Crippen hears that Disability strategy delayed again!

Having told us that their controversial disability strategy would be published in the spring of this year … then the summer … then “soon”, the government appears to have been forced to delay publication yet again.

Our good friend and fellow activist Doug Paulley, along with several other disabled people have been granted permission to challenge the legality of its consultation process in the high court. This means that the strategy is on hold again, awaiting the outcome of this landmark legal action.

As far back as May 2018, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that the Department of Works and Pension (DWP) was refusing to say what had happened to its last disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential which was first launched in 2011. That one seems to have disappeared into the same black hole that Justin Tomlinson has had installed in his office since becoming Minister for Disabled People.

You can read more about this latest set back in Disability News Service.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing in Justin Tomlinson’s office holding a document that reads ‘more from Dominic Cummings’. Tomlinson is pointing to a large black hole that hovers in the corner and is saying to Boris: “Just toss it in there Boris – that’s where I throw all my disability related stuff!”

Crippen responds to Boris’ latest gamble with our lives!

So, instead of just throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Boris Johnson seems determined to flush most of the disabled community down the toilet along with anyone else who falls within the ‘at risk’ category.

Despite Covid cases having risen to their highest level since January, he is determined that most remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England will be lifted on Monday 19th July. This is in spite of a backlash from government scientific advisers who have warned that doing so would be like building new “variant factories” according to an article in the Guardian.

The move to remove restrictions has been supported by the new health secretary, Sajid Javid, despite his  recent claims that, based on scientific evidence, it would not be possible to eradicate the disease and that the country would have to “find ways to cope with it”, as we did with flu.

One of the government advisors Professor Stephen Reicher pulled no punches when he commented on Javid’s claims. He said: “It is frightening to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is flu. Who is unconcerned at levels of infection and who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated!”

Meanwhile a further 24,248 cases were recently reported in the UK – up from 15,953 on the same day the previous week with the north-east of England recorded a particular surge in infections. Only Oxford and Tamworth have recorded greater increases during this period.

A worrying final note from Christina Pagel, a professor at UCL who said: “Something weird is happening in the north-east, and it’s a bit worrying. Not only are cases there rising rapidly, so is hospitalisations and the proportion of tests recording a positive result.”

So, watch yourselves folks. I for one will continue to wear a mask whenever I’m mixing with people who are not part of my bubble. I’ll also still keep following the advice of the medics by washing my hands frequently and socially distancing myself. Boris may succeed in culling a high number of us with his latest gamble, but I’m determined it’s not going to include me!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is playing dice with the Grim Reaper who has Covid 19 printed upon his black cloak and carries his scythe upon his shoulder. Boris is saying: “You make gambling with the lives of disabled people so easy!”

Crippen supports disabled women’s protest over Covid deaths

Disabled women have begun a three-week protest to highlight “appalling” research findings that showed they were almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19 during the pandemic as non-disabled women.

Over 20 disabled members of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) and allies – including the party’s co-founder, Sandi Toksvig – were outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday to begin their #91Percent campaign.

One protester said the research, conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), showed that disabled women have been treated as “collateral damage” by the government during the pandemic.

Freya Papworth, co-chair of WEP’s disability caucus, told Disability News Service (DNS) that she believed the disproportionate deaths were due to discrimination and oppression, including the impact of a decade of government-imposed austerity.

She said: “It’s so much more than just the pandemic. A group of people that were just so vulnerable to begin with to attack, to instability, because the safety net has just been completely destroyed over the last decade so there was nothing to kick in when we had an emergency.”

The party wants to ensure that the official inquiry into the handling of the pandemic crisis examines its impact on disabled people, including the disproportionate loss of life faced by disabled women. They believe these deaths were avoidable.

Disabled women and allies will be protesting in shifts for a total of 91 hours outside parliament over the next three weeks, ending with a larger protest on 20 July.

The party is looking for disabled women and allies to cover 90-minute sections of the Westminster protest, and also for disabled women and allies to conduct 91-minute protests in their own local areas. Obtain more information from the 91Percent campaign website.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is gloating at a young Asian female wheelchair user having put a large red sign around her neck. The sign reads ‘collateral damage’. She already has two other signs around her neck, one reads ‘burden’ and the other ‘useless eater’. Behind him is a civil servant with other red signs under his arm. Boris is saying: “Well we thought – what’s another label when you already have so many!”

Crippen asks how can we engage young disabled people?

The term ‘returning to normal’ is one that frequently arises whenever the possible ending of the current Covid restrictions are discussed.

