Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Crippen supports the call for the end of the WCA

A disabled independent disability studiesresearcher is finding it disturbing that the Disability Benefits Consortium is failing to support the user-led disabled community in its call for an end to the seriously flawed Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

WCA@crippencartoons.com

As the research lead for the Preventable Harm Project that she led for ten years, Mo Stewart points to the most recently published evidence that establishes a direct link to the death, despair and preventable harm of many thousands of disabled people who were evaluated using the WCA.

In a letter to Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive of Scope (who are active members of the Consortium) Mo expresses serious concern to learn that once again charitable groups like Scope, who claim to represent the disabled community in theDisability Benefits Consortium are lobbying for improvements to the WCA instead of demanding that it should be abolished. She told him:

“This simply demonstrates to the DWP that the Disability Benefits Consortium anticipate that the WCA will continue to be used. Most of us now accept that the WCA is a fatally flawed and totally discredited non-medical functional assessment – not a medical assessment – and is guaranteed to cause preventable harm to those in greatest need. In her letter to Hodgkinson, Mo reiterated that:

“The WCA disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines and was influenced by corporate America, who have advised successive UK administrations regarding social policy reforms since 1992.

“In a recently published briefing written in response to the Health and Disability Green Paper, and the latest research paper accepted for publication by the Journal of (In)Justice International it is made clear that the WCA does not need to be improved in any way. It needs to be abolished to stop more chronically ill and disabled people being killed by the state.”

I’ll let you know when (if?!) Mo gets a response. I don’t think she’s holding her breath!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Three giant red letters spelling out WCA are standing on grass against a clear blue sky. The letters are crumbling and cracking and are being repaired by three people. The first, a white male with an ID badge identifying him as being from the charity Mencap is hammering wooden strengtheners onto the letter ‘A’ whilst an Asian woman (from Scope) is wrapping white bandage around the letter ‘C’. The letter ‘W’ has a white male (from Leonard Cheshire) sat on top of it replacing broken pieces. A young wheelchair user is glaring at them whilst holding a banner with ‘scrap the work capability assessment’ printed on it. On the floor are three large pieces of card. On one is written ‘preventable harm project establish WCA directly linked to deaths’, on another is written ‘DPO’s state that WCA not fit for purpose’ and the final piece has written upon it ‘1,000’s die due to WCA process’. The man from Mencap is saying to the wheelchair user: “Just imagine where you’d be without the help of the Disability Benefits Consortium!”

Crippen hears that ATOS may be returning to carry out DWP assessments

Disabled activists reacted with horror after learning that the former government contractor ATOS could soon be carrying out “fitness for work” tests again, six years after being forced to withdraw from its assessment contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

ATOS withdrew from the contract with DWP in 2015, following years of negative publicity and multiple links between the actions of the company and its staff and the deaths of disabled claimants.

Now, because the DWP is introducing a major change to the way it commissions private sector companies to carry out health and disability benefit assessments – wanting a single supplier rather than the three it currently uses – disabled campaigners fear it could lead to ATOS once again returning to carry out these assessments.

Information released to Disability News Service (DNS) by DWP last year showed that, between April 2010 and April 2019, ATOS was paid more than £1.34 BILLION to deliver assessments. However, the failings of the assessment processes employed by DWP have been exposed through research and direct action by grassroots groups of disabled people, inquiries by parliamentary committees and concerns raised by individual MPs. The release of government statistics, television documentaries, and a lengthy investigation into the PIP assessment practices of ATOS by DNS further exposed their callous treatment of disabled claimants.

Paula Peters, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which helped to force ATOS’s withdrawal from the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract six years ago, said: “It’s an absolute outrage that ATOS could be carrying out WCA’s again … especially as they have caused disabled people such dreadful fear and distress as a direct result of these assessments.”

Read the full story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group of disabled people representing a variety of impairments and ethnicities look on in horror as the spectre of ATOS, in the form of a giant black cloaked figure with its arms raised in the air either side of its body, looms over them all. One of the disabled people is saying: “And just when we thought that things couldn’t get any worst!”                                                                                                                                      

Crippen asks you to challenge the proposed changes to border policies

Apart from the travel restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the government are now making changes to border policies which means that many overseas personal assistants (PAs), who disabled people rely upon for their everyday care and support needs, can no longer come into the country and work. 

