Crippen looks at language

In my last Blog about the high death rate amongst learning disabled people during this pandemic, I used an article by journalist Nick Cohen as my source material. At the end of his article he spoke about the language used when talking about ‘people with learning disabilities and autism’ which Bob Williams Findlay, disabled activist and academic found interesting.

Nick wrote: “You will notice that throughout this piece I have used the clunky formulation ‘people with learning disabilities and autism’. Actually, if you obey the dictates of contemporary healthspeak it is not clunky enough. One should say ‘people with learning disabilities and/or autism’.

“Everyone from the government to NHS Trusts to media editors now insists on bans on phrases such as ‘the mentally handicapped’. You should not reduce every aspect of the victim’s personality to their condition. Not that you should say ‘victim’ either. As the Time for a Change campaign group said, ‘victim’, along with ‘the afflicted’, ‘a sufferer’, are impermissible too. ‘Many people with mental health problems live full lives and many also recover’…

“The naïve might think that language policing is a sign of a society that cares so much about ‘people with learning disabilities and autism’ it can devote precious time to worrying about the implications of every word used to describe them.

“NHS negligence should squash that comforting thought. As so often, making language purer is a diversion from making lives better. Or in the case of ‘people with learning disabilities and/or autism’ allowing them to live at all. Soft words blind us to what is in front of our eyes.”

Bob Williams Findlay responds:

“Nick Cohen’s article in The Spectator is not only chilling, it raises fundamental disability politics. The material facts: the scandalous deaths, eugenic policies and socio-cultural medicalization of people with impairments, have to be addressed alongside the ideological and political issues.

“To see a mainstream publication acknowledge the significance of language is important, but it needs context. Through my line manager, who was on an influential NHS advisory board, I had ‘mental handicap’ replaced by ‘learning disabilities’. Twenty years on, I think I can own that piece of history now, but what this article reinforces is the fact that changing words is only part of what’s required.

“Smashing disablism demands dismantling deep-rooted ideological pillars that inform medical and societal values and practice.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A caricature of Bob Williams Findlay (BWF) is standing holding a large sledgehammer. At his feet is a broken piece of stone pillar with ‘Socio-cultural medicalization’ written on it. Two other pillar are still standing in the background. One reads ‘Eugenic policies’ and the other ‘corrupt medical and societal values’. Bob is looking angry and is shouting: “Come on people – help me to smash these deep-rooted ideological pillars for good!”

Crippen looks at the Coronavirus death rate amongst learning disabled people

Having been fobbed off by this government about the number of deaths amongst learning disabled and autistic people it has come to light that many more have died during this pandemic than the vague 2% claimed.

It has always been clear to those of us monitoring the effects of the pandemic on disabled people that the idea that learning-disabled people were not dying at a disproportionate rate made no sense whatsoever. With all support suspended by Local Authorities and carers struggling to obtain advice and protective equipment, it was clear to many of us that the reason the figurers where so low was that the government through NHS England weren’t interested in accurately recording the deaths of disabled people, especially those people who were learning-disabled or with autism.

In an article in the Spectator, journalist Nick Cohen writes: Long after the time when speaking out might have saved lives – NHS England announced that it had finally accepted what the Care Quality Commission had been telling it since June. Far from being nothing to worry about, the probable death rates of people with learning disabilities and autism had doubled during the pandemic.

Labour’s shadow secretary for social care, Liz Kendall, had urged Department of Health and Social Care minister Helen Whately to publish data on deaths reported to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme. But it became clear that NHS England didn’t appear to be counting and wasn’t interested. The NHS wasn’t going to rush because learning disabilities were not a risk factor worth bothering with.

So, the government has got away with it. There has been next to no coverage of deaths among disabled people. Official inquiries have examined the disproportionate death tolls among ethnic minorities. But on learning disabled people and those with autism, nothing. Or so little it might as well have been nothing.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson are standing together alongside a young woman who is typing on a laptop computer. A graph on the computer shows a red line climbing from left to right. Above her head is a large sign that reads ‘NHS England’ and on the floor at her feet are torn up reports on the deaths of learning-disabled people and those with autism. Johnson is saying to her: “Just concentrate on recording the deaths of those people who could vote!”

