Sunday, 4 December 2011
I sail, I fly gliders, I go white-water rafting. I did draw the line at jumping off a mountain (even with parascending chute attached), but there are few things I won’t try if given the opportunity. I’m also that proverbial forty-something, middle-class, white guy who is least at risk of anything of any part of the population. And yet in the past fifteen years or so I’ve been physically assaulted once, had one false accusation of benefit fraud and been verbally abused about once every year to 18 months (and I don't actually get out that much). You wouldn’t think I was an obvious target, all of the attacks have been in broad daylight on well travelled streets, and in the main I’ve been taller and heftier built than most of my abusers, not really someone you would attach the label ‘vulnerable’ to.
Yet mention that I walk with crutches and that whole assumption changes.
To judge from the viewpoints we hear parroted by the police and the authorities, as a disabled person, and therefore inherently ‘vulnerable’, I am some frail, ethereal, slip of a figure, risking serious damage just by daring to be out in public, never mind actually interacting with society. And there is something to that, no attacks on me until I reached thirty and started to use crutches, then about one every couple of years since – and I don’t spend much time on the streets compared to many. But ‘vulnerable’? Let’s not be shy, ladies and gentlemen, let’s call a spade a bloody shovel and label it for what it really is, hatred of me for having the audacity to be out on the street as a disabled person.
I am not ‘vulnerable’ because I am disabled, I am targeted because I am disabled. Each attack has specifically and deliberately singled out some aspect of my disability to focus upon. As I said, I have been taller and heftier than pretty much all of my abusers, but taller and heftier doesn’t count for much when the bigots run in packs. If I was ‘vulnerable’, then it would have been me who was injured when a bigot thought it would be funny for he and his friend to knock me to the ground, rather than the reality that left him gasping for breath around bruised ribs. With one exception, and he was drunk out of his mind, every attack on me has involved two or more people. There isn’t a person in the country who isn’t vulnerable when facing odds of two or more to one, so why apply that label specifically to disabled people?
Or does that ‘vulnerable’ label reveal more about the people conferring it than the people it is applied to? If we are ‘vulnerable’ to them, then are we not, inevitably, seen as less than adult, less suitable to be out on the street unsupervised, flying in the face of good sense, responsible for our own downfall? Doesn’t this label suggest someone who thinks that opening the locks that kept us safely shut-away in society’s collective attic was a bad idea, who, deep down, is profoundly uncomfortable with someone who doesn’t meet his definition of ‘normal’. We know those attitudes predominate in the community at large, it is unreasonable to expect that they aren’t also present in the deeply socially conservative police and legal authorities.
So when someone listens to our experience of hatred and catalogues us as ‘vulnerable’, they aren’t being part of the solution, but establishing themselves as part of the problem. If we want to solve the problem of disability hate crimes, then we need to stop the crimes, but that means routing out the fear of disability wherever we find it. And when someone labels us ‘vulnerable’, that’s undoubtedly the language of fear.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
I have to praise 38 Degrees for that, how many organisations would have the courage to invite someone to put up a guest blog on their website after calling their basic honesty into question, a blog that points out the flaws in the model at the very heart of their own structure? 38 Degrees gave me that opportunity and its members are now talking about the fact that disabled people haven't been able to access their support, that we need 38 Degrees and other mainstream groups to take action in support of us, but that's just the start and it doesn't address the major issue, simply puts it up for debate. Talking is good, but we need that talking to lead to action, or all it will have done is prove our point that we are so disenfranchised and demonised that even the most overwhelmingly liberal of mainstream campaign groups won't support us.
Saturday, 26 November 2011
@Latentexistence has just blogged the reply he got from the PCC into a complaint he made over a recent attack on people with ME/CFS and a bunch of other disabilities by the attack columnist Rob Liddle writing on the Spectator's website.
Liddle claimed that ME is not a 'real' disability. The PCC admit this is inaccurate, but claim it is an acceptable view to publish because it is clearly his opinion. By extension journalists can get away with any kind of offensive assertion by making clear that it is their own opinion. The problem here is that people read columnists like Liddle precisely because they consider their opinions to have weight. Effectively the PCC have granted journalists complete immunity from telling the truth.