We therefore need to get the government to make rule changes to allow overseas PAs to enter this country and work so that disabled employers can continue to live independent lives.

You can bring pressure on the government by filling in the online consultation . Responses should be evidence-based and where possible should provide data and/or examples to support your answers.

The deadline for submitting your responses to ‘the call for evidence questionnaire’ is 29th October 2021 so there’s not much time.

You can also write to your MP to lobby the government on your behalf.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two disabled people carrying placards are angrily confronting a man in a suit who represents a care home. The sign alongside of him reads: ‘Welcome to the Leonard Pressure Care Home’. One of the placards shows the DPAC logo and the other one reads ‘save our PAs’. On the floor at their feet is a notice which reads: ‘changes to border policy’. He is saying to the disabled protesters: “But look on the bright side – no PA support means that you can come and live with us!” Along the bottom of the cartoon is a statement that reads@ ‘tell the government to make rule changes to allow overseas personal assistants to enter this country and work so that disabled employers can continue to lead independent lives. Also write to your MP.

Crippen despairs as yet another minister for disabled people bites the dust

I’ve lost count of the minister’s for disabled people who have been given the boot following their participation in yet another ill thought out strategy for our future.

Just as Justin Tomlinson was about to face a common’s select committee to answer questions about his part in the national disability strategy debacle, another minister is pushed forward from the ranks to take responsibility for both the strategy and the disability benefits green paper.

Chloe Smith has been appointed to the post following the sacking of Justin Tomlinson, and now has to face not just the select committee but also a host of angry disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) who were excluded from participating in the strategy which will decide the future of disabled people in the UK.

As you’ll be aware, serious concerns were raised by DPOs about both the Shaping Future Support green paper and the National Disability Strategy in the days after their publication this summer. The new DPO Forum England – which represents 21 of the country’s leading DPOs and was set up after Tomlinson shut down his own advisory forum of DPOs – has now completed its detailed response to the green paper consultation, which closes on 11 October.

The Forum, which includes representation from Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, the Reclaiming Our Futures AllianceInclusion LondonThe Alliance for Inclusive EducationEqual Lives, Disability Positive in Cheshire, Disability Sheffield, and National Survivor User Network says in its response that it is “shocking and unacceptable” that the green paper “completely fails to address the inadequacy of the financial support available to disabled people who face multiple and complex barriers to employment”.

The response also says that the green paper is not based in “reality”, partly because it has failed to apologise to disabled people “for subjecting them to a hostile environment” which has caused “many deaths, large scale poverty, exclusion, and human rights abuses that have been examined in detail and condemned by the United Nations”.

The DPO Forum England’s response also stresses the important of independent advocacy for disabled benefit claimants, which it says would best be provided by local DPOs. And it also contrasts the UK government’s approach to reform with that of the Scottish government, which “has been framed to alleviate Disabled people’s stress and anxiety and a lack of trust in the disability benefits system”.

Read more about the DPO Forum England’s response in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The new minister for disabled people Chloe Smith is nudging the sacked minister Justin Tomlinson off a high ledge. Below him are lots of human skulls and bones identified as the Tory party political graveyard. She is holding a piece of paper on which is written ‘Tomlinson to answer for disability strategy fiasco to select committee’. Another sign at her feet reads ‘Chloe Smith MP appointed disability minister’. She is looking at you and is saying: “Tomlinson – No I don’t think we have anyone with that name working here!”

Crippen and the increase in government spending … all 29.5p of it!

Well, there you have it. This government place so much value on us Crips that they’ve decided to increase spending on services for disabled people by an incredible … 29.5p per person!

Launched on the back of the government’s new National Disability Strategy – which promises to bring about “practical and lasting change” – analysis by Disability News Service (DNS) has shown the government has pledged just £4.13 million of new funding in the strategy, despite claims by prime minister Boris Johnson that the document is the “down payment” on his promise to “build back better and fairer, for all our disabled people”.

