May 252014
 

From the Independent newspaper 9th April 1995 with thanks to Steve G- A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same:

Disabled people aren’t going to take it any more: for today’s new militants, patient progress is not enough. They chain wheelchairs to buses, court arrest, scorn their gradualist brethren as “Tiny Tims” – and “piss on pity”

On a freezing morning two weeks ago, 20 or 30 disabled people met outside Parliament to protest. One man was blind, most of the others used wheelchairs. They spoke to Japanese television reporters and were photographed by teenage tourists from France and Germany. And they explained their unswerving opposition to the Government’s Disability Discrimination Bill – which was that day starting its Report Stage in the House of Commons. With the wind rushing across Westminster Bridge, the protesters made their way from Parliament Square to Downing Street, where the ambition was to present John Major with the means to provide a ramp to his residence: cement, a cement mixer, a shovel. Or rather, the ambition was to have these items photographed by the press. A demonstration organiser – a wheelchair user – kept in touch with his office and with the media by mobile telephone, but also kept up the cry: “What do we want? Civil rights! When do we want them? Now!”

Stuck into the cement mixer was a life-size, floppy model of John Major. And on its lapel was a badge that might have been taken wrongly by the shivering spectators – it might have been thought a satirical prcis of Mr Major’s position on disability. But the badge carried one of the rallying cries of the organisation that had set up this demonstration: the badge said, “Piss On Pity”.

Things are happening in the world of disability that never used to happen. There used to be charities called the Royal this and the Royal that, and there used to be Jimmy Savile, and bring-and-buys, and hard-won concessions from British Rail or Parliament – a ramp here, a statute there. Now, although the old system is still partly in place, and still bringing improvements to people’s lives, it has to seek an accommodation with a new, modern, radical politics: press stunts, mobile telephones, Piss On Pity badges, anger. (If you want to check the radicals’ progress against other liberation movements, it is useful to note that the word “crip” – like “nigger” and “queer” before it – is already being put to work by at least some of those once oppressed by it.)

But any accommodation – between the old and the new, between the organisations “for” disabled people, and those clearly “of” – has not yet been made, which leaves room for conflict. Today, inside the politics of disabled people (not – it is generally agreed – “the disabled”, not “people with disabilities”, not “the differently-abled”) there are bitter interdenominational battles, there are left and right wings, vanguards and rear-guards. Today, a conversation with a person who works at the political end of disability issues is likely to feature quick and robust abuse of a man or woman in the same business – someone is an “Uncle Tom” – or, better, a “Tiny Tim” – or “a sound bite expert” – or just “an arsehole”. Disabled politics are in something of a heightened state, and this is because the question has not yet been settled: which will work best – patience or impatience?

ALAN HOLDSWORTH, who is impatient, is a leading light – if not exactly the leader – of the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN). DAN is the most radical, visible, publicity-accruing part of Britain’s disability movement, and it was DAN that was responsible for the event at Westminster.

Holdsworth lives in a comfortable, cluttered suburban house in Wood Green, north London. Although he uses a wheelchair over longer distances and during demonstrations, he walks to open his own door: a big, muscly, long- haired, youngish man. He unclicks a leg brace after he has sat down. He will not tell me the nature of his disability – the cause of his impairment – because, he says, that would then get stuck to his name in my article: and that would be no less unsound, he says, than attaching a woman’s name to the colour of her hair. “So no comment. We’re trying to move the press off that. It would be `Alan Holdsworth, polio victim’. They’d know that before they knew anything else.”

Holdsworth speaks with the well-practised passion – turbo-charged, now and then, with hyperbole – of any other single-issue campaigner. (“What’s the difference between the treatment of disabled people in Britain, and apartheid?” he asks me. He sees none.) His slogans are “Piss On Pity”, and “We Will Ride” and “Rights Not Charity”; Jimmy Savile is a “patronising old git”. Other campaigns will follow, but DAN’s immediate stated ambition is to end the discrimination represented by inaccessible transport – DAN has a banner that reads: “To boldly go where all others have gone before”. If you ask Holdsworth what he wants, he says: “All new buses accessible by law by a certain date, all buses under 15 years old accessible by the next refit, all national coaches and buses accessible within seven years … the Tube within 15 years…” Critics have alleged that the “disabled lobby” is in an impossible hurry. But even Alan Holdsworth is not absurdly unrealistic: he is impatient to see change, but he seems more impatient to see change started; for this is he would be willing to go to prison.

And here disability politics divides. Holdsworth has no time for the old “for” organisations that have seemed willing to wait. Indeed, Holdsworth sells a T-shirt that is specifically scornful of the long-established and relatively conservative umbrella group Radar (the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation). The T-shirt reads “Rights Not Radar”. Holdsworth says: “I got a letter from Bert Massie [director of Radar], saying, `I thought we were working together, is this thing really helpful?’ I haven’t written back, it’s not a priority for me, but when I do I’ll say, `Dear Bert, it sold 40 shirts; and that means that two people can get to one of our actions. If he wants to put `Fuck Alan Holdsworth’ on a T-shirt and it gets two people to an action, I don’t mind.”

In his living-room, Holdsworth gently interrupts his young daughter’s Pingu video to play a compilation tape of news coverage of DAN actions: the demonstrations at Parliament, the chainings to buses, the giant letter delivered to Downing Street last summer – the gestures that have suddenly become a part of the British political landscape. Now and then he corrects the screen – “Victoria Scott wasn’t a `protest leader’!” – or he remembers: “That was a slick demo, that was great fun…” Holdsworth’s daughter echoes the marchers on the tape. “What do we want?” she says. “Civil rights! When do we want them? Now!” Then her concentration wanders: “What do we want?” she says, “Pingu!”

It depends a little on definitions, but it seems that the history of disabled direct action goes back no further than the late Eighties. There were demonstrations before then, but no concerted efforts to break the law – and none of today’s focused, flamboyant, therapeutic, photogenic gestures. In 1989, Holdsworth and others protested in Chesterfield against the decision to pedestrianise the town centre without making allowance for cars with disabled orange badges. In that action, disabled people parked, were given tickets, and refused to pay the fines. Either this event, or one of the actions carried out at around the same time by the Campaign for Accessible Transport (CAT) can probably be regarded as the start of disabled direct action in this country.

In 1990, Holdsworth and colleagues targeted the ITV Telethon, by then a decade old. “It was showing disabled people leading horrible lives,” he says, “very tragic – `Isn’t it a shame?’, all that – getting the public to pity us rather than feel angry, with us, for the situation we were in.” Holdsworth started ringing disabled friends, proposing some sort of demonstration, and he was taken aback by the vehemence of the response. “I thought, well, this is going to work, people are so angry about it. That was the explosion in direct action terms.” Five hundred people turned up to demonstrate at the LWT studios on the South Bank. “That was the Great Leap Forward,” says another disabled man on the demonstration, Michael Oliver. “It was a street party, but we won all the arguments.” The next Telethon, which drew 2,000 demonstrators, was the last.

The direct action movement now had momentum. DAN was officially formed, and, since then, has made its presence felt at the Christchurch by-election in 1993, at the Tate Gallery in London, at Kenneth Clarke’s surgery, at Harrods… Last spring, DAN held an action at Leeds City railway station. “The local authority had spent £40,000 on disabled people. But what they’d done is build a garden at the end of the platform, which was being opened by Jimmy Savile, who is one of the most hated figures in the movement. A hated figure. He drew at least half the people to the demo – because it was him who was opening the garden. So we all went down there, a little farty garden. We camped on it. We just covered it with wheelchair-users.”

In his office in his front room, Holdsworth laughs, and flicks a cigarette butt out of the window. His daughter comes in with a small globe and asks where we are.

DISABLED direct action – and “Piss on Pity” – are part of a broader British disability “movement” that has still not come of age. It is a movement whose history is written differently depending on what position you take in the current debate – the debate between “ofs” and “fors”; most ofs would not regard the fors as any part of their history. Michael Oliver, quoted above, is a radical, the Professor of Disability Studies at Greenwich University; he passes over the histories of the grand old “for” institutions, “the dead hand of charity”, and concentrates instead on such milestones as members of the National League of the Blind and Disabled taking their place in the Jarrow March.

But, as Oliver acknowledges, much of this history is unwritten, unclaimed. The modern disability movement is too young to have done what other liberation movements have done – restore lost heroes, find Mary Wollstonecrafts and Nat Turners. And besides its youth, the movement has a problem those other movements never had: “Not that long ago,” says one activist, “if you had spina bifida you died two hours after birth; it’s hard to get much of a reputation in two hours.”

In Oliver’s view, the modern disability movement grew out the prosperity of the Sixties, and the failure of disabled people, among other disadvantaged groups, to share in that prosperity. In the Seventies and Eighties, as feminism, anti-racism, gay rights, animal rights began to find a place in national politics, disabled people started to understand their plight in political terms. Disabled people began to “come out”: this is a metaphor used fairly commonly in the movement. Oliver’s own experience is a useful guide: son of working-class parents, he broke his neck in a holiday camp swimming-pool as a teenager; he spent a year at Stoke Mandeville. In 1972, now a wheelchair user, he started a sociology degree at the University of Kent. “I became involved in student politics and other radical left organisations. But I hadn’t become part of disability politics. I thought the Socialist revolution was going to solve everybody’s problems.”

As a postgraduate, Oliver started to consider how hopelessly flawed most thinking and writing on disability was – it was produced by able-bodied academics working on the assumption that illness and disability were the same thing. Oliver “came out” academically. It dawned on him that there was a sociology of disability to be constructed; he could study himself. Twenty years on, Oliver can take much credit for setting the academic agenda. His great contribution to disability studies has been in getting the “social model” of disability understood as a serious challenge to the medical model. That is to say: in the medical model, a man in a wheelchair cannot get where he wants to get because his body is not up to it. The social model acknowledges that the man has an “impairment”, but sees the obstacle as the cause of disablement. “The fact that I have polio,” one disabled man told me, in classic social model fashion, “is nothing to do with the fact that there are 17 steps to the Town Hall. It’s the 17 steps to the Town Hall that I see as the problem.” This does not mean – except, perhaps, in the minds of those who are stratospherically extreme – that Ben Nevis should be wheelchair-accessible, but it does aim to put the ball back in the court of those whose job it is to organise the world – and its buildings and its transport.

It was against this background – and the examples of other single-issue political movements and of America’s disability politics – that the disability movement began to take shape in Britain. Institutions were established; individuals came out.

For example: Adam Thomas is a young man – dark glasses and headscarf, a former interior designer – who has to use a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident 15 years ago. Right up until last year, he was in a state that might be called denial. “I denied that I was being segregated. I blocked the fact that I couldn’t get into certain buildings.” The turning point was the kindness of his best friend, who told Thomas that, obviously, he wouldn’t move into anything but a ground-floor flat. Thomas, while touched, was struck for the first time how other friends had not done the same. And last year, for the first time, Thomas became aware of the “movement”. As soon as he was aware of it, he became a part of it. This is now his life.

