Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Crippen asks – how soon before they change us from being vulnerable to being expendable?!

The use of negative language to describe disabled people has once again been challenged. This time it is Baroness Jane Campbell who has called for an end to the term ‘vulnerable’.

In an article in the Disability News Service (DNS) Jane said the term had been used repeatedly to describe disabled people during the “worst times” of the pandemic crisis.

But she said that many disabled people placed in the category of “vulnerable” or those who were told they needed to “shield” – as she has – had been forced instead to campaign for their basic human rights throughout the pandemic because the concept of “vulnerability… simply serves to anonymise our humanity and human rights”.

She pointed to the use of Care Act easements under the Coronavirus Act that led to disabled people losing vital care and support; the use of “frailty scoring” to prioritise ventilation and intensive care treatment; and GPs “ringing around asking the vulnerable if they wanted to consider a DNR on their notes”.

She said: “It began to feel like there was only a very short walk from being one of the ‘vulnerables’ to the chilling club of the ‘expendables’.”

She added: “It certainly didn’t feel like we were sheltered. Far worse.

“We were definitely not sheltered from the worst effects, with more than 13,000 older and disabled people having died from COVID-19 in care homes across England.”

She said the term “vulnerable people” made her feel “uneasy”, “exasperated” and “wounded” because it conjured up “weakness, victimhood and a cry for others to take responsibility for us”.

Baroness Campbell said “vulnerable” was used instead of words such as “human rights”, “equality” and “service entitlement to those who need them”.

She demanded that local councils and central government stop using the word “vulnerable” to describe disabled people.

“As of today, we (should) rid ourselves of the term ‘vulnerability’.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young wheelchair user is about to be given a large label by a man in a grey suit. The label reads ‘vulnerable’. Boris Johnson accompanied by Dominic Cummings is standing alongside and is holding out an alternative label with ‘expendable’ printed on it. Boris is saying: “Hang on – we’ve got a new label upgrade for them!”

Crippen receives confirmation that inequalities experienced by disabled people have widened during the pandemic.

A new report – An Affront to Dignity, Inclusion and Equality – produced by a group of disabled academics has confirmed that the inequalities experienced by disabled people have widened during the pandemic.

The report concludes that the government’s policy making has breached its duties to disabled people under both the Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The academics, from the Oxford University’s Disability Law and Policy Project and its Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, have also called on the government to launch an immediate enquiry into why so many disabled people have died during this time.

Reported in the Disability News Service (DNS) the report makes 22 recommendations, including a call for an “immediate” review of legislation introduced by the government during the crisis, as well as an inquiry to “understand the scale of COVID-19 related deaths and to examine why this group has carried such a heavy burden” through the pandemic.

It also calls for the government to set up a Response and Recover Group, made up of disabled people and representatives of disabled people’s organisations, to ensure disabled people are “central to decision-making” on the country’s economic and social recovery.

The report also highlights the “social and human rights” failings of the government’s pandemic response, which left many disabled people with high support needs unable to access food without leaving their homes, despite being at significant risk from the virus.

To read the full DNS article, please click here

Description for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson and an advisor are sat at a large round table. Opposite them are a group of disabled people. On the middle of the table a projector is throwing an image on the wall which reads ‘An affront to dignity, inclusion and equality – a report from Oxford university’s disability law and policy project’. Boris is smugly saying: “What do you mean you’re serious academics? I thought you said you were disabled!” A disabled woman standing at the back of the group is thinking: “Wanker!”

Crippen asks, has this government lost its new Disability Unit?

Er hello … is anyone there?!

One would be forgiven for thinking that the new Disability Unit staff had all gone on holiday during this recent crisis. Not a single announcement has been made by them over the past three months, despite over 22,000 disabled people having died from the Covid 19 pandemic.

You’ll probably remember the press release that announced the setting up of this “exciting” new government department and that it would bebreaking down the barriers faced by disabled people”. The Disability Unit was intended to bring together the former Office for Disability Issues and other experts from across government, and has offices in London, Sheffield and Leeds.

Despite the mounting evidence of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on disabled people, the Disability Unit’s web page has remained silent since 2 April, with the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson failing to use the page to speak out, report on progress or announce any policy developments to deal with the crisis.

Our friends at the Disability News Service (DNS) reports that there has been anger and concern at the Disability Unit’s failure from disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “This is a totally reprehensible failure while so many disabled people are dying and going through severe hardship. This government shows it just doesn’t care about us.”

Ian Jones, from WOWcampaign, said: “Two weeks ago we were left in no doubt that disabled people do not matter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This week we are being left in no doubt that disabled people do not matter to this Tory government.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people have experienced discrimination, disadvantage and disproportionately high death rates, as starkly detailed in our recently published report Abandoned, Forgotten and Isolated.

