Crippen hears about systemic discrimination by the Metropolitan police against disabled protestors

Netpol, the network for police monitoring is calling on the Metropolitan Police to prevent a repeat of the systemic discrimination towards disabled protesters that was documented in their report ‘Restricting the Rebellion’.

The European Convention on Human Rights, in Article 14, says the exercise of rights including freedom of assembly “shall be secured without discrimination” but over the years, there have been repeated incidents of the targeting, harassment and ill-treatment of disabled campaigners.

This has included the physical assault of wheelchair users, the targeting of a deaf campaigner opposing a fracking site and the sharing of information about disabled protesters with the Department for Work and Pensions, to trigger investigations for alleged benefit fraud.

When Extinction Rebellion held 12 days of protests in London in October 2019, the mistreatment of disabled protesters was so shocking that even members of the Metropolitan Police’s Disability Independent Advisory Group accused it of humiliating behaviour and considered resigning en masse due to the number of stories they heard from individual protesters.

A growing intolerance towards environmental protesters from government ministers and the police has resulted in more new laws and more police powers, but the Met still has a legal duty to protect the right to protest.

Netpol is urging organisations to sign a statement calling for Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to acknowledge that a repeat of this mistreatment would amount to systematic discrimination and to provide public reassurance that the rights of disabled people to freedom of assembly will be respected and protected.

The statement reads:

“In 2019, Netpol’s report ‘Restricting the Rebellion’ highlighted the way Metropolitan Police Officers treated Extinction Rebellion’s disabled protesters in ways that were both degrading and humiliating. Efforts to make it as difficult as possible for disabled campaigners to participate also included arresting drivers delivering disabled-access toilets and confiscating vital accessibility equipment …

“We demand that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley acknowledges that by failing to meet the needs of disabled protesters at forthcoming protests, the force will once again have systematically discriminated against them. We demand public reassurance from him that his officers will respect the rights of disabled people to protest.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A solid line of metropolitan police officers are attending a climate change protest. They are clad in full riot gear with one of them holding a large baton. In front of them is a power wheelchair which has been smashed up and is upside down on the body of a disabled protester. A large placard in standing up in the wreckage and reads ‘disabled people fighting climate change’. In the background are lots of other protesters waving banners and their clenched fists in the air. One of the police officers is looking down at the wheelchair and is saying: “Well they kept saying that they wanted to be treated like normal people …” another replies: “,,, and that’s how we treat normal people!”

Crippen joins with ROFA to end the violence and abuse inflicted on disabled people in so-called care homes

Reclaiming Our future Alliance (ROFA) are holding a campaign planning event to discuss ending the violence and torture of Disabled adults and young people in care.

ROFA claims that while education, health and social care is being underfunded, profits are being made through incarceration and segregated provision in which Disabled people are subjected to tactics of violence, harm and torture.

A recent report in the Guardian newspaper stated that:

“The failures behind the scandals, by contrast, are rooted in systems that are massively opaque. In the case of children’s homes and residential schools, the bodies responsible include Ofsted, local councils and a tangle of profit-making companies … The statistics speak for themselves: The top 20 private providers making £250m+ in annual profits, alongside a 9% cut in funding per pupil”.  

ROFA wants this money to be spent on improving the life chances and opportunities for ALL Disabled people (whilst) the government want to lock them up and pour profits into shareholder returns for corporations! 

Join ROFA’s campaign planning event on Wednesday 10 May 5-7pm via Zoom. BSL interpreters will be available.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young person is sat upon the floor in a bare cell gazing up at a barred window high above their head. Around their foot is fastened a ball and chain. The large iron ball has ‘Care’ written on it. The image is provided by ROFA and is created by Ruby Fresson.

Crippen comes out … as a republican.

With a bill well into the £100,000,000 and still climbing, this coronation looks like becoming the costliest state occasion ever.

What with food banks appearing in almost every town in the UK, more people in debt than ever before and the NHS crumbling around us, we’ve never had it so bad. Well, certainly those of us not in positions of power and influence who, we hear, are all busy feathering their own nests at our expense.

When I talk to people about the whole royalist debacle, the one thing that seems to be really getting up people’s noses is that Charlie is making his former mistress his Queen. Not Queen consort, as we’d been informed before, but the actual bloody Queen of England. The former ones must be rotating in their graves!