Another example: Eddy Hardy is 29, a Liverpool-born artist with a fashion- beard. He uses a wheelchair, and is now active in DAN. “I’ve had my impairment from birth. It was only about six years ago that I came to accept my identity as a disabled person. I didn’t particularly like disabled people. But one day I was watching the TV news, and it was these militant crips in the road in the USA. I thought, yeah, I can have some of that.”

A DECADE ahead of DAN’s direct action, the first real institutional sign of the disability movement’s arrival in Britain was the setting up of an umbrella organisation – the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP) – in 1981. It was democratic, it was run by disabled people, it subscribed to the social model. It started with six affiliate members, and it is a sign of widespread individual comings out that it now has more than 100 affiliates – mostly local coalitions of disabled people. BCODP regards itself as having very little in common with, say, Radar, Mind, Mencap, RNIB, Cheshire Homes. “There is a degree of antagonism,” says Richard Wood, Executive Director of BCODP. “There is bound to be, isn’t there? Because traditional power bases are now being threatened by disabled people.”

To some in the old guard, BCODP unfairly underestimates the changes that are now taking place and that have already taken place in the traditional organisations. (The RNID has just appointed its first-ever deaf chief executive, for example, and the Spastics Society, under pressure from disabled people, has changed its name to Scope.) And more conservative disabled campaigners argue that the radical position unfairly underplays those institutions and techniques that – in a process that may now look painfully gradual – have so improved the lives of disabled people since the Sixties. “Improved by 100 per cent – improved attitudes, awareness,” says Sir Peter Large, an influential disabled man of an earlier generation, who has sat on many committees, helped draft legislation, argued with MPs. He talks of mobility allowance, attendance allowance: “These have benefited millions… BCODP have done very little in practical terms.” According to Sir Peter, the radicals are wrong to neglect the significance of, say, Alf Morris’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act of 1970: “He put disabled people on the map. He really started the whole move to improve things.” Piss on Pity? “I know exactly what they mean, but if you go up to an MP with that on I don’t think he’s or she’s likely to be warm to you – if they’re not already interested. But I know exactly what they mean.”

Bert Massie, who runs Radar, and is a wheelchair user, is a bte noir of the radicals. You get the impression of a man who accepted a job as a charity worker but who has found himself, suddenly, a politician. “In the past,” he says, “there was a greater acceptance of an incremental approach. People never rowed about disability.” The effect of the “fundamentalists”, he accepts, has been partly good. “I don’t know,” he says, “how Radar would have evolved if there hadn’t been fundamentalist pressure…” But he says that Radar cannot run too far ahead of its constituents. While the stereotype of a disabled person is probably a middle-aged man in a wheelchair, the most representative type, in truth, would be a elderly woman with arthritis, who might feel – along with many other of Britain’s 6.5 million disabled people – that she has little in common with, say, the members of DAN. There are disabled people, says Massie, who don’t regard themselves as disabled; there are disabled people who are Conservatives: “I’ve had people in here saying, wouldn’t it be better if you abolished social security, and had disabled people sponsored by private companies.”

Thanks to his position at the head of a fairly well-funded “for” organisation, and thanks to his support for incremental methods, and thanks to his recent claim to see some (flawed) virtue in the Government’s Disability Discrimination Bill, Massie is regarded with great hostility by many “fundamentalists”. Rachel Hurst, a radical with a sharp political sense, says, “Our voice has been shut out by the established charities. Some staff at Radar I’ve got more time for than I can say. [But] I wouldn’t mind shooting the man at the top. He is an Uncle Tom, Mr Massie… He actually doesn’t care a toss about the rights of disabled people.”

THIS, today, is the kind of observation one disability worker tends to make of another. But in this newly complex and sometimes hostile world of disabled politics, there is a miraculous and rather precarious piece of common ground – it’s a coalition called Rights Now! At Rights Now!, weapons are left at the door, and most of the important disabled organisations – both “of” and “for” – meet to promote civil rights legislation. Last year – another Great Leap Forward – the civil rights argument was won. At some point, legislation may follow.

The battle has been for legislation that, like its racial and sexual equivalents, would outlaw discrimination against disabled people (in employment, education, transport). The cost of implementing such a law has always been at the heart of resistance to it, but the Government’s figure of £17bn over five years has been widely disputed, and it has been shown how similar legislation in the USA has not, in fact, been as alarming to small businesses as was feared. The conversion of disabled people into employees and into more promiscuous consumers has had its economic benefits.

In May 1994, however, a private member’s bill, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, was killed messily by the Government, and the minister for disabled people, Nicholas Scott, eventually had to resign. But before his resignation in July, it became known that Scott had a daughter called Victoria Scott – young, non-disabled – who works for Radar. And, to the delight of the media, she was happy to give interviews on the subject of her father’s political shortcomings. To a great extent, it was due to this well-reported Antigone sub-plot that discrimination against disabled people became something of a hot media issue last year – the subject, for example, of a supportive Sun editorial. And because the press was now interested, demonstrations held by disabled people were widely reported. “I’d been trying get some coverage,” says one campaigner, “I was ringing the TV – the Big Breakfast, whatever – they weren’t interested. When the Vicky Scott story broke, they were ringing us.”

The penny seemed to drop. “People saw it,” says Rachel Hurst, “as a civil rights movement. Not just those poor sods can’t get on the bus.” Thanks to the failure of a bill about civil rights, the idea of disabled civil rights seemed to take hold. You could feel an earlier model of pity and passivity slipping away. MPs began to get many more letters and have disabled issues raised more frequently at surgeries. Consciousnesses were raised, not only among able-bodied people (“people with abilities” as one disabled radical has mockingly put it) but among sceptical disabled people who had remained politically “in” ; demonstrations swelled in numbers; individual (rather than institutional) membership of Rights Now! increased eight- fold in one year. And it was a mark of what had happened that articles scornful of “the disabled lobby” started to appear in national newspapers and magazines: as most campaigners would want it, sympathy – pity – had been removed from the equation.

THE FRIDAY night before last, DAN’s “Piss on Pity” mugs were selling fast in a rather overlit bar in the centre of Cardiff. After two days of a three-day series of actions in the city, DAN members had hired a room to have a drink, to contemplate the previous days’ events (an action each day, six arrests, the first ever actual charges, some fairly thorough TV coverage), and to consider the Big Action the next day, when they were hitting the bus station.

By 9pm the bar was filled with disabled people, full of solidarity and good humour and Carling Black Label. Inevitably, perhaps, DAN members are disproportionately young, articulate, mobile; although one regular protester, Sharon Mace, lies on a kind of horizontal wheelchair. (It is one of the brakes on the direct action movement that many people cannot get to actions, and once there, they cannot just sleep on someone’s floor – as they would have done, say, on a CND demonstration; the accessible hotel in a town is likely to be the most expensive.) In the bar, there was talk of “hip crips” and “crips with chips”. There were several radical- left cropped hair cuts (worn with the standard, tipped-back wool hats), there were copies of Militant on the tables (DAN’s treasurer, among others, is a Militant member). People who had never met before this week were testing new friendships by the use of exaggerated abuse, or hands left on shoulders. There was something of a chair-jam at the bar. A woman who imports the handcuffs that DAN members use to attach themselves to buses and trains was describing the problems she has with HM Customs and Excise. This is disabled politics at its most uncompromising, its most underground and – although this is not quite the point – at its grooviest.

As much as anger, the bar in Cardiff seemed full of people’s extraordinary sense of their own place at the start of a political process; people seemed light-headed not only with lager, but with the thought of making history. A DAN action – there have been about 60 – has an effect on several levels: it draws press attention to a particular, local issue; it keeps disabled civil rights on the agenda; it projects, through the media, images of disabled people looking rather less than pitiful or vulnerable; and for those on the action, it can be an experience of almost overwhelming personal empowerment. “There are disabled people,” says Eddy Hardy, “who watch us on TV and think [with disapproval]: `Oh God.’ But for every five or six of them, there’s one going, `Yes!’, thinking about it for the first time, coming out.” Once out, once on the street, “The feeling of pride and power is unbelievable. We’re told we’re weak; but today we stopped the traffic. We had an effect. It’s amazing… Today, I was lifted by the police, and everybody, all the others, were waiting for me. And cheering. And for a moment you’re a hero of the movement.” He checks himself. “But we’re all heroes. All heroes.”

In the bar in Cardiff, there was a lot of talk about pride (“We have our own culture”), a commodity which has been at the heart of other liberation movements, but you might have thought it was less accessible to disabled people. How far can you take the idea of disability pride if you would not wish your child, say, to have the same impairment as yourself? In more conservative disabled circles, people tend to say that a disabled child “would be no tragedy at all”. But in DAN, there are those who go the whole way: “If I have any kids,” says Hardy, “I hope they’re disabled. Then they’ll be militant bastards like me. If they’re crips, they’re going to learn what handcuffs are…”

The next day, shortly before he was arrested for his part in blocking Cardiff’s bus station, and inconveniencing its many passengers, Eddy Hardy joined the chant of 100 disabled people: “We’re DAN, you’re trapped, get used to it.” !

Link: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/spitting-on-charity-1614885.html

Where are they now?

Alan Holdsworth aka Johnny Crescendo still active in the US

Sharon Mace changed her name to Rowen Jade became chair of Equality 2025 rumoured to have helped in the DANing of Equality 2025, died in 2010

Richard Wood now an uncompromising disability consultant last we heard

Rachel Hurst founded Disability Awareness in Action and also worked to make significant changes with DPI and the UN,  retired

Mike Oliver retired, spoke at last Disability History month on independent living, writes for Disability Now 

RADAR-Now part of Disability Rights UK ( DRUK) merged with National Centre for Independent Living and Disability Alliance in 2012, thanks to NCIL promotes itself as an ‘of’ disabled people organisation. It also runs the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) and Disability Action Alliance an off shoot from the Disability Strategy

Bert Massey previously chair of the Disability Rights Committee, most recently chair of Labour’s Disability Taskforce commissioned by Liam Byrne MP. The taskforce also included Roger Berry, Neil Crowther, Agnes Fletcher, Kaliya Franklin and Ian Greaves

BCODP became UKDPC

Disability Discrimination Act replaced by the Equality Act (2010) became more diluted when the Condems removed Economic and Social impacts. Condems failed to have it removed as what they called  ‘red tape’

Mind, Mencap, RNIB, Cheshire Homes and SCOPE still going and still speaking for us

“Rights Not Charity” more relevant now than ever

Jimmy Saville- we all know what happened there

Let us know the ones we’ve missed

 

May 182014
 

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If you’ve been following this on twitter and face book, you’ll know what a great success the first international #dpactour has been. The excellent Ellen Clifford of DPAC travelled to Canada at the invitation of John Clarke of Ontario Coalition against Poverty (OCAP).

