccessible transport, the opening of new inaccessible stations for Crossrail and proposed cuts to rail staff further reducing customer assistance (Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Rd, London SW1P 4DR)

 

·        Department of Health to defend our NHS and demand our right to levels of social care support enabling choice, control, dignity and independence (Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS)

 

Lobby of Parliament: 5 – 6pm – launch of the UK Disabled People’s

Manifesto

 

WE WANT EVERYBODY TO JOIN US FOR THE FREEDOM DRIVE ideally in person, but also online-this is for everyone everywhere. There will be accessible transport from a variety of towns and cities throughout the country (details to follow) and there is some funding available for transport but we will need your co-operation and patience to make this work for everybody, so please bear with us and note that while DPAC members will be given priority we want to support as many people as we can. If you can’t get there send a photo or your name and you can march with us.

 

This week of action is yours. Please take part at whatever level suits you – BUT MAKE SURE YOU TAKE PART. Share our events, resources and actions as far and wide as you can.

 

 

 

Let’s Reclaim Our Futures, together!

 

 

DPAC web site: www.dpac.uk.net

 

DPAC facebook:

 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/DPAC-Disabled-People-Against-Cuts/213545112011414?fref=ts(Open Community group- including allupdates from DPAC)

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/?fref=ts(original open groupDPAC page- faster paced and more opinion driven than community group )

 

DPAC Twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest 

 

DPAC email: mail@dpac.uk.net

 

 

Remember if you need help with funding to get to London (4th Sept) email us at mail@dpac.uk.net with details. DPAC members will get first priority but we’re hoping to be able to contribute to all that want to come along. If you are unable to come but would like your picture carried send us a photo or message. Please get in touch with any other queries as well and we’ll try to help.

Download this as a PDF Doc: https://dpac.uk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Reclaiming-Our-Futures-call-out-long-w-logos-v2.pdf

 Download this as a Word Doc: https://dpac.uk.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Reclaiming-Our-Futures-call-out-long-w-logos-v2-1.doc

 

 Reclaiming our Futures is supported by The Edge Fund, Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust, Network for Social Change, Black Triangle, Mental Health resistance network, Wow Petition, Fuel Poverty Action, Occupy London, TUC, UK UNCUT, Boycott Workfare, Right to Work, Just Fair, Unite Disabled Workers, BFAAWU, European Network on Independent Living, Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefits Justice Federation, and more…..

 rof8

Jul 162013
 

DPAC Logo 3 amendment 1 (Small)Our rights are being stripped away day by day by the neo-liberal policies being imposed on us all by the Condems leaving us without any hope for our futures or our children’s futures.

 

DPAC say this is not fair, not acceptable and we must fight back against the continuing attacks. We will be having a week of actions nationally and virtually from August 29th and culminating on September 4th with  mass events and actions in London.

 

Thursday 29th August – launch on anniversary of coffin delivery to Atos, make Crossrail fully accessible protest, plus more….

 

Friday 30th August – local protests –go to local MPs, Atos offices, schools and colleges that are creating barriers to inclusion..plus more…

 

Saturday 31st August – disability, art and protest exhibition and gig

 

Sunday 1st September –
The Social Model In The 21st Century – Why Is It Still relevant?

 

Monday 2nd September – Media direct actions, picking up the pace as we come to the end of the week of action, despite everything we do it is getting more and more difficult to get media space to present the facts whereas there is plenty of space given to misrepresentation of stats and government lies

 

Tuesday 3rd September – ‘I Dare’ day – to reinforce that we want Rights not Charity and a society where we are able to operate on our own terms as disabled people.

Approximate time 1pm -2.30pm

 

Wednesday 4th September – Grand Finale events in London and public launch of the Manifesto ‘Reclaiming our Futures’

noon- 4pm followed by lobby of parliament 5-6pm

 

We want to get disabled people from around the UK out resisting, based on their experiences, creating disabled people’s space, raising awareness of what we are all about. But there is plenty of social media stuff too- everyone can be an ‘extremist’!

 

The Anti Atos message last year was very clear and very successful. This year we want the messaging to be broader and to be about what we want and expect from any future government including all aspects of inclusion.

 

At the Rethinking Disability Policy event last September a network of Disabled People’s Organisations agreed to develop a manifesto of demands. The manifesto is nearly ready for consultation and sign up. Let us know if you’d like a copy.

 

The Reclaiming Our Futures week will launch the manifesto and say what we want to protect our futures.

 

Last year’s ATOS GAMES protests had at least 33 separate local protests in different locations in England, Scotland and Wales over the course of the week.

 

While the Atos Games focused on demonstrating and closing things down, this year’s week of action will retain that anger and include direct action but it will also be a celebration of disability pride.

 

DPAC has some funding for the week of action and we have worked out what we have the capacity to do. We are asking other groups to think about what they can put on and contribute to the week. This needs all of us!

 

We are asking people around the UK to do things as well – debates, forums, art exhibitions, protests, to link in with this. Let us know what you’re planning and we’ll publicise it!

 

If you need help with funding to get to London (4th Sept) email us at mail@dpac.uk.net with details. DPAC members will get first priority but we’re hoping to be able to contribute to all that want to come along. If you are unable to come but would like your picture carried send us a photo or message. Please get in touch with any other queries as well and we’ll try to help.

more to come…….

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 https://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/

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

 https://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!

 

Sep 082012
 

No, really, I mean it. If I am forced to swallow one more dose of Paralympics hype syrup, I will throw up. With the Olympics, the shock and awe blast of nationalist triumphalist machismo was at least familiar – this is just the capitalist-spectacle-as-usual. But with the Paralympics we have seen the addition into this cocktail of a supremely powerful and toxic ingredient, the opportunity for liberals to feel good about themselves for supporting the underdog and ‘progress in the fight against prejudice’. It is this thick coating of syrup which has confused even radical disability rights advocates, and is making it almost impossible for critics to speak out, except about the blatantly obvious outrage of Atos as sponsors. But the truth is that, despite all the hopeful talk about how the Paralympics are going to revolutionise people’s ideas about disability, the ideas and values at the core of the Paralympics are the precise opposite of the values of disability liberation. (I write this as a disabled person, one who has undergone one of Atos’ medical assessments and been found wanting, and who is suffering financially as a consequence.)