The PCC then looked at whether the claim was discriminatory, and their justification why it isn't just beggars belief. They don't deny it is discriminatory, they just say that only individuals are protected from discrimination by the Code and that groups are fair game. Because discriminating against the group someone belongs to is clearly nothing like discriminating against them.... Again the PCC are granting immunity to journalists by creating a simple way for them to work around the Code.
Nor is this the only instance where the PCC have articulated similar views. A stream of complaints from disabled people about the concerted attacks on disabled people over the past year have drawn near identical responses. Essentially the PCC's view is that minorities can legitimately be abused in any way, shape or form, using any made-up fact, just so long as it isn't directed against a named individual. When the only arbiter of press standards openly considers minorities to be fair game for press bigotry, then it is clear that it not just time to get rid of the PCC, but to impose regulation on the press from outside, because clearly they are not fit people to impose it from within.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Now I haven't watched 'Life's Too Short', I'm not a fan of Gervais' style of humour, and my personal opinion is that whether he does a good job of it or not, the attitudes of the audience will overwhelmingly interpret it as just another message that people with dwarfism, and other disabled people by extension, are perfectly legitimate targets for attack. So essentially I think the idea is fatally flawed, even if he has done all the research needed, unfortunately 'mong-gate' makes it clear he hasn't.
The first I knew of the article was a tweet on Friday linking to it, with a comment that the trolls were out in force. So I went over to read the article and picked my way through the comments replying to some of the more egregious ones, particularly those which didn't seem to have any understanding of the level of disability discrimination out there. I was looking at the Guardian website again this morning and noticed I'd gotten a couple of replies after my last visit. Comments on the article are now closed, so I can't reply to them there, but I think one of them is interesting for the attitudes it reveals. Particularly as it got 11 recommendations, more than most comments in the thread.
"In a series of posts you have made a number of vague and tantalising claims about the physical and verbal abuse you claim to have suffered at the hands of the general public and organisations. If your claims are true"
Why the 'if'? Why report something if it isn't true? Is the reality that disabled people are being abused on the street so horrendous that it must be denied? Perhaps a more open interpretation would be 'I don't like your point, so I'm going to imply you're making it up.'
"If we are to have a worthy debate and if you want to be taken remotely seriously start giving detail."
So that would be strip yourself bare or be held a liar?
"Let's hear exactly what the nature of your disability is and a bit of substance on the attacks you claim are so frequent."
Again with the implication I'm a liar, and there's that attitude, so prevalent in modern society, that every detail of our disabilities is public property. It's an example of the way in which society interprets us as less than fully adult; because we're disabled, society believes that we haven't earned the right to privacy, but must instead be treated as small children, whose every thought can be pried into by any passing adult.
"I myself am not disabled but someone very close to me, my girlfiend, is disabled (wheelchair) and as such through her I have a pretty good knowledge of the day to day realities of disabled life in this country. And guess what? While there are often struggles that she faces on a day to day basis they in no way tally with your depiction of a nation where verbal and physical abuse against disabled people is a daily occurence. Not even fucking close."
Well that's me told. Or maybe not, maybe my friendly troll isn't so well informed as he would like to think. I mean it's not as if I was one of the disabled people asked to front a major report on the rise in disability hate crime with our personal experiences - oh, wait a minute, yes I was.
"Could it be that instead of sitting on the internet being a professional victim and whining on message boards she just gets on.and enjoys life and has a sense of humour? Perish the very thought."
So if I campaign then I must be a whinging professional victim. And if my disability means I have to do it online it's clearly because I don't have any real life or sense of humour. Or maybe I just don't like the attitudes I see in society and think that behooves me to do something about it. As for sense of humour, I'm afraid I prefer my biting social commentary to come from Pratchett, not Gervais.
"Oh and while you're at it perhaps you would like to substantiate the thinly veiled insinuation you made that a show like LTS could potentially increase backward attitudes towards the disabled. I can't wait to hear that one."