You would have thought that his advisors would have had a quite word in his ear and said something along the lines of: “It seems that the common folk are a little pissed off, what with all the financial hardships they’re all facing. And then they hear that you’re blowing over a hundred million pounds on this bun fight … and let’s not forget what you’re doing with Camilla!” But perhaps they do, and perhaps he doesn’t listen. Who knows?

So, will I be watching these privileged parasites glorifying their hold over the common people … Well, what do you think?!

(Ed: We understand that Crippen may be writing his next blog from a draughty little cell in the Tower of London … let’s hope it’s wheelchair accessible!)

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

King Charles wearing a smart grey suit and a large crown on his head is standing in the royal kitchens. Along side of him is a palace chef clad in whites with chequered trousers. Behind them is a long table groaning with the weight of food upon it. On the wall is a card with ‘coronation menu’ printed on it. Charles is saying to us: “One has just told him – if he runs out of food then there’s a food bank just down the road!”

Crippen looks back at the history of GMCDP

Back in 1985 the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) was founded. It’s one of the few organisations ‘of’ disabled people that has stood the test of time and is still seen by many as the flagship of the disabled people’s movement in the UK.

As part of my project to resurrect those cartoons that I created over 40 years ago, I’ve found notes and sketches as well as cartoons I created for GMCDP and their old magazine ’Coalition’ which at the time was one of the only activist style publications being produced in the UK. Quite a bit of this material never got to the print stage and so have remained tucked away amongst my archive records.

References to one of the first protests that GMCDP organised to make their Town Hall accessible, and the fight to make the Greater Manchester Council’s Equal Opportunities Unit make posts relating to disability only available to disabled people, were amongst some of the sketches and notes I found.

There were also the chats I had with the late Ken Lumb, Editor of Coalition magazine, about the grief they were getting from the many disability organisations run and controlled by non-disabled people. Again, I found notes and sketches relating to this, providing the basis for those cartoons that never saw the light of day.

Here’s one of the resurrected cartoons from that period which will hopefully be included in an exhibition of ‘lost’ cartoons relating to GMCDP at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, early next year. The rest of the cartoons that I’m restoring will be available to see in a gallery kindly provided by Disability Arts Online (DAO) later this year.

If you want to find out more about this project, then go onto my funding page or drop me a line asking to be put onto the newsletter mailing list which is issued every month. I’ll also attach a couple of back issues to help you catch up.

Description of cartoons for those using screen reading software

GMCDP 2 – 1985: Two disabled people are positioned at the bottom of a flight of steps leading into Manchester Town Hall. One of them carries a placard which reads ‘GMCDP – nothing about us without us’. Opposite them stands a white male in casual clothing holding a piece of paper with Council Meetings printed upon it. He is saying: “What do you mean – you want access to the Town Hall? It’s not as if you can do anything once you’re in!”.

GMCDP 4 – 1985: Three people are grouped around a table. A sign on the wall identifies them as being members of ‘The Federation of Businesses that are doing it to the disabled’. One of them is looking at a piece of paper with ‘GMCDP declaration of independence’ written upon it. Another piece of paper reads ‘Profit / Loss predictions. He says: “This insistence on independence will be the downfall of the disability industry!”.

Crippen looks at ersatz responses from DWP

Seems as though the likes of Mel Stride, the Secretary of State and the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work are now refusing to answer any correspondence sent directly to them. Instead, they have a team of people crafting sanitised replies which carefully disregard the content and are full of DWP rhetoric and misinformation.

Our good friend Mo Stewart, research lead for the Preventable Harm Project and author of ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ is the latest recipient of this ‘non reply’ practice. Her response is as expected, straight to the point and leaving no room for misinterpretation. She writes:

“As is usual with the civil service, your letter content disregards the detailed content of both my letters and emails to Ministers and is therefore unhelpful. I must also advise that your claimed ‘vision in the White Paper is to help more disabled people and people with health conditions to start, stay and succeed in work’ will not happen as long as the DWP continue to terrorise those in greatest need. The so called ‘vision’ is based on right-leaning ideology, has been influenced by corporate America since 1992 and is totally unrelated to the health, wellbeing or to the  survival of the chronically ill and disabled community.”

Mo continues:

“To ‘help’ disabled people into work, whilst disregarding the volumes of published evidence demonstrating the public health crisis generated by adopting a fatally flawed assessment to limit access to disability benefit is very unwise and … unless and until DWP Ministers begin to benefit from the volumes of peer-reviewed published academic papers, by ‘real’ experts from universities throughout the UK, exposing the relentless persecution and identified preventable harm of those in greatest need by the DWP, nothing you have to say to me will be of note.”