John and OCAP have been great allies to DPAC, supporting us since 2012 ATOS Games protests, and DPAC was happy to return that support. We want to thank all for inviting us to share the knowledge of #dpac campaigns and actions, and the history of the unelected coalition Government’s appalling treatment and stripping of rights from disabled people.

The terrifying model of the coalition is spreading with punitive, harmful and potentially murderous regimes being taken up by other Tories at international and European levels. Canada have an election coming up and already plans similar to those carried out in Britain are starting to take shape. The Canadian people wanted to hear from #dpac on how they could increase campaigns and what was happening here to disabled people. Ellen and John did a tour letting people know what could be done, what has been done and how to fight it.

Remember: #internationalsolidarity, ‘fight to win’, ‘austerity is global so is our resistance’

With thanks to everyone involved we reproduce below some pictures from the #dpactour- more on the #dpactour to come..so watch this space

 

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May 042014
 

People who don’t use the spoken word have a great deal to say about communication. People who do use the spoken word have a great deal to learn about communication from people who don’t.

Quiet Riot is a group of young adults who don’t use the spoken word. Quiet Riot had their first meeting four years ago. They meet in Manchester but come from around the UK, with members in Holland and Ireland.
They are:

Paul-Thomas Allen
Judathan Allen
Raphael Allen
Danian Allen (1984-2005)
Heathar Barrett
Nadia Clark
Gareth Donnellon
Thiandi Grooff
Josh Harris
Anthony Kletzander
Maresa MacKeith
Dan Stanton
The communication used by many members of Quiet Riot is known as Facilitated Communication Training (FCT) a strategy introduced into the UK by Marion Stanton, who is currently lead UK Assessor and trainer:

,http://www.candleaac.com/staff.htm

Marion invited Rosemary Crossley, from Australia to meet with families in the UK almost fifteen years ago, who in turn introduced many of the Quiet Riot members to FCT.
http://www.annemcdonaldcentre.org.au
FCT is now used very effectively as a primary means of communication by many people around the UK. Using a key board on which to type, a trusted assistant (facilitator) supports the person to manage their body’s motor movements, which can be impaired as a result of sensory overloads/invasions as well as a wide diversity of other body motor issues.

FCT has fundamentally changed the opportunities for members of Quiet Riot:
” I am a man with no speech. I am a user of the pointing method of communication. I listen well and understand what is said… I am operating a perfectly weird body. I am wonderfully made..”

Raphael Allen
” I’m wondering if using Facilitated Communication will help to understand me better and give me some respect. I wish more people were given the chance to use facilitated communication it is great to be given a voice”

Anthony Kletzander.

“Having no voice is not great but at least I can type good things. Being in good company like kids who talk. Talking with me makes me happy.”

Heathar Barrett

http://www.heatharashley.co.uk/Home.html
“Trust your belief in your child. FC opens doors for those of us whose voices deny us use. People have to listen to our voices in the wilderness of disability. I can do things you elevate your expectation to. Look beneath the surface of appearance and see the qualities that are within”

Josh Harris.
I think FC is such a part of me that its difficult to think of it as an entity in it’s own right. I feel very lucky to have been surrounded by people who respected my communication giving me a limited experience of negativity around FC. I do however know that there are those who dismiss FC, I see this in their faces and reactions. My concerns are for those young disabled people who, for whatever reason, are affected by such situations.

Blake Williamson
Too bad I was seen as dumb of mind as well of mouth. Words offer all the possibilities of fine choices switching from a non-being to educated in the eyes of the world. The route to my intellect is now open”

Paul-Thomas Allen.
” in the end the funny woman from Australia ( Rosemary Crossley) gave direct explanations, we ran away as slow as could be. Facilitation was a map just to find out about going A.W.O.L. I was not seen as a thinker with reason until I used typing. I type to talk differently. It is very good being able to communicate.”

Judathan Allen
” I am aware that you don’t realise how I am able to type. I go to university. Perhaps one day I will have a part on T.V. And you will have the opportunity to read my fan’s praises.”

Danian Allen (1984-2005)
“To be able to express myself as full as possible, without the correct method my answers are limited ” and “To be recognised as intelligent enabling me to live an independent life in my own home ”

http://www.contactcandle.co.uk/about_dan_stanton.htm
Dan Stanton
“(FC ) allows me to communicate ,to have a voice.
Way in which it changed my life
I gave my opinion on my medical treatment
I Am Real
I am Real
Not a malfunctioning person with a confused mind
Just a normal thinking person
Who laughs, complains, shows sadness and happiness.

I am real”

Gareth Donnellon.

Funding, Quiet Riot and the ODI
Quiet Riot campaigned for three years with no funding. Members financed their own attendance at the meetings in Manchester. They were brought together by a commitment, to talk with each other in a safe place, to plan campaigns and enjoy their Right to Communication: a right for every human being. The long term aims of Quiet Riot are to change the ways in which society welcomes and values people who do not use the spoken word.

Quiet Riot has been hosted and given hospitality by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), since the first meeting. ACE North, have also provided a venue for larger gatherings, again free of charge.

In our fourth year the The Edge Fund, a creative and democratic funding body, offered funding to Quiet Riot* which is being used to enable Quiet Riot to develop a customised website where they can reach out to local and global connections giving more people an understanding of FCT and an opportunity for the many people around the world who are needlessly denied their voice.

Funding for groups, at the “cutting edge” in societies, like Quiet Riot, is an important political issue. Given that the very existence of Quiet Riot provides a powerful reflection of people who have been failed within their own society. Quiet Riot has emerged despite statutory organisations who have failed to serve their legitimate support requirements.

The name of Quiet Riot appears to be a challenge for some, which was illustrated when Quiet Riot considered making a funding application to Office for Disability Issues (ODI), a government, established body to orchestrate the voice of disabled people in the UK. Quiet Riot was invited to change the name, to one less controversial ! – perhaps F— O– might be more appropriate! We have no funding from any government agency, which allows a freedom to critically question and challenge government and it’s agents, which has to be an essential feature of any campaigning group.

Quiet Riot members now in their twenties and thirties have each had the powerful support from their families, to have their voice heard, often against significant opposition from schooling authorities. An important lesson for schooling services to learn is that labels attached to any individual cannot convey anything of value about an individual. Such labels lead teachers into a cul-de-sac about an individual, requiring a great deal of time trying to find a way out.

Meaningful appreciations of another person’s skills, contributions and qualities will emerge via a mutual and respectful relationship. Such relationships can start with mutually respectful communication. The early schooling experience for many QR members was in segregated settings and very far from respectful :

Segregated Education

“Special education is a cruel solution to educate people like me. I had the label (PMLD ) evil! I asked real people if they are aware of atrocities in school. Ask and ask again was anyone aware how awful it was doing stuff in special school. Emphasise it. The school system was a a vert (lawn) where seeds of alarm flew away. No one sussed what a serious affaire was swept away under the alters of Abraham . I was a walled prisoner in my own world dying slowly. When I returned from school each hour I sat thinking- give me a tool to communicate”

Judathan Allen.
“Special school you think is bad. It is the nondescript way they teach is dull. They only had lots of detritus to share.”

Paul-Thomas Allen.
The health service starts the process of diagnosis and categorisation of disabled people by creating labels that the schooling system uses to segregate and devalue disabled people. Authorities engage in convoluted assessments, measuring and testing the “capacity” of individuals. The disabled person is incidental to this process: it is an institutional response to legitimise prejudice and discrimination against a disabled person.

“I have no sex no gender apparently I only have this alleged affliction. reports and labels are the sum of my parts. There was never a label beyond disabled.i am just punk I am just an allocation of resources.”

Paul Thomas Allen
Institutions continue to segregate and devalue the human being as they have done for many decades.
” I have sorrow in my heart for you not learning the proper inclusion of me.”

Heathar Barrett
Segregation at school age will tend to lead to more segregation in adult life – feeding the “services” that exist for the maintenance and protection of the institution and its processes.

Labels of “deficit” are attached to the individual and reflect the approach of an institution. We need to shift these labels away from the individual to the institution. Therefore, the constant need for institutions to measure and categorise people could be described as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some Schools, Colleges and Universities have Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) because they have failed to welcome and learn from people they continue to reject and exclude based upon the negative differences the institutions have determined and cultivated. This is particularly true of people who do not use the spoken word for their communication.
“In my pupil days at home I learned children whose bodies operated differently were not welcome really anywhere in the high schools in the myopic time we lived in. I thought then real choice was just for those talking people”

Raphael Allen
“Being alone I feel Dead”

Heathar Barrett
It is soul destroying to continually have your contributions and efforts for participation thwarted by systematic indifference, ignorance and rejection. Such an approach to people is abusive and a total denial of their human rights. There continues to be a disturbing amount of confusion around the language and practice of inclusive education. We cannot give people inclusion, people have to Feel included.
” I invite experts to ask how we feel and our opinions. Autism really offers the world a fine lesson in humanities We require understanding, respect trust and love. In return we test the worlds ability to accept differences that exist between people ”

Josh Harris.
http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2008/01/16/josh-harris-autism-and-the-ambition-to-become-a-rabbi/#

qr pic 1

We know inclusion is working up and down the country in schools, colleges and universities for people with the diversity of impairments. We know people are included when we change the way we offer support in response to an individual’s particular requirements and when there is a welcome of difference and different voices for people to participate and contribute to the learning environment they are an integral part of.
” I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your accommodating and satisfying subject in question. There was very much calm and confident re-assurance surrounding me when in your real lecture of thought and wisdom. For me acceptance is from within a massive heart. Please have diversity bring you good joy in real life. With very fond and great thoughts for life – To Lesley Groom University Tutor from Heathar Barrett.

Hope and acceptance are a luxury I do enjoy. I feel very immense greatness about the university of my love and life in the making of a good great free future. We are moving forward.

Heathar Barrett.

My School
By

Maresa MacKeith
“Taking The Time”
www.inclusive-solutions.com
http://www.one-for-all.org.uk/

The thought of starting was ecstatic,
I wanted to learn so much.
To me the building was magic,
With life in its crumbling husk.

The thought of being ordinary,
Filled me with a joy I can’t tell.
Still the thought of that building keeps memory,
For me of pure water: a well.
It was because I had ordinary teachers, who recognised that I had skills, that I am where I am now, doing English at university. The special education system did not do that for me; it endlessly measured my incompetence.

