Feb 272011

Many thanks to Sue Bott for giving us her speech to be published here.

Sue Bott

Sue Bott



Sue Bott, National Centre for Independent Living

Thank you for inviting me to your festival and giving me the opportunity to speak to you about independent living and the current situation we are faced with.

We have come a long way in the last 30 years.  Looking at the exhibition you have of disability history you can see how much our lives have changed since the days of institutions and low expectations of disabled people.  This is thanks to the pioneering work of disabled campaigners: people like John who as part of Project 81 argued for and eventually succeeded in persuading his local authority to give him the cash so that he could employ his own personal assistants rather than have to spend the rest of his days in the Leonard Cheshire home in Lis, Hampshire; and people like Ken and Maggie in Derbyshire who were able to move out of an institution to a house where they occupied the ground floor and the people who lived on the floor above in return for living rent free provided personal assistance.

The Independent Living Committee of the British Council of Disabled People led the campaign by disabled people for direct payments so that we could arrange our own support rather than have it arranged for us.  Eventually of course we succeeded and direct payments legislation was passed in 1996.

But we know, and experience has confirmed, that realising independent living is not just about changing the law.  We have to change hearts and minds, we have to bring about a complete change in the culture of professionals working with disabled people.  What is even more important is that we have to believe and understand independent living ourselves.  I think perhaps in recent years we have become complacent and assumed there is acceptance of independent living giving us choice and control in meeting our support needs.

The last few months have taught us that there can be no such complacency.  In the battle of ideas we disabled people are being severely challenged.

The UK Government is taking our terminology and abusing it.  Andrew lansley, Secretary of State for Health takes the acknowledged term of the international disability rights movement ‘nothing about us without us’.  How dare he!  It is clear from his plans for reforming the NHS – giving all the decisions to GPs and health clinitians  – that he is not talking about the rights of disabled people.

Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People, has claimed that her plans for abolishing the Disability Living Allowance and replacing it with Personal Independence Payments are based on the social model and yet, if you get anything at all, it will only be through a medical assessment.  We’re all going to be ‘PIPed at the post’!

I have heard it said that such an abuse of our language means that we should change it.  Personally I do not think so, rather we should seek to explain our language more widely, what it means, and what it means for our rights.

We need to explain the social model, that it is about the environmental and attitudinal barriers facing disabled people and, contrary to what you think Maria, these barriers have by no means disappeared.  Yes we have made progress but we are not there yet.

We need to explain independent living, that it is about doing what we want to do at the time we want to do it by having choice and control in how our support needs are met, and that by having such control we can be active and equal citizens.

Never has it been more important to articulate our aspirations as disabled people than now.  Just consider the attacks on disabled people that the Government have unleashed upon us: –

  • Independent Living Fund – Closed.
  • DLA to be replaced with PIP which most of us will not be eligible for.
  • The agents of ATOS assessing us and stopping our support according to some code that only they understand.

Bye the way I have heard that here in Scotland you had a day of action that closed all the ATOS offices.  Congratulations.  I always say people north of the border have much to teach us southerners about campaigning.

  • The frankly bullying tactics of access to work administrators on disabled people who have the temerity have support in employment
  • The draconian cuts (as much as 20 – 30%) being made to disabled people’s care packages by local authorities

If we are to assert our right to independent living, which we are entitled to under article 19 of the UN Convention of the Rights of Disabled People, we need to build allies.

We need to build allies with trade unionists.  I attended the People’s Convention in London on 12th February.  It was good to be there and have a workshop on disability rights and independent living.  The SE regional Secretary of the union Unite was clearly moved by what we had to say and referred to the attacks on disabled people in his final speech.  This is different to cuts campaigns of the past.  We are there and speaking for ourselves.

We need to build allies by signing up to like minded initiatives such as the Campaign for a Fairer Society which was launched in ‘TheTimes’ in the last few days.  I know many organisations in Scotland have already signed up.

If we don’t act what will happen?  It will be: –

  • Back to the institutions
  • Back to reliance on family and do gooding volunteers
  • Back to having no choice and control in our lives
  • Back to the invisibility of disabled people in our society

We cannot and will not allow that to happen!

If you can, join us in London on March 26th for the TUC march against the cuts.  If all goes according to plan disabled people will be leading this march which will probably be an even bigger event than the anti war march in 2003.

Watch out for the disabled people mass lobby of Parliament likely to be on May 11th.

So, go to it and do the pioneers of our independent living movement proud!

Feb 132011

Organised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Right to Work, Labour Representation Committee

Over 800 people came together on Saturday 12th in London to talk about the cuts and the way forward for the TUC march on the 26th March. Disabled people were there and the stage sported a big DPAC banner in the middle. The day was videoed and the DPAC workshop was also videoed. The report of the day overall will be elsewhere. Here we look at the great turnout by disabled people and celebrate the central place we had in this day.


