Crippen looks at Queues … and Nirvana

You might remember an interview I did with Nabil (Nabs) Shaban back in June of this year. In it he told me about an encounter he’d had in India when he was told that because he’d deliberately chosen a grossly inferior physical incarnation, that if his soul survives the arduous life’s journey … he would, upon death, achieve Nirvana.

Crippen and queueing

I don’t know why, but that stuck in my mind and when I’d decided to create a cartoon about the passing of the Queen and the extraordinary queue that formed in order to file past her laying in state, well, they sort of came together!

I’ll just wait for the knock on the door by the men who wear red uniforms and silly hats, with an invitation to spend some time in the Tower of London.

The cartoon has already passed the “surely you can’t print that!” test, so here goes nothing!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The late Queen is seen standing in a queue of people. She is looking somewhat bemused. On the wall above the queue is a sign that reads ‘Welcome – please queue here for the next stage of reincarnation’. One person in the queue is saying to another: “Who’s going to tell her that this is the queue to be reincarnated as a disabled benefit claimant?!”

Crippen discovers Truss and Sunak dodge questions from disabled Tory members

The two Conservative candidates to be the next prime minister are both refusing to face questions at an event organised by disabled members of their own party.

As reported in Disability News Service (DNS) Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have both ducked out of attending hustings events for the Conservative leadership race organised by the Conservative Disability Group (CDG) and the Conservative Mental Health Group. They will each instead send MPs to answer questions on their behalf.

Truss is sending Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, to answer questions from CDG members tomorrow (Friday), while Sunak will be sending disgraced former health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to speak for him a week later, on 26 August.

It also emerged this week that both Truss and Sunak have failed to respond to a letter from more than 50 disability organisations that called on them to ensure they put disabled people at the heart of any government plans to address the cost-of-living crisis.

Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said:

“The leadership candidates need to engage with disabled people, including their own activists, if they are serious about improving their lives and helping them deal with the daily pressures. It’s sad to see that both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are unwilling to do this.”

Hmmm … and we thought that we had it bad with Boris!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Caricatures of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are standing side by side. They each have a ‘vote for me’ label attached to a lanyard around their necks. Truss is saying: “At least we’re consistent with our approach on disability issues …” Whilst Sunak replies: “Yep – neither of us give a flying fuck!”

Crippen asks – What’s in a name?!

I recently had a discussion with a disabled activist friend from Africa who pointed out to me that many of his friends and colleagues in the global South still view us through the lens of our infamous past.

Our history of riding rough-shod over cultures and religions that were different from ours, enslaving or at worse ending the lives of those that decided to challenge our imperialistic viewpoint. And let’s not kid ourselves, the vast majority of the wealth that some still have in this country came from slavery and the rape of those countries producing everything from exotic woods and sugar cane to tobacco and spices (all usually harvested by slaves).

This issue came up when we were discussing the Social Model understanding of disability and how they used the term ‘people with disabilities’. He explained that as much of their connection with the rest of the world since the late 1940’s originated through the United Nations, this was how they had been described. Their approaches to other mainly western organisations for funding, for example, reinforced this description. It is only recently that they have been encountering disabled people from the UK who describe themselves as ‘disabled people’, using the Social Model understanding of disability as the basis for this.

Another friend from Africa and a member of the Association for Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerians with Disabilities (ASCEND) told me that they had chosen this name at the time because it suited their vision of ascending to take their rightful place in society. This was considered a more important focus than whether or not they used the term ‘disabled people’ or ‘people with disabilities’.

It seems that we are the only ones that are hung up on this particular aspect of the language of disability, insisting that everyone else use the term ‘disabled people’ if they are truly following the Social Model understanding. Again, it was pointed out to me that it was mainly the white disabled people in the UK who are once again saying: “We are right and you are wrong, and you must change your language to accord with our viewpoint!”

Having spoken with disabled people from many parts of the world, although they mainly describe themselves as being ‘people with disabilities’ they also follow the Social Model understanding and are as radical in their approach as many groups in the UK, if not more so as they also have to contend with corrupt governments and civil wars.  

So, the bottom line is, if we want to engage more with our disabled brothers and sisters in the global south and other parts of the world, we’ll have to let go of our insistence that ‘disabled people’ is the only term that we will recognise. Perhaps we should begin to accept that what we’re called is just a bit of a smoke screen and that there are wider issues at stake here, such as combining our resources to fight a world that is continuing to erect barriers to disable us – people with disabilities and disabled people alike. 

