Disability News Round Up - Week Ending 23/11/2012

11/28/2012 11:05:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 7 Comments

  • Leading disability rights figures have warned that key parts of the country’s equality legislation are under threat from the government, after the prime minister announced that he was “calling time on equality impact assessments”.
  • The third annual review of the government’s “fitness for work” assessment process has received a cool response from disabled activists.
  • A new report by a committee of MPs has added weight to concerns that hundreds of thousands of disabled people could find themselves driven “over the edge” by one of the government’s key welfare reforms.
  • The government has announced a series of new measures it hopes will reverse the slump in the number of disabled people benefiting from its Access to Work employment support scheme.
  • A new private members’ bill that would allow MPs to “job share” for the first time would make it easier for disabled people to stand for parliament, say campaigners.
  • A 15-month parliamentary inquiry has called for determined action to tackle the barriers to inclusion and equality faced by young disabled people.
  • The growing trend to provide services online is generating an increasing gap between advances in new technology and disabled people’s ability to take advantage of them, according to a new report.
  • Government cuts and reforms are creating a “perfect storm” that could see many disabled people losing their homes, according to a leading disabled campaigner and politician.
  • A new parliamentary inquiry is a “huge opportunity” for disabled people to raise their concerns with MPs about the accessibility of public transport, say campaigners.
  • Two little-known government regulations could hold the key to helping thousands of sick and disabled people who have been unfairly found “fit for work”, according to a new campaign.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com


Disability News Round Up - 16/11/2012

11/20/2012 09:34:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

  • Many thousands more disabled people than previously thought could lose their entitlement to disability benefits when the government introduces its new personal independence payment, according to a user-led information service.
  • A disabled peer has become the first member of the House of Lords to deliver a speech during a debate with the help of a personal assistant.
  • Motability has admitted that up to 100,000 disabled people could have to hand back the vehicles they lease under its car scheme, because of the government’s cuts and reforms to disability living allowance.
  • Disabled people are still experiencing humiliating and inappropriate treatment because of the failings embedded within the government’s “fitness for work” assessment system, according to a new report researched and written by a disabled campaigner.
  • Disabled people who are given more control of their care funding through personal budgets are more likely to enjoy better quality care, a fuller life, increased independence and improved health, according to the results of a three-year study.
  • A disabled campaigner has secured a high court victory over his local council, after it put the lives of blind and partially-sighted people at risk by ignoring government guidance on the use of tactile paving at road crossings.
  • A new mobile phone “app” is making it easier for disabled people in search of a stylish – and accessible – venue for a night out on the town.
  • A disabled people’s organisation has defended its decision to draw together a new “disability alliance” on behalf of the government, but has called for “dialogue” with parts of the disability movement that have criticised its involvement.

For the full stories, please visit: www.disabilitynewsservice.com


Shame, Stigma And Scapegoating Scroungers

11/18/2012 02:08:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 15 Comments

Had I known two years ago what I know now I would never have started this journey. Someone asked me that recently, confidently expecting me to say 'yes, of course', startled when I said 'no, absolutely not'. It was a knee jerk reaction, as the lies dripped from politicians lips, leaving me sleepless and stunned. Nothing was planned, what happened was a visceral response to being demonised and labelled the scourge of all that made modern Britain broken.

In an unspoken, osmotic decision we stayed away from the policies which would effect us most as individuals. We picked out the proposals we considered most heinous; the idea that care home residents would have the money they use to purchase wheelchairs taken from them, that suggestion that sickness could somehow be time limited to a twelve month period, the scrapping of the fund used to match local authority payments for the care packages of the most severely disabled, the double speak used to convince the public that Disability Living Allowance, the benefit with a fraud rate of 0.5%, was typically claimed by golf club swinging fraudsters. Scrapping Severe Disability Premium was too emotionally risky to touch, much less campaign on, it being perhaps the most vital financial support for those of us with severe disabilities living alone and falling outside of stringent local authority care qualification criteria. Universal Credit was to be left alone, the intention of it good, but details so disastrous and contradictory it could only ever fail. Housing benefit cuts deemed too threatening to our own homes to investigate. So, without words we elected to fight primarily for others.