But wait a minute, I hear you say, isn’t that a bit extreme, surely all the visibility and celebration of disabled people’s bodies is a good thing, at least it’s a step in the right direction? Sorry, I’m afraid not. It’s not just that the current epiphany of non-disabled people is shallow (how many of those enthusiastic millions will be attending the protests against Atos?). What is actually going on with the Paralympics is an intensification of the values that drive the oppression of disabled people. And there is actually no contradiction at all between Atos as administrators of assessments that rob disabled people of their benefits and Atos as sponsors of the Paralympics.

First, lets clear away some obvious dead wood. There is nothing useful to disabled people in being seen as inspirational for their heroic overcoming of their impairment rather than as pathetic disgusting objects of charity. As some have already pointed out, since the vast majority of disabled people will never become Paralympians, all this does is to set up again the traditional distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. Equally obviously, this is the quintessential liberal narrative of the heroic individual, filled with (in the words of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron) ‘steely determination to succeed’. It has nothing whatsoever to do with a collective struggle for disabled people’s rights or the values of disability liberation. I don’t remember a wave of national euphoria about collective achievements of the disability rights movement.

Only slightly less obvious is that the deluge of what has now been dubbed ‘inspiration pornography’ is not about us: it’s composed largely of non-disabled people’s self-congratulation that they have overcome their bad feelings about disabled people and relief that they are no longer being asked to feel sorry for these poor creatures. The inspirational narrative makes them feel much better. The medical model again But the heart of the issue is this: this change of narrative is just the flip-side of the same coin, the medical model of disability, the rejection of which, in favour of a social model, has been the theoretical foundation of disability liberation for the last 30 years. While the medical model says that disability is caused by impairment, the social model insists that people are dis-abled by society that refuses to accommodate their needs (for a decent income, accessible transport, buildings etc). Medical model thinking is always focused on our individual impairments, and how we can overcome them.

In the past, the non-disabled people’s predominant feeling about this was despair and pity, expressed by wanting to help through charity; all that’s changed is that now they’re excited that it seems that impairments can be overcome after all. Can they not do better than go from one end to the other of this stupid construct? I am neither a hero nor a victim, just an ordinary person, as we all are. At the heart of the medical model is a value judgement that seems to be such a matter of common sense that it does not need examining; low functionality – bad, high functionality – good, and this is what is being celebrated at the Paralympics, (and, of course, in competitive sport in general). Here we are seeing the flip side of the medical model, a triumphalist ‘we can fix it with technology’ narrative that, in the age of high technology and biomedicine, has superseded the old designation of disabled people as ‘incurables’. Technocracy

The point is that the Paralympics don’t just reflect the familiar capitalist values of competitive sport, they also represent something just as deep and significant, the values of technology. The concept of functionality/performance/efficiency is one of the concepts that come from machines and engineering that have been the ruling concept of capitalist technocracy for the last 400 years. In economic theory, it is efficiency that leads to success in the marketplace. The medical model of disability springs directly from technocratic thinking. In capitalist technocracy, what matters is not ‘arbitrary’ or theoretical ideas (like religions or humanist principles) lacking a firm evidence base, but utility, ie. what works, what can be palpably felt and cashed out. ‘Facts! Give me facts, not fancies,’ declares Dickens’ Mr Gradgrind (Hard Times).

Thus Atos’ medical assessments are not about what illness/impairment you have, rather they are (supposedly) scientific assessments of the functionality of your body, what tasks it can and cannot do. It is perfectly logical within this technocratic way of thinking that people with terminal cancer can nonetheless be fit to work. This ruthlessly scientific way of thinking is, naturally, being implemented in the government’s planned Personal Independence Payments, replacing the Disability Living Allowance system that ‘arbitrarily’ accepts people with certain conditions as eligible for benefit payments.

In a world in which functionality rules, Atos as sponsors of the Paralympics makes perfect sense. And all the ‘radical’ talk of integrating the Olympics with the Paralympics, since the performance of Paralympians is approaching that of Olympians, is just another manifestation of technocratic thinking: in a world ruled by a linear scale of performance such ‘arbitrary’ distinctions are a form of discrimination, aren’t they? It is always the ironing out of ‘arbitrary’ anomalous barriers that is defined within liberal technocracy as progress. ‘Superhumans’?

Apr 082012
 

One of the main advocates of the bio-psychosocial model, Lord Freud (Westminster’s Minister for welfare reform) claims that it is based on evidence. It is not. It is a right wing model led by profit and the market. It incorporates the worst aspects of neo-liberalism. It targets disabled people and ridiculously claims that we can think ourselves out of being disabled. Its underlying theme repeats the mantra that ‘work will set you free’. But this is not about work, despite the endless rhetoric; this model is an ideological cover for attacking disabled people and reducing every single right to financial support that has been achieved. Additional fringe benefits are provided to the insurance market of Unum, to the profits of Atos and to the big Disability Charities who all capitalise on the new notions of risk being imposed on disabled people. We can identify a clear pattern for the construction of the bio-psychosocial model, and its advocates. It features:

●‘Academics’ in the pay of the insurance company Unum

●The genesis of the Work Capability Assessment guided by Unum and Atos,

●Atos’ imposition of mass reassessments

● Successive governments

●Key players in the Department of Work and Pensions

● The big Disability Charities.

We can also identify a clear pattern for the construction and advocates of the social model of disability. The story features disabled activists some of whom  were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire home, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations and groups run and controlled by disabled people who led the political challenges to individual models of disability and who continue to do so.  Which model seems better so far?

While successive governments were delivering a stream of white papers apparently dedicated to improving the life chances of disabled people the revenge of the bio-psychosocial model and welfare reform (read welfare destruction) was quietly being prepared behind our backs by the state and their market partners. The following explains why some disability campaigners were and are wrong to abandon the social model of disability and how the rhetoric behind the bio-psychosocial model is one of the keys to understanding the 21st century ideological attacks on disabled peoples’ lives.

Part One

The Social Model of Disability Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the bio-psychosocial model

The social model came into being through a letter to the Guardian from Paul Hunt[1], the early work of UPIAS (Union of Physically Impaired against Segregation) a document written by Vic Finkelstein[2] and other activists. They were institutionalised in a Leonard Cheshire institution. The UPIAS document and its premise were taken forward in the 1980s and 1990s by disabled activists and academics including Mike Oliver[3] and Colin Barnes[4]. Paul Abberley[5] also produced a seminal piece on  ‘The Concept of Oppression and the Development of a Social Theory of Disability’. The social model of disability was also taken forward by activists, campaigners and those who set up some of the first Centres of Independent Living (CILs).