Cartoon description for those using screen reading software

Three black disabled people are in front of a large sign which reads: Association for comprehensive empowerment of Nigerians with a disability (ASCEND)’. Each of the three have a sign around their neck. They read: ‘The banks are not encouraging national integration’ and ‘It’s not a crime to use a wheelchair’

Crippen hears how ROFA have put the call out for its DPO members to join the new DPO Forum 

Remember the last Minister for disabled people, er … what was his name? Justin Time? Justin Case? Ah, there we go, Justin Tomlinson. Well, if you remember he set up this Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO’s) Forum back in 2021. Don’t be surprised if you never heard of it as he closed it down again the same year! 

New Forum for DDPOs

Well, the disabled people who’d tried to get involved with this initiative only to have the rug pulled from under their feet, have organised and have met together independently to form their own DPO Forum. They describe themselves as a coalition of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) in England which engages with government to protect the rights of disabled people in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD). 

They’ve already set out their priorities for campaigning and holding Government to account and are currently meeting with Chloe Smith, the relatively new Minister for disabled people and civil servants from the Disability Unit and other Government Departments.  They also have a social care sub-group which is campaigning against care charging and for independent living. 

If you’re an organisation of disabled people and wish to join the DPO Forum then please email Reclaiming Our Future Alliance (ROFA) and they’ll make the connection for you.

Or alternatively, just join one of the meetings using the link below and introduce yourself. The DPO Forum England meets on the last Wednesday of the month – Here’s the link to the next meeting 3-5pm 27th July 2022: 

Join Zoom Meeting here 

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two white males in grey suits are crouched down below a window through which you can see a meeting taking place. A sign in the meeting room reads ‘DPOs Forum Meeting’. A newspaper page has blown at the feet of the two men. On it is printed: ‘Stop Press – New DDPOs Forum to meet with new minister for disabled people’. The first male crouched below the window is Justin Tomlinson, the former minister for disabled people. He is saying: “Hang on a minute – I thought that I’d put a stop to all of that DPO’s nonsense when I was minister for the disabled?!”

Crippen hears about more dirty tricks played by benefits assessors!

Gasp, shock, horror! Conservative MP Dr Ben Spencer said he had been told that staff working for government contractors were setting traps at assessment centres to try to test claimants’ mobility.

DWP Dirty Tricks 2022

And playing along with this display of outrageous indignation we have our fairly new minister for disabled people Chloe Smith throwing her hands in the air and doing an impersonation of an owl (you should see the photo is the Disability News Service article!) and promising to carry out an urgent investigation into his claims!

Smith confirmed that she “did not recognise these tactics as legitimate parts of the assessment process” and said she was “concerned” to hear of the examples Spencer had provided (I bet!).

This isn’t new. Disabled claimants have been telling us about the underhand tricks employed by the likes of Atos and Capita for years, now it seems that the newest member of this cabal, the Disability Assessment Service are alleged to be doing the same.

Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, had been giving evidence to the Commons work and pensions select committee when Spencer (trust me I’m a doctor), a member of the committee, said he had been at an event that was taking evidence from disabled people who had been through the assessment process when he was told of “their perception that they were being covertly assessed”.

He said one claimant described to him how there had been water available at the assessment centre, but the water cooler did not have any cups, although the cooler at the end of the corridor did have cups, which Spencer said was a test “to see if the person was able to walk beyond the first water cooler to get some water”. Another claimant described the healthcare professional who was assessing them dropping a pen to see if they would pick it up “as part of a covert assessment, effectively, of their mobility”.

Don’t hold your beath waiting for the outcome of this latest disclosure. They’ll probably end up giving the assessors a bonus for being so creative!

You can read John Pring’s full account of this story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is outside of a lift on the third floor of the benefits assessment service. A large sign on the lift says: ‘out of order’. Standing in front of it is a white male in a grey suit, holding a clipboard on which he has been placing red crosses against items on a list. At his feet a red faced male figure is struggling on his hands and knees to climb to the top of a flight of stairs. In his hand he’s holding a crutch and he is gasping for breath. The man in the suit is saying to him: “ Ah ha – so you can use the stairs!”

Crippen discovers that nothing has changed with regard to benefits assessments!

So, it’s still going on. Over 72% of the negative decisions made by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with regard to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are being overturned at tribunal in favour of the claimant.

