Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Malefic ConDems' Idealogical War on Welfare

This is a personal account of my journey from inert citizen to politicised activist.

In whose name?

[Video description: Kaliya Franklin's speech - you may know her better as Bendy Girl; © Graeme Lamb Media via Youtube.]

"Over two hundred people rallied in Manchester’s Albert Square on Saturday in opposition to government cuts to support for disabled people. Similar demonstrations were held across the country as part of a national day of action called for by the Hardest Hit campaign." (Manchester Mule)

I was one of those two hundred or so people freezing in the Mancunian chill & damp on Saturday 22nd October 2011. At forty-seven I was attending my first ever political rally and in a wheelchair to boot. The evil done and which continues to be done in the name of and at the behest of the Conservatives and their lackeys, the misnamed Liberal Democrats, via the unconscionable wraiths in the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has had and is having dire consequences that ultimately will touch most families. Disabled people are committing suicide, attempting suicide, harming themselves, starving, freezing, deteriorating because of withdrawal of all or some benefits and/or support or even just from the threat of it. And this in twenty-first century Britain - I can no longer bring myself to use the term Great Britain! I have written elsewhere about the similarities between what is happening in the UK and what occurred in fascist Germany (Nazi Treatment of Disabled). I was asked this past week by a fellow-sufferer where on a scale of 0-10 I thought we are in respect to a potential genocide; I responded about 1934.

[Image description: the author in wheelchair, helper & a fellow activist behind being interviewed by reporter from Manchester Mule (manchestermule.com).]

On Tuesday the twenty-eighth of August 2012 I went on my second ever political demonstration, this time outside the offices of ATOS in Manchester. This inevitably required the storing of spoons and the expense of taxi fares for the eighteen mile round-trip from and to my home. Thankfully I did not have to do much self-wheeling as a fellow activist loaned me his strapping son for the occasion.

My comments are quoted several times in this Manchester Mule article (q.v.), in this article (q.v.) by Black Triangle (blacktrianglecampaign.organd in this article (q.v.) from the very personable and witty Lipstick Socialist (lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com). I personally am non-partisan but have voted throughout my life for candidates belonging to the as was Social Democratic Party (SDP), the as was Liberal Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Green Party or independents. I would have been a Macmillan-type Conservative, but Mrs. Thatcher and the Tories lurch to the right repulsed me, as did the Labour Party's concomitant destructive and unappealing in-fighting. I am a liberal with a lower-case ell. This means I am open-minded. I want to see the evidence and judge for myself. The evidence that has been accumulating under the current coalition government's duplicitous austerity drive is one of harm, destitution and in some cases death.

[Image description: the author holding a placard which reads, "32 die a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit [ESA]."]

Since the demonstration the figure of thirty-two deaths per week occurring within six weeks of the notorious work capability assessments (WCA), the DWP's own earlier figure, has been revised upwards to more than seventy per week (q.v.) per Disabled People Against Cuts (dpac.uk.net) at the end of November 2012!

Not in my name!

No-one in power it seems is going to stand up for disabled folk. I have chatted (q.v.) with the president of the LibDems, Tim Farron, and asked a direct question (q.v.) in person of the leader of the opposition and the Labour Party, Ed Miliband. Neither of them was willing to make comments in support of disabled and/or chronically sick people. Neo-liberalism or neo-capitalism holds sway amongst all major parties. The weak are left to fend for ourselves. And so, I have become a sort of activist: I tweet & retweet; I sign & share petitions; I facebook news items; I blog about our troubles.

And now I am actually directly involved in the WoWPetition, against this phony war on welfare, or social security as it used to be more aptly called. I have paid tens of thousands in taxes and national insurance contributions on the understanding that the State would support me if my circumstances became straitened. Such has occurred for me and many, many others. And now the State has unilaterally pulled out of the contract despite having taken the dues. If they were an insurance company they could have been sued via the courts. Unfortunately courts in England tend to side with governments, so it is unlikely we could seek redress there. And, in any case, any such action would take years, in which time thousands more are likely to suffer and many more die.

The WoWPetition website, wowpetition.com, and the attendant forum, wowpetitionforum.co.uk, will over the coming days and weeks provide facts & figures, true tales of disabled and/or chronically sick folk and much more besides. Please visit them if one requires more information. To join in with conversations:
on Twitter @WOWpetition & @WOWpetitionchat; or,
on Facebook WOWpetition.

Join my name!

Whatever, I hope each and every reader will sign the WoWPetition either via the official website (click link above) or here. If you do sign, I should greatly appreciate if one would add a comment below to that effect.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Battlers in the ME/CFS Wars!

I abhor conflict. I intensely dislike argument (as opposed to debate) for its own sake. I find folk who goad others objectionable. I hold intemperance, discourtesy and disrespect towards others as vices. Unreason and illogicality are symptomatic of ignorance.