The social model perspective has been used widely in the UK as answer to the sociological theories and common place mis-understandings on issues of disability being designated as entirely medical/individual attributes without reference to the environment, to the barriers that disabled people face, or the rights that they are being denied. Examples include: the American conservative sociologist Talcot Parsons who theorised the ‘Sick Role’ in the 1950s, and the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH).  Parsons suggested that ‘the sick role’ gave individuals the opportunity to ‘opt out ‘of society, and elicit sympathy from others which brought them certain social benefits. However, this was perceived as a deviant role-according to Parsons the individual was at fault, merely exercising a form of deviance for particular rewards-they could quite easily change their attitude and function within society adequately. In addition, the first classification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced The International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH). This concentrated purely on medical factors and ‘handicaps’. It was later remodelled to include supposed interaction with social factors and renamed International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Yet, it has never fully achieved the explanation of the interaction between impairment and disability.

In contrast, disability activists using the social model perspective argue it is how society treats disabled people that create the main problem. The experience of disability is not exclusively about the individual or the individual’s attitudes. The experience of disability is an interaction with actions of non disabled people, planners, governments, employers and others. People need educating on what it is really like to be disabled and the many barriers that disabled people face in their everyday lives. They need to understand those barriers which prevent disabled people having the same opportunities and life chances as their non disabled peers.

The social model does not focus on disabled people as victims of their physiology, whether physical, cognitive or otherwise, nor as vulnerable, helpless individuals but as people who are disabled by attitudes, the environment, design, working patterns and by those individuals who see disabled people as unworthy. The social model also offers a way to organise politically against the principles of social and economic exclusion, and oppression in a disabilist society.  It gives a critique of all that has gone before based on individualism and the market. It also argues that disabled people must be at the centre of voicing their own experiences. The social model was constructed by disabled people, not medical ‘experts’ , not policy makers, not social workers, not disability charities, not service providers, nor governments, nor private companies profiting from disability[6].

 

The Social Model: misunderstandings, misuse and other detractions

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) advocates the social model as do many others. Yet, DPAC has received criticism for insisting on working from the perspective of the social model. For example, the coalition governments’ use of the term social model in consultations regarding the proposed change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has caused some people to reject the social model: what’s the point of supporting something that is being used to limit our rights-but the coalition government don’t understand, care or really know what the social model is. This was evident to anyone that read through the questions in the first PIP consultation.

The social model has been rejected by some academics as being out dated or not quite fashionable enough: they claim it is better to write of discourse, and embrace the ‘subject’ (individual). From the ‘ivory towers’ it may be, but how can this version ever realistically contribute directly to social policy or to peoples’ lives? The social model is rejected because it is considered masculine, it talks about this thing called society, and it talks about ‘social oppression’-perceived as an outdated Marxist term. The social model is rejected because it talks about impairment, people don’t like to think of themselves as impaired, and anyway, some say: isn’t the social model all about physical impairments? What about mental health? What about learning difficulties? Disabled feminists also criticised the social model for what they suggested was the social model’s exclusion of the body, but it is in the body politic that this model has its greatest power. At times criticisms are academic (in both senses), overall it’s extremely damaging, as the criticisms are often based on misconceptions of the social model and miss what the perspective offers for changing disabled peoples’ lives (see Barnes[7]).

The Coalition and New Labour before them had some very fertile ground to make their attacks on a set of people who were divided on their own histories, who appeared to be against their own founding activists and their own collective political identity. At the same time, as noted, neither new Labour nor the Coalition understood, cared or really knew what the social model really meant. They did know that the social model was used as successful tool to establish rights for disabled people.

This is why recent governments and government departments have used the term without any notion of the motivation, history, or content nor any care for the outcomes. Governments claim they speak with some disabled peoples’ organisations, some disabled activists, but mainly governments’ speak with the multi million pound disability charities. The big disability charities also use the term social model to give the illusion that they understand disabled people and can speak on behalf of disabled people. They never could and they still can’t. It is for disabled people to speak for themselves individually, through their own user-led organisations and through their own grass root groups.

What the Social Model Perspective did for Disabled People

The social model perspective was used very successfully by campaigners, protesters, advocates, activists and Centres for Independent Living (CILs) to move disabled people in the UK to a position that was the envy of many European countries in terms of UK support for disabled people.

Was it this perspective and its promotion that brought us:

● The Independent Living Fund (ILF) –now closed to all new applicants since 2010 by the Coalition, while existing applicants are left wondering what will happen to their support

● Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to pay for the extra costs of being disabled -now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment and rounds of reassessment by the Coalition government

● Incapacity Benefit -now changed to Employment Support Allowance and rounds of reassessment by Atos put in place by New Labour and made more stringent by the Coalition government

● Access to Work to help with extra costs of working and to, in theory, provide extra support to those that needed it –recently we have seen cut-backs on Access to Work with the tightening of criteria and more costs transferred to the employer rather than the government under the Coalition.

● Direct Payments to pay for personal assistants to aid independent living through financial support from local authorities (L.A.s) -now cut back as L.A.s restrict access through more punitive eligibility criteria because of central government cuts of up to 40% to L.A. budgets

●The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) –now we have a diluted replacement including all discriminated groups called the Equality Act (2010) put in place by New Labour and further diluted by the Coalition government.

These things originally opened up independent living for disabled people; social model arguments affected social policy, housing, information, education, transport, design, peer support, advocacy and attitudes towards disabled people. Few would claim that the social model was a panacea for all the problems that disabled people faced, disabled people were still fighting for better rights, improvements on what we had, and better access before the current onslaught from the Coalition. However, to say that the social model and the social model perspective did nothing to change the lives of disabled people is an insult to the generations of disabled activists before us that fought for change. All those that pushed those extra rights forward were social model advocates who wanted more independence for themselves and for disabled people, they wanted to educate on a better understanding of the social and economic oppression that disabled people faced. Yet, New Labour, the Conservatives and a host of other actors were working on removing those gains and more from disabled people and disabled children from as early as 1992.

Those disabled people that now have a public platform and criticise or dismiss the social model are disparaging the very thing that gave them that platform in the first instance. We can identify a clear pattern for the advocates and history of the social model: disabled people, some of whom were institutionalised, disabled academics, disabled activists and disabled peoples’ organisations run and controlled by disabled people.  We can also identify a clear pattern for the bio-psychosocial model rhetoric and its advocates.