Maresa MacKeith

 

However, when a school refuses to change, to welcome and accept different ways of learning, it cannot be overstated just how oppressive it is to be seen as different, when your difference is devalued by the organisation that claims to be a place of learning!
“It should be perpetuated that I have no differences. I just need really cool people to understand my ways. I am in my difference the despoiler of your pattern”

Paul Thomas Allen.

“I’m really tired of being different”

Anthony Kletzander
For people who do not use the spoken word there can be a continual and exhausting struggle to have your voice heard. For many people with the label of autism who use FCT, there can be a massive amount of time and energy required to overcome or manage their bodies’ sensory changes in order to type each and every word.

ice cream
I am finding it very hard to be a free fast user of FC when I am not focused on feeling anxiety free”

Heathar Barrett-
communication board in hand doing ordinary things like buying an ice cream. This does not require a “transition plan” or “a service delivery audit” Or a specialist training programme to create a team of ” Whippy Therapist”

QR fell walking
Heathar using her communication aide on a walk across the moors.
Again no “specialist service” getting in her path.
“I am an individual with my own wants. Sometimes my neurons do screw up and it takes time to fix them.”

Paul Thomas Allen
” being autistic causes sensory problems like bright lights which makes me feel dizzy and they burn my eyes. I also have problems with loud noises. They really scare me and make me feel really nervous”

Anthony Kletzander.
“People inspire me all the time. It’s the easy things I envy like people who are pain free”

Josh Harris

The only way we can get near to understanding what is required for an individual to type whilst having to manage the permutations of sensory invasions, which could relate to all the senses and more within any given learning environment, is by being respectful and responsive to the individual. Having a mutually respectful communication is essential.
As for what we can do to encourage change in Universities, I think there is a wider issue here. If FC is not accepted as a means of communication during examinations, as it was when I did my GCSE’s and A levels, then the next generation of disabled academics are thwarted in accessing university through such academic routes. The universities are poorer places for not having a fair representation of all students in their Halls and of course where we are never seen we are never easily accepted nor understood

Blake Williamson.
Professionals have a responsibility to shift their lack of understanding or toleration of ignorance about different ways of communication and recognise that the denial of a person’s communication is not simply the denial of a learning experience but the consequences can be life threatening.

Anthony Kletzander from independent living to institutionalization

Anthony Kletzander, one of the founder members of Quiet Riot lived independently in Dublin in his own flat, with his own 24hr support. Because people, uninvited came into his life and chose to deny his FC, he was forced into an institution after he had experienced a full life living independently, with his own support staff. Within days he was given antipsychotic medication against his wishes, this resulted in emergency hospital treatment. Anthony’s voice continues to be denied at the institution.
“Tell them to stop giving me medication. I have no choice it makes my head feel strange”

“I would love to be in independent living. It is much better than residential.”

“Really trying to be accepted into society is very difficult and I am really saddened by this”

This is the clip about university. Nua Health Care in Ireland refuse to accept Anthony’s communication. They have also refused his right to independent living. Anthony was hospitalised twice from this institution over a period of three weeks. Anthony’s struggle continues made more difficult by Nua Health Care continuing to deny Anthony’s voice.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/oxh98ewgf54qthq/MVI_0121.MOV

 

qr anthony typing
Anthony Kletzander. Typing with Marion Stanton just half hour after meeting with her. Nua Health Care refused her offer of support.
Fear

A poem
by
Maresa MacKeith

He watches, and you are scared.
Mute and Flalling
If he could talk he would tell.
So you silence him.

 

qr grad pic

Maresa uses facilitated communication on her graduation day at Nottingham Trent University.
People who are prepared to deny a person’s communication when they don’t offer a meaningful alternative are abusing a person’s Human Rights.

It is an abuse of the power and authority of a psychologist or therapist to * deny a person’s means of communication, then have the effrontery to accept, a large fee, to carry out an “assessment” and make judgments and recommendations about the person’s life with whom they insist they cannot communicate!

” I have spent every day since birth when people think my head is bad like my body. Top physicians from all over came to inspect the Allen family, every one of them you imagine a certified genius. They ran me through their tests prosecuting me with steal augers. Pain like real despicable pain. Played with and investigated all facts collated their only conclusion was to find I was guilty. I was dense and better as a doorstop. I inhabited my own head just watching, I had to live the isolated life. I had to wait …. It did not occur to the world I am not retarded and a vicious anger I was cultivating. In my egg I stayed. In my soft manner to wither, it was sometimes insanity”

Paul -Thomas Allen.
I am unable to pronounce what thoughts are in my mind. When I use facilitation I am able to let others know how I feel. This is undoubtedly beneficial for my peace. Past appearances of the disabled are wrong. What people pronounce does not show how clever they are. I think it is because writing allows people to say exactly what they want. People make assumptions

Damian Allen ( 1984-2005)

Quiet Riot, DPAC and challenges powers and practices
Quiet Riot is an organisation that offers a much more powerful future for the person who does not use speech but insists that their voice is heard.
There is also a growing new network of organisations of disabled people in the UK and internationally who are challenging the oppressive practices and asserting the human rights of disabled people. It is co-ordinated by Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC) This New Democratic and transparent approach is not seeking to justify the participation of disabled people around the UK but fundamentally challenging the powers and practices that seek to prevent their contribution and participation.

Facilitated Communication has enabled members of Quiet Riot to challenge the powers and practices that seek to silence people that do not use the spoken word.

http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/who-we-are/fellows/nadia-clarke.html

Nadia Clarke
Quiet Riot are engaged in subjects like: Biology, English literature, Creative Writing, Poetry, Philosophy, Jewish Religious Studies, Music, Geology, Ethics and Human Rights at Universities around the UK, Ireland and Holland. Thiandi Grooff a member of Quiet Riot and uses FC is in her final year of undergraduate study at a University in Amsterdam. She has been been engaged in a detailed qualitative study into group identity.

This study shows that a safe place for discussions is very important: the participants are welcomed, without threat by opponents who reject their way of communicating or the State, and every effort is made to overcome barriers to speaking. In this study the benefits of the collective identity for the members of the group ( Quiet Riot) were clear: a more powerful personal identity and self-esteem that led to more courage to speak up and to engage in relations and actions outside the group.”
Thiandi Grooff
FCT is used by increasing numbers of people around the world and with whom there is a growing connection via the internet. A powerful collective voice is emerging and demanding their space to be heard. It is a voice to reckoned with

Joe Whittaker April 2014

With many, many thanks to the great guys at Quiet Riot for putting this together and to Joe-DPAC fully support Quiet Riot and FCT.

This piece has been put together for the European Independent Living Day May 5th created by ENIL to celebrate independent living and to highlight the impact of cuts on independent living- we want to add that those who reject FCT also reject independent living –please add your support

For donations and support for Quiet Riot, FCT or any of the issues mentioned in this piece please contact: whittakerjoe5@gmail.com

For those fighting for inclusive education please contact the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) http://www.allfie.org.uk/

 

Mar 092014
 

Anthony has the label of Autism, he does not use the spoken word but he is able to communicate very effectively through typing on his light writer. Anthony’s struggle for independent living highlights important issues for all disabled people, living in Ireland and Europe who have a human right to independent living as per article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The catalogue of mismanagement and abuse outlined below demands a full and independent enquiry into the unacceptable experiences of Anthony.

For almost three years Anthony (now 26) had his own apartment in Dublin, he had 24hr personal assistance, and he was attending university classes. His support was managed by Cheshire Ireland, who fully accepted and welcomed Anthony’s communication and his voice. Cheshire Ireland managed the funding for support for over two years, which was provided by Health Service Executive of Ireland (HSE).

However, without consultation with Anthony or his Family a new organization took over Anthony’s support arrangements Áiseanna Tacaíochta Network (ATN) This organization was imposed upon Anthony and his family by HSE.

ATN did not accept Anthony’s communication, which caused a breakdown of Anthony’s support arrangements, including the Director informing Anthony’s parents that he had completed the necessary forms to have Anthony’s personal disability benefits paid into ATN accounts; this was without consent or consultation with Anthony or his family. As a result Anthony’s personal disability allowance was suspended. (Leaving Anthony without his own money for 10 months). After six months of ATN management the director had a private meeting with HSE to recommend Anthony goes into residential institution for further assessments.

Anthony and his family opposed such a retrograde step. At the same time ATN took the bizarre step of refusing to renew the rental agreement on Anthony’s accommodation, which resulted in Anthony being made homeless. He therefore had no meaningful choice but to accept the residential assessment at Redwood Centre, Stamullen in Ireland.

Within days at Redwood Anthony was put on antipsychotic medication and taken off his important gluten and diary free diet, against the strong protest of himself and his family, and against medical advice of Anthony’s own doctor (GP). Redwood ignored these representations. A few days later Anthony was admitted as an emergency patient from Redwood to a general hospital having had a series of nine seizures. Anthony had never experienced seizures prior to being admitted to Redwood.

Redwood also refused to accept Anthony’s communication needs and after several months, still on the same medication Anthony was refused the right to attend his own case conference at Redwood by Redwood senior staff and by HSE.

Anthony was removed from Redwood in December 2013, but is now at another institution, as the option of moving back into his old accommodation is no longer available to him due to the actions of ATN.

Redwood has refused to comment on Anthony experience whilst at Redwood.

HSE has refused to comment upon Anthony’s experience at Redwood.

ATN has refused to comment on Anthony’s experience at Redwood or their actions.

All involved appear to deny responsibility for any of the severe impacts on Anthony’s life or the removal of his right to live independently through their actions.

Anthony and his family want a full and independent enquiry into the unnecessary and unacceptable actions leading to this total abuse of Anthony’s human rights.

Important Questions for the Health Service Executive:

1. Why did the HSE change Anthony’s support arrangements to ATN without consultation with Anthony or his family, prior to those arrangements being completed?

2. Why did the HSE allow ATN to take over the management of Anthony’s support arrangement when ATN had not consulted with Anthony of his family?

3. Why did the HSE allow ATN to stop Anthony’s personal disability allowance without any consultation with Anthony of his parents?

4. Why did the HSE allow ATN to end the rental contract of Anthony’s accommodation without Anthony’s or his family’s permission?

5. Why did the HSE accept the recommendations of ATN, for Anthony for residential assessment when ATN failed to discuss such a recommendations with Anthony or his family?

6. Why did the HSE allow Redwood to administer Antipsychotic medication and remove his gluten and dairy free diet to Anthony without his permission and against the advice of Anthony’s own family doctor and parents?

7. Why did the HSE not explain to Anthony or his family why he was admitted as an emergency patient to the general hospital?

8. Why did the HSE refuse to allow Anthony to attend his own Case Conference at Redwood?

Joe Whittaker

Whittakerjoe5@gmail.com

Friend of Anthony

Please email Joe with messages of support to pass on to Anthony, or if you can help in any way please contact Joe.