Although ministers claimed last month that the commitments in the strategy were “supported by £1.6bn of funding”, more than a billion pounds of that was announced in last year’s spending review as part of a rise in spending on special educational needs, much of it allocated to supporting segregated schools. The government has yet to explain where the other £500 million funding has been allocated, but it is not thought to be new money.

But when divided among the 14.1 million disabled people the strategy says there are in the UK, this total of £4.13 million amounts to just 29.5p per person.

Mark Harrison, a member of the steering group of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), said the new funding of just 29.5p per disabled person was “an insult”. He described the strategy as “smoke and mirrors”, and he added: “It puts all the responsibility on disabled people to overcome the barriers, rather than removing the barriers. It’s a list of announcements, it’s not a strategy.”

Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for Disability Rights UK and speaking on behalf of the new DPO Forum England, a network of many of the country’s leading organisations of disabled people, pointed out that even the small amount of new funding had been taken from existing budgets. She said: “The £1.6 billion spend announced as part of the National Disability Strategy was money already allocated to departmental budgets from previous spending reviews.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said the apparent new funding of just £4.13 million showed that the “so called strategy is really nothing more than a cynical re-packaging of current polices and current budgets, all of which have failed to get our rights and equality back on track”.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing holding a copy of the National Disability Strategy and is being confronted by a small group of angry disabled people. Each of the disabled people is holding a cheque for 29.5p printed on it with a red cross across the amount. At their feet is a copy of Disability News Service which carries the headline ‘ DNS calculate new spending only worth 29.5p per disabled person’. Boris is saying to them: “Because it costs more to actually allocate this money to you all, we’re going to have to deduct it from your benefits!”

Crippen hears about the revival of direct action

I don’t know. I take a week off in order to move house and what happens … the peasants are revolting, that’s what happens. And not before time!

It’s taken Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to revive the tradition of direct action onto the streets and to confront this government about its callous and inhuman treatment against disabled people, or as this government no doubt refer to us … the peasants!   

DPAC, along with other disabled activists is hoping its #AudioRiot protest in central London will help highlight concerns about a series of “devastating” changes to social security, including imminent cuts to universal credit.

They are encouraging disabled activists and non-disabled allies to bring drums, whistles, cymbals, bells, klaxons, loudspeakers – as well as their own ear protectors – and anything else that might help to make noise as they protest about the government’s social security policies.

The protest, which will gather outside King’s Cross station at 11.30am on Tuesday 28 September, will also highlight the government’s refusal to offer recipients of so-called legacy benefits – including disabled people receiving employment and support allowance (ESA) – the same £20-a-week increase given to those on universal credit during the pandemic. DPAC has stressed however, that the action will not be targeted at King’s Cross station.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, told Disability News Service (DNS) he believed there was a lot of pent-up energy among disabled activists who have not been able to take to the streets for more than 18 months.

He said: “People want an opportunity to come out and have the harm that has been done acknowledged.”

He said the government had made decisions during the pandemic that had led to the deaths of countless disabled people and had “got away with murder” because of the months of lockdown.

Disabled people had paid for the government’s decisions with their lives, he said, and there had been very little critical response to that, both from within parliament and outside it.

“There is no accountability. Nobody is holding anybody to account.”

The action will be the first time disabled people has taken to the streets since the start of the pandemic, and it will take COVID-19 protective measures for those activists taking part.

Greene said: “We understand that not everybody will be comfortable going back onto the streets and coming to London for direct action, which is why we will also have online actions, and we are calling for local actions as well.”

On Saturday 25 September, three days before the central London action, DPAC will be calling on members and allies to create an #AudioRiot in their local areas.

And on the day of the London protest, the high court will be hearing a judicial review being brought by two disabled ESA recipients who believe the government breached the European Convention on Human Rights by increasing the standard allowance of universal credit by £20-a-week, but not increasing the rate for 1.9 million ESA recipients by the same amount.

A vigil to support those taking the judicial review will take place outside the Royal Courts of Justice, between 9.15am and 10am on 28 September.