Part two

The Bio-psychosocial Model Basics: why it’s nothing to do with the social model

There are a few references explaining where the original version of the bio-psychosocial model came from. Some cite George Engel[8] others claim that it is an outcome of the International Classification of Functioning and Disability (ICF) [9] Gill Thorton[10] describes the model from a medical approach, while clearly identifying the vulgarisation of its later use as a tool in getting disabled people back to work

Briefly put, it is a theory that seeks to broaden the perspective on illness, by taking into account not only the biological, but also psychological and social factors which may have an influence on sickness, and consequently on the course that healing takes. The acknowledged value of this approach, when used for the benefit of the patient, is that it allows for the identification of non-biological influences which may interfere with an individual’s capacity to heal.

However, it seems that Parsons’ ‘sick role’ and of the disabled person as deviant comes closest to the rhetoric of the Coalition government. So rather than identify who or what the original source of the bio-psychosocial model might be, we need to look at its promotion and how it has been used to justify the rhetoric that ‘work makes you well’ and that ‘work is good for you’. A DWP Press release from October 2011[11] shows the ways in which Freud (Minister for welfare reform) justifies the new era of the bio-psychosocial. He is speaking from the perversely titled ‘Health and Well- Being’ conference.

Key speakers at the conference included Dr Catherine Hannaway trained in the U.S. in ‘improvement methodologies’ by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement whose former President and Chief Executive Officer was Donald M. Berwick administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services insurance. Dr Bill Gunnyeon CBE, Director for Health, Work and Wellbeing and Chief Medical Advisor DWP:a regular ‘expert’ in House of Commons groups, and like Freud an apologist for Atos testing and the change from DLA to PIP. Also Samantha Wortley, Health and Safety Advisor at the University of Derby: a university running accredited courses for Atos health practitioners, and Disability Charity RNIB’s Philip Connolly, Employment Campaigns Officer to name just a few.

Freud’s rendition was surely a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ as it was delivered to those connected to insurance, disability accreditation, disability charities (who are still using the language of rehabilitation) and various apologists for the current regime. He also uses academics Waddle and Burton who, like many others supporting this rhetorical model are connected with the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research directed by Mansel Aylward, (former Chief Medical Officer at the DWP) at the University of Cardiff: a department bankrolled by Unum. Freud happily declares:

Not so long ago employers were frightened of ill health. Good employers were concerned that being in work would cause some harm. Responsible employers acted to protect people, keeping them off work until they were fully recovered. But perversely they may have been doing more harm than good. We now understand that work is not necessarily bad for you.

People with physical or mental health conditions do not need to be protected from work and sometimes maintaining some form of working life can aid recovery. This understanding was first put forward by Aaron Antonovsky. It was expanded upon by Waddell and Burton. And helpfully formed an evidence base upon which I developed my welfare reform report.

Work provides more than just an income. Employment can also give people a sense of purpose, some structure to their lives. It can also be an important part of people’s social lives.

Quite simply good work is good for you.

Quite simply ‘good work’ is in short supply under the Coalition. Their promotion of the deeply unpopular workfair and the limited supply of temporary (including contract work), part-time, precarious jobs, and job insecurity for those in work have all been found to have adverse affects on mental and physical health. In addition, poor quality work can affect mental health in the same way as no work. The growing gap in inequality between the richest and the poorest affects the nation’s health and remains intergenerational.

The Construction and Deconstruction of a model for Private Profit

Aaron Antonovsky, one of the academics mentioned, put forward the idea of the concept of sense of coherence (SOC) in 1979[12]. It is not related to the bio-psychosocial model but ironically identifies one of the reasons why the current coalition regime imposed on disabled people will make them more susceptible to stress, anxiety and individual deterioration.

Collingwood claims[13]: The SOC is defined as: “The extent to which one has a pervasive enduring though a dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.” It has three components – comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness. Comprehensibility is the extent to which events are perceived as making logical sense, that they are ordered, consistent, and structured. Manageability is the extent to which a person feels they can cope. Meaningfulness is how much one feels that life makes sense, and challenges are worthy of commitment. All these things are based on financial security, upbringing, social networks and natural ‘coping’ styles. Unremarkably, those in higher social classes who are more financially secure are deemed to have higher SOC levels, yet it also likely that they have better health outcomes too, as they are more likely to come from financially secure backgrounds.

As Antonovsky died in 1994 he will be unable to sue Freud for what seems to be a complete misinterpretation of SOC. Later we’ll compare the Antonovsky theory to the Waddell and Burton (Unum) scenario which exhibits a ‘blame the individual’ approach developing individualistic themes on illness and disability in which the social is completely erased.

Of course, the Health and Well- Being conference is just one in a long line of such conferences. In 2001 a conference with the charming title of ‘Malingering and Illness Deception’ was held at Woodstock near Oxford. It covered old ground for the insurance industries. Amongst the participants were Malcolm Wicks, then Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Work, and Mansel Aylward: Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and a number of academics like Waddell and Burton who would come to add academic credibility to Unum’s and government protestations on disability and illness.

What linked many of them together, including Aylward, was their association with the giant US insurance company UnumProvident (later Unum), represented at the conference by John Lo Cascio. The goal of the conference was the transformation of the welfare system[14] in particular the reduction of payments to disabled people which was perceived to be a key problem for successive governments. Unum were perfect for such a project as they had a very useful track record of reorganising exactly what health problems were in order to avoid insurance payouts. John Lo Casio was no stranger to such events or to working with Westminster governments. As second Vice chair of Unum he had been brought in by Conservative Peter Lilley (Secretary of State for Social Security 1992-1997) to ‘manage claims’ of incapacity benefit. Both Lo Casio and Alyward joined the government medical advisory group to devise the All Work Test, a forerunner of the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) and a forerunner to the more recent Work Capability Assessment (WCA) used by Atos. The All Work Test awarded points for different descriptors and ignored GP evidence-Instead a set of adjudication officers who were trained in a theory set out by Mr Lo Cascio were employed to aid the management of claims – sounds familiar doesn’t it? Unum Provident was at the centre of UK welfare reform as early as 1992 under the Thatcher government, but they worked with New Labour too.

Unum Provident continued to build its sphere of power and influence, in 2001 launching: New Beginnings, a public private partnership between charities, including Disability Charities, NGO’s and government ministers with the express intention of furthering the company’s power in policy making. The New Beginnings advisory group included some of the academics from the Woodstock conference as well as major disability charities such as the Shaw Trust, Disability Alliance, and the Employers Forum for Disability[15] Unum went further stretching their tentacles into the university sector with the help of Mansel Alyward formally of the DWP.