Reposted from European Network for Independent Living (ENIL) website with thanks http://www.enil.eu/news/anthony-kletzander-abuse-of-human-rights-dublin-ireland/

 

Nov 252013
 

Independent Living Rights News (25/11/2013)

 

 

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM ITALY:

 

Significant Independent Living Rights Victory In Face Of Harsh Austerity

 

On 21 November, the ‘Comitato 16 Novembre Onlus’, which is led by severely disabled people, finally secured a long-term commitment from the Italian government that more than 300 million Euros will be invested annually in personal assistance support for disabled people living in the community following a campaign of direct action.

 

  • Interview in Italian with Mariangela Lamanna, the Comitato’s Vice President, immediately after their victory:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/21/malati-sla-letta-ripristinati-i-fondi-comitato-16-novembre-e-stata-durissima/254670/#disqus_thread

 

  • Protest held in Rome on 20 November 2013:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/20/sit-in-malati-di-sla-manifestante-si-stacca-il-respiratore-non-mi-importa-di-morire/254489/

 

 

1. Pam Duncan

 

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan, who is also an Independent Living Fund user, continues to campaign for the Labour Party’s nomination for the forthcoming Falkirk by-election. The selection meeting is on 8 December.

 

The Disability News Service has published an interview with Pam at:

 

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/disabled-activist-could-become-first-mp-to-use-independent-living-fund/

 

And you can see videos of Pam speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference in April and talking about her life as a disabled person and personal assistance user at:

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EAonqvZt5oA&feature=c4-feed-u

 

http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/pam-duncans-story-so-far

 

More info at:

 

http://pamduncan.com

 

 

2. Leading Labour Politician Comments On The Independent Living Fund

 

Leading Labour politician Margaret Beckett MP has pointed to the ‘extra burdens’ the closure of the ILF would place on local authorities.

 

In the Derby Telegraph (15/11/13) she wrote: “Just a year after we all applauded the brilliant sportsmen and women who competed in the Paralympics, many more people with disabilities….will be affected if the Government closes the Independent Living Fund.”

 

“That fund was set up when the Tory Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was cutting benefits for people with the most serious disabilities. The Independent Living Fund was set up in part to compensate for the withdrawal of those other benefits.”

 

“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s successors, working hand-in-hand with the Liberal Democrats, are trying to remove it. The Coalition claims that councils should then fund the services and support the Independent Living Fund used to provide. This would place substantial extra burdens on councils, already facing massive cuts.”

 

 

3. Independent Living Rights Appeal Court Victory

 

Independent Living Fund users who successfully challenged the government’s decision to close the Fund and the Save the ILF Campaign still do not know if Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will meet with them.

 

Gabriel Pepper, one of the ILF Five involved in the legal challenge who is from Waltham Forest in North London, has previously been helped by Ian Duncan Smith to secure vital health treatment when in 2001 he made representations to the Labour health minister Alan Milburn on Gabriel’s behalf.

 

http://www.yellowad.co.uk/News.cfm?id=39423&headline=GABRIEL%20IS%20DISABLED%20FUNDING%20SAVIOUR

 

Below are links to the full Appeal Court judgement in the ILF Five legal case, and the solicitors Press Release and Briefing Note:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1345.html&query=bracking&method=boolean

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_press_release-final.pdf

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_BRIEFING_NOTE-06.11.13.pdf

 

A ‘Legal briefing on the decision in the ILF appeal’ has been produced by Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who acted for three of the claimants. This contains important legal advice about the Court of Appeal judgement and the legal issues the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministers must now confront.

 

http://www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk/news/news_docs/536648%20ILF%20appeal%20legal%20briefing%20note%20LW%20Nov%202013.pdf

 

 

4. Facebook

 

As well as following the Facebook group of Disabled People Against Cuts, some disabled people active in the ILF campaign that supported the ILF legal case share information through the “Because We R Worth It!” Independent Living Facebook group.

 

 

5. Interesting Articles

 

  • Sunil Peck’s report in ‘Disability Now’ of the upbeat meeting of 120 disabled activists and allies in London on 19 November that was held to celebrate the launch of Disability History Month. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’:

 

http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independence-key-disability-history-month

 

  • An article about the ILF Five’s Appeal Court victory by Rachel Salmon for the ‘Women’s Views On News’ site which features an interview with leading activist Sue Elsegood:

 

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/living-not-just-surviving/

 

  • An article by Mark Wilson of ProMove commenting on the calls for Esther McVey to resign:

 

http://www.promove.uk.com/blog/esther-mcvey-resignation-calls-will-do-little-to-help-disabled-people/

 

 

6. All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG)

 

The next meeting of the APPDG is on 9 December, and Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will be attending. In its report ‘Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis’ that was published jointly with the Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group in May 2013, the APPDG adopted the following position towards the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund:

 

“The Government should acknowledge disabled people’s concerns about the closure of the Independent Living Fund and work more closely with them to manage the closure for the 20,000 affected.”

 

The Appeal Court’s decision to quash Esther McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund provides an opportunity for the APPDG to reflect on its position towards the ILF and decide whether or not to call for a long-term future for the Fund.

 

 

7. Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning’s Comments On The ILF

 

Last week, Welsh MP Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru tabled an ‘oral question’ on 18 November for Mike Penning about the future of the Independent Living Fund. The text below is from Hansard:

 

 

Hansard

 

“Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What plans he has for the future of the independent living fund.

 

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): We will consider the Court of Appeal judgment carefully and will announce plans in due course.

 

Hywel Williams: I declare an interest, in that my brother is enabled to live independently in his own community by the ILF, and I am extremely grateful that that opportunity is afforded to him. Will the Minister assure the House that when the Government come to consider their future plans, there will be full consultation this time with disabled people and disability groups in Wales, the regions of England, and Scotland, and specifically with the Welsh Government?

 

Mike Penning: I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman, but the conclusions of the Court of Appeal were nothing to do with consultation. It was a process issue, in that the Court felt that the Minister had not been given enough information, based on the information that was put in writing. The Court went on to say that there was evidence that the Minister [Esther McVey] ‘consulted personally with many affected groups’ and it had ‘no doubt that evidence of hard cases would have been forcefully drawn to her attention.’ That is what the Court ruled. It had nothing to do with consultation.”

 

 

Comment:

 

Hywel Williams is the brother of an ILF user, therefore any comments he makes as an MP on this issue have the added force of being from an advocate for the interests and needs of his brother and other disabled people. By raising the veracity of the consultation, he is reflecting the disquiet among disability organisations within Wales about the initial consultation process. This disquiet is also shared in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. While the government can argue the Appeal Court ruling means the process followed during the ILF consultation was lawful, ILF users and disabled people’s organisations still have significant concerns about how it was run. Among these is the failure to publish an equality impact assessment before the consultation started, and the inability of disabled people and family carers to bring important issues and the potentially detrimental implications of the ILF’s closure to the surface.

 

In his response, Mike Penning emphasised strongly in his tone that Esther McVey’s decision to close the ILF was based on insufficient written information. This could be a reference to the DWP’s limited written interim analysis of the consultation responses that was completed on the Wednesday following the consultation deadline at midnight on Friday 12 October 2012.

 

Mike Penning’s reference to Esther McVey’s meetings with disability organisations, where it is assumed examples of ‘hard cases’ would have been raised with her in the run-up to her closure decision, is possibly an attempt to argue that at the time of the decision McVey was actually fully aware of the consequences of closure. This could be a response to some of the points made in the Appeal Court ruling and might mean a possible approach by the DWP and government would be to argue all that is needed to get back on course is a review of the ‘documentary evidence’.

 

An alternative reading might be the government is trying to put distance between McVey and the DWP’s consultation analysis to find a way of back-tracking politically. Given that the Appeal Court ruled the consultation process was lawful, this would be difficult to achieve as it would mean acknowledging the DWP’s approach to ILF users and their families during the consultation was wrong.

 Posted by at 20:37
Sep 292013
 

Dear all,

During DPAC’s recent week of action we were supported by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) who held a solidarity protest outside the British Consulate in Toronto.

We’ve now been approached for help and messages of support for their week of action staring October 14th as the Ontario government is planning to impose cuts to disability benefits similar to the attacks disabled people are facing in the UK.

John from OCAP says “Unlike the UK, where the Liberal Party lost it place in the front ranks sometime after Lloyd George went to his reward, the Liberals in Canada have remained a dominant party all along.  They are hanging on in Ontario as a minority government and would like to be middle of the road but the austerity agenda won’t let them.  They are preparing at attack on disability benefits but are frantic to make it look kinder and gentler. That’s why comparing them to Cameron’s regime is so important and quite valid. That’s why support statements from the UK and people fighting back there are so incredibly helpful to us.”

Please take a few minutes from what I know are busy days for all of you to send a message of support for their fight back to ocap@tao.ca

Many thanks

Linda and DPAC team 

THREAT TO DISABILITY BENEFITS IN ONTARIO POSED BY MERGER OR OW AND ODSP

   Many people living on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have strong and

well founded concerns about the possibility of regressive ‘reforms’ to that system.  While the Wynne Government has made no official announcements as yet, the warning signs are very clear that disabled people on social assistance are going to be facing an austerity driven challenge to their rights and incomes.

The first thing to note is that an attack on social benefits for disabled people seems to be a strategic priority for the architects of austerity at the present time.  In the US, media and politicians are claiming that federal disability benefit applications are rising due to unemployed people making bogus claims so as to enjoy higher incomes than could be obtained through jobless benefits.  The newly elected right wing Abbott Government in Australia can also be expected to make an attack on disability benefits a major part of its program.

However, at the present time, it is the Cameron Government in the UK that can perhaps be seen as the cutting edge of a socially regressive drive to attack disabled people and their right of access to social benefit systems.  Cameron, through his Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has intensified a previously existing Work Capability Assessment under which people who are sick or disabled are interviewed and graded as to their ‘fitness to work’.  The system has been modified so that private companies handle the actual assessment process.  Most notorious of these is the French company, Atos Healthcare.  The nature of this privatised assessment process is quite appalling.  People with terminal illnesses, serious impairments and progressive conditions have been deemed ‘fit to work’ regardless of medical evidence and common decency.  A hidden camera, taken into an Atos training session, shows a supervisor indicating that the standards for ‘manual dexterity’ will be met if someone can use a computer keyboard with one finger.  So extreme and reckless has this whole process been that a staggering 10,000 a year are dying within six weeks of being declared ‘fit to work’.

The nature of what is occurring in the UK leads us to rethink what is meant by an austerity agenda.  It appears to be moving beyond simply restricting or reducing entitlements and taking the form or outright social abandonment regardless of the human cost.  Given this situation, we must consider the implications for right here in Ontario.