Thinly veiled? Damn, I thought I was being bitingly obvious. As for substantiating my views, I would have thought that was the last thing I needed to do when our acceptance in society has slid back so desperately far through the constant attacks on us as scroungers and frauds in the tabloid press, and with my critic being so closely connected surely he must have noticed too? Or maybe not.
What makes the post so striking is that in one of the posts he takes issue with I'd already talked about disabled people being attacked for daring to make themselves heard, clearly the inherent irony of his reply went straight over his head. I'm not sure I can say it any better here than I said it there:
Attacking the campaigners is always the first response in a campaign for equality - Afro-Americans were written off as 'uppity n&**^s', Suffragettes as demonstrating ‘the explosive fury of epileptics’, and so on. Dismissing us as failing to understand the humour, as having a chip on our shoulder, as being bitter over our disabilities, we've heard them all. We do understand the humour, we campaign precisely because we have accepted our disabilities don't make us any different, and if there is a chip on our shoulder, then it's there because the actions of non-disabled people have put it there, and isn't that something any decent person should take action over?
And if that makes the trolls on Comment is Free think I'm an uppity crip, then clearly I'm doing something right ;)
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Shortly after publishing Friday's blog, a friend tweeted and pointed out that disabled people had actually won the previous campaign vote, but that 38 Degrees had then shelved that vote and staged another at which the NHS won. Obviously that's a very serious allegation, the problem is that the facts seem to back it up.
If you go to 38 Degree's Campaign Suggestion forum, and order all suggestions by popularity, which this link will do, you'll find a list of the most popular campaign ideas.
Sitting at number 6 is "A campaign to stop the abolition of Disability Living Allowance - the measure of civilised society."
Sitting at number 9 is "The coalition "are considering" assessing children in their DLA shake up." But attached to that is this note:
- "We're looking into a technical problem with the suggest a campaigns system. Last night we merged this with another DLA campaign after being asked to by the people who had originally created the suggestions. This follows on from previous problems we had with merging campaigns. Unfortunately last night there was a problem with the system and when we merged the campaigns thousands of votes were removed from the total. I'm really sorry this happened. We're looking into this and trying to sort it out."
But 'that's okay' you say, 'the problem just happened last night, 38 Degrees will fix it on Monday'. Which would be fine if it was true, but I know for a fact - having seen it myself - that that message has been there for months with no action being taken, and all but a handful of the comments attached to it are 8 months or more old. Months with no action, months of wasted inactivity during which the Welfare Reform Bill has been trekking through Parliament side by side with the NHS Bill. Look at everything 38 Degrees have achieved in trying to stop the NHS Bill, look at everything 38 Degrees haven't done to stop the Welfare Reform Bill. The suspicion that disabled people, and the votes and activities of the 38 Degrees membership, have been sacrificed to concentrate on the NHS Bill is impossible to shake. In fact I can't find any sign that 38 Degrees have lifted a finger to oppose the Welfare Reform Bill or defend disabled people.
There's a word for treating disabled people as second class citizens, that word is disablism, or two words if you aren't familiar with the one, disability discrimination.
I don't want to believe that of 38 Degrees, but their own polls show opposing the disability related provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill at numbers 4 and 6 in their own members lists of suggested priorities, combine them together and they are the 2nd most popular suggestion with a minimum of 7,243 votes, within 350 votes of the most popular suggestion and nearly 1,500 votes ahead of the 3rd most popular suggestion.
Sitting down at number 18 is opposing badger culling, and yet that's currently splashed all over the 38 Degrees front page as one of their successful campaigns?! I can't help wondering if the problem is 38 Degrees HQ thinks crips aren't as cuddly as badgers.
So, opposing DLA changes has got more votes on the 38 Degrees website than any idea but fairness and equality for pensioners (and we all know the strength of the pensioners lobby), but when 38 Degrees put out 17 suggested campaigns, including issues as diverse as powerstations, tax avoidance, the Murdochs, and benefits for pensioners living abroad, disability issues don't feature at all? Forgive me, but something's not just rotten in the state of Denmark, but stinking to high heaven of disablist discrimination.