Mansel Aylward, began directing the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University in 2004:a department that Unum Provident paid 1.6 million pounds for. A  department set up to provide an academic credibility and a new political slant to the bio-psychosocial model[16]  allowing Freud to claim that welfare reform for disability benefits was backed up by evidence that ‘work was good for you’. The department included Alyward, Professor Peter Halligan and Gordon Waddell. One year later Alyward and Waddell produced The Scientific & Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits published by the DWP. As Rutherford[17] notes:

In their declarations of interest at the beginning of the text neither man cites their association with UnumProvident. This matters, because the monograph provides the unacknowledged intellectual framework for the 2006 Welfare Reform Bill [originally passed by New Labour]. And the methodology used by Waddell and Aylward is the same one that informs the work of UnumProvident. In a memorandum submitted to the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions, UnumProvident define their method of working: ‘Our extended experience … has shown us that the correct model to apply when helping people to return to work is a bio-psychosocial one’.

Peter Halligan, and Derek Wade of Oxford University (another Woodstock academic) explained the model in the British Medical Journal as something that needed to make a break from old understandings of the bio-psychosocial. ‘The old biomedical model of illness, which has dominated health care for the past century, cannot fully explain many forms of illness.’ What they really meant was that it was not helping reduce the number of applicants for incapacity benefit.

The old model ‘assumes a causal relation between disease and illness, (?) and fails to take into account how cultural attitudes and psychological and social factors shape illness behaviour. In other words it allows someone to report symptoms of illness, and for society to accept him or her as sick, without their having pathology’-a throwback to Parsons’ ‘sick role’ theory. They add that: ‘Personal choice plays an important part in the genesis or maintenance of illness’.

Alyward and Wadell moved this rhetoric up several gears: Arguing that adopting this new version of the model would lead to a ‘fundamental transformation in the way society deals with sickness and disabilities’ (p123). The goal and outcome of treatment is work: ‘work itself is therapeutic, aids recovery and is the best form of rehabilitation’. Work can set you free, in fact worklessness now transforms into a bizarre serious risk to life. It is announced as:

one of the greatest known risks to public health: the risk is equivalent to smoking 10 packets of cigarettes per day’ (p17).

Halligan and Wade also tap into theories of Talcot Parsons to argue: ‘Our model suggests that illness is a dysfunction of the person in his (or her) physical and social environment’. Like Parsons, they suggest that the ‘sick role’ is no more than an individual deviance: a choice. The solution is to change people’s behaviour by transforming the language and culture of welfare, and by using incentives as a ‘motivational tool’ to prise people out of their sick role (p166). The motivation tools were later renamed sanctions. That is sanctions to those people refusing to work for their benefits on programs such as ‘workfare[18]’, sanctions through which their benefits can be removed from weeks up to three years leaving them without income if they dare indulge in any ‘wrong thinking’.

 Influence and Profit: Unum, ATOS and complicit Disability CharitiesIn July 2007 The Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) was redesigned by two technical working groups, one for ‘physical impairment and another for mental health issues. Representatives from Unum and Atos were present in both groups[19]. The redesign would be one step closer to the hated and much maligned Work Capability Assessment to be delivered by AtosTechnical working groups on the WCA also hosted the views and input of some of the big Disability Charities including: MENCAP, MIND, the National Autistic Society, Parkinson ’s Disease Society, RNIB, RNID and the Disability Benefits Consortium including some of those already mentioned, as well as Leonard Cheshire Disability, Sense, RADAR, SCOPE, Sue Rider and the Papworth Trust[20].No doubt this was good preparation for the Disability Works UK launch in 2011 another charity consortium exercising their muscle as ‘experts in disability employment’ involving SCOPE, MENCAP, MIND, Leonard Cheshire, and Action for Blind People (a part of RNIB) with a healthy turnover value of 654.4 million and a cumulative surplus of 15.6 million[21] All corporate disability charities were more than prepared to take maximum advantage of workfare type schemes recently announced as having unlimited time scales for disabled people[22].We should note that so far we do not see any user-led disabled peoples groups involved in any positions of power or profit in this wholesale transformation of welfare or in partnership with the government. The charities were speaking for us because there were profits to be made from lucrative government contracts designed to get disabled people back to work- they are in the disability business too after all. They continue to ‘help’ by advising on mental health issues and producing publicity against the WCA that they were involved in and publicity against Atos, who they sat at the table with-I guess that’s part of the social model bit they adopted, plus of course their partnership with user-led groups in the Hardest Hit protests which protested against the WCA and welfare reform-oh the irony or is it duplicity?Atos were also on board the welfare transformation gravy train before the WCA.  Atos bought out SchlumbergerSema in 2003 for 1.3 billion Euros. Through this, they gained access to key SchlumbergerSema public sector contracts in the UK, including one with the Metropolitan Police, a deal with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Government Gateway project[23]. This was a significant move as DWP contracts included the Personal Capability Assessment and the buyout gave Atos (renamed as Atos Origin in 2004) access to the Logical Integrated Medical Assessment (LIMA) and 100 million per year from the DWP for delivering it with the proviso that they speed up claim and processing times. Another Disability Charity: Shaw Trust announced their pleasure at future work in partnership with Atos in 2010. Shaw Trust would also profit through the misery of disabled people by delivering the euphemistically titled ‘work programs’ for disabled people. Sally Burton, CEO[24] at Shaw Trust gushed:

“Shaw Trust is delighted the consortium has qualified to bid for the opportunity to supply seven Lots of the Government’s Work Programme. As the UK’s largest   third sector provider of employment services, our partnership with Atos Origin and Pinnacle People can ensure the charity sector remains at the heart of welfare-to-work.” [My emphasis]

But lets move from income driven Disability Charities to failed bankers (apparently they do exist). In 2006 New Labour chose David Freud, a senior banker at UBS AG to conduct a review of New Labour’s welfare to work policies. Freud later defected to the Conservatives on a promise of a peerage. Invest in ME[25] expose Freud’s mistakes in banking and other areas explaining his own incapacities in some detail:

The “To Banker from Bankies” 2009 report (which was supported and funded by Oxfam) states, in 2007 Freud was appointed as the key Government advisor on welfare reform by Labour’s John Hutton and was commissioned to produce a report “Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity” on the “Welfare to Work” programme.  This was despite the fact that, in his own words, Freud “didn’t know anything about welfare at all” (Daily Telegraph, 4th February 2008). Despite the great complexity of the welfare system, Freud researched and wrote his welfare “shake-up” plan in just three weeks (Daily Telegraph, 1st May 2006). It recommended that the existing role of private firms (such as UNUM and Atos) in the Government’s “Welfare to Work” programme be dramatically increased; he acknowledged that there was no evidence to suggest that private contractors were any better than the Department for Work and Pensions, but he still concluded that it would be “economically rational” to pay them tens of thousands of pounds for every person they removed from benefits.