I can remember writing about this happening back in the day when it was mainly Atos who were denying claimants their rightful entitlement. Now it’s Capita and Independent Assessment Services carrying on the tradition.

Following the release of the Tribunal Statistics Quarterly: January to March 2022, earlier this month which detailed the overturn figures in favour of claimants for PIP and ESA, Labour MP Kate Osamor, asked the DWP:

“what assessment are being made of the performance of Capita and Independent Assessment Services?”

In a written response, Ms Smith, said:

“There is a comprehensive performance regime which drives the Assessment Providers to meet stringent quality standards. Through robust contract management processes and by working in partnership, we continually monitor and work with APs to manage performance and obtain maximum value.”

Now, maths isn’t my strong point but if the DWP were to just give the benefits to those disabled people that claimed, rather than pay an independent assessor to wrongly assess them, then pay court costs on the top of that, surely it will be a lot cheaper in the long run? Or is that too simple?

What do you mean that I’m forgetting those Tory MPs who have got their grubby little fingers in the lucrative assessment pie … surely not?!

You can appeal a decision about your entitlement to benefits, for example PIP, ESA and Universal Credit – read more about the process here.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is the office of the Independent Assessment Services (IAS). Two white males wearing grey suits are sat at computer terminals. They are surrounded by failed PIP and ESA claim forms. One of the men has wheelchair symbols on the sides of his desk with a cross through them. A white woman wearing a purple business suit and an identity badge with DWP written upon it is standing behind him. She is saying: “You’re a natural at this type of work – how do you fancy coming and working for the DWP?!”

Crippen: Is the EHRC not fit for purpose?!

A suggestion that the UK’s human rights body is actually in bed with the UK government has been made this week by disabled activists.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told an international human rights alliance that the UK’s “feeble” human rights body has become a cheerleader for the UK government. They added that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) was “not fit for purpose”, that it had been “co-opted” by the government, and that its primary mission appeared to be to “avoid rocking the boat”.

DPAC said the commission “no longer has credibility”, had “betrayed the communities that need it most” and no longer had the confidence of Deaf and disabled people.

In a letter to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) on behalf of DPAC, Stonewall and the Good Law Project, law firm Bindmans criticises EHRC’s “lack of actual and perceived independence” from the government.

The letter went on to say that the commission has been seen as “increasingly close to, and unwilling to criticise” the government since 2015 and particularly since the election of a Boris Johnson-led government in 2019. A “crucial factor”, it says, has been the appointment of EHRC commissioners who are “broadly supportive of the current Government and its agenda”.

Its evidence has been backed by four other disabled people’s organisations and two  disability groups:  Liberation, Being the Boss, Bringing Us Together, adult social care warriors, DPAC Norfolk and Chronic Illness Inclusion.

Among the concerns raised by DPAC is EHRC’s refusal to carry out an investigation into countless deaths of disabled benefit claimants that have been linked to the failings of the Department for Work and Pensions, despite “ample evidence”.

It also highlights its failure to act on the disproportionate application of do not attempt resuscitation orders on disabled people during the pandemic, and the failure to take action to ensure that disabled people’s right to independent living is upheld.

You can read more on this story in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A dishevelled Boris Johnson is standing with a piece of paper on which is written ‘disability policies and legislation’. He is smiling. Opposite him stands a smarter man similarly dressed in grey suit, white shirt and blue tie and carrying a briefcase with EHRC printed upon it. He is holding out a large rubber stamp to the PM which has ‘EHRC Approved’ printed upon it. He is saying:” There you go Prime Minister – just rubber stamp it yourself!

Crippen: Tories have had the brakes put on their disability policies

The government has decided to “pause” some of its disability policies after being told by the High Court in January that its National Disability Strategy was unlawful.

You’ll remember that the High Court had ruled that both a botched national consultation – carried out under the previous minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson – and the strategy itself were unlawful and made it “impossible” for disabled people to “shape” the content of the strategy.

The court concluded that thousands of disabled people who took part in the consultation were not given enough information about the government’s proposed strategy to allow them “intelligent consideration and response”.

The government had argued that the survey was just an information-gathering exercise.

In a letter sent out to stakeholders this week, and in a statement to parliament, the minister for disabled people, Chloe Smith, said the government had accepted that it needed to pause a “limited number of policies” that are referred to in the strategy or are linked to it.