Read more about the action in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software.

A large crowd of disabled protesters are picketing outside of King’s Cross station. They are holding several large yellow placards that, when held together show an unhappy face emoji along with the words ‘DPAC Protest’ in black print. Other placards show one with the DPAC logo and another with the words ‘disabled people are dying due to Tory cuts!’. There is also another large red placard with a skull and crossed bones symbol and the words ‘more Tory cuts means many more deaths!’ Some of the protesters are holding musical instruments including drums and cymbals and are making a loud noise. Two people are entering the station and are glancing across at the protest. One of them, a woman, is saying to her male companion: “Strange – I don’t recall hearing about this on the BBC?!”

Crippen has a wake-up call about racism

I’ve recently had a wake-up call from a couple of young black poets, whose work has slashed open the complacency screen that I’ve unwittingly stretched between myself and the increasing accounts of racism that are becoming an everyday occurrence in the UK.

I’m not racist, or so I tell myself. I like to believe that I treat all people the same, regardless of their ethnicity. These accounts of attacks against Black and people of colour are terrible, but I tell myself that there’s nothing I can do about it. As a white, middle class male any attempt that I do make in reaching out to people of different ethnicities would surely be seen as patronising and from a position of privilege.

One would have thought that as a disabled person I would be familiar with oppression in its many forms and that I would be seen as an ally in the fight for equality that Black and people of colour are waging. But the label that I carry of being part of the arrogant and condescending race that tore apart whole countries in the search for wealth and power still hangs around my neck. The resulting slave trade and exploitation of non-white labour both here and abroad only adds to this legacy.

But the poetry? You may have read the review in DAO recently about the anthology of poems Apricot Toast created by the Cross family and edited by disabled poet, writer and activist Merry Cross. Her twins Subira and Wandia focus much of their work on addressing the oppression and persecution that they experience as young Black people in a predominantly white society. And it’s this poetry that hit me between the eyes.

The twins talk about not having time for white ignorance. “The arrogance to overlook the structures built with the bodies of our ancestors for the benefit of their ancestors/ The structures that leave us little room to move, try to restrict us from breathing, flourishing, thriving …” and “You may want to adjust your behaviour, your colonial inheritance is showing/ You forget Your ancestors’ blood-stained hands still grip my ancestors’ kingdoms.”

They write about our racist childhood nursery rhymes and minstrel cartoons, violent assumptions, our stereotypes and ‘positive discrimination’, our distrust, our ignorance, and our hate. And as for England, the country where they were both born, they describe it as: “ … a country whose wealth was created by slaves. A country built on thousands of Black and Brown graves.”

Read their poetry. I can’t begin to adequately describe the feeling that goes into their work, but it certainly opened my eyes to the reality of racism in our society.

You can obtain a copy of the anthology of poetry from most major book-stores.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A white wheelchair user is using a paint brush to paint over white lettering on a black board. Alongside is another young disabled person holding a card that reads ‘addressing racism in disability arts’. On the floor besides a big tin of white paint is a list with several black related terms on it. The word black board has a line through it. The painter is saying: “That’s the black board nearly done – what’s next on the list?!” 

© 2021. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND

Crippen hears that International organisation of disabled people is involved in Wethe15 campaign

Well, it looks as though the organisers of WeThe15 have now promised that groups and organisations of disabled people will be involved in the running and organisation of the campaign.

Disabled journalist John Pring from Disability News Service (DNS) has been able to secure assurances from both the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that despite the presence of multiple mainstream organisations and businesses as campaign partners, that WeThe15 will be a campaign led and controlled by disabled people.

The aim of the campaign is to “intensify political will to support and strengthen” the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) over the next decade.

This means the UK government itself is likely to come under pressure, particularly as IDA hopes to push for greater involvement of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in policy design, an issue in which ministers have faced significant criticism and are currently facing legal action in the high court.

The campaign will prioritise different topics through its 10 years, beginning with access to COVID-19 vaccinations for disabled people and then – probably – access to assistive devices.