In his report Freud constantly misquotes studies and uses over 170 references to ‘models’ citing the zsars of the Unum financed Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University consistently. While Freud openly acknowledges a useful partnership between of two of the most hated private companies and their involvement in welfare to work issues, the company’s themselves have been much more unwilling to acknowledge any links between them.

Links between Unum and Atos

In the 2004 Atos report, Atos appears to use the language of Unum and the academics of Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research unreservedly, with sex thrown in for good measure:

Psychosocial factors…are at least as important as physical factors in the onset and maintenance of these conditions.  Patients can make a number of ‘secondary gains’ with these unexplained illnesses, such as…turning a socially unacceptable disability into a more acceptable ‘organic’ disability caused by injury or disease beyond their control. They can blame their failures on the illness; elicit care, sympathy and concern from family and friends; avoid work or even sex; and there are financial rewards associated with disability.

 …if a patient believes their illness was caused by a virus and there’s nothing they can do about it, their prognosis is not likely to be positive.  But if the patient believes…that the symptoms won’t last long and they have control over them, then the prognosis will be better….We need patients to understand their situation, so they are more likely to go back to work

(Except from the powerful letter from Douglas Frazer to the House of Lords reproduced on the Invest in ME web site)

Despite being linked in the chain of the key players at the DWP, successive government ministers, a string of conferences, the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research and involved together in the PCA and WCA. Atos and Unum continue to deny that they have any links with each other. However, they appear to swop CEOs and often share the same platforms at conferences and on government groups as noted. As DPAC’s sister campaign group Black Triangle posts show: MP Norman Lamb, (special political advisor to Nick Clegg) also seems to have trouble recollecting links with Unum. He denied any knowledge of a company named Unum going as far as to write to our very own minister Maria Miller. Lamb wrote:

xxxx xxxxxxxx informs me that a company called Unum Provident “has been convicted of major fraud and banned from trading in many States in the US” up until 2008. He states that this company has been advising the DWP on welfare reform since the early 1990s. He also states that the current Atos Chief Medical Officer, Mike O’Donnell, had been Chief Medical Officer of Unum from March 2000 to September 2010.  Is all this true?  Can you let me know exactly what the Government knows about the position relating to Unum Provident and its relationship with Atos healthcare?

The post on the Black triangle site continues:

Imagine my surprise and shock then considering the above to discover this morning while doing some research online about connections between Atos & Unum, particularly the relationship between Mike O’Donnell – Chief Medical Officer – Atos Healthcare and Peter O’Donnell – Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer – Unum Insurance, (brothers perhaps? Anybody know?), to find out that good old Norman last Tuesday was a guest speaker at a Unum hosted fringe meeting at the LibDem Conference speaking alongside Peter O’Donnell, the Chief Financial Officer of Unum Insurance –

Speaker/Artist(s) Info: Norman Lamb MP; Teresa Perchard, Director of Public Policy, Citizens Advice; Nick Pearce, Director, IPPR; Peter O’Donnell, Chief Financial Officer, Unum. Chair: Patrick Hennessy, Sunday Telegraph.

Time: Tuesday September 20, 2011 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Venue: Hyatt Regency: Fortissimo2 Bridge Street, BirminghamB1 2JZ

Type: LibDem → Panel

Host Organization(s): IPPR, Unum

It’s also worth recognising the media representation at this too. As noted Unum continue to deny any involvement with Atos and vice versa, yet Unum was providing insurance for Atos workers up until 2009. On Unum’s rather amusing ‘Ask Unum’ site, clearly set up so that they can continue denying what is a matter of record in many instances, they state: “Unum UK currently has no relationship with ATOS Ltd. Until September 2009, it provided Income Protection to ATOS Ltd for ATOS’s staff” .Should they also add that the previous chief medical officer of Unum installed at Atos in 2011 had nothing to do with Unum before that time too?

Additional information on Atos partners has been requested through a Freedom of Information request to the DWP by P. Wilkinson (2011)[26] this asks which third parties Atos works with. The response states:

Atos Healthcare have advised that to release the name of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints would affect the basis of the contract between Atos Healthcare and that company and would have contractual and commercial implications for Atos Healthcare.

As part of their preparation for Independent Tier (IT) arrangements under the new Contract, Atos Healthcare proposed and DWP agreed that details of the private company they have appointed to investigate the handling of complaints be withheld to ensure independence. This proposal and agreement took the form of an entry in the contract as follows: “The name of this firm will not be divulged to any third party to ensure continued
independence”.  

Can we guess who it is yet? The phrase ‘all in it together’ comes to mind –maybe this is what Cameron was actually talking about. But, what of Unum’s own useful criminal record to the Coalition?

Disability Denial: an alliance between Unum and the State

When the links between the profiteers in the misery of disabled people and the ideologies of denial are exposed what we are left with? First this is not about getting people into work, whatever the Tories and previous governments claim  they don’t care if you work or not. Media rhetoric[27] on scroungers, workshy and other protestations of undeserving poor were part of the strategy to change public opinion helped along by misleading DWP press releases. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying incapacity. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of: it’s about denying pay outs and capitalising on fear and risk.

The denial of pay outs may be through Unum’s insurance policies or it may be through denying pay outs after an individual has paid a life-time of national insurance contributions to the state-but is put on time limited Employment and Support Allowance- the outcome will be same. Who better to work with ex-banker Freud and MP’s in denying people their rightful entitlements than a company which has been publically named as: “an outlaw company- It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion[28]” by California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi in 2005, where Unum were charged with more than 25 violations of state law and fined $8 million. Among the charges were:

 ….that the company knowingly applied the wrong legal definition of disability in denying claims or ruling claimants were able to go back to work, targeted high-cost claims for denials to save the firm money, misused claimants’ medical records and even the opinions of in-house medical personnel to deny benefits and wrongly sought to file cases under a federal benefits law that severely limits claimants’ ability to successfully sue their insurers.

Reads like the work theory of Atos doesn’t it? These charges followed a financial settlement in the previous year in which 48 other U.S states raised critical issues on Unum’s working methods.