If you think I'm writing this to shine a light on 38 Degrees and shame them into treating disabled people as the equals this government is determined to ensure we aren't, then you're damned right I am.
So what's it to be, 38 Degrees? Do you really believe in democracy and equality, or is it just a sham to trick people into campaigning for your own hobbyhorses? Are you for disabled people, or against us?
Friday, 4 November 2011
Yet there has been one glaring and continuing absence in their policies, any attempt to fight for the rights of the Hardest Hit of this recession.
Disabled people have asked them for support, we've posted on their fora, we've even received substantial voting support there from other followers, but somehow we never seem to be amongst the campaigns they propose they adopt.
38 Degrees just sent me an opportunity to vote on their latest proposed campaigning priorities:
- Continue the campaign to stop Lansley's NHS plans
- Run research and local campaigns to expose cuts to the NHS
- Continue to campaign for planning laws which protect the countryside and local communities
- Stop rip-off increases to gas and electricity bills
- Support proposals to make gay marriage legal
- Continue speaking up for our forests and challenge future attempts to sell them off
- Make sure that every child from a poor family receives a free school meal
- Continue to push for a Robin Hood Bankers Tax, a tax on banks that would give billions to tackle poverty and climate change
- Stopping the building of new coal power stations
- Step up the campaign to ban secret lobbying
- Push the government to do more to tackle climate change
- Continue to demand a real clamp down on tax dodging
- Campaign for British pensioners living abroad to get increases to their pensions
- Speak up in support of the British government continuing to give aid to poorer countries
- Show support for the "Occupy London" protests outside St Paul's Cathedral
- Campaign against government plans to scrap some employment laws
- Reform media laws to stop media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, ever getting so much power again
I'm forced to the conclusion that 38 Degrees have abandoned us, that the horrendous assault on disabled people and the benefits and support we depend on is beneath their notice. And if that's the case, why should I support an organisation that believes what happens to disabled people isn't important?
So come on, 38 Degrees, convince me that you value disabled people and recognise that what is happening to us needs to be fought against by the entire country.
Or are disabled people simply not trendy enough?
And that's why my response to their poll reads simply: "I'm sorry, I can't continue to support an organisation that refuses to recognise the assault on disabled people and the benefits and support they depend on."
In the short time since writing this, I've been reliably informed that supporting disabled people actually won the last 38 Degrees poll, only for it to be shelved and a second poll taken which opted for supporting the NHS. I'd really like to see an explanation of that.
Monday, 24 October 2011
If you don't think this is good enough, if you think the IPC should know better than to partner with a company that promotes the perception of disabled people as scroungers, refuses to meet our most basic access needs and rolls out the lawyers when disabled people complain, then I urge you to write to the International Paralympic Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy it to your national paralympic committees (see here). Feel free to borrow from what follows, but the message will be stronger in your own words and experiences.
Sunday, 23 October 2011
For someone with disabling levels of back pain, I actually manage fairly well most of the time, so long as I don't do more than potter around the house and spend most of my time flat. It's just the parts of life that involve getting out and doing things that I have problems with.
I woke up on Friday with a touch of back ache, roughly over my right kidney - no idea why, but these things come and these things go and I'm used to being in pain, often far more than this, so I didn't pay it a great deal of attention. This one didn't go, it was still there on Saturday morning, but by this point I was ignoring it, or at least I was until I popped out for coffee with friends - which is often enough the only time I get out of the house during the week.
We meet in town, so that means a five minute drive and a short walk to the bar where we meet. I don't use my crutches in the house - the distances are shorter than my unsupported endurance, but they aren't shorter by much so I'm absolutely dependent on them outside. Almost as soon as I walked away from the car, that niggling pain over my kidney transformed itself into a stabbing dagger of pain running from shoulders to waist, my spine locking itself so rigid that even breathing becomes interestingly different, and it was patently obvious that it was using the crutches that was causing the problem. For someone else that level of pain might be completely disabling (especially as this is what I'm feeling past the opiates!), but I'm used to it, so it's extremely unpleasant rather than absolutely catastrophic. Coffee was a welcome distraction, but the walk back to the car was more of the same and I knew that I needed to get off my feet.