“Central government, despite these dreadful inequalities, has mostly failed to involve, engage with and listen to disabled people and Deaf and disabled people’s organisations in planning the response to the pandemic … we see no evidence that the government is working with disabled people’s organisations on COVID issues or to develop the National Disability Strategy due to be completed in 2020.”

You can read more about the response from groups and organisations of disabled people by clicking here and reading the full DNS article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is the office of the Disability Unit with a large desk dominating the space. Hiding behind the desk is Justin Tomlinson, Minister for disabled people. Large droplets of sweat are falling from him. At the door is a white male wheelchair user holding out a piece of paper on which is written ‘virus update – 22,000 deaths of disabled people’. A young black woman is standing in front of the desk and is saying to him: “I’m sorry Sir, but we seem to have mislaid the minister!”

Crippen reports on Manchester Coronavirus survey

A new survey by the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel (GMDPP) has revealed that many disabled people in the City and surrounding area have experienced extreme hardship during the pandemic lockdown.

The survey, which is in keeping with other reports from around the UK showed that: “disabled people were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic”, experiencing social isolation, reduced social care support, issues relating to access to food, medicine and information, and a severe impact on mental health”.

The GMDPP, which is made up of 14 disabled people’s organisations (DPO’s), had 936 responses to the survey making it one of the largest surveys by and for disabled people centred on the pandemic.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) provided an impartial analysis of the data, and the findings confirmed the Panel’s assertion that “disabled people were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic”

Rick Burgess, Outreach and Development Lead of the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, says: “We have made 13 key recommendations for improving the problems we identified … there is a lot of work to do to remove disabling barriers that have gotten worse over the last ten years and were made worse again in the pandemic”

Rick adds “However we as disabled people and our organisations and communities will not stop until our rights to a fully inclusive society are realised.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group of disabled people of differing impairments and ethnicities are positioned in front of a row of large stone slabs that are blocking their progress. The slabs represent barriers to society and carry text on them that reads barrier to inclusive education, barrier to accessible housing, etc. In the middle of the slabs, two new ones are being hammered into place by a huge mallet that has Covid 19 printed upon it. The new barriers read ‘Barrier caused by the impact on our mental health’ and ‘Barrier caused by reduced social care support’. One of the disabled people is saying: “Knocking them down? No – it’s adding even more bloody barriers!”

Crippen invites Dennis Queen to talk about her experience of the social model

Whilst some Disabled activists are calling for a re-examination of the social model of disability, Dennis Queen, disabled activist and singer song writer remembers her first encounter with this life changing concept.

Dennis writes:

I still remember how the social model understanding of disability helped me begin to make sense of my life, and the world. And here’s how it happened …

Even as a small child, I knew that people thought I was ‘wrong’ as a person – sort of damaged or broken. People kept trying to make me be more like everyone else and I was treated badly because I couldn’t conform. I thought that it was all my fault because people effectively blamed me for being ‘broken’.

In the late 1990s a disabled activist told me about the ‘Social Model of Disability’ and the epic story of how it came into being in the 1970s.

She told me I was not to blame for how I am treated – and that other people of all kinds who are seen as broken, or ‘impaired’, face similar oppression too. Many of them have formed a movement and work together to fight for changes like choices, control, inclusion, access, and freedom; everyone is welcome, and nobody is ‘wrong’.

This ‘disabled people’s movement’ challenged the causes of the harm, or oppression, that happens to us. The social model calls that oppression ‘disability’, and says it is caused by the barriers imposed within the world around us and its people. 

I was so excited to find out that we can fight back together against our shared oppression. Straight away, I joined my local Disabled People’s Organisation, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) where I learned to help with campaigns and make music about our work. I fought for the things that allow me to be part of our society. I learned to say: “I am disabled” (and share an oppression) and to celebrate our work together proudly. I was taught so much by so many amazing disabled activists, both there and around the U.K, all who are my heroes. 

Over 20 years later, I still get a buzz telling people about the exciting story of the social model of disability, and how it brings all kinds of different people together to fight for our freedom and human rights.

This life changing, world changing idea has brought thousands of disabled people of all kinds together to campaign. For almost 50 years the social model still steers us towards asking the right questions when we are faced with oppression. Long may the social model continue to help disabled people fight back together, until all our people are free to live in dignity, with respect and with rights.

Dennis Queen

Disabled activist

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Disabled activist Dennis Queen is riding in a chariot in her wheelchair. The chariot has large blades projecting from the wheels and on the back has a large sign that reads ‘social model rules’. In the traces is a large flesh coloured horse with the head of Boris Johnson. He is grimacing as Dennis cracks a whip over his head and says: “Come on then Boris – get with the programme!” At the bottom of the cartoon it reads ‘Dennis Queen Boudica’.

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 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!”