Rutherford argues:

in the 1980s Unum, and insurance companies Provident and Paul Revere were in trouble in the U. S. They had increased profits by sharing similar policies on disability and sickness insurance and selling to professionals. A combination of falling interest rates and the growth of diagnosed illnesses which were not subject to the insurance sector’s tests appeared to be increasing, affecting the professionals who had taken out policies with the companies, and in turn affecting company profits. These illnesses included: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme disease.

An aggressive ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome plan followed, with claims being managed in a way that continued to maximise profits. The insurance industry called on the academics, Professor Simon Wessely of King’s College and Professor Michael Sharpe of Edinburgh University (both participants in the Woodstock conference) in an attempt to reclassify those conditions that were costing money, and lobby the medical profession on such conditions so they fell outside the remit of ‘pay outs’. It meant that specific illnesses were targeted in order to discredit the legitimacy of claims.

This ‘strategy’ was to prove useful in dealing with the UK’s welfare reform and in overriding the basis of medical opinion on a whole set of conditions. As the state joined in the denial with its set of private companies and supporting academics Unum achieved more market returns while disabled people began to see their own welfare support rapidly diminishing.

Capitalising on Fear: how the denial of state support improves Unum’s profit margin

Unum couldn’t lose, as early as 1997 with the roll out of the All work Test, in which Lo Casio had had played a major part, Unum launched an expensive advertising campaign. One ad ran:

April 13, unlucky for some. Because tomorrow the new rules on state incapacity benefit announced in the 1993 autumn budget come into effect. Which means that if you fall ill and have to rely on state incapacity benefit, you could be in serious trouble[29].

Lo Cascio replied in the negative when Private Eye asked if he was concerned about the conflict of interest involved in his company’s advertising campaign, which sought to gain from benefit cuts that he had helped to initiate. However Unum Chairman Ward E. Graffam did acknowledge the ‘exciting developments’ in Britain. Unum’s influence in government was helping to boost the private insurance market:

The impending changes to the State ill-health benefits system will create unique sales opportunities across the entire disability market and we will be launching a concerted effort to harness the potential in these.’[30]

In 2012 the worst aspects of welfare reform were pushed through by multi-millionaire ex-banker Freud: including over a million disabled people expected to be completely removed from Incapacity benefits and unable to qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) through more stringent testing by Atos, 12 month time limits on ESA to include those with terminal illness, and an additional half a million set to lose Disability Living Allowance and be ineligible for Personal Independence Payments amongst the regime. The fraud of the government rhetoric claiming to be supporting ‘those in most need’ was almost complete with the closure to new applicants for the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2010 and ILF’s expected closure in 2015. To celebrate Unum happily launched another set of advertising campaigns in 2012 advising people that the state wouldn’t support them and that they should take out insurance against sickness and disability.

A Tale of two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Governments and Disability Charities

The social model and the bio-psychosocial model have each had powerful affects on disabled peoples’ lives. However they are two completely different animals and we must never succumb to the government’s attempts to conflate them. It’s quite clear which model gives most to disabled people and which is being used to take away disabled peoples’ rights and their right to dignity . It is quite clear why we should continue to rage against the current imposition of the market regime of misery. It is quite clear why we should continue to support and use the social model of disability: a model with its rooted in the experiences of those incarcerated in a Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity institution: One of the disability charities that continue to profit from disabled peoples’ misery by sitting at the table with governments, Atos and Unum ‘helping’ the progress of the WCA and gaining from lucrative government contracts for work programs- with their and other charity support disabled people don’t need enemies.

The increases in the recorded suicides of disabled people brought about by the fear and misery imposed on disabled people through the current neo-liberal regime is likely to grow. Yet, the worsening situation of the many being denied support to which they are entitled to through national insurance contributions, through the most basic notion of human rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, and the European Convention on Human Rights will not affect the income or profits of the private companies or the disability charities involved .

This is not about getting people into work- there are no jobs, much less jobs for disabled people. It is not about even about ‘thinking yourself well’ or tortured nonsensical models shored up by dubious academics in the pay of Unum. This is about denying benefits, denying illness and denying disability: It’s about something Unum have a successful history of:  denying pay outs for disabled people while capitalising on fear and risk. It’s about an ideological regime of misery and austerity in the twelfth richest country in the world.

It amounts to the biggest government benefit fraud in social welfare and human rights in contemporary history.

twitter: @redjolly1

Acknowledgements

With thanks to Ann Whitehurst for sending me Jonathan Rutherford’s excellent piece in Soundings (on which some of this is based) and other pieces explaining how poverty and disability were being remade as an individual attributes rather than a societal failings by the right wing. Thanks to Bob Williams Findlay for his helpful comments. Thanks also to Julia Cameron for her comments, sending numerous links and information and urging that this (or something like this) should be written, and to all those activists past and present who will continue to fight for the rights of disabled people using the social model and who usually also say Rights not Charity! You know who you are…..

For online texts on the social model and disability issues see: https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/



[3] Oliver, Mike The Politics of Disablement

 

https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

[4] DISABLED PEOPLE IN BRITAIN AND DISCRIMINATION A

Case for Anti-Discrimination Legislation https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

 

[5] https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Abberley/chapter10.pdf

[6] https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Oliver/in%20soc%20dis.pdf

[7] The Social Model of Disability: Myths and Misconceptions https://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/archframe.htm

 

Dec 202011
 
 

Disability Political Mobilisation

by eldoct

 Blog piece below orginally posted at multoo  https://wp.me/p20l4O-P
 
The history of the disability rights movement in the UK stretches back to the 1970s. Tom Shakespeare pinpoints the ‘Year Zero’ as 1975 (Shakespeare, 2006:14), with the writing of the Fundamental Principles of Disability by UPIAS – the Unionof the Physically Impaired Against Segregation.
 
The key members of UPIAS – Vic Finklestein, Paul Hunt and Paul Abberley – wrote the Fundamental Principles against a background where the societal response to impairment was to provide specialist segregated settings for disabled people – residential homes, special schools, segregated workplace settings, etc.
 
In 1983 Mike Oliver named the dominant societal disability discourse as the Individual, or Medical, Model of disability. In contrast he named the new definition the Social Model of Disability. I will explore some aspects of these definitions in a future blog.
 
