Crippen: Fleur and Doug go once more unto the breach

Following on from my last Blog when I expressed concerns about Johnson’s decision to scrap all Covid restrictions, I heard that our good friends disabled activists Doug Paulley and Fleur Perry are once again set to take legal action against the government about this very issue.

Doug Paulley and Fleur Perry 2022

Since the start of the pandemic Doug and Fleur, who are both considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to the virus, have spent most of their time shielding and restricting their outdoor visits to necessary GP and hospital appointments only. Also, like many of us they’ve not had close contact with family and friends but relied upon video conferencing to stay in touch.

Talking to Disability News Service Fleur believes the government’s decision to end the self-isolation requirement for those with Covid will further restrict her life, as there are likely to be many Covid-positive people sharing public spaces with her. Doug added that the increased circulation of COVID-19 in the community, with no requirement to self-isolate, will place him – and fellow residents of the care home in which he currently resides – at greatly increased risk, and significantly restrict their movements.

Their legal argument focusses on the government’s failure in its duty under the Equality Act to consult with disabled people and to undertake an equality impact assessment before making the decision on self-isolation. They believe there has been “a complete failure to have due regard to the needs of disabled and CEV people”.

You can contribute towards the legal costs for this action by visiting Doug and Fleur’s crowd funding page. They are already over halfway towards reaching the £8,000.00 total needed.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Caricatures of Doug Paulley and Fleur Perry who are sat in their wheelchairs facing forward. Doug is wearing a red top with the lettering: ‘We’re not paranoid – they really are out to get us!’. Fleur is saying: “We’ve already successfully challenged the government over the debacle of the National Disability Strategy …”. Doug adds: “and we’re now taking them back to court to challenge their badly thought out Covid restrictions withdrawal – but we need your help.” At the bottom of the drawing is a message box with ‘Please support this vital action by donating towards the legal costs we’ll be faced with. We’re almost there, in fact we’re over halfway towards the £8,000.00 needed. There then follows a url: http://www.crowdjustice.com/case/ending-isolation-risk-to-dp/

© 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence –  CC BY-NC-ND

Crippen looks at the double edged sword of freedom

With all restrictions being lifted with regard to the coronavirus pandemic and Boris Johnson claiming that he’s “finally giving people back their freedom” we are once again seeing this government having a completer disregard for those of us with a health condition that means if we do catch the covid virus, even this so called ‘mild’ variant, it will probably mean the end of our lives.

Freedom Cartoon 2022

How many of us have remained indoors as much as possible, only venturing out double masked and when there are less people around, restricting our contact with family and friends to video calls and doing almost all of our shopping online? We don’t do this because we have a secret hermit fetish or because we actually don’t like mixing with other people. We have had to take these precautions because if we hadn’t, and we caught the virus, then we would have followed many of our friends and colleagues who have died since this terrible contagion first reached our shores.

This ‘herd immunity’ thinking, which is what’s really behind this latest move, means that people will catch Covid and recover to have added immunity against further variants. That’s fine if we were all healthy and in our prime, but those of us who are elderly, disabled, or who have a lung disease (which in my case means all three!) the chances of recovering are greatly reduced.

But hey, we already know this don’t we. This government have shown that they have absolutely no interest in supporting those members of society who, to use a term popular in the early 1940s, are labelled as ‘useless eaters’ and a drain on resources.

I’m waiting to see the panic that will ensue when the new variant that is currently rampaging around Hong Kong reaches our shores. With no protection in place, people will look back at Johnson’s offer of ‘freedom’ as the double edged sword it really is.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is shown standing on a plinth in front of a large crowd of people who are all cheering and throwing their covid masks in the air. A large card at his feet reads ‘All Covid restrictions are to be lifted!’ and he is saying to the crowd: “And I give you all your freedom!” However, rearing up behind the crowd is a large tsunami type wave with ‘Hong Kong Variant’ written on it.

© 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence –  CC BY-NC-ND

Crippen challenges the status quo’s convenient categories

An article caught my eye the other day which reported on a bill passing through parliament to ensure people with Down’s syndrome, and their families, are given proper support by local authorities.

Down’s Syndrome Bill 2022

Sounds great doesn’t it? I mean, what can possibly be wrong with MPs coming together from both sides of the House to support such a bill? But let’s take another look at this shall we. Having been campaigning for decades to get what are essentially our basic human rights, and constantly challenging societies perception of us when looked at through their medical model bias, isn’t this just another example of maintaining their status quo?