I didn't know then what I know now. That for every hard fought gain there would be more criticisms. That those criticisms would wound so deep because of those who slung them, our own community. That life sapping endless hours of effort would always be greeted with allegations of it not being enough. With a chorus of 'why aren't you doing this?' from those always first to disappear at the suggestion they could do that themselves. That bullying and intimidation would become rife, that those who shout loudest would only accept other voices if the words were those they deemed as acceptable.

I didn't know of the outpouring of pain and despair that would flood my life, from people in the most unimaginably dark places who saw us as a source of hope. I didn't know how the stories behind the statistics would eat away at me once they became people asking me for help. I didn't know, but I soon learnt.

Maybe it was the first message explaining that the author was stockpiling medication so that when the cuts hit them they would at least have a peaceful end. The many accounts of horrific childhoods, of unimaginable abuse for which I could do nothing but offer a piece of myself in empathy, understanding and recognition of pain. Or the day someone who couldn't tell me their name outlined their plan to take their life in public so that others might wake up to the dangers of this political blame game. The hours I sobbed once I understood what that really meant. Maybe it was when my friend Karen died. Or maybe the months before when she begged us for the reassurance that there was an answer. That others wouldn't suffer as she was. That the rejection, fear and shame her government inflicted upon her in her final months of life could somehow be stopped from happening to others. Maybe it was when patronising politicians thought patting me would somehow mitigate their relentless bullying.

I have forgotten when it was my life seemed to start belonging to others. Somewhere in the midst of all that it did. But, clearly I remember when I began to truly despair. Not when we lost the fight against the Welfare Reform Bill, not through the endless months when those supposed to oppose government stigmatised us as much as those in power. Not when I lost my voice, not even when I understood that it was never likely to return to what it was before.

The despair came somewhere amidst the shuffling of the private sector, sidling up with their admissions of having created much of this climate, their shamed confessions that actually, even they weren't sure this was what they wanted. That perhaps it had all gone a bit too far. It slotted in alongside the understanding that disabled and sick people would bear a full 10% of the cuts, and that that would be deemed to be not enough, that after taking £9.6 billion from essential benefits, another Welfare Reform Bill would be drafted in order that a further £10 billion could be slashed.

The devil as they say is always in the detail, and this detail could fit on a raindrop twinkling in the carefully positioned reflected light of dehumanisation. Sums that don't add up, cuts that cost more, access that doesn't exist, all these and more made their way comfortably into law. Scroungers are the scourge of society and must be punished, its what the public want, persuaded by the politics of hate and envy.

Social security once provided my literal security. The fear and vulnerability of decades of future degenerative disability and illness were once plastered over with the understanding of lifelong security. Of enough money to purchase food, shelter, warmth and stability. A stability which enabled me to contribute in whatever ways I could, a security which could be repaid by that attempt to contribute, to be a good citizen.  Gradually, intentionally, that security became known as 'welfare', something less tangibly understood, something far easier to remove without recognition than security.

With welfare we could become people different from you, people who are somehow at fault for falling ill or being disabled. People who are not actually people, because such things don't happen to people you know, and so long as it's not people you yourself know, well, then they aren't really people are they? Just a grasping underclass whose poverty is clearly well deserved, just shameless scroungers draining hardworking real people. 

I'm not sure when, but somewhere along the way I became ashamed to be British. Shamed by a government spouting polished, prettied lies about sub-humans. Shamed by the determination of a public all too willing to believe such fallacies.

Shame externalises those who have internalised it. It pushes us further from participating, adds chains to existing barriers, reinforces prejudice. These days I often wonder, is it shame that prevents the public from understanding the prejudice and poverty their government are perpetuating? Is it perhaps the shame of having turned away, having believed that sick and disabled people are somehow deserving of punishment instead of protection? Is it the four am fear, when dark thoughts of accident or disease cross all our minds? Is it because the only way to push away those fears is to pretend those things won't happen to you or those you love? Is it because that pretend game means you can reassure yourselves that you'll never be like 'them', that 'they' are not 'you'? Or is the shame really because you know? Know that there is no 'them' or 'us', that all people are fragile, vulnerable to forces of chance beyond any of our control, forces which can change life in an instant. Is the shame in knowing that, yet choosing to believe the comforting lie, that it could never happen to you? A lie whispering seductively that admitting to a need for social security threatens your safety, it's mere existence intrudes upon your need to believe it is something you'll never need. Whereas welfare, welfare is something different altogether, something that only others require, others who will never be like you, and if you don't need it, why would they?