Crippen and the call for grassroots activism

Speaking at the online launch of a new book by a disabled activist, Ellen Clifford, Professor Colin Barnes, one of the most significant figures in the development of the social model of disability, said that disabled people had faced a decade of oppression over the last decade and that we will only end this by getting involved in grassroots activism.

Reported in the Disability News Service, Professor Barnes said: “The problems of disabled people have been compounded by the austerity process and now, particularly, with COVID-19 and the treatment of disabled and elderly people by this apology for a government.”

But he added: “The evidence of history shows that history can be changed through disabled people and their allies, and this is why ongoing activism is fundamental.

“Grassroots activism and involvement (are) the only way we will change this appalling situation.”

When you look up the definition of grass roots activism, it describes an action that relies on individuals who are willing to stipulate changes that they are related with from the ground up; it is the most basic level of activity that unites people to undertake actions that promote changes. A grassroots activist can be anyone who feels strongly about an issue and acts upon it.

So, there you have it. We need to get off our backsides and start to challenge this appalling status quo that is being imposed upon us by the current Tory government. We are ALL affected by the changes they are making to legislation; the scrapping of significant sections of the Care Act and the suspension of local authority services and the replacement of the European Convention on Human Rights with something yet to be defined.

So, let’s get that grass growing folks!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

This cartoon is basically a pun with small disabled protesters sprouting out of the ends of blades of grass and carrying banners. The heading is ‘grassroots activism by disabled people’. The banners that the protesters are carrying cover most of our historic statement and include, ‘rights not charity’, ‘nothing about us without us’ and ‘we shall not be removed’. The protesters represent a diverse representation of ethnicity and impairments.

Crippen asks: “are we just disposable members of society?!”

Having completely ignored us during this pandemic, Boris and his cronies continue to put the lives of disabled people at risk as he recklessly throws aside those few safety measures that remain.

Once again, we have to look out for ourselves, as this shambles of a government certainly aren’t doing it!

One can only think that unless they find a use for us, we’ll continue to be seen as disposable members of society. And, with my cartoon in mind, we’re certainly cheaper than canaries!

So, we need to keep doing what we do best – networking and supporting each other, even if it’s only through the medium of the internet.

Take care and keep safe brothers and sisters.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is down a mine holding up a cage with a small disabled figure in it. He is wearing a miner’s helmet. Around his feet is a gassy mist identified as Covid 19. He is saying: “I knew they’d come in useful for something!”

Crippen asks you to remember those disabled people who died before the pandemic

Just prior to the virus taking a hold within the UK, John Pring, disabled journalist had written a detailed, yet harrowing account of the disabled people who died during or following a DWP benefits assessment.

DWP prosecutions? crippencartoons.com

This article, entitled ‘DWP – the case for the prosecution’ provided detailed information about some of those disabled people who had lost their lives following involvement with the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP). It also stated that Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling (both portrayed in the cartoon), along with other senior civil servants should face a criminal investigation for alleged misconduct in public office.

Compounding this The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has now rejected calls for it to investigate those deaths. It claimed that it was not able to carry out an inquiry into DWP activity “due to the pandemic”.

Not saying that those people who have died because of the Covid 19 virus are not important, but it is vital that we don’t allow those disabled people who died due to changes in the benefits system to slip into obscurity.

Please read John’s article and refamiliarize yourselves with the details of this terrible crime against our disabled community.

Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, had also backed the calls for EHRC action. You can contact her and add your support by emailing her at vicky.foxcroft.mp@parliament.uk

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) and Boris Johnson are stood beside a workman changing a large sign in front of a cemetery. Opposite them stands Chris Greyling MP. The workman is fixing a new sign which reads ‘In memorial – disabled who have died of natural causes or had agreed to DNR protocols’. Discarded on the floor are two signs with big red crosses through them. The first one reads ‘In memorial – disabled who have died following DWP benefits assessment process’ and the second sign reads ‘In memorial – disabled who have died due to Covid 19 pandemic’. IDS is saying to Johnson: “It’s what we call sanitising history PM – very soon everyone will only remember what we tell them!”

Crippen’s worst predictions are confirmed

At long last the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released figures confirming something that we already suspected – that a disproportionately high number of disabled people have died in the UK since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Covid deaths @ crippencartoons.com

Despite constant pressure from disabled activists and groups and organisations of disabled people, the government have either ‘lost’ or have been reluctant to share information regarding the affects of the Coronavirus on disabled people.

However, the ONS have also called on the government to take urgent action to protect disabled people from COVID-19, after the figures showed younger disabled women were as much as 11 times more likely to die from coronavirus than non-disabled women in the same age group.

Despite the shocking figures, their publication passed almost unnoticed in the media and was only picked up by disabled journalist John Pring of the Disability News Service (DNS).

The news was released as the government announced a further relaxation of the restrictions affecting disabled people who have been shielding during the crisis.

I know that I get some stick for harping on about this government and its (not so) hidden agenda regarding disabled people. But, as one of the more vulnerable groups within our society when it comes to the effects of this virus, we not only seem to be completely ignored when it comes to structuring any safety rules, but are also actually put into harm’s way by the stopping of the support services that many of us rely on.

These new figures confirm what we’ve all feared …  

You can read the full article in the Disability News Service here.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group, representing disabled people of differing impairments and ethnicity are surrounded by large black cloaked figures, floating and holding various cards that read ‘target the disabled’ and ‘target the mentally ill’ and ‘target the learning disabled’. The black figures are identified as the coronavirus Covid 19.

Crippen’s feeling worried about a second pandemic wave

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we’ve seen the back of this pandemic.

Here on the Island, the towns and beaches have suddenly exploded with people, quite a lot of them completely ignoring the social distancing rule. And when you take the initiative and create a space between yourself and another person, you’re the one viewed as being anti-social!

And as for me wearing a face mask and disposable gloves … well!

It worries me that this government seem to be focussed more on the economy than on people’s lives. And considering what’s happening with the dropping of most services and support for disabled people, and disabled children in particular, it seems as though we’re all being viewed as disposable cannon fodder in this current war.

Dominic Cummings has made his feelings clear about those of us he feels are a drain on society (see my previous Blog) so it doesn’t take a big leap to imagine him manipulating what appears to be aimless blundering by this government when it comes to safeguarding it’s citizens, and using this pandemic to rid themselves of those of us he identifies as being the ‘useless eaters’.

But don’t get me started on that again!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Several disabled people are on a beach looking out to sea. Racing towards them is a tsunami wave identified as the Covid 19 second wave. On the beach along side of them is Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings. Boris is saying: “So you reckon lifting restrictions on just the disabled then Dom?!” Cummings replies: “That’s right Bojo – it’s the last chance we’ll have to thin them out more!”

Crippen discovers that a Covid 19 report on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people has gone missing!

The British Medical Association (BMA) has demanded an explanation from the government following reports that pages containing recommendations to protect Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, including disabled people were removed from last week’s Covid-19 disparity report.

In a letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock, shared exclusively with the Guardian newspaper, the head of the BMA called for the missing pages and recommendations to be published immediately.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul CBE, the BMA council chair, noted his concern over reports that 69 pages covering seven recommendations were removed from last week’s Public Health England’s report.

“I’m finding it inexplicable the government did not release the full report at a time not only when the BAME community suffered so disproportionately with the virus, but also at a time when there was global outcry and outrage to racial inequalities,” Nagpaul said.