What next, a bill for people with cerebral palsy, then a bill for people with restricted growth? Then a bill … well, you get my point. Why can’t there be a bill that provides a level playing field for ALL disabled people, addressing all of the barriers within society that disable us and without the need to fasten labels around our neck identifying which impairment group we belong to. We’ve been there, done that, and are too far down the social model understanding road to be once again split into impairment groups for the convenience of politicians and the charities that claim to represent us.

So, let’s have a bill that provides ALL disabled people with the legal right to challenge discrimination in all of its forms and not this piece-meal attempt at keeping us in our convenient categories.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A group representing medical professionals, disability charities and the government are standing looking at several disabled people placed into boxes. A sign above them reads ‘the disabled’ and labels on each box identify their impairment group i.e., Spina Bifida, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Restricted Growth. The government representative is saying: “There you go – all split back into impairment groups just like the good old days!”

© 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence –  CC BY-NC-ND

Crippen hears about tokenistic BSL bill

A leading Deaf campaigner has appealed to fellow users of British Sign Language (BSL) to reject a “tokenistic” new bill that claims to offer them new rights.

BSL Bill 2022

Jeff McWhinney, former chief executive of the Deaf-led organisation the British Deaf Association (BDA), has called on BSL-users to carefully examine the content of the British Sign Language bill. He states that the bill would not provide BSL with the legal status that Deaf people have been demanding since the 1980s and is “not good enough” and offers no important new rights to Deaf people.

The bill would recognise BSL as “a language of England, Wales and Scotland”, but the bill also states that this “does not affect the operation of any enactment or rule of law”. This appears to mean that the bill would provide a symbolic recognition of the language rather than offering any new rights for BSL-users who want the right to BSL interpreters when accessing public services such as the NHS, local government, and education.

Ironically, the bill, which McWhinney claims has been significantly watered down by civil servants, is not even available in BSL format. He added: 

“Deaf people must ask parliament to translate the bill into BSL so they can really understand what they are not getting, and then they can discuss it.”

He also believed that Deaf people were being misled about what was actually in the bill and told Disability News Service:

 “Deaf people believe they are getting extra rights for BSL. They are not.”

You can read the full story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software            

Two grey suited men are in the Conservative office. One is holding a piece of paper with ‘New BSL Bill’ printed upon it. The other is sat at a fax machine and is holding up another piece of paper which has written on it ‘Deaf people ask for BSL Bill to be made available in BSL format’. The man holding the Bill says: “They want WHAT – are these people never satisfied?!”

Crippen remembers the 300,000 disabled people murdered during WW2

I was recently given the opportunity to work on the D4D’s ongoing research project that is investigating, amongst other subjects, the question of eugenics and the horrendous experiments conducted on disabled people between 1942 and 1945.

This article discusses sensitive subject matter, so please only read it if and when you feel comfortable to do so and take care of yourself when you do.

Artwork: crippencartoons.com

Contributions to the project include harrowing accounts of disabled people ripped from their lives in the peaceful pre-war Holland into the nightmare that followed Germany’s invasion of their country during the second world war. One account in particular concerned Dutch university Professor Alexander Katan. He is remembered by fellow prisoner Josef Herzler, who was one of the few people to survive the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria:

“I especially remember a Dutch professor (Alexander Katan). He was a phenomenon of a person. If I were to describe his appearance, I have to say that he had dwarfism … He was very intelligent. He was a university professor and spoke seven languages fluently.”

Another inmate recalls how Professor Katan was displayed in the corner of the (concentration camp) block … all day long. Lots of Nazi SS men and doctors, also from other camps, came to see him … various medical experiments were conducted on him and after several months he was killed with an injection to the heart. Afterward, photographs of his skeleton were displayed.

It is now part of public record that by the end of World War II, an estimated 300,000 disabled people, including those with a mental illness or a learning disability had been gassed or starved, their fates hidden by phony death certificates and then largely overlooked among the many atrocities that were to be perpetrated by Hitler’s Third Reich in the years to follow. Many of these people were murdered by doctors from most of the occupied countries to further work on the Nazi’s Euthanasia and Eugenics programs.

A monument, outside of the Willem Arntsz Hoeve, a German mental hospital [sic] is all that remains to mark the atrocities inflicted upon mentally ill and learning disabled people there during the 1940s. It consists of a large, shaped sheet of reflective metal with the words:

‘They died like snow before the sun – 1942 to 1945’.