Back at the house I spent a couple of hours flat on my back listening to the football, which seemed to calm things down. With things settled I thought I'd go and finish downloading some software I'd just bought. My computer seat is oddly suited to me, wide enough to sit in cross-legged, which always helps, and with the tilt lock left open I can constantly adjust the way I'm sitting. I'm still severely restricted in time upright (I've hardly been able to touch the artwork I use the computer for this year), but not as badly as in other seats. This time it didn't help, that dagger of pain down a rigid spine set in again within just a few minutes, not even reclining as far back as the chair allows made any difference, leaving me wishing I could convince someone to fit me with a particularly restrictive full-length back brace (there are very good reasons I shouldn't use one all the time, but some days it would be nice to have the option to let me do stuff even if my spine objects). So back to the couch.
I did get as far as putting the oven on, planning on pizza for dinner - anything more elaborate would have been too long on my feet, but once I was flat again waiting for it to heat up I realised I wasn't about to move for the night. 'dinner' ended up as a packet of crisps when I finally forced myself to get up and turn the oven off. Lying flat meant the pain mostly went away (though of course lying flat brings its own set of minor and not-so-minor pains), but I have a bizarrely varying reaction to severe pain. Either I all but collapse and sleep it off, or it goes, but I can't sleep. So there I was all night, laptop perched on my chest, playing Angry Birds until the dawn chorus joined them for real.
I think I finally got to sleep about 8AM, waking up groggy and disoriented at about 3PM. I was finally up and running in something like a normal state of mind by about 6PM, so went to finish downloading that software, and there's the pain again....
I did manage to cook something today, so I'm not quite living solely on crisps, but the art of cooking while perched on one leg for as short a period as possible doesn't leave much room for culinary innovation....
It's 3AM, I'm typing this with the laptop perched on my chest, and I give it about a 50:50 chance I'll see the dawn, and I've no idea how long the elevated levels of pain will last, might be gone tomorrow, might still be here 3 months from now, I've learned to live my life making up my plans as I go along, because it's simply impossible to plan around a disability as random as mine. Meet me on the street and you simply see someone with crutches, that doesn't even give you a reliable indication of what kind of disability I have, you certainly don't see all the ways that it affects my life; the complexity of disability is utterly invisible, unless you're the one living with it. And the more people we can help to understand that, the better.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Yes, really, though I should point out that these aren't the pro-Wicked Witch flying monkeys of Wizard of Oz fame. Flying Monkeys are what Nicola Clark (@MrsNickyClark on Twitter, and one of the good guys of the disability rights movement) calls the rabid fans who attack her on-line when she criticizes their heroes for using disablist language.
The latest celebrity she has challenged is Ricky Gervais (@RickyGervais), who has set out to single-handedly repopularise the use of 'mong', a word disability groups have spent a long time trying to eradicate from the language of abuse. In many ways 'mong' is Britain's 'retard', the disablist insult that's an all purpose term of abuse for disabled and able-bodied alike. But at the heart of it, the source of its power, is the implication that to be a 'mong', to be born with Downs Syndrome, is to be reduced to some kind of sub-human village idiot, worthy of nothing but being the butt of jokes, a figure of fun, and hate.
Gervais tries to claim that 'mong' no longer has this meaning, but its sole power comes from the abuse of disabled people, and that abuse continues to this day, with many, many disabled people having faced it on the streets for no reason other than their disability. I actually haven't, 'scrounger' seems to be the term of choice when complete strangers confront me for daring to be disabled in public, but that's close enough to tell me how deeply that assault on your identity, your equality, your basic membership of the human race, cuts, and to teach me how easily those words can turn into physical assault. So when I hear that someone isn't just using the term, but is encouraging others to use it, and that man is someone with 400,000 followers on Twitter, then I understand exactly why @MrsNickyClark needed to challenge him.
Nicola Clark can make her argument better than I can, and she does it eloquently in her Guardian article, but Gervais's response hasn't been to sit back, think about the issue, and admit that he was being unwise. No, instead he's upped his use of the term, complete with gurning pictures that make his real intent very clear, and urged his followers to rally against (and I quote) 'the haters and mentals' - by their words shall you know them....