In her original letter to the Secretary of State, Mo informed him (again) that regardless of the 4,500 people and organisations who contributed to a DWP consultation regarding the Green Paper at over 40 public events, that number pails into insignificance when compared with the numbers ofchronically ill and disabled people, and their support groups, who are in contact with each other via social media. They do not agree with the department’s many claims.

Mo adds:

 “What is constantly overlooked is the fact that the disabled community’s experience of this DWP “help and support” is via the politics of fear using the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The assessment is conducted by an unaccountable American corporate giant, with the fatally flawed WCA using a discredited BPS model (The biopsychosocial model (BPS) of mental distress) which failed all academic scrutiny. Every clinical lead in the UK demanded that the WCA should be abolished, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association, and the British Psychological Society, who all identified the WCA as being unfit for purpose. They were all disregarded by the DWP, as is the growing mental health crisis directly linked to the fear of the next WCA, and the constant DWP threat of sanctions. To date, the DWP have disregarded all published, independent academic research which identifies the ongoing and inevitable public health crisis created by social policies adopted since 2010.

“Happily, the WCA is to be (finally) abolished. However, once again your letter content, and the DWP rhetoric contained within it, demonstrates the DWP obsession with finding paid employment for the disabled community whilst totally disregarding the numbers who are catastrophically ill, will never be fit enough to work, and are relentlessly persecuted by the DWP who adopted a preconception of guilt for all benefit claimants. Many disabled people have died by suicide as their mental health suffered due to relentless DWP persecution, and relentless demands for endless flawed assessments for health conditions that can’t EVER improve.

“By using the PIP assessment for all claimants, you are using another assessment model that is fatally flawed and failed all academic scrutiny. Furthermore, work coaches who have no clinical training are not competent to decide what, if any, work-related activities the chronically ill can or should undertake. Regardless of pending primary legislation, you will not gain the trust of the chronically ill and disabled community until the DWP stops punishing them for being too ill to work.”

And let’s not forget the identified  ‘cultural problems within the DWP extend far beyond the assessment system’, which the DWP continue to disregard!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large machine identified as a ‘Communicator’ is plugged into a selection of responses to emails received by Mel Stride Secretary of State for Works and Pensions. These responses include ‘ignore’ and ‘ersatz reply’. A woman who is operating the machine has several emails around her all complaining about the DWP. As she presses a button, she turns to look at Stride and says: “Don’t worry Sir – we have all of your mail safely under control!”. Stride replies: “Hopefully that includes those from Mo?!”

Mo Stewart is a Fellow of the Centre for Welfare reform and is the research lead of the Preventable Harm project.

Crippen and the deaths due to DWP’s Sanctions regime

The Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has been asked by Labour’s Debbie Abrahams to “anticipate” the number of benefit claimants that he thinks will lose their lives due to government plans to reintroduce the “harsh and severe” benefits sanctions regime first launched 10 years ago.

As reported in Disability News Service, Abrahams told Stride, who was giving evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, that the “punitive” nature of that regime, introduced by the 2010 coalition government, had been “so detrimental” to claimants, particularly those in vulnerable situations.

She highlighted evidence that showed the impact of sanctions on disabled people, including government research which showed that sanctions were “harmful and counter-productive”, and long-term research by academics which showed imposing strict conditions on claimants was ineffective and harmful.

After questioning from the SNP’s David Linden, Stride had admitted that he could not remember ever having met or spoken to a single benefit claimant who had been sanctioned by DWP.

But Linden told him:

“I meet people just about every week who … tell me is that being sanctioned pushes them into destitution. They have to be fed by local food banks; they have to rely on the charity of people in their community. They experience mental health crisis as a result of that.”

Linden told Stride: “It seems to me perhaps your understanding of sanctions is very theoretical and not actually based on how it interacts with people on the ground.”

Read more about this exchange and also what Stride had to say about his new disability benefits white paper in the Disability News Service article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is standing outside a building with his name plaque on the wall. On the floor at his feet is a copy of the Disability News Service with a headline that reads ‘DWP deny that sanctions have any impact on disabled people’.  Opposite him is a wheelchair user clutching a large bag with ‘Local Food Bank’ printed upon it. At his feet is a notice that his electricity supply is to be cut off and another that says ‘Rent Arrears’. Stride is saying: “You do realise than in theory none of you should be affected by our sanctions!”