Lest we forget.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software Two haggard-looking white males wearing striped prison uniforms with a black triangle sewn onto their left breast are standing against a wall, On the wall is a sign that reads ‘ Achtung – behindert zum bearbeites’ (which roughly translated means ‘Attention – processing of disabled people’). On the ground by them are two big containers with ‘Giftige Chemikalien’ and a skull and cross bones painted on the front (roughly translated this means ‘poisonous chemicals’). Some yellow liquid is leaking from one container. A piece of text runs along the bottom of the cartoon with the words: ‘ between 1942 and 1945 it is estimated that 300,000 disabled people were murdered by doctors acting on behalf of the SS.’

Crippen joins in the cry for Gov to tear up its Disability Strategy

Despite the government’s works and pensions secretary Therese Coffee continuing to argue that last year’s disability survey was not a consultation but was just an information-gathering exercise, designed only to gather data about the lives of disabled people, she’s now been made to eat her words by the high court!

Tear it up cartoon by Crippen 2022

In an action brought by disabled campaigners, the high court found that not only was it a consultation but that it was an unlawful consultation, because the thousands of disabled people who took part were not given enough information about the government’s proposed strategy to allow them “intelligent consideration and response”. And because the court has found that the consultation was unlawful, then so is the strategy, which was published last July.

Disabled campaigners are now calling on the government to tear up its “fundamentally broken” National Disability Strategy after the high court ruled that the much-criticised document was unlawful. The court also found that the survey’s multiple-choice format, and the word limit on the small number of questions that allowed free-form responses, “did not allow for a proper response even to the issues canvassed in the Survey”.

It is not yet clear what action the government will take following the ruling, although a spokesperson said it was considering its next steps (I bet they are!).

Read the full account of this latest debacle in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Iain Duncan Smith is lounging in an upholstered chair with a glass of brandy and a large cigar in his hands. On the back of the chair hangs his Peer’s crown. Standing in front of him clutching a paper that says ‘high court ruling’ printed on it is Therese Coffee. She looks worried. On the floor between them is another paper with ‘national disability strategy printed upon it. IDS is saying: “ Just ignore them Therese – they should realise that we’re all above the law!”

Crippen hears how severely ill patient ordered to leave hospital to attend Job Centre

A coroner has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make urgent policy changes after it ordered a disabled patient to leave hospital to visit a Job Centre, despite being severely ill with a condition that later killed him.

Terence Talbot was being treated for drug hypersensitivity syndrome, while also being detained under the Mental Health Act, because of a rare reaction to medication that had been prescribed for his mental illness. Staff at the hospital told Disability News Service (DNS) that the severe allergic reaction had left him “very vulnerable to infection”, but DWP refused to allow him to submit a claim for benefits electronically.  Instead, he was told to leave the hospital and attend his local Job Centre in person.

He later died in Maidstone Hospital aged 58, from multi-organ failure caused by the lung conditions pneumonia and empyema, which themselves were caused by drug hypersensitivity syndrome (also known as DRESS syndrome).

Sonia Hayes, assistant coroner for Mid Kent and Medway, wrote to work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey to warn her that other claimants could die if she did not make urgent changes to how DWP deals with such cases.

Coffey has to respond to the coroner’s report by 28 January.

A DWP spokesperson told Disability News Service: “Our condolences are with Mr Talbot’s family. We are considering the report and will respond in due course.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The grim reaper, along with his trademark scythe is standing alongside of Therese Coffey. He is taking phone calls and DWP helpline is printed on the side of his black hooded cloak. Coffey is saying to a man in a grey suit who is standing alongside her: “I thought that we could cut out the middleman!”

Crippen applauds disabled protesters who are prepared to face prison

Disabled activists Dolly Sen and Ellen Clifford have stated that they are prepared to break the law, and even go to prison, if the government succeeds in bringing in new legislation that will see the criminalisation of protest.

Criminalisation of Protest

They were both speaking at the online launch of Dolly’s new documentary, Broken Hearts for the DWP, which exposes the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in countless deaths of benefit claimants over the last decade.

Dolly told those at the launch that she was “expecting to go to jail” for her fight against injustice, due to changes being introduced by the government through the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that she said would have a worrying impact on the right to protest.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said the bill was one of the ways the government was using to shut down disabled people’s attempts to protest its actions. The bill also included attacks on the use of judicial reviews, a lawful process that has been a successful means of challenging wrongful government decisions by disabled people over the past 10 years.

She added:

“We know from history that the only way to achieve fundamental change is from the grassroots up, when we all collectivise and we forcefully demand the change that we want to see. Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy or comfortable ways to do that, and I just think we absolutely cannot be afraid of criminalisation. We have to take it on as our next battle.”