The morning open floor brought great comments from some disabled participants, including, Richard Rieser, Adrian Whyatt and Sasha Callaghan on the effect of the cuts for disabled people, including the human rights abuses and the closure of poverty pimps ATOS offices across Scotland on the national day of protest against cuts.

DPAC Worksho

The DPAC workshop was held in the afternoon. It was great to see so many people at this with 50 or 60 people, some attendees from as far as Scotland. Speakers on the panel were Richard Rieser, Debbie Jolly, Sue Bott and Kevin Caulfield. The workshop was chaired by Eleanor Lisney. There were many comments and questions at the workshop, these included:

We are being sent back to Victorian times: we should all be involved in local anti-cuts groups, emulate DAN protests, disabled people need to be at front of things and be united

We are incensed by the coverage in newspapers against disabled people

Need to make sure we include Deaf people and those with invisible disabilities, but not impairment based- we cannot go back to arguing about impairments- we must all fight together, must be inclusive

Mental health resistance network couldn’t all get to London today but want to support and be included: facing difficult times being given ‘talking treatment’ but they (the government) concentrate on getting us ‘well’, but they just want to get us into work

Participant remembers Richard speaking at European Social Forum; there are many more people here and comments that Sasha did a brilliant job when speaking this morning about ATOS

We need to come together and find common ground, not just disabled people but across the board. We all need to fully support the campaign and get the trade unions behind this too

There are not many disabled millionaires and certainly none at the convention. This is an attack on working class people. We need to get joint campaigns with all anti-cuts campaigns. Disabled people need to link up, need to unite: Every single local group should make contacts with disability groups in the area

We need to stop people from the Charity sector taking over: Rights not Charity

Issues were raised with the dropping off of people from buses at Wembly for the 26th March TUC London march. Right to Work have sent a statement to Brendan Barber not to drop in Wembley because of access issues and cost of getting to central London for the march. Disabled people need to email too.

John McArdle of Black triangle reminded us of the story of Paul Reekie.

It was noted that sometimes people aren’t getting messages re demos and protests, but also that the police always seem to know where we are going to be.

It was suggested that a boycott of newspapers following the government line and producing rhetoric on disabled people as scroungers are boycotted including the Scottish Mail, Daily Mail and others.

A video of the workshop will be available soon


The afternoon was made up of invited speakers, feedback from the workshops and debate. The highlight of the afternoon was Liz Carr’s speech which received a standing ovation from the audience.

Video of Liz Carr’s speech

A full list of actions proposed by Disabled People against Cuts and accepted by the Peoples’ Convention

The protest on 26th March needs to be fully accessible with disabled people involved in the planning. There needs to be representation of disabled people with and without visible impairments on the platform.

We propose a day of national demonstrations against ATOS.

We propose a month of action over the month of July to coincide with the second anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention.

We propose that every local anti-cuts movement has an autonomous disabled people’s sub group.

We propose support for UKDPC’s day of disabled people’s protest proposed for 11th May.(to be confirmed)

We propose that we speak to our colleagues at Unison about how the cuts are being implemented.

Debbie Jolly

Feb 092011
Liz Carr

Liz Carr

We are very happy that Disabled comedian and activist Liz Carr will be speaking at the People’s Convention on Saturday February 12th at the Friend’s Meeting House opposite Euston Station in London.

We are also running a workshop in the afternoon ‘At the Forefront of Resistance’

This workshop’s panel –

Sue Bott, Director of National Centre for Independent Living

A disabled person with visual impairment from birth, Sue has been active in the disability movement in the UK for many years.

Richard Reiser, co ordinator for UK Disability History Month

Richard is an expert disabled international equality trainer, consultant and teacher.

Kevin Caulfield, Chair of Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC)

Kevin is an active campaigner for all disabled people’s rights to equality and equal citizenship from a social model perspective at a local, regional and national level.

We would like as many disabled people as possible to come to this to tell us what you think. It starts at 10.30- 5 pm but the afternoon workshop if anyone is unable to come for the whole day should start at 2pm. Please support us.

The venue is Friends Meeting house near Euston Station. You need to book tickets from www.righttowork.org.uk £2 unwaged £5 waged to cover the costs of putting on the conference.

Access of venue – Friends Meeting House is accessible for wheelchair users. Accessible Parking can be found at Euston Station (£25 per day). Frequent buses stop at Euston station.

BSL We have requested for BSL interpreters. tbc.

Easy Read worker will be available at workshop.

Lunch is NOT provided – there is a vegetarian cafe en site at the venue. Eateries and food available at Euston Station including Nandos, Harry Ramsden Fish and Chips, and Marks and Spencers.