She said this decision had been taken to “minimise the risk of acting inconsistently with the Court’s declaration” and that the government was still waiting for a decision from the Court of Appeal on whether it will be allowed to appeal the high court’s ruling.

So, let’s see how they wriggle out of this one … some more retrospective legislation perhaps?!

You can read more about this in Disability News Service

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith can be seen driving a small truck which is pulling a waggon full of government policies. The waggon is labelled ‘disability policies’ and the truck is labelled ‘Tories’. A man in a high court wig and gown is holding up his hand and is shouting STOP. Under his arm is a large High Court ruling document. The truck has screeched to a halt and the documents are tumbling out of the waggon. Smith is looking at us and is saying: “Those bloody disabled people and their court rulings are becoming quite a problem!”

Crippen: Accessibility by Royal Appointment

Due to the barriers that she’s now encountering in the palace and other properties of state, it seems that HM the Queen has joined our merry band of disabled people.

True many of her impairments are due to the aging process and you would have thought that they would have planned ahead a little bit and anticipated this. But it looks as though they didn’t and HM is now faced with innumerable stairways, high plinths leading to inaccessible thrones, extremely heavy crowns and other paraphernalia of state, and being expected to stand and then meet and greet an endless succession of sycophantic visitors.

Apparently she’s been offered the use of a wheelchair but doesn’t want to be seen as … well what?! They haven’t shared her comments in relation to this but one can assume that she doesn’t want to be seen as vulnerable and dependent upon others (welcome to the stereotypes of disability ma-am). And anyway, ramped access and wide doors appear to be few and far between in the buildings that she frequents so a wheelchair would be about as useful to her as a pogo stick.

I was thinking of asking DAN to get in touch and offer to protest with her outside of Buck House. Although come to think of it she’s not got too good a track record when faced with disability in the ranks. Remember her two cousins that I blogged about a while back?  Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, who were admitted to a mental institution in Redhill, Surrey when Nerissa was aged 22, and Katherine was only 15 years old. Officially classed as imbeciles, they spent the rest of their lives locked away … with not even a visit from any of the royal family.

I’d keep an eye on Charlie ma-am, especially if he starts looking at brochures for care homes!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

HM Queen is sat inside of a palanquin which has been parked inside of a disabled parking bay. Four flunkies stand at each corner alongside of the carrying poles. A traffic warden is writing in his notebook and is saying to them: “I don’t care who she is – no blue badge means that she gets a fixed penalty!”

Crippen and Segregation by Stealth

Let’s face it. They’ve been trying to get us Crips off the streets for quite a while now. We’ve become such a pain in the arse for most of the disability status quo, and that includes government departments and those charities that claim to represent us, that there’s nothing they’d like better than to make us disappear from public view once again.

Segregation by Stealth

Well, they’ve achieved part of their plan. By imposing a lock-down when the Covid virus hit our shores some two years ago, we’ve been sheltering at home trying to keep ourself safe. We’ve adapted to ordering online and meeting up by using social media facilities like Zoom. If we have had to venture out we’ve all been masked up and keeping the recommended distance apart, hurrying back to the safety of our own homes as quickly as possible.

And then Boris decided that everything was OK. That it was safe to venture out and mingle, even throwing our masks away. Although many of us Crips didn’t trust these assurances and remained in our homes, still Zooming, and ordering online. Meanwhile those without a health condition that put them at serious risk from Covid could soon be seen cavorting around once more without masks and meeting up in large groups, attending concerts and generally returning to pre-Covid days.

And what’s happening? Well, Covid is once again rife amongst our population and people are dropping like flies. Admittedly, these are mainly of an age where they’ll experience something like bad flu symptoms and recover within a couple of weeks, achieving the ‘herd immunity’ that Boris and his cronies were advocating from the very start. But where has that left those of us with a health condition that makes us extremely vulnerable to the effects of the virus? Well, we’re having to isolate and impose stronger restrictions than we did at the very beginning. With thousands of people catching and spreading the virus amongst our family groups and local communities we are even more at risk than before, leaving us with no option but to remain within our homes and off the streets!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A group of people are tossing a large inflated Covid virus into the air. Music is playing from a small ghetto blaster and they are all laughing and jumping around. Through the window of an adjacent house can be seen two disabled people. One of them is saying: “It’s one of Boris’ new party games – pass the Covid parcel!”