However, for many disabled people ‘normal’ means a return to the constant and unrelenting battle that we face against an inaccessible society. A society incidentally, that seems to have lost interest in supporting our fight for independence, as well as looking the other way as this increasingly hostile government erodes our rights still further.

So how about we don’t go back to ‘normal’, making it clear that unless this government start to treat us seriously, acknowledging that our demand to be given the same rights as non-disabled people is a valid one, then we’ll … we’ll … Well, what will we do?!

Do we go back to those demonstrations organised by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) when we challenged the lack of access on public transport, or the negative portrayal of disabled people on Telethon and other charity based events? People like Sue Elsegood, who was arrested during several DAN actions, is still out there keeping the flames of DAN alive with others from the old group, but like me, they’re no longer the young, feisty activists who manned the barricades all those years ago.

The truth is that we’ve all got older. Are we still able to sit out in the cold and wet, being hassled by the police and members of the public who want nothing to do with our demands for full access to an inaccessible society? I know I can’t do it anymore, which is why I spend so much time at my computer creating images and writing blogs and articles like many others, to keep the cause alive.

So, what options do we have? Perhaps there’s a way of stimulating the younger Crips who are just discovering the many barriers that stand in their way? Could we reach out and offer to share our knowledge and experience with them? You may remember a blog I created recently about young disabled people who’d never even heard of the Social Model understanding of disability. Without this basic knowledge they don’t stand a chance of challenging a status quo that is loaded very much against them.

If we can get these younger Crips engaged, with our support they could make a huge dent in the complacency that exists. If we can harness their energy in a similar way that climate change activists have done, we stand a real chance of breaking down many of the barriers that society and this government have erected to exclude us all.

So, any ideas of how we could go about engaging these youngsters?

Please leave your suggestions and ideas in the comments section of this Blog.

Thanks folks.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is the UK Games Expo exhibition which is identified by a large sign above the heads of a group of young people. One of the youngsters, a white male is using a self-propelled wheelchair and has a small laptop computer balanced upon his legs. A tall Black male and a smaller white female stand either side of him. Approaching them is an older white male using a power chair. He is holding out to them a DVD case with a yellow lightening flash on the cover. Behind him is a poster with the same symbol on it, over-written by the words ‘smash the barriers’. He is saying to the group of young people: “It’s awesome – you use something called the social model to smash through the barriers!” The tall Black youth replies: “Dope!


Crippen hears of another High Court action against the Government

A disabled woman is preparing to mount a High Court challenge after complaining about a lack of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters at Government Covid briefings.

Katie Rowley, who is Deaf argues that the Government breached obligations to make broadcasts accessible to Deaf people under equality legislation, despite Scotland and Wales both having on-platform interpreters for their broadcasts.

Her Solicitor Chris Fry, who is also representing about 350 other Deaf people who have made similar claims, told the Leicester Mercury newspaper that all of those other cases are on hold pending the outcome of Ms Rowley’s case.

He added: “The Cabinet Office is expected to argue that it complied with its duties by making an arrangement with the BBC to provide an interpreter, arranging a live feed, providing subtitles and providing written information online after the briefings.”

Is this just another example of the Government passing the buck to some outside agency in order to sidestep its obligations or, is this a continuation of my earlier suspicions about them not wanting the proletariat stepping on their shiny new media stage?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing in front of a High Court judge. The judge is looking angry and is holding a piece of paper which has printed upon it ‘Government continually fail to provide access for Deaf people at Covid briefings’. Boris is saying to him: “As you’ll agree your honour – it’s not as if they understand what’s going on anyway!” Behind Boris is an aid who is whispering to him: “Pssst – he’s Deaf you idiot!”

Crippen talks with Jo Verrent about the emergence of some new groups

I’ve recently been working with Jo Verrent, a producer at Unlimited, an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences.

During our discussions we talked about a couple of new groups of disabled people that had recently emerged. One of these groups involves people who identify as being neurodivergent whilst the other involves people whose focus is on energy impairment and chronic pain.

The group that has succeeded in getting ‘neurodivergence’ recognised as a separate term is taking a similar route to those who don’t wish to be labelled as having a specific impairment or ‘condition’, although, some of them still don’t feel confident about being described as disabled people. However, they do acknowledge that the social model understanding of disability is still the best option for them moving forward.

We also talked about the rise of ‘energy impaired’ as a term, which has come into usage through the groups who consist of people who experience extreme fatigue due to a chronic illness. One such group called Chronic Illness Inclusion are absolutely clear they are a disabled people’s led group, and describe themselves as ‘disabled and living with energy limiting chronic illness (ELCI), energy impairment, or chronic pain’. Also, as disabled people, they identify strongly with the social model understanding of disability.