For the purposes of this blog I wish to highlight three factors about this political activity –
  • The self-mobilisation of disabled people, into political groupings, started at this point. The 1980s saw the formation of groups of disabled people, from national organisations to the regional and local groups. Disabled people began campaigning for equal rights, for better access, and for a range of different things. Some of these groups were very angry, railing against the oppressive practices of non-disabled people, while others were more conciliatory, working with local authorities to deliver ‘better’ public services. The point here is that disabled people began to decide what it is that they wanted to campaign for, or against, and then to do it, without the involvement of non-disabled people;
  • The first fruits of this self-mobilisation was the creation of a new, political understanding of disability – the Social Model. This was the first time that disabled people themselves created a definition of disability. This self-definition and self-naming is an important political process, mirrored within other civil rights movements. It moves disability away from the bounds of medical discourse into the realm of political activity; and
  • In doing this, for the first time the notions of ‘disability’ and ‘impairment’ were separated. People with impairments can be disabled, or not, by the socially constructed world around them.
These three things, at least, demonstrate that we, as disabled people, can change things. TheUK disability landscape is fundamentally different now from what it was in the 1970s. Without the anger, frustration, and vocalisation of disabled people themselves it is hard to imagine things would have changed in the way that they have. Many of us now live independently in the community of our choosing, with the people we want, controlling our own support packages. Not all of us are institutionalised and segregated away from the mainstream in the same way as we were in times gone by.
But there is still a long way to go. For some people this independence is still not a choice. Some people experience profound degradation, humiliation and even torture in the place they call ‘home’ – look at Winterbourne View and other recent ‘care home’ scandals.
 
It looks like things will get a lot worse in times to come. As budgets are reduced, the squeeze on Local Authority social care provision will increase. More people may well find themselves in institutions when they would like to remain living independently. The Hardest Hit in these tough times are disabled people.
 
The battle is not over, nor is it ‘won’. Not by any means. The question is how do we win it? I believe we need a mobilisation of grass roots disability political activity. We have shown what we can do when we are in control, and we have shown that by working with government – locally, regionally and nationally – we can make significant change.
There can be a friction between Local Authority service delivery, contracting and tendering and this political campaigning. But there is space for this activity. The key here is to mobilise on a regional and national scale. To bring together the voices demanding change.
Festive Cheer One and All.
References
Shakespeare, T. (2006) Disability rights and wrongs Routledge,London,UK

For another perspective on the social model here’s a video from Disability LIB

 
Dec 192011
 

Earlier this year I was asked by another disabled person “what is wrong with you anyhow?”  The person who asked this should have known better as they claim to work from a social model perspective. My obvious response to this was to ignore the question as there is nothing “wrong” with me. I have an impairment and because of the disabling barriers in society this means I am disabled.

 Now I have read that Sue Marsh (who writes for the blog ‘Diary of a benefits scrounger’) has been refused DLA in spite of having severe Crohn’s disease.

 DLA currently focuses on supporting people to live independently and to provide support for people’s mobility needs. The care component of DLA is a payment to meet the extra costs of being disabled whatever they are, extra food, extra heating, extra clothes, and if you’re an ILF user half of it goes towards the cost of your care and support package anyhow. To qualify for DLA you need to be unable to do certain specified tasks like cooking a meal, or have a need for constant supervision to help keep you safe. These descriptors are very medical model and look only at functional factors while ignoring issues such as you might be able to cook a meal if you had a fully adapted kitchen, or taps that you could actually turn on.

 Looking at the purely physical functions someone can do is also unsatisfactory. As much is made of the can you cook a meal descriptor in deciding someone’s entitlement to DLA let’s consider this a little further. One young man with Asperger’s syndrome who has lost his entitlement to the care component of DLA can physically cook a meal but needs support to do this. Another young man with Asperger’s says this functional ability test takes no account of how stressful the tasks are and how it leaves you feeling. Yet another disabled man who loses concentration frequently can theoretically cook a meal but keeps wandering off and leaving food to burn.

 For anyone with a fluctuating impairment it is impossible to get as you have to have these needs constantly for 3 months and be likely to have them for at least 6 months before you can qualify.

 As I too am disabled not just by my Crohn’s Disease but on a daily basis by the treatment I have needed for this to stay alive I have the greatest empathy for Sue.

 How people with impairments relate to society is complex and may be related to the nature of their impairment which can increase the barriers they face in daily living and leading a full and active life.  

 Using the social model approach towards defining disability as social restrictions imposed to top of people’s impairments it is necessary to make a distinction between the structures, systems, cultures, environments and attitudes that exist at the macro level of society – the level where they can institutionally exclude or marginalise people with impairments via how people with impairments are ‘taken into account’ and how they are not ‘taken into account’ – and the day-to-day social interactions which take place at the micro level of society.

 In my case for example the operations resulting in the loss of several large chunks of intestine cause me daily physical difficulties and I can no longer absorb Vitamin B12 which leaves me at risk of getting pernicious anaemia. These difficulties are exacerbated because of the lack of support available to disabled people who may be able to do some of the physical and medical model tasks to qualify for DLA some of the time but not all of the time.

 When my Crohn’s Disease flairs up I am unable to even get out of bed let alone cook. In fact the mere sight or smell of food often makes me be sick. I have to take massive doses of steroids to try to get better again which affects my immune system and means I’m more likely to get other illnesses too and this has also resulted in me having early onset Osteoporosis. I find it very hard to keep my weight at a reasonable level as often I can only eat things like ice cream and jelly for days at a time.

 I took early retirement from work because I was advised by consultants that I was more likely to remain healthy and well if I did not work and additionally this would save the NHS a lot of money. However, if work was more flexible and I was able to work when and if I could, and have the time off to rest when I needed it then I would have been able to continue to work.

 As a parent I also had the added barriers to face of having to support a disabled child who needed 24 hour support even when I was most ill. There was no help available on a short term basis and I could not afford to pay for any help myself. Many days I almost crawled around to get my son and daughter ready to go to school and then was only able to collapse back into bed. If only I had qualified for DLA then this might have been a different situation, or if social services had been able to offer some sort of short term, at home, respite support.

 However with regard to social services I have to say that until it was absolutely necessary to have any contact with them I avoided this as the Children’s services and Occupational Therapy services available where I live were so shockingly awful, which having worked for Birmingham Social Services for 10 years I feel qualified to judge. What use is an OT who says things like “disability is always so dreadful” or “I’m sure new technology is very enabling but I don’t understand it” This was not the sort of attitude towards disability that I wanted my son to grow up with. He’d already discovered at the age of nine that he was considered a fire hazard so couldn’t go to the local inaccessible cinema like his friends so it was really important to me that he understood this wasn’t his fault but the fault of the cinema for not being accessible.

see DPAC campaign on DLA