Crippen hears from ROFA about the unfairness of Social Care Charging

The Reclaiming Our Future Alliance (ROFA) ‘Scrap Care Charging Campaign’ gathers momentum as they call for an end to the draconian system currently in place along with a call to government for much needed reform and investment.

I’m having trouble inserting cartoon. Please click here for temporary fix. Thanks

In their current newsletter ROFA state that Social Care charging is unfair and a post code lottery. Thousands of disabled and older people throughout the Covid pandemic have experienced social care cuts and increases in care charging. Families and carers are struggling to make ends meet and pay the week’s shopping bill. Others are being pushed into debt. It is time to end the social care charging scandal.

Why we Need Change Now

We all want to live a good life, with meaningful relationships and doing things that are important to us. Many Disabled and older people need social care support to do simple things in life. Unlike the NHS, however, social care support is not free and even people on very low incomes, including those on means-tested benefits, are often asked to pay for it.

There is no time for delay and no room for excuses. The Government must urgently reform and invest in social care and end the social care scandal. It should be on equal terms with the NHS, free at the point of delivery and based on the lived experiences of disabled people, older people, parents and carers.

Email Your MP and Share on Social Media. Reduce your social care charges today.  

Inclusion London

As part of the campaign against care charging, Inclusion London is launching a beta version of DRE bot, a chatbot designed to make a process of claiming disability related expenditure (DRE) more accessible. It generates a letter at the end which people can send to their local authority. You can find it here.


Reclaiming Our Future Allowance (ROFA) membership is open to individual disabled people living in England and to all DPOs, disabled peoples groups or networks in England who are:

At least 75% controlled by Disabled people e.g. 75% or more of Management Committee / Boards or Steering groups are made up of Disabled people and;

sign up to the social model of disability and support the principles & values of ROFA as detailed in this Term of Reference

ROFA also has an affiliate membership for allies of ROFA – both organisations and individuals can be affiliate members. Affiliate members do not have voting rights.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software
A wheelchair user is sat at a table on which are piled boxes with ‘Food’, ‘Heating’, and ‘Household Expenses’ printed upon them. At his feet is another box with ‘Transport’ written upon it and around his shoulder is a bag with ‘Debt’ written upon it. He is looking confused and is pointing to the boxes. Opposite him stands two ‘official’ looking people. One is holding a piece of paper that has ‘Social Care Package’ printed upon it. The other is holding a piece of paper with ‘Further Increases in Social Care Charging’. One of them is saying to the disabled person: “Surely you didn’t expect to get enough money to pay for everything?!”

Crippen – Heartless reforms to disability benefits defy logic

“Heartless” government reforms that will eventually scrap the “fitness for work” assessment “defy logic” and pose significant risks to sick and disabled people who cannot work, say activists who have fought for years to highlight the test’s fatal flaws.

In a nutshell, benefit claimants with significant impairments or long-term health conditions could face stricter conditions imposed by their work coach, including further benefit sanctions if they are unable to meet them.

The decision to scrap the work capability assessment (WCA), which has been blamed for countless deaths and years of harm caused to claimants since its introduction in 2008, was the centrepiece of a new disability benefits white paper published last week. The decision will mean disabled people who were previously assessed as not needing to carry out any work-related activity will in the future have to rely on the judgement of jobcentre work coaches to “determine what, if any, work-related activities an individual can participate in”.

The long-awaited white paper, Transforming Support, was published nearly four years after the government first announced it intended to reform support for disabled people who rely on the social security system.

But Ellen Clifford, disabled activist and author of the award-winning The War on Disabled People, was among many who raised serious safety concerns about their plans.

Ellen told John Pring, Editor of Disability News Service:

“After over a decade of fighting against the WCA, disabled campaigners should be celebrating the news. But we’re not – we are terrified of what is next!”

She said the measures were instead being introduced because of the failure of the WCA to reduce the number of disabled people who are not in work, and the government’s concerns about the high number of people who are not working or seeking work.

Ellen added:

“The deeply flawed strategy would inevitably result in enormous pressures in communities already pushed to their limits after more than a decade of austerity, social security reform and personal tragedies.

“The Conservatives wanted a social security system so punitive there is no safety net enabling anyone long term out of work for any reason to have anything near a semblance of a bearable life. Meanwhile, disabled people will be facing new nightmares with all their income dependent upon a single assessment known for wrongful decisions and at the mercy of a conditionality and sanctions regime that is known to discriminate against disabled people.”