The Hudak Tories are quite open about their intention to eliminate ODSP but we should not disregard the danger posed by the less candid Liberals.  The Wynne Government may have maintained the rhetoric of ‘poverty reduction’ but its orientation and actions to date can leave little room to hope that it intends to break with the pattern of regressive austerity as it fashions a version of ‘social assistance reform’ for this Province.  The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance that the Liberals established, proposes that Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP be merged and delivered at the municipal level.  More than this, however, it seeks to redefine the basic nature of providing income support to disabled people.  Under its model, everything would be defined in terms of employability.  The process of reassessing people would be stepped up and ‘employer’s councils’ work to push disabled people into competing for jobs.

While the report is careful to couch everything in the language of ‘disability rights’, it pays scant attention to the context in which it advocates pushing people into employment.  The low wage sector in Ontario has swollen massively in recent years. The minimum wage has been frozen for three years and most poor people in the Province actually subsist on low wages.  A ‘reform’ model that simply assumes that employed poverty is inherently a better option is massively problematic.  To take a whole new population of people and force them to compete for precarious, low paying jobs can only worsen the situation.  Moreover, the example of what is unfolding in the UK and the situation facing injured workers here leads us to conclude that the likelihood is that many would be declared able to work in disregard of their actual ability to obtain employment.  The WSIB in Ontario is already operating along lines very similar to Cameron’s DWP by way of an assessment process for injured workers that routinely ‘deems’ people capable of performing work they have no realistic chance of obtaining.  There seems little reason to expect that a redesigned system of social assistance for the disabled would chart any very different course.

The international austerity agenda is targeting disabled people and their social benefits and that approach is looming before us in Ontario.  We need to be aware of this and organize in our communities to build an effective opposition to all such measures.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 17:41
Jul 152013
 

logo ” It is essential that disabled women are represented in processes like CEDAW reporting as too often our experience as disabled women is invisible, this is an opportunity to change this and show how the cuts and legal changes are affecting us”

says Zara Todd, Sisters of Frida steering group member.

For the first time, disabled women (Sisters of Frida) will take part with other women’s groups from the UK in Geneva to address the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) so as to highlight the problems impacting on women’s equality in the UK and what our Government must be examined on, and held to account over, by the UN. This is a unique opportunity for women to raise the key issues they are facing with the UN and the eyes of the world will be on the UK and their progress on women.

On July 17th the UK’s record on women’s rights will come under the spotlight internationally as the UK Government report to CEDAW on their progress. (They were last examined by the UN Committee in 2008. )

Women’s rights in the UK have come to a standstill and in fact some are being reversed. Government policies and austerity measures are disproportionately impacting on disabled women and the rights that were fought so hard by disabled people for are now being reduced. CEDAW is as an important instrument to disabled women as CRPD is important to disabled people and they are inter related.

The Women’s Resource Centre has coordinated a network of organisations across the UK who have produced a detailed shadow report which reflects on the Government’s report to CEDAW which was submitted in 2011. In October 2012 the CEDAW Working Group sent a list of key issues and suggested questions for the Committee to ask the Government to highlight the extent of discrimination against women in the UK which the Government gave a piecemeal response to in February 2013.

The shadow report – Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check – brings together issues impacting on the realisation of women’s rights under CEDAW in the UK in order to support the Government to make positive changes in the future.  These are the recommendations put forth in the shadow report on disabled women’s rights

  • Take into account the intersection of gender and disability and mainstream disabled women in all Government policies
  • Implement an effective data collection system which is disaggregated by sex, age, disability and region, which can inform the developmentof policies and programmes to promote equal opportunities forwomen and girls with disabilities
  • Specific strategies are needed to target disabled LBT women as they experience multiple discrimination through homophobia within disabled communities and services, and negative attitudes to disabled people in LGB&T communities and services

On health and social care

  • Take steps to address the poor health conditions of women withpsychosocial disabilities. Disabled women typically receive healthservices that are targeted at women in general or at disabled people in general, services need to be targeted specifically for them
  • Improving access to mental health services for disabled women must be accomplished by services that respect the right of disabled womento make their own choices, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Allocate more financial resources to Social Service Departments,requiring them to use the interpretations of the social model of disability when assessing disabled people’s support needs for a ‘care package’
  • Ensure women and girls with disabilities are educated about sexual and reproductive health, including Sexually Transmitted Infections and maternal services and adopt reforms to improve healthcare services and facilities, including in respect of sexual and reproductive health

Political and public life

  • Educate media about the discrimination disabled people experience, and encourage them to report the ‘real’ stories including monitoringthe portrayal of women with disabilities in the media alongside industry self-regulation
  • The UK Government should offer extra support for disabled womenwho want to become MPs, councilors or other elected officials totackle their under-representation in public policy

Economic and social benefits

  • Simplify the application process to the benefits system. Most importantly, the system should recognise that disabled people are experts on their needs and the difficulties they face. The benefits should allow for them to remove the barriers they experience on a daily basis

Disability hate crime and violence against disabled women

  •  Ensure steps are taken to address the heightened risk for girls and women with disabilities of becoming victims of violence, abuse,exploitation and harmful practices, such as forced marriage, in thehome, community and institutions
  • Effective legislation and policies must be put in place, including Women – focused legislation and policies that include disability, to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against women with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted
  • Ensure that both services and information for victims are madeaccessible to women and girls with disabilities which guarantee their access to redress and protection, including training of police and others and increasing the number of accessible domestic abuse refuge services

Rural women

  •  Increase accessibility in public transport, and train bus/train staff to assist disabled women travelers

We believe that the way the UK Government is implementing welfare reform is having a significant and vastly disproportionate effect on disabled women. These policies on welfare reform are failing to ensure the rights of disabled women and impact assessments are not carried out properly resulting in erosion of the rights which they currently have. The regression of human rights being conducted against UK citizens in the name of welfare has a disproportionate and exponential impact on disabled people. The changes to legal aid means that disabled women have no recourse to support against the discriminations further compounded by gender, race, sexual orientation, the class system, and underlying social deprivation,”

says Eleanor Lisney, Co-ordinator of Sisters of Frida, together with the Glasgow Disability Alliance (who also submitted a report to CEDAW )

The Appendix 36: General Recommendation 18 – Disabled women is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2.pdf (PDF)

Word doc Appendix-36_General-Recommendation-18_Disabled-women_FINAL2

The full shadow report Women’s Equality in the UK: A health check is at http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/our-work/cedaw/cedaw-shadow-report/

For more information or interviews contact Zara Todd : zaraltodd@hotmail.com 0044 (0) 07952185958 and follow @FridasSisters (twitter), information about other groups from

Women Resource Centre Policy Officer Charlotte Gage,  charlotte@wrc.org.uk or charlotte.gage.uk@gmail.com 0044 (0) 7841508231 @womnsresource

Notes to editors

Sisters of Frida (sisofrida.org) is an experimental co operative of disabled and allied women seeking a new way of sharing experiences, mutual support and relationships with different networks.

The delegation to Geneva is made up of a variety of women’s organisations from around the UK who will be highlighting specific issues relevant to their work and the women they work with as well as bringing issues from organisations in the UK who are unable to attend.

Members of the delegation include:

  • Committee on the Administration of Justice (Northern Ireland)
  • Engender (Scotland)
  • National Alliance of Women’s Organisations
  • North East Women’s Network
  • Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform
  • Older Women’s Network Europe
  • Sisters of Frida
  • Southall Black Sisters
  • Wales Assembly of Women
  • Women’s Resource Centre

There are also representatives from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission attending to provide evidence in their roles as National Human Rights Institutions.

 

 

 

Jun 042013
 

Riot police wielding batons beat and dragged disabled workers in the Egyptian provincial town of Zagazig last week. Hundreds of disabled people who are employed by the Education Department in Sharqiyya province on poverty pay are continuing their sit-in on the steps of the local government buildings despite the attack.

 

Umran al-Khalifa, a law graduate who works as a teacher said: “The sit-in is because we have only temporary contracts. The government of Kamal al-Ganzouri made a decision in 2011 to offer disabled employees like us permanent jobs across the country, but the new local governor has refused to implement the decision.” Umran believes that the change of policy reflects the priorities of the new administration in Cairo. He added “the deputy told me, ‘if you join our party, I’ll make sure you get a permanent job.”

 

Between 100 and 250 disabled workers are taking part in the protest, sleeping out in tents on the steps of the governors’ offices. 

 

The riot police moved in to try and end the sit-in late last week, another activist, Fatima Musa Halim added. “We were just sitting there peacefully when we were attacked. Some thugs came and broke things and said we caused the damage. Then the Central Security Forces troops hit me and they dragged us away from the sit-in. We can’t survive on our wages, as prices are so high, but we are paid only 70 Egyptian pounds a month (7 UK pounds)

 

Mohammed, an administrator in the Sharqiyya Education department, sums up the mood of many on the sit-in: “I want to put the Minister of the Interior to trial for what the police did to us.” He also says he is frustrated and angry with the official representatives of disabled people, who have done nothing to help him and his colleagues in the fight for basic dignity. “The head of the National Council for People with Special Needs should resign. We have no confidence in this organisation.” 

 

Six of the protesters began a hunger strike on Sunday. Mahmud Manazm and Samah Attiyya spoke to reporters by phone from inside the governor’s office. “There are six of us inside,” said Mahmud. “Some of us have heart disease, some high blood pressure. We want the world to know that the Egyptian police attacked disabled people, beat them on the head and dragged them in the street.” 

 

“No one is listening to us” added Samah, “There is no freedom and no democracy here.” 

 

Youth activists from Zagazig’s revolutionary groups, including the Revolutionary Socialists, Egyptian Democratic Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance and the Constitution Party visited the sit-in with messages of support and food. Revolutionary activists were also planning to bring some of the protesters to Cairo for a press conference to get their message out to a wider audience. 

 DPAC have sent a message of support and solidarity to the workers

 

Apr 022012
 

In Geneva today (2nd April), Dr Pauline Nolan, Policy Officer for Inclusion Scotland, will submit evidence to a preliminary hearing ahead of a planned review of the human rights record of 14 states, including the UK.

On behalf of the Campaign for A Fair Society – a coalition of more than 70 Scottish charities – Dr Nolan will warn the cumulative impact of welfare reform and cuts to benefits affecting disabled people will mean their ability to live a full life is impaired. In particular, she will argue that welfare changes undermine their right to be included in the community.

The campaign also claims disabled people are being denied access to justice when they try to appeal against these cuts to their benefits.

Dr Nolan said she aimed to equip the UN with a series of recommendations and questions to put to the UK Government when its representatives appear in front of the Human Rights Council in May.

She added: “Disability organisations, disabled people and the Parliament’s own Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that these cuts will have a devastating cumulative impact on the livelihoods of disabled people.