It seems that these new groups are aiming to build a bridge between the large numbers of people who usually define as people with long term health conditions and/or chronic pain and bring them to a wider understanding of the social model approach, and how it is relevant to their lives.

It’s really great to see our family grow in this way as more people identify with being disabled by a society that creates the barriers that exclude us. With enough of us fighting for, what should be our basic human rights, we’ll get there in the end.

Come the revolution brothers and sisters!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The cartoon consists of a young modern Asian disabled woman, sitting on a chair and facing her non-disabled parents. She is holding a piece of paper with ‘ Energy impairment and the social model’ printed upon it. Her mother, who wears modern, western style dress is saying to her: “What do you mean – you’re disabled?!” Her father, wearing a t-shirt and shorts adds: “We’ve been telling people that you just feel a bit tired!”

Crippen discovers that the pandemic has left disabled people who work in the arts and culture sector a brief window in which to act

A survey, that was recently commissioned to mark the first anniversary of the UK Disability Arts Alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved campaign, suggest that there are significant threats to the continued participation of Deaf and disabled people in the arts and culture sector as a result of the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.

The Alliance told Disability News Service (DNS) that the survey results suggest that the pandemic has delivered a “weighty” blow to disabled people in the arts sector and left them in a “shockingly fragile environment”.

Three-fifths of the more than 100 disabled creatives who took part said they were definitely or possibly worried that they would have to leave the industry because of a lack of work. And nearly half said they had had less work or no work at all since the pandemic began.

But the survey also showed the importance of financial support schemes during the pandemic, with 20% of respondents receiving grants from the government’s self-employment income support scheme (SEISS), with another 15% on furlough and 20% receiving emergency support grants from one of the UK’s national arts councils.

Andrew Miller, co-founder of the alliance and the campaign, said: “This survey is the first to reveal the full fragility of disabled people’s place in the cultural sector following the pandemic and highlights alarming intersectional inequalities … and suggests that many disabled creatives have little trust in the wider cultural sector to prioritise access as the country comes out of lockdown.”

Jo Verrent, convenor of the campaign and senior producer with Unlimited – an arts commissioning programme that enables new work by disabled artists to reach UK and international audiences – said: “We all knew the pandemic was impacting on disabled people in the arts sector heavily – now we can see just how weighty that blow has been.

Jo also issues a warning: “There is a brief window in which to act if we wish to stop the erasure of disabled people from the place it’s taken over 30 years for us to gain in the cultural sector. It is time now for the right people to … act on these findings and take immediate action.”

The survey and subsequent report was funded by Unlimited and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A large red ball representing disability arts and covered with the names of several organisations – Unlimited, Head2Head, Shape, etc., is being pushed by a group of disabled artists up a long yellow road with #weshallnotberemoved printed on its surface. At the end of the road is a large sign that says, ‘welcome to mainstream art’. Just behind them the yellow road is being consumed by flames which are identified as the Covid pandemic. One of the people pushing the ball is saying: “Come on folks – we just need one last push!”

Crippen revisits the continuing abuse of disabled people in institutions

Did you know that calls to address the scandal of learning disabled people and those with Autism inappropriately locked up in long-stay institutions date back more than 70 years when it was estimated then that there were over 50,000 people living in these so called long-stay hospitals.

Since then, there have been several exposures regarding these institutions and the alleged abuse towards their ‘residents’ by care staff. These included the Ely Hospital scandal over 50 years ago and the Long Care inquiry in 1998.

The most memorable of these being the Winterbourne View Scandal where serious allegations of abuse were uncovered and exposed in a Panorama documentary just over 10 years ago. Since then there has been further exposures of abuse including Whorlton Hall in County Durham which was shut down in 2020.

The clinical commissioning groups who are responsible for placing most of these disabled people into these institutions are still spending on average £3,500 per week per person, which is far more expensive than providing support in the community. A recent NHS report shows that over 2,000 people are still locked away costing a total of around £364 million per year. This is despite the evidence that having support in the community saves money, and more importantly, it means disabled people have the right to make choices on how they live their lives.

In the years following these abuse exposures, the government have made repeated pledges to drastically reduce the number of people facing seclusion and segregation in similar settings. But those pledges were broken and only one empty sentence on social care in the 2021 Queen’s speech is the result.

Speaking to Disability News Service (DNS) Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), who was one of the disabled campaigners to speak out about Winterbourne View 10 years ago, said that he believed there had been “no change” in those 10 years and that people with learning difficulties had rights “on paper”, but regulators “have not got the courage to use the teeth that parliament gave them”.

However, it also emerged this week that two of the business-people who ran Castlebeck, the company that owned Winterbourne View, are now directors of Kedleston Group, which runs a series of independent special schools and care homes for disabled children.