Earlier this evening I saw one of his followers post a tweet "Let's try to get 'mong' trending" - for the non-Twitterati, this means having a notably high number of occurrences in current tweets and it can draw a lot of attention beyond those who follow the original poster. Not wanting that kind of post to go unchallenged I put up a counter-tweet, pointing out that he was calling for an attack on disabled people. It rapidly became obvious that hadn't even occurred to him, and that illustrates the danger of what Gervais is trying to do. By popularising the use of the word, he makes it socially acceptable, which means firstly that disabled people are being regularly demeaned by people who don't even know they're doing it when they use it against non-disabled targets, and secondly it gives aid and succor to those who do use it as disablist abuse by robbing their crime of any social sanction. Disabled people lose on all fronts, Gervais laughs all the way to the bank.
I'd barely managed to convince the first poster that what he was calling for was wrong, when a flying monkey arrived and, as flying monkeys are wont to, demonstrated his outrage with a display of faeces-flinging, amongst which was the choice accusation I opened with, that I'm a 'spineless cunt' for wanting people not to abuse disabled people - which apparently also makes me 'an aggressive bully'. Not being one to shrink from an argument, I tried to give as good as I got without resorting to faeces-flinging. I think the thing that came through most (and this went on most of the evening, ending with him swearing he's not done with me) was the sheer inability to empathize with someone with a disability. Challenged for protesting on-line, not in person, I pointed out that on-line campaigning is the only kind of activism open to me, only to be repeatedly taunted that real activists are out in the streets, the implication seemingly that those who can only take issue on-line are some kind of dilettantes without any real right to protest.
That's actually worrying beyond the Gervais issue because it suggests there are a lot of people out there who don't value anyone whose disability restricts them to non-traditional roles (not really a surprise, but it's not nice to have it confirmed to your face), but it's specifically worrying over the Gervais issue because it demonstrates just how dangerous the ability of celebrities to manipulate their fans can be, and that's why Gervais can't be allowed to go unchallenged. So kudos to Nicola Clark for having the resilience to go head to head with people like him, knowing full well that the flying monkeys are out there and ready to unleash a shit-storm of hate.
If you aren't already one of @MrsNickyClark's followers, I thoroughly recommend her for sensible comments on disability rights. If, on the other hand, you're a follower of @RickyGervais, why are you siding with the person who wants to make the lives of disabled people worse?
Returning to the opening faeces-flinging of 'spineless cunt' to close, if that's the cost of challenging disablist language then I'm happy to embrace being spineless (not to mention that it would likely mean being in a lot less pain!), but when it comes to being a cunt, sorry, I just haven't got the right equipment for that one.
Thursday, 29 September 2011
Is the UK the worst? I don't know, but it certainly isn't an ideal place if you're disabled.
A media that claims on a near daily basis that we're all frauds and scroungers (the Guardian is a near lone exception).
People who overwhelmingly believe that 'they're all at it' and simultaneously that if their relatives fall ill the state will instantly meet every need (they're in for a rude awakening).
People who openly state that we'd be better off dead, who urge us to go to Switzerland and use Dignitas, who attack anyone who tries to argue that our life is just as valuable as anyone's else.
Complete strangers who attack me in the street as a benefit fraud, without knowing whether I am working or not, revealing it as an attack on me simply for being disabled.
Politicians who proclaim that we are the 'vulnerable', demeaning us as less than adult, but that we are safe in their hands, then turn around and cut the benefits the most disabled of all of us depend on, proclaiming all the time that only the fraudsters have anything to fear.
I don't know if Britain is the worst, but it could be a hell of a lot better, and a hell of a lot more equal.
Monday, 26 September 2011
“You can get on the 13:30” he said, stapling it to my ticket and handing it back without really looking at me.