In the letter, the BMA’s chair wrote: “A clear response is needed as to why these pages and important recommendations were omitted from publication, especially when it is so critical that action is taken to save lives now and reduce race inequalities.”

Yet another example of this government conveniently ‘losing’ important information when it’s needed most (see my previous Blogs relating to missing, amended and shredded documents regarding disabled people). What next I wonder?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large group of disabled people representing a wide range of impairments and ethnic diversities are standing behind a large banner that reads ‘Black lives matter’. The word ‘disabled’ has been added at the front of the lettering. A lot of the people are raising a clenched fist salute.

Crippen discovers that UK Government are facing legal action over DNR orders

A legal challenge has been launched against the government for failing to use their emergency powers to ensure patients and their families understand how decisions are made about Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The legal challenge is being brought by Kate Masters, daughter of the late David Tracey, who brought a successful judicial review in 2014 establishing a violation of his late wife’s Article 8 rights in relation to an imposed DNR order.

This case established that that there is a legal duty to consult with and inform patients if a DNR order is placed on their records except in very narrow circumstances.

Kate decided to launch the legal challenge following numerous reports in the media of DNR notices being imposed in seemingly blanket ways, without consultation with patients or their families and showing a great amount of confusion within the general public over the need for consent.

She believes that decision making around DNRs has become opaque, inconsistent and deficient. In addition, she is greatly concerned about her own position due to her ongoing health problems and serious conditions affecting her family members and feels at significant risk of a DNR decisions being made without proper process.

Click here to read the Welfare Weekly article in full.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two disabled people, one using a wheelchair, and another identified by their t-shirt as a survivor’s poet, have had DNR stamped onto their foreheads in indelible ink by a doctor. On the floor is a torn up DNR consent form. On the wall is a sign that reads ‘hospital admissions’. The doctor is saying: “There you go – no more messing around with those stupid forms!”

Crippen supports the UK Disability Arts Alliance ‘We Shall Not Be Removed’ who are responding to the current crisis

An alliance of disabled people working across the UK creative industries have come together to campaign for an inclusive cultural recovery following the Covid 19 pandemic.

Called ‘We shall not be removed’, this is an emergency response led by disabled people for disabled people working across the UK’s creative industries. Designed as a forum to advocate, campaign and support D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners and organisations through and after COVID.

In an article following the first on-line meeting of the group, Disability Arts Online Magazine reports that as disability arts communities have become more and more isolated due to the current crisis, so it seems our concerns have been increasingly put aside by the authorities and by the media. Our position within society has become ever more fragile within a very short space of time as new policies responding to the pandemic have ignored the plight of disabled people

The last decade has seen a flowering of disabled people’s talent in every artform and increasing levels of inclusion across the cultural mainstream, but all this progress is threatened by the pandemic.

The aims of the alliance are:

● To ensure a sustainable future for disability and inclusive arts in the UK through and after the pandemic

● To amplify the voices of D/deaf, neurodiverse and disabled creative practitioners & disability arts organisations at a time of crisis for the arts and for disabled people

Launched on 6 May with an inaugural meeting held on 4 June, membership of the new alliance has already reached over 150 individual disabled creative practitioners, disability arts organisations and those that work inclusively, from across the four UK nations, across artforms and across impairment groups. New members are actively sought to ensure the alliance reflects the full diversity of disabled people working in creative industries.

For more information please click here to follow the full article in the Disability Arts Online magazine.

To access the open letter to the Culture Ministers please click here.

To contact the organisers email – weshallnotberemoved@gmail.com

And for twitter #weshallnotberemoved

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large broom labelled ‘government clean up’ is sweeping a blue liquid down an open drain. The liquid which is identified as Covid 19, contains pieces of card representing disability arts groups and organisations and include Graeae Theatre, Candoco, Drake Music, Disability Arts Cymru, Access all areas, Shape arts, Hijinx and DAO. Across the top of the page is an email address – weshallnotberemoved@gmail.com – and a twitter hash tag that reads ‘weshallnotberemoved’.