Speaking to Disability News Service (DNS) after the launch, Ellen said: “Disabled activists have to not be afraid to risk prison, we have to protest and go to prison to get our voices heard. We can’t look for ways around it – softer options that might be more comfortable and convenient for us, but which will fail to get our message across or to raise awareness sufficiently, and most importantly present a challenge to those in power.

“There are people [in the disability sector] who think that the way that you engage and influence the government is to be reasonable. But you don’t. First of all, if they don’t want to listen, they are not going to listen however you put across your evidence. This government is unreasonable, they are violent, they create injustice, and they have created a system that is deliberately designed to push disabled people into poverty because our lives are worth less to them than other people’s. It’s right that we meet them with a level of anger that is completely justified.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing alongside of a police officer who is holding a card with ‘police, crime, sentencing and courts bill’ printed upon it. Behind Johnson is a crowd of disabled activists protesting about inaccessible transport, the DWP and those disabled people who have died during benefit assessments. Several recognisable faces are amongst the protesters including Sue Elsegood, Dolly Sen, Ellen Clifford, and Bob Williams-Findlay. Johnson is pointing at the card with a quizzical expression on his face. The police officer is saying to him: “We can’t arrest them Sir – none of our jails are accessible!”

Crippen sums up another year under Tory misrule.

Well, there we have it boys and girls. Another year in which the government has continued to erode our rights and smuggle yet more discriminatory legislation under the radar. You wonder how they do it, what with all of the partying allegedly going on!

The Lord of MisRule

In the old days, the Yule celebrations involved appointing someone as the Lord of misrule. They were put in charge of Yule revelries and instigated much drinking and wild partying. I’m beginning to think that Boris was appointed Lord of Misrule at some time, but just didn’t stop after the festivities ended.

How about this next year we all shout “enough!” and take to the streets again to protest. Oh, but wait. He’s currently pushing through legislation that will make it illegal to protest (who didn’t see that one coming?!).

Do try and have yourself a lovely festive holiday, regardless of all the crap that’s flying around, and I’ll see you all again in the New Year.

Bah Humbug Boris!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Several prominent Tory ministers, including Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Duncan Smith, and Coffey are all partying at No. 10. A large sign reads ‘Tory Xmas Party … shhhh, we’re not really here!’ Johnson has a sign around his neck that reads ‘Lord of Misrule’. In the background are many more people surrounded by Christmas decorations, balloons, and a large Christmas tree. In front of the tree is a small figure wearing ragged clothes and sitting in a self-propelled wheelchair. They are holding up a bowl with ‘Rights’ written on the side. The disabled person is saying to Johnson: “Please sir – can we have some more?!”

Crippen hears that Government’s PIP reviewer disagrees with Coffey’s ‘no duty of care’ claim

So, have you got it?! When Boris say that there wasn’t a party at number ten, he means that there might have been a party, but one which nobody attended. And when work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey says that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) does not have a ‘duty of care’ to benefit claimants, she actually means that she’ll stick to that version as long as nobody leaks information that contradicts her!

Duty of Care © crippencartoons.com

This is why I was particularly delighted when our friend at Disability News Service (DNS), John Pring published an article revealing that Paul Gray, a civil servant commissioned by the DWP to review disability benefit assessments and who was recently giving evidence to the Common’s work and pensions committee, told them:

“Yes, of course there is a ‘duty of care’ in any process of this sort to treat people fairly, appropriately and empathetically.”

He said: “Those are all things that I think it is entirely appropriate for the department to undertake and my sense is the department is aware of that sense of duty.”

And to compound the situation DNS has also reported how two earlier DWP documents show civil servants discussing the department’s ‘duty of care’. One recommended that the department should carry out a review of its “ongoing Duty of Care”. Whilst a second document, written to assist DWP staff in dealing with claimants who need support in using its services, stated:

“Where the claimant has a known background of mental illness there are minimum requirements that Jobcentre Plus should be adopting to ensure that we are not found to be neglectful in our ‘duty of care’ towards these claimants.” 

So there we are, or are we? Who knows? (gently bangs his head against the wall!).

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Therese Coffey is standing opposite a man in a grey suit who is holding a DWP press release. On the wall behind them is a sign that reads ‘DWP press office’. Coffey is saying to him: “So, we don’t have a duty of care but if we did then it isn’t the one that we might not have … got it?!” The man, looking bewildered responds with: “ …er?!”