“You’ve got plenty of time!” he said repeatedly, oblivious to the fact I was wearing a collar, using crutches and hanging desperately onto his counter lest I fall over. It wasn’t just questionable whether I could get to the train in time, I also needed to phone family to let them know about the change of plans, didn’t have a mobile on me, and would much rather have caught the 14:00 at that point, but he clearly wasn’t interested and I couldn’t face arguing with him any more, so I headed for the train, trying to make the best of a bad situation. I did get there before it was due to leave, barely, but the train guard took one look at me and said I had better get onto the first carriage and walk through the train to Standard Class, she at least realised I couldn’t walk that far before the train was due out.
Friday, 23 September 2011
Monday, 5 September 2011
Imagine how much worse the outrage would be if that tax was proposed purely to fund one minister's pet project.
Now imagine the outrage if it was targeted solely on a disadvantaged minority.
Never happen? Let me introduce you to Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Time-Limiting of Contributions Related Employment Support Allowance, and the 100% of 700,000 disabled people's income he proposes to take away.
Iain Duncan Smith is on a mission, he wants to transform the UK benefits system through Universal Credit and the Work Programme. Universal Credit is bad enough for disabled people, because wrapped up in it is the replacement of DLA by PIP and an absolutely arbitrary 20% cut in those eligible (worse, the supposed justification for this, an 'inexplicable' rise in DLA claims, turns out to be totally explicable once you account for minor things like people retiring and children being born, but DWP managed to hush that up for 3 months while they got the Welfare Reform Bill through its second reading in the Commons). But new welfare systems need years to put in place, so Universal Credit is something for the future, the Work Programme is the flagship programme IDS can implement right this moment.
The one problem in IDS's plan to leave his mark on benefits is that that nasty George Osborne at the Treasury won't give him the money for it, and has told him he has to find it from the existing Department of Work and Pensions budget. So IDS cast around and settled on the perfect victims, disabled people who are too sick to work, after all he already had his allies in the tabloids hard at work convincing the public, which has always been in two minds about disability, that disabled people were universally lazy benefit cheats and fraudsters as part of the justification for the Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance migration, so why not take advantage of that twice over.
The ESA Work Capability Assessment is a success in the DWP's eyes, it discourages 36% of claimants, rejects 39% (though an awkward 30% appeal, and c40%, 70%+ with advocacy support, of those have the audacity to win their appeal), leaving 17% going into the Work Related Activity Group and 7% into the Support Group. Now it's a bit difficult to hit the Support Group, because these are people even DWP recognise are too ill ever to work, and there is too much risk they'll get the sympathy vote from the media, but the ones in the WRAG, they may be unfit to work at the moment, but DWP have managed to get the media all confused about that, to the point that they largely think those in WRAG actually are fit for work, and so they make a nice, ripe target for cutting. You can't cut them entirely, there has to be some pretence of support, so why not give them a year of benefit, because if they can't find a job in 12 months, then clearly they can be spun as not bothering, to lazy to go out and help themselves (and icky little details like their not being fit for work can be glossed over). Of course it can't be called a cut, that would be too blatant, but 'Time-Limiting' has such a nice ring to it, not remotely negative, and doesn't it really sound like the kind of thing the responsible person would do?
And so there we have it, if you're in the ESA WRAG, no matter you are too disabled to work, no matter DWP admit you are too disabled to work, come 12 months into your claim, Time-Limiting will kick in and if you have a spouse earning a few thousands pounds, or a few thousand in savings or pension fund, then your benefit will be stopped in its entirety, taxed at 100% to fund IDS's darling Work Programme.
The changes leading to Time-Limiting aren't some future fantasy, they are part of the government's Welfare Reform Bill and they are going for their second reading in the House of Lords in just a few days time.
So where's the outrage?
Friday, 2 September 2011
(This is the piece that should have gone up yesterday, 1st of September, and prompted my move to Blogger. I deliberately haven't changed anything to reflect the delayed post as it is talking about the specific day)
LatentExistence wrote an excellent piece yesterday for Where’s The Benefit, entitled Godwin’s Law Must Die, discussing how people’s horror at Nazism actually gets in the way when 1930s Germany really is the only historical parallel for the situation you are experiencing.
It had slipped my mind what today is the anniversary of until I was reminded by someone else’s tweet, but it is an anniversary that brings that post by LatentExistence into sharp focus and reminds me of the things we must never allow ourselves to forget, whether disabled people or not.