The BBC reported concerns from current and former staff and parents that one of Kedleston’s special schools, Leaways School in East London – which charges day pupils more than £50,000 a year to attend, was prioritising profits over the support needs of the disabled children who attended.

So, tell me folks. How on earth are those that allowed the abuse to take place at Winterbourne View now allowed to run a ‘special educational needs’ school for disabled children? Something smells, and it’s not just the Minister for Education’s supper time kippers!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

An MP is holding a glass jar with a set of false teeth sitting in it. He is looking at another man in a suit who is holding a piece of paper that reads ‘investigation into Winterbourne View abuse – 2011’. This man has no teeth. The MP is saying: “What’s the point of giving you teeth if you’re not going to use them?!”

Crippen discovers that 6 out of 10 people who have died from COVID-19 are disabled

Mehrunisha Suleman, Senior Research Fellow at the Health Foundation has responded to the latest statistics on Covid related deaths from the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS).

She said: “COVID-19 has had an unequal impact on disabled people who have been among the hardest hit in terms of deaths from the virus. Worryingly, ONS’ data confirms this trend, showing that 6 out of 10 people who have died with COVID-19 are disabled”. 

She added: “(These) figures clearly show that current measures to protect disabled people are not enough and that there is an urgent need for more and better support. Disabled people are more likely to have one or more long-term health conditions, which means they are at greater risk of suffering severe symptoms if they get COVID-19”.

Ms Suleman also spoke of how, due to lockdown, disabled people’s health care needs are not being fully met and that they have had treatment either cancelled or delayed. She said:

“The high number of COVID-19 deaths among disabled people ultimately reflects wider failures in how the UK supports those who are vulnerable. Addressing this will require the government to address the major and long-standing inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted.’

Further data from the ONS has shown that some 30,296 of the 50,888 deaths recorded for the ten months between January and November 2020 were disabled people.

The ONS also stated that an “important part” of the increased risk was because disabled people were “disproportionately exposed to a range of generally disadvantageous circumstances” compared with non-disabled people.

In other words, unless the government starts to give serious consideration to providing a level playing field for disabled people, it doesn’t say much for our chances of surviving another wave of the Covid virus does it?

Perhaps the first thing to do would be to replace their miserable excuse for the Minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, with someone who has personally experienced the many barriers we face on a daily basis … a disabled person perhaps?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing facing the grim reaper who is clad in his usual black, hooded cloak and carrying his scythe. The cloak has covid printed in white at the bottom and on the ground in front of him is a notice that says ‘Covid 19 – 6 out of 10 deaths are disabled people’. Behind Boris is Justin Tomlinson who stands with his thumb raised in the air and with a sycophantic smile upon his face.  Tomlinson is carrying a card which reads ‘no plans developed to protect disabled from covid’. Boris is smiling at the Reaper and is saying to him: “So the deal is – we continue to supply you with disabled people and you leave the rest of us alone?!”

Crippen and further delays to the publication of the government’s disability strategy.

I think that we can safely say that we are now into summer and that the cross-government disability strategy which was to be published early in the Spring hasn’t yet happened.

But don’t worry, the so called Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has told MPs on the work and pensions select committee that it would “possibly, probably” be published … er, maybe before the summer recess in July?

He also thought that the health and disability green paper which would include changes to disability benefit assessments, the Access to Work system, and benefit sanctions, might also be published at the same time … er, maybe.

Talk about dithering. Just how does this excuse for a Minister keep hold of his job? Although, as far as this Tory government is concerned, he’s doing an excellent job, procrastinating and delaying any meaningful dialogue that would ensure any future for disabled people in this country.

I was going to include some of his comments about various aspects of the green paper, but I found myself losing the will to live when I heard what he had to say to his fellow MPs about the caring and sharing Department of Works and Pensions (DWP).

Surely he was being ironic when he told them that the DWP would be “absolutely on top of (their) game in identifying potentially vulnerable claimants”. No doubt like they were with the thousands of disabled claimants who have died during their draconian assessment process?

No, I can’t stomach any more … but if you feel up to reading more about the utter drivel he’s been spouting about this caring Tory government, and how they are going to completely change the way they treat us, Disability News Service have provided a full account for you.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson is standing next to a display on the wall. The display heading says ‘new DWP logo’ underneath which is a large red heart with ‘caring 4 you – DWP’ printed in white upon it. He is holding a piece of green paper with ‘gov green paper’ printed upon it and is pointing at the display with his other hand. He is looking at you, the audience and is saying: “It was designed by Iain Duncan Smith – what do you think?!”