Although the WCA would not be scrapped for several years – and even then, only if the Conservatives win the next general election – concerns about the welfare of sick and disabled claimants over the next few years were heightened by other measures announced in yesterday’s budget.

Budget documents pledge to strengthen the DWP sanctions regime and ensure “that Work Coaches have the tools and training to implement sanctions as effectively as possible”.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software.

A young disabled wheelchair user is positioned inside a large treadmill. A sign above it says ‘DWP Sanctions Treadmill’. A female is flicking a long whip at him whilst a suited colleague standing alongside of her is smiling and saying: “Try not to leave any marks – just enough to motivate them!” The man is holding a paper which reads ‘Transforming Support white paper’ and on the floor is another document reading ‘Disability News Service – more sanctions to be imposed by DWP’.

Crippen looks at those provocative charity collection figures

As part of my cartoon resurrection project, where I’m redrawing the old greyscale cartoons I created during the 1980’s and 90’s, I came across a couple of examples that included those life sized plaster models of disabled children carrying a collection tin and a slogan from one of the many charities that claimed to represent a particular impairment group.

Some of you will be familiar with the figure of the little boy that Barbara Lisicki, or to use her stage name Wanda Barbara, used as part of her comedy routine in the late eighties. She allegedly liberated it from outside of a W.H Smiths and ironically called it Chip, as in having a chip on its shoulder … a Crip with a chip!

And it got me thinking. Have you ever wondered why it’s been so difficult to change societies view of disabled people? Why we’ve continued to be seen as tragic, apathetic figures unable to shape our own futures or play any sort of positive role in society? Well, I largely blame these plaster replicas, with their tragic expressions and cowering postures. Positioned it seemed, outside every shop, clearly visible to passers by and accepted as part of the general fabric of their lives.

What was even more disturbing and what I’m sure has played an equally important part in miseducating the general public regarding their perception of disability, is the language that was used in their advertising. Terms such as ‘the spastic’, ‘the cripple’ and ‘the handicapped’, adorning these brightly painted figures. This use of the article/adjective ‘the’, still used as in ‘the disabled’ rendering us as an amorphous, characterless group, lacking individual characteristics and all tarred with the same brush.

Those disability charities still have a lot to answer for …

Crippen Cartoon Resurrection Project – Dave is currently undertaking a project which involves him redrawing the old greyscale cartoons he created back in the 1980’s and 90’s depicting the fight for civil rights by disabled people in the UK. You can find out more about this project by visiting the project page and supporting him in this important work.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Five brightly painted plaster charity collecting figures stand against a plain green background. The words ‘the handicapped’, ‘the crippled’ and ‘the spastic’ are displayed around the figures.

Crippen discovers that Pandemic ‘could be a cause’ of falling proportion of disabled people.

You’ll recall a Blog article I posted back in June 2021 about the high number of disabled people who had died due to the Covid pandemic when compared to the general population of the UK. Well, it looks a though official figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – based on the results from the 2021 census – confirms this.

In an article published in Disability News Service (DNS) The ONS confirms that the proportion of disabled people in England and Wales fell sharply in the 10 years between 2011 and 2021, possibly caused … by the disproportionate number of disabled people who died during the pandemic.

In Wales, where an even higher proportion of deaths linked to COVID-19 were of disabled people, the percentage of disabled people decreased even more sharply between 2011 and 2021.

ONS said that one of the contributing factors to the figures could have been the COVID-19 pandemic, with ONS figures showing “that disabled people were at greater risk of death during the pandemic, which could have led to fewer disabled people in the population”.

ONS has previously estimated that about 58 per cent of Covid-related deaths in England between January 2020 and March 2022 were of disabled people, while in Wales about 68 per cent of Covid-related deaths were of disabled people.

The ONS census figures released this week also show striking differences in the proportion of disabled people living in the most deprived areas of England and Wales, compared with the least deprived.

You can read more about this in the DNS article, which also carries an interesting breakdown of the ONS statistics.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young family of four are standing outside a cage within which are two disabled people. On the cage is a sign that reads ‘endangered species’. One of the family members is holding a booklet with ‘museum guide’ printed on the front. On the floor is a piece of paper with ‘National Statistics – Less disabled people alive after Covid Pandemic’. One of the children is pointing at the cage with a question mark over his head. His father replies: “I’m not sure son – I think they used to be called the disabled!”