Today is September 1st. Although in
The organised killing of disabled Germans had actually started before this, with children, or, perhaps more precisely, a single child. Part of Nazi Party ideology, a creed which in some cases literally became a religion, was a fetishizing of racial purity, the cult of the inherent superiority of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Aryan German, destined to rule over the untermensch, eugenics taken to its ultimate conclusion. That some Germans might be less than ‘perfect’, might actually be disabled, was problematic for the Nazi Party’s racial purity zealots, and in the confrontational politics of 1930s Germany problems were simply something to actively pour your hatred onto. They took the passive concept of racial purity and developed it into the active concept of racial hygiene, planning to purge the German Volk of undesirable elements, such as people with disabilities.
Eugenics run rampant wasn’t actually unique to Germany at that time, both the US and Sweden had programmes for sterilizing those with disabilities considered inheritable or who were judged to show anti-social behaviour, but Germany turned to sterilization with all its national fervour for efficiency and in June 1933, almost as soon as the Nazis were in power, passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, which mandated sterilization for disabilities such as epilepsy and ‘social deviances’ such as alcoholism. Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte), conducted a witchhunt through the German mental hospitals, asylums and other institutions, choosing those to be sterilized, a number estimated to have run to 360,000 Germans by 1939. Perhaps the only reason the programme did not progress to physical disabilities was that the senior Nazi Joseph Goebbels had a club foot. And all the while the Nazi propaganda machine was churning out films and posters intended to portray disabled people as a drain on the state and worthy only of euthanasia.
In 1939 Hitler asked Brandt, his personal physician, and Bouhler, head of his chancellery, to look into the case of a disabled baby, Gerhard Kretschmar, whose parents wanted him killed – the father’s letter to Hitler apparently referred to his son as ‘this monster’. In July 1939 the killing was carried out and Brandt was instructed by Hitler to proceed on the same basis in other cases, leading to the systematic classification of disabled German children by the Committee for the Scientific Treatment of Severe, Genetically Determined Illness, authorised on 18th August 1939, with doctors and midwives required to report all births of disabled children and preparatory measures being made to extend the process to adults. With the outbreak of war the need to proceed cautiously diminished and in October 1939, Hitler issued the Euthanasia Decree, bypassing the Health Ministry in favour of Brandt and Bouhler, his own men:
Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged with the responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, to the end that patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment of their state of health, can be granted a mercy death.
And so Aktion T4 was born, a programme that ultimately killed over 200,000 disabled Germans and started a full two years ahead of the Wannsee Conference and the decision on the extermination the Jews. But the killing had already started, and so Hitler backdated the decree to ‘legalise’ the actions that had already taken place.
The date he chose was September 1st, 1939, a day of infamy.
That shouldn't be taken as meaning I hurtle through life, all hurtling on my part is done in a thoroughly uncontrolled manner and strictly inadvertently.
Flat Out is more literally descriptive, I have a disabling spinal condition, actually I have two disabling spinal conditions, quite possibly two disabling spinal conditions and a separate and more general disabling joint problem, and that means I spend much of my life flat on my back.
I've been blogging for a while as dwgism on LiveJournal - 'dwg' being me and 'ism' reflecting that no one party seems to reflect my views, but the vast majority of my output is now for Where's The Benefit, where, as DavidG, I'm one of a collective of disabled people blogging on the current savage attacks by the ConDem government on disabled people, and I was already thinking of moving my non WTB-blogging over to Blogger to share my account here when I hit some issues with the LJ editor on a post that really needed to go up yesterday, and so here I am.
I'll still be blogging at WTB, I'll still be keeping up my LJ account to keep track of all the friends there (and as a Shadow Unit fan LJ is an essential part of the experience), but my non-WTB blogging should be here from now on. That's likely to be stuff on living with disability, crip-politics stuff that doesn't fit on WTB, and some technology/aerospace and defence stuff related to my sadly now former career, possibly some reviews as well. I'll try and keep stuff tagged so that people can steer around the stuff that doesn't interest them.