John Pring's Disability News Round Up - 09/11/2012

11/13/2012 09:16:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

  • A judge has been criticised for his “appalling” failure to treat the “degrading, cruel and inhuman” abuse of people with learning difficulties at a hospital as a disability hate crime.
  • Labour will this week ask MPs – and the National Audit Office – to investigate allegations that Atos, the government’s “fitness for work” contractor, used misleading claims to win two lucrative disability assessment contracts.
  • Senior figures in Nepal’s Paralympic movement have denied “detestable” claims about the death of a disabled member of their delegation to London 2012.
  • A Paralympian who won three gold medals at London 2012 has called for action after a new survey revealed “shocking” access failures in city centre car parks across England, Wales and Scotland.
  • The decision not to reappoint the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s only disabled commissioner has raised fresh concerns over the government’s plans for the watchdog.
  • The author of a major report for the government on employment support has told a minister of her “serious concerns” about the rapid fall in the number of disabled people funded by the Access to Work scheme.
  • A disabled man has this week staged a public hunger strike in protest at the failings of the government’s “fitness for work” contractor Atos Healthcare.
  • Four disabled models will be taking to the catwalk this week in a bid to persuade some of the country’s top women’s magazines that they should be featuring on their front covers.
  • New government figures appear to show that “improvements” to the controversial “fitness for work” test are having limited impact on how many disabled people are able to hold on to their out-of-work disability benefits.
  • A leading figure in the self-advocacy movement has called for a national user-led organisation that would represent people with learning difficulties right across England for the first time.
  • Organisers hope that a month-long disability arts, culture and human rights festival could become an annual fixture and help turn a London borough into a centre of excellence.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com


Disability Tests Are A Stain On Britain's Conscience - New Report from WeAreSpartacus #realWCA

11/12/2012 08:29:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

The powerful and compelling report, produced by the We Are Spartacus campaign group, has been penned slowly over the course of a year by an extremely unwell and anonymous author too fearful of potential repercussions to reveal their true identity. The report bears witness to the indignity and suffering sick and disabled people are experiencing as they go through a work capability assessment process designed to be harsh and devoid from 'real world' factors relating to employment.  The despair and confusion of the many voices in this report, some of whom knew that documenting their story was all they had to leave behind them, is a collective and powerful plea for their experiences to be heard above the mainstream shouts of scrounger.

(full article on politics.co.uk


Re-introducing 'Dr knows best'?

11/08/2012 01:43:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 15 Comments

About eight years ago, not long after being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and starting the re-classification process from having been labelled as 'attention seeking, malingering' patient towards 'actual genetic disorder oops we screwed up there' patient, I was seen by a surgeon who wanted to force me to have surgery to 'fix' my hips. Whilst this was a kindly man who genuinely believed he was doing his best for his patient it made an already stressful and traumatic time in my life far more frightening than it needed to be. The idea that benefits conditionality could be added to the pressure I was facing in that situation sends shivers down my spine, even all these years on. Then refusing surgery meant that I lost access to physiotherapy and any non surgical supportive treatments from the hospital which meant I was left to learn to deal with my newly diagnosed genetic disorder entirely alone, but as I knew the proposed surgery would leave me unable ever to walk or independently mobilise again, going it alone was making the best of a bad situation. Had benefits conditionality been applicable as recent government proposals indicate may become the case then I would have had no choice but to go through surgery which would have vastly increased my pain and disability.

It may or may not seem reasonable to you to restrict access to cash benefits in the case of addiction - there are various arguments for and against, and it is likely to be viewed as a popular policy by politicians. But, hidden within this idea is something far more sinister - that this policy could be rolled out to other conditions. In fact officals were keen to stress that "once the principle was introduced into the benefits system it could be expanded to other ailments" an idea those of us with existing 'ailments' find terrifying. It could mean that people are forced to participate in 'treatment' processes which would be hugely damaging to their health because the alternative means conditionality on the benefits they rely upon to feed and house themselves.