So, let’s hope that by having IDA involved along with the Deaf-led International Committee of Sports for the Deaf they will be strong enough to appose any of the usual ‘compromises’ imposed by mainstream organisations and businesses.

As John Pring comments, the IPC’s decision to launch the campaign marks a significant change in its approach to disability rights. You’ll probably remember that its previous chair, wheelchair user Sir Philip Craven had said that he objected to the use of the word “disabled” to describe someone, and that he would “definitely not” describe himself as a disabled person!

You can read the full DNS article here.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group of disabled people with varying impairments and ethnicities are standing facing a Paralympian in a speedy wheelchair. One of them is holding a placard that reads we the 15. The Paralympian is flexing his large arm muscles and is saying in a very excitable manner: “Please can I carry the placard … I’m very strong … can I … can I?” One of the other disabled people is thinking: “Bloody super Crips!”

Crippen discovered that non-disabled people appointed as disability ambassadors

WTF?! He’s done it again! The so called Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has appointed a string of non-disabled people to be his new disability ambassadors!

Surely that would be the same as appointing white people to represent the Black and Minority Ethic population or appointing white males to represent the women of this country … wait, they haven’t, have they?!

This latest ironic twist comes just as his government’s so called National Disability Strategy was claiming it would remove barriers to disabled people’s participation andacknowledge and appreciate the contribution that disabled people make to our national life” (you couldn’t make this up could you?!).

The strategy – heavily criticised by disabled people’s organisations – aims to “help ensure disabled people can play a full role in society” and “remove barriers to participation in public life”, while it claims that the government is “committed to ensuring fairness and inclusivity in public appointments”.

But Tomlinson’s announcement, published quietly as “guidance” but reported fully in Disability News Service appears to include as few as three disabled people in his new appointments. Although it’s not possible to say exactly how many disabled ambassadors there are, as the Department for Work and Pensions has always refused to provide this number, even though the role is supposed to be about championing disability inclusion.

I shouldn’t really complain, as this idiot keeps me so well supplied with material for my blog!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two white men in grey suits are being directed towards a green screen with images of disabled people on them. Where the faces should be are large holes through which they can put their own faces. A large camera on a stand is behind them. The man directing them is saying: “Well if you’re going to be disability ambassadors – you’ll have to look the part … so get behind the screen and stick your face through the hole!”

Crippen tries to discover if disabled people are involved in the ‘We the 15’ campaign

It’s funny what pops into your inbox these days. This blog in particular relates to one such email I received regarding a new human rights movement. And not only that … it’s a human rights movement to end discrimination against disabled people!

The press release I received the other day is from a group calling itself We the 15. The 15 apparently relates to the percentage of disabled people there are in the world, although where this figure comes from is not clear. And apart from reference to using the colour purple and stating their aims as being “the biggest ever human rights movement to end discrimination against persons with disabilities and transform the lives of the 1.2 billion people in the world with a disability” (gasps for breath!), there is very little information about who they actually are.

I’m writing this a few days before the launch of their campaign on 19th August 2021, so hopefully there’ll be a bit more information about who the organisers are after this date. There are some clues. The language they are using for example doesn’t originate from the disabled people’s movement in the UK. It tends to be the language of the status quo, those organisations who claim to represent us but have no disabled people involved in their management structure. It’s also the language of those disabled people who aren’t familiar with the Social Model understanding of disability; terms like “persons with disabilities” being more indicative of our European or American brethren.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking them. Any move to address the oppression of disabled people throughout the world can only be a good thing, especially if disabled people are involved. But why the secrecy? I’ll be interested to see who reveals themselves on the 19th. Hopefully it will be a group managed and controlled by disabled people and not another charity based initiative which undermines our continued fight for full civil rights.

Watch this space folks …

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large crowd of disabled people are standing in front of a large purple screen upon which is written ‘#wethe15’ and ‘19th August launch’. Behind the screen can be seen large banners being waved around. One reads ‘we represent persons with disabilities’ and ‘are you one of the 15%?’. Yellow hazard tape and bollards are keeping people away from the screened off area. An Asian disabled woman is saying: “So why is there no mention of groups and organisations of disabled people being involved?!”