“Further cuts are taking place to local authority services they receive. Taken together, all these cuts are severely undermining the human rights of disabled people.”

She claims half of the £18 billion of cuts to be made under welfare reform will fall on households containing disabled people, adding: “These cuts will push hundreds of thousands of disabled people and their families into poverty and thousands will be made homeless.”

Jim Elder-Woodward, of the Independent Living in Scotland project, said: “I am really pleased that Dr Nolan is going to Geneva to tell the UN just how this Coalition Government is systematically undermining the rights of disabled people by cutting their benefits and services.

“The combined voices of disabled people have either been silenced or misrepresented by the UK Government in their resolution to make disabled people suffer over 50% of the total £18bn in benefit cuts.”

Norma Curran, of Values Into Action Scotland, added: “These welfare reforms are devastating people’s lives. It’s not acceptable to challenge the human rights of people on the grounds of race, sex, language, or religion, so why does the UK Government think that it is acceptable to breach the human rights of disabled people?”


Stephen Naysmith – Herald Scotland

 

Feb 262012
 

Many thanks to Dario Kenner for allowing us to repost his blog here. We salute   disabled protestors in Bolivia! Solidarity!

24 February 2012

After 100 days and nearly 1,600 km around 100 disabled people arrived in La Paz yesterday demanding social benefits from the Bolivian state. They endured tropical heat, heavy rains and hailstorms on their march from the Amazonian city of Trinidad, via Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, to La Paz in the western highlands (map).

The Plurinational Assembly (Congress and Senate) is in the process of approving a Preferential Treatment Law that will give disabled people a social benefit of 1,000 Bolivianos a year (about US$146 / £93). The marchers have repeatedly said this is not enough and should be 3,000 Bolivianos a year (about US$437 / £278). However, not all disabled people agree with the demands of the march and in the city of Oruro they have accepted the figure of 1,000 Bolivianos which the government says will benefit 13,000 disabled people this year.

Yesterday afternoon the marchers tried to force their way into the main square in La Paz, location of the government palace. A government spokesperson condemned the violence and claimed there were groups present who provoked the clashes leaving 20 police injured. Bolivian media reports the police used tear gas and pepper spray. At least 10 people with disabilities were injured. The Ombudsman office said the marcher´s rights were abused and there was evidence they had been injured.

Last night the marchers had setup a vigil outside the main square (Plaza Murillo) and say they will go on hunger strike until their proposal for a law is approved.

Photos of the march arriving and clashes with police http://www.flickr.com/photos/49277734@N05/sets/72157629079961756

More information in Spanish: La Razón, Página Siete, Agencia Boliviana de Información.

Background information in English: The Guardian 11 January 2012.

[Below is an interview I did with one of the leaders of the march. Whilst this interview gives the point of view of the marchers it hopefully gives an insight into why there was a march and what it is like to be a disabled person in Bolivia  – Dario Kenner]

Interview: José Luis Lupa, Coordinator Disabled People of Cochabamba

Why did you march?

Police block disabled people from entering Plaza Murillo (credit: Dario Kenner)

Police block disabled people from entering Plaza Murillo (credit: Dario Kenner)

The march began on 15 November 2011. I have been marching since 10 January from Villa Tunari. Before that I was at the vigil in Cochabamba. The march began with 17 people and 128 have arrived in La Paz.

Originally we were demanding 3,000 Bolivianos a year. But now we have lost patience we are demanding for those in a really bad condition 5,000 Bolivianos, then in a bad condition 4,000 Bolivianos and for those in moderate condition 3,000 Bolivianos. But this is still to be discussed with the government.

For this year President Morales has said there will be 1,000 Bolivianos for those in a really bad or bad condition. You know that in your country disabled people have many social benefits. What we are demanding here is nothing if you think about costs like a wheelchair, transport, medicine, therapy. This does not factor in food, housing etc.

In our proposal for a law we are demanding that we receive our pension early because many people with disabilities do not live long enough to receive it. We should get it at 40 years for a women and 45 for a man instead of at 60.

We want social security for all disabled people, to not give it to all would be discriminatory. We want the government to guarantee we will all receive it from 2013 but President Morales has not done this so we carried on marching. The government started paying 1,000 Bolivianos on Wednesday to try and get people to leave our march.

What were the conditions like? How did you and your fellow marchers make it all the way to La Paz?

The 17 who started thought the government would not let them march more than three days. But after three, four, five days, two weeks there was still nothing from the government. We depended on the people. Sometimes when we passed through place the people had nothing but they shared their only glass of water with tears in their eyes. Or people gave us things as they passed us in their cars. Sometimes there was not enough food, we just had water and biscuits. But some people didn´t give us anything, they said this march is political, but it has never been like that. Where did we get the strength from? We have waited for four years for this government to act.

Representatives from the United Nations, the Ombudsmen and human rights organisations came to visit us. We sent them back. Why? Because instead of visiting us with their donations we told them they should be lobbying the Bolivian government to resolve our situation. The Ombudsmen promised us Plaza Murillo (main square in La Paz) would not be closed for when we arrived.

When we got closer to La Paz and started getting to the highlands some communities shouted at us, people who are more allied with the MAS (ruling Movement Towards Socialism party). We were furious when we got to one community after going through heavy rains, hailstorms and frosts and they rejected us. We got to El Alto at 2am in the morning, it was freezing. On our way down into La Paz many people welcomed us.

March by disabled people gets to La Paz (credit: Dario Kenner)

March by disabled people gets to La Paz (credit: Dario Kenner)

What happened today when you arrived? What did you see?

When we were half a kilometre from the Plaza Murillo our main leaders said to everyone “hold on, we are going to be peaceful and not violent, we are just people who want to go around the square and say we do not want the law because it will not help disabled people, we want our law that guarantees the social security for 2013, that´s it.” Then we were going to go somewhere else and rest. That was our mission, for our law, not the governments law, to be approved.

Yesterday the Vice President and the Ombudsmen said the square would be open. We were four blocks away. We wanted to enter. Then the clash started. Us against them. Them against us. We got through the first police cordon but could not get through the second because there were a lot more police. For me the main question is: Why are they scared? Why do they block the square? Is Morales spending the money on himself that is meant to be for us? (video of clashes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T44cpuS2spM)

Articles 70,71 and 72 of the Bolivian Constitution set out that the state must give direct benefits to disabled people. Also there is the International Convention of Disabled People, Law 1678, and Supreme Decree 2487. There are many norms that benefit disabled people but none have been applied, they are just bits of paper.

The government says we are unproductive and are no use to the country. But why do they do not give us the opportunity to show if we have a value or not? In Europe, as you know, disabled people are great engineers and have great potential. Why can´t we do that here? We just want the chance to study and do training. But we don´t have that opportunity in Bolivia.

Source : http://boliviadiary.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/march-by-disabled-people-gets-to-la-paz/

Sep 092011
 

Crippencartoons blogs…

“Atos Origin, the french owned company who undertake the ‘work capability assessment’ for the UK government have spread their tentacles still further into the world of disabled people.

Already a ‘worldwide partner’ of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Atos founder and former chair Bernard Bourigeaud, has now been invited to join the IPC as a member of the Governing Board.

Bourigeaud, a non-disabled person who now runs his own consulting company, will take his place alongside the 14 other members of the Governing Board with immediate effect and therefore be part of the body primarily responsible for the implementation of policies and direction of the Paralympic Movement.

Bob Williams Findlay, a spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) commented:

“The chief agent of people’s oppression currently in the UK is Atos, and whilst I fully understand the outrage over the appointment of Bernard Bourigeaud as a co-opted member of the Governing Board of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), I can’t say I’m surprised … whilst western capitalist states may be slashing their welfare budgets, global corporations such as Atos, continue to exploit the potential markets surrounding medicine, ill health and disability.”

Black Triangle, another anti-cuts organisation of disabled people based in Scotland have called for a boycott of the Paralympics. John McArdle, Black Triangle’s facilitator told me:

“In a recent survey by Scope, 64% of all respondents said that they see the Paralympics as an opportunity for disabled people. We agree; it is an opportunity for grassroots disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to UNITE TOGETHER and BOYCOTT this event!”

You can read more what John has to say about this on the Black Triangle web site.

Please click here to access the Black Triangle web site.”

To read Crippsencartoons blog go to: http://crippencartoons.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/the-spread-of-atos-tentacles/

 Posted by at 17:27
Aug 162011
 

Iain Duncan Smith was reported today at The Broken of Britain blog as having used the accessible loo at a Covent Garden studio causing a disabled person to have to wait in some pain. While that was undoubtedly an embarrassing moment for him it looks  that he was not overly welcomed when he was down under either.

Iain Duncan Smith photo supplied

Simon Collins from NZ Herald called him “UK hatchet man:

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader and now a Cabinet minister, is speaking at the Maxim Institute’s annual Sir John Graham Lecture at the Heritage Hotel.

Ms Bradford, a former Green MP, said Mr Duncan Smith’s “horrendously damaging” welfare reforms in Britain, which include cutting housing benefits for thousands of low-income families, inspired many of the proposals by economist Paula Rebstock’s Welfare Working Group in NZ. Government decisions on the Rebstock report are expected before this year’s election.

Hilary Stace asked :

Why is he visiting and why should New Zealanders to be vigilant about his message? The answer is that the New Zealand government is about to drive through similar welfare ‘reforms’, otherwise known as cuts, following the work of its Welfare Working Group which was appointed in 2010. The WWG reported on 22 February 2011, an hour before the destructive Christchurch earthquake. The signs weren’t good.

Many of us have been watching with horror as the welfare ‘reforms’ have been rolled out in Britain. The  justification is that there is something evil called ‘welfare dependency’ that many poor and disabled people and single parents suffer from, and which can only be cured by paid work, preferably fulltime.

Mr Duncan Smith expressed his underlying assumption for this policy – that welfare dependency leads to ‘worklessness’ (not the other way around). But I suggest there are two basic things missing in this equation: the role of the government to create jobs; and the role of the state in ensuring the dignity of all its citizens. He did not apologise for, or even acknowledge, the role of neoliberal policies under Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher which destroyed industries and millions of jobs. Yet he claimed that one million people will be lifted out of poverty by these reforms.

These assumptions are underpinned by an absolute belief in the moral good of paid work and the lack of value of any other kind of work including voluntary work or child rearing. The Tory minister said that it is very important for the child of a single mother to see his/her mother go off to paid work every day as that would normalise ‘work’ for the child. The only unresolved question, he suggested, is what age that should happen. In New Zealand proposals the child could be as young as 14 months. In Britain it is five years old.

When a member of the audience asked about creating work he replied with a sigh that he thought we had moved beyond that question. He said it is the private sector’s job to make jobs and the state’s only role is to make things easy for the private sector to do that. He claimed that the private sector had created half a million jobs in the last year but – wait for it – British people didn’t want them so they had gone to ‘immigrants’. So if the hundreds of thousands of unemployed British people are ungrateful and lazy, what does that say about disabled people?