What appears on the surface to be a politically attractive policy playing beautifully in the pages of the Daily Mail has dangerous implications for us all. It is only a couple of generations ago that young women were routinely hospitalised against their will for behaviours we now understand and empathise with. Those treatments supposedly in their best interests such as Electric Shock Therapy or leucotomy are now either discredited or used only in a tiny minority of cases where no other option exists. My great aunt, who is still living, was forced to have a leucotomy when she was a young woman suffering from what we would know now as post natal depression. Although she was undoubtedly mentally very unwell, who knows what her potential recovery or decades of post leucotomy life would have been like had she not been forced to have such a 'treatment' deemed to be in her best interests. Multiple Sclerosis was commonly known as the 'hysterics disease' until as recently as the 1950's when modern scanning and research techniques proved a biological cause. It would be easy to dismiss these as mistakes from a previous time, but the attitude towards patients diagnosed with ME is remarkably similar in the general disdain and lack of empathy displayed towards such patients by the medical profession and wider society. The 'treatment of choice' these days for ME is graded exercise and therapy, based on the presumption that ME must be a psychiatric illness. It seems that lessons about MS have been entirely forgotten in the contemporary attitudes towards ME.

My own memories of battling with that surgeon still haunt me. Like all surgeons his primary role was to operate and to 'fix' people and so I find it difficult to blame him for thinking surgery would make me better, but his inability to accept that the surgery he proposed would be utterly disastrous for someone with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome was the real problem. Despite knowing absolutely nothing about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome he proposed a surgery to break both my hips and re-set them in a 'better' position. My protestations that would be incredibly dangerous and pointless for someone with a connective tissue disorder were brushed away with the insistence that it wouldn't affect any of my soft tissue because he was only going to break bones.

Living successfully with a disability or chronic health condition is only possible when one learns to be independent, to have control and autonomy over your life. It is extremely challenging to do that both psychologically and practically because services essential to that independence such as social care or long term psychological support are impossible for most people to obtain. To add to this burden by removing the most fundamental right we all have, to have control over what happens to our own bodies, takes society into a dark and dangerous place, led there by stigmatisation and resentment of people who 'just don't know what's good for them' and an outdated, paternalistic idea of 'doctor knows best'.

My Doctor didn't know what was best, despite his best intentions. Fortunately I was well informed and stubborn enough to stand up to his best intentions, holding out for my own. That battle and all the others it created meant it took months away from what I needed to focus on, which was learning how to cope and to live life with the level of disability I had. If my ability to feed and shelter myself had also been conditional upon what my doctor thought best for me I would not have been able to make that choice for myself, or to avoid surgery which would, quite literally, have crippled me for life. Are we really going to allow society's disdain for addicts to take us back decades to a time when Doctors knew best and give them the power to act regardless of consent?


John Pring's Disability News Roundup - Week Ending 2/11/2012

11/08/2012 11:59:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 2 Comments

  • Three more charities have suggested that Atos Healthcare used misleading claims about them in a document it used to win two lucrative disability assessment contracts.
  • A review of the equality watchdog’s disability committee could slow down further progress on disabled people’s rights, campaigners have warned.
  • Disabled and older people will make a million fewer cheap coach journeys this year as a result of government cuts, say campaigners.
  • A Supreme Court hearing this week could lead to important new protection from discrimination for thousands of disabled volunteers, and benefit claimants forced into government work experience programmes.
  • Housing providers will be able to bid for money from a £300 million fund to help boost the provision of specialised housing for disabled and older people.
  • Government plans to “shrink” new school buildings will threaten the inclusion of thousands of disabled children in mainstream settings, campaigners have warned.
  • Some of Britain’s top Paralympians will be appearing at a new festival of sport that aims to build on the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and unearth future medal-winners.
  • The sentencing of 11 former employees of a private hospital for abusing people with learning difficulties has become mired in confusion, with the government unable to say whether the judge treated the offences as disability hate crimes.
  • Sentences handed to staff who admitted abusing people with learning difficulties at a private hospital near Bristol have been branded “woefully inadequate” by leading members of the self-advocacy movement.
  • The new minister for disabled people has agreed to consider fresh demands for the government to assess the full impact on disabled people of all of its cuts and reforms to benefits and services.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com