For disabled people in Britain currently on welfare the first step out of ‘dependency’ is an assessment for ‘workfitness’ (a term that harks back to eugenics). To assess the ‘workfitness’ of disabled people, a private multinational company, Atos,  has been contracted to do a tick box computerised assessment without any contextual information such as mental health or disability history.  Depending on what an individual scores they can be placed in three categories: work fit and ineligible for even basic employment support, work fit with employment support, and not work fit (ie unfit).  It is easy to imagine how aspects of a condition such as autism are overlooked by medical questionnaires which ask questions such as can you walk, or dress yourself. There are incentives such as rewards of additional contracts for the company to push people off the welfare system, and its profits are currently at record levels.  But it seems there have been so many challenges to the insensitive and inaccurate assessments that the system can’t cope.

As well as workfit tests, there are also cuts to other aspects of the welfare system such as allowances for housing, programmes, and disability support including such things as continence supplies. There have been reported suicides, and regular reports of disabled people suffering because, for example, they can’t afford adequate housing and families unable to get supplies for their disabled children.

Mr Duncan Smith has also distorted the concept of social justice, with its implications of equity, inclusion and bottom up social policy, by using it for the name for his own right wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, whose purpose appears to be championing policies to inflict social injustice on the poor and powerless.

It is rare for us here to have the chance to get up so close with someone so powerful, so I listened carefully. After all, there is the equivalent of the population of NZ on welfare in Britain, out of a population of 62 million. He is a very smooth and persuasive talker, obviously clever, and had the look of someone who has been well nurtured with a comfortable life; I suppose you don’t get to be head of the Conservative Party without these attributes. So how can he justify the misery and pain his policies are so clearly causing? He is not evil and is clearly genuine concerned. One of my interests is ethical public policy*; I think that the only way powerful people can inflict such policies on other people is by seeing them as ‘other’ not fully human, or objects of scorn or laziness. Interestingly, in Britain the opponents of these policies have adopted the black triangle  – the Nazi symbol used to classify the  ’workshy’, one of their ‘othering’ labels – as their campaign symbol.

So at question time I asked Mr Duncan Smith whether it worried him that his policies might be hurting real people. He initially didn’t agree, blaming misinformation campaigns and claiming disability groups had asked for these changes, but it clearly needled him. I think this is the way to challenge those whose policies risk hurting and harming other people – as human to human. And we need to keep doing it otherwise inequality and suffering will only increase.

Alternatively,  we can always hope that politicians will actually ask real people for input into policy, and listen to the wisdom that comes from their  lived experience. But not much sign of that happening.

From: http://humans.org.nz/2011/08/02/politician-does-it-worry-you-that-your-policies-hurt-real-people/

We send this to New Zealand campaigners in support of their protest:

Disabled People Against Cuts stands in solidarity with New Zealand campaigners against poverty. As British Government Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith prepares to speak, disabled people in Britain want you to know the dangers of following a British approach to welfare reform and the threat that it represents to your equality, human and civil rights.

The Coalition government which came into power in Britain in May 2010 made rapid and sweeping changes under a welfare to work programme that targets the poorest and the most oppressed in British society. This programme is underpinned by a deliberate ideological policy of removing support from those in the greatest need. Meanwhile so-called austerity measures are disproportionately affecting disabled people. At the same time that local governments are removing support from disabled people, central government is re-assessing the benefits disabled people rely on to survive while imposing arbitrary targets set to reduce the numbers of claimants.

The Condem’s Welfare to Work vision has already costs lives. In June 2010 Paul Reekie, the Scottish author, took his own life. Laid out on the table next to him were 2 letters, one telling him his housing benefit had been stopped and the other telling him his incapacity benefit had been stopped. This is just one example of what is becoming an all too common issue. Senior government officials have acknowledged that the welfare reform programme will cost lives but they see it as an unavoidable consequence of a direction they are determined to pursue. In 2005 the previous government set a target of 2025 by which time disabled people should have equality. Without income, without housing, without support to leave the house or even to use the toilet, this target is completely unreachable. Moreover, government propaganda that paints all benefit claimants as scroungers contributes to existing discrimination against disabled people at a time when hate crime against disabled people is an extremely serious issue and the names and numbers of those killed through prejudice mount up.

Duncan Smith’s Welfare to Work programme does not represent value for money and cannot be excused as a necessary austerity measure. At the same time as a recent report commissioned by the government, found that the Access to Work programme makes a profit for the government of 48p for every £1 spent, the Department for Work and Pensions which runs the programme continued its policy of cutting resources to Access to Work, with the effect of denying support to disabled people trying to get in and stay in mainstream employment. The proposals for removing Disability Living Allowance and replacing it with a system which requires continual review for people with lifelong impairments will require investment at a level which can only be sustained by removing benefits from genuine claimants.

ATOS, a profit-making healthcare company, has been given a 300 million pound contract by the government to carry out work capability assessments on disabled people to review their eligibility for employment and support allowance (previously called incapacity benefit). ATOS works to a target of finding disabled people fit for work and ineligible for the benefit. In order to meet their targets they disregard information from medical professionals, GP’s, consultants and psychiatrists. The advisors look for any reason to remove support. In one example a man with a mobility impairment lived in a flat which was too small for his wheelchair. When at home he uses furniture to get himself around. His ATOS assessment used this as proof that he could manage without a wheelchair. ATOS assessments are notoriously inaccurate. 40% are overturned on appeal and, with representation, that level raises to 70%. In other examples soldiers returning from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with terminal cancer have been declared fit for work.

Money is being spent paying private companies to find ways to declare people fit for work when they are not and to take away benefits from the poorest and most powerless members of society. Rather than being an effective use of money, this is ideological, it is about pushing those people already on the margins of society even further into poverty and obscurity.

In Britain disabled people have not stood by and let this happen. We have mobilised and protested to defend our rights to the support we need to live an equal life. We urge campaigners in New Zealand to resist any attempt by their government to erode fairness and social justice the way ours has.

–Ellen Clifford

Aug 152011
 

Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC) were shocked to learn of the events of 28th July in Sofia, Bulgaria in which members of the Sofia Centre for Independent Living (CIL) were abused by another group of disabled people while protesting against  reductions in the PA scheme for disabled people. Disabled people in Sofia were told by the government that it was ‘not fair’ to allow the same disabled people use the limited funds for employing personal assistants to live independently.

Provision for Personal Assistance Reduced

Unfortunately the system of Personal Assistance (P.A.) Provision in Sofia is not promoting independent living and a better quality of life. An inquiry among PA users proved that most of them ‘improved their social contacts’, ‘INCREASED THE FAMILY INCOME’ and only 3. 7% found a job. In Sofia the PA salaries are most likely to go to family members while the situation of disabled people remains unchanged. The PA scheme budget has doubled over the last 4 years whereas the number of users has grown by a factor of four.  As a result people are receiving fewer and fewer hours to allow for more users.

Disabled people get their PAs for one year and have to be assessed on yearly basis regardless of their situation. The new assessment system involves two stages: a) points based on the individual situation, which determine access to funds; and b) transfer of points into hours (by a panel of experts who will not see the applicant at all), which determine the size of individual funding.

Reductions in PA lead to Confrontation

The issue of reduced support for disabled people to live independently is, sadly, no longer news: it is something that is happening all over Europe. It is no surprise that there have been protests all over Europe by disabled people. What is a surprise is when those protesting for their rights are confronted and mistreated by another disabled peoples’ group.

In this case CIL – Sofia, an organisation highly respected throughout the European Independent Living Movement were confronted by other disabled people from the National Disability Council: an umbrella organisation of well subsidised Disabled Peoples’ Groups.

On one of the hottest days of the year supporters of CIL – Sofia were left reeling from the opposition demonstrated by the National Disability Council (NDC) members against them.

In addition, Sofia CIL were left waiting outside the government building from 9:00am to 5:00pm in intense heat while the NCD were invited inside by the local government officials to see the results of the Metropolitan Council voting.

Kapka Panayotova, the founder and CEO of CIL – Sofia, said

“Police officers who were providing the security measures for our protest were shocked… They couldn’t believe it was happening!”

NCD supported the key notion of the local politicians in Sofia: each year different disabled people should enjoy PA support; access to the scheme with the number of hours awarded dependent on the employment/schooling status of the applicant for PA not on the daily needs alone. In fact, the PA scheme in Sofia will become a tool for employment, not for better quality of life or independent living.

A couple of weeks before the action a monitoring report on the performance of the National Council on the Integration of Disabled People (NCIDP) dominated by national Groups was made public. It was conducted by a consortium of advocacy NGOs – Institute for Modern Politics (IMP), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and Bulgarian Centre for Non-Profit Law (BCNL), it showed that:

(1)  The NCIDP does not operate in line with the ‘good governance’ principles;

(2)  Six out of its nine functions are not performed at all; the remaining 3 are partially performed;

(3)  The NCIDP and its member groups are being subsidised in a non-transparent and unaccountable way, which takes them away from the status of ‘independent’ organisations;

(4)  Despite the consultative process between the government and NCIDP, Bulgarian policies are not inclusive and far behind European human rights standards.

NDC the umbrella of the impairment based Groups and the European Disability Forum

This is not the kind of group most would want representing their interests. It seems that they may not be representing the interests of disabled people at all, but those of the government in agreeing with cuts in return for continued subsidies.

What is even more shocking is that NDC are the spokespeople for Bulgaria at the European Disability Forum (EDF): a large organisation set up to be ‘The Representative Organisation of Persons with Disabilities in Europe’ and ‘the frontrunners for Disability Rights’. We are not sure if EDF are aware of the behaviour of their member organisation or their activities, but would like to draw it to their attention and ask them if they agree with it.

DPAC condemns all cuts to funds to help disabled people live independently according to the framework of the European Convention of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

DPAC also condemns disabled peoples’ groups that abuse other disabled people fighting for independent living and disabled peoples’ rights.

We welcome comments from both NDC and the EDF on this issue. We urge all to help them and Sofia Metropolitan Council understand that independent living rights extend beyond education and employment to day to day living as recognised by article 19 in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Call for Action

Contact the Sofia Metropolitan Council on why the PA scheme should be used as a tool for independent living rather than exclusively supporting employment and study and on their behaviour towards Sofia CIL

http://sofiacouncil.bg/ (Bulgarian only) or debbie@dpac.uk.net

Contact EDF to register your thoughts on the actions of the Bulgarian NDC at

Face book http://www.facebook.com/EuropeanDisabilityForumEDF

Twitter @MyEDF

Email info@edf-feph.org

——-Debbie Jolly

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