Unfortunately every day I encounter these foibles in my interactions between individuals on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, on blogs and in the comments sections under Media articles.

Their expression demonstrates a weakness of spirit by those engaged and reveals much about the writers: their bile, their hates, their bitterness, their insecurities.

Perhaps no where else do I see such negativity as amongst those on the various sides, and indeed within factions on those sides, of the ME/CFS issues. Professor attacks professor; doctor slings mud at doctor; sufferers squabble with each other. The levels of mutual suspicion and antagonism might be considered laughable if it were not for the inexorable consequences. It is pure folly!

Where in all this diatribe is the coming and working together to the benefit of patients and the advancement of medical science? Resources, time and energy are being squandered for no material gain. It has to stop and now.

I personally would try almost anything for my condition to ameliorate and have tried many things. I will give it a go whether it is an off-licence drug, a physical activity or a psychological approach to get better and I do not care one iota for all the petty - for that is what they are - opinions. I do not give a fig what the illness is labelled, just uncover what are the cause(s) and try to discover a treatment or treatments that is/are effective.

It's time to calm down, don thinking caps and try to find a route-map out of this asphyxiating infirmity. Please! I do not want to remain in my bed-cell or wheelchair for the rest of my life.

[Image description: five persons round a table smiling, two are shaking hands across the table; another stretches out a hand. © Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Monday, 3 December 2012

Who represents disabled folk?

I recently had a twitter discussion (q.v. if so wished; I am @criquaer) with the erudite Neil Crowther (@NeilCrowther, who has his own website neilcrowtherconsulting.com which is well worth dipping into and reading) in which we debated the relative merits of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Now I am not particularly learnèd in the area of the EHRC but I have had several interactions with them, none of which ended fully positively.

I started this blog because of concerns about the EHRC, see Disabled Travel and the Equality & Human Rights Commission which gives some slight background. For more detailed information refer to Wikipedia.

"We have a statutory remit to promote and monitor human rights; and to protect, enforce and promote equality across the nine "protected" grounds - [including] disability..." EHRC

Now I am just a layman, but that suggests to me that any area of life where disabled folk do not have equality is up for grabs and ought to be an area of concern for the EHRC.

According to the Office for Disability Issues (ODI), a part of the Government structure:

Post-19 Education
  • Disabled people are around twice as likely not to hold any qualifications compared to non-disabled people, and around half as likely to hold a degree-level qualification [7]
  • 20 per cent of working age disabled people do not hold any formal qualification, compared to seven per cent of working age non-disabled people [8]
  • 14.5 per cent of working age disabled people hold degree-level qualifications compared to 26.8 per cent of working age non-disabled people [9]


  • According to the Labour Force Survey, disabled people are now more likely to be employed than they were in 2002  - the employment rate gap between disabled and non-disabled people has narrowed slightly by 5.8 percentage points and currently stands at 29.9% in 2012
  • However, disabled people remain far less likely to be in employment. In 2012 46.3 per cent of disabled people are in employment compared to 76.2  per cent of non-disabled people

From these statistics it can be seen that disabled folk do not have parity in educational and employment outcomes. Given the huge differences this can only be put down to discrimination and/or lack of equality of opportunity. These problems have been known about for more than a decade. Here one can find the link to the EHRC's statement on how they are addressing the various conventions within the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Perhaps the EHRC are actually doing something proactive. Have the general public heard about any such actions? To be fair are the ODI doing anything? Anyone, other than specialists and consultants, heard about their work? Is the UN doing anything?

The European Commission has a European Disability Strategy which advises that:

The strategy's targets for the first five years include:
  • devising policies for inclusive, high-quality education
  • ensuring the European Platform Against Poverty includes a special focus on people with disabilities. The forum brings together experts who share best practices and experience
  • working towards the recognition of disability cards throughout the EU to ensure equal treatment when working, living or travelling in the bloc
  • developing accessibility standards for voting premises and campaign material
  • taking the rights of people with disabilities into account in external development programmes and for EU candidate countries.

Disabled folk are dying "with recent evidence of 73 deaths and suicides per week" in relation to Work Capability Assessments (WCA) per Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). What action have the EHRC, ODI, EU or UN taken? And if they are doing something, why do we not know about it?

One might argue that disabled folk should not expect governmental bodies to look out for their interests, that really it is up to the individual to do so. Of course, many disabled folk are just not able to do so. This is where charities are supposed to step in. Well one of the ODI's favourites and 'privileged' charity is Disability Rights UK (DRUK). Amongst the disabled community they are infamous because of their chief executive's Sayce Report and have lost much credibility for being seen as the Government's henchman, specifically in relation to Remploy. On 28th November another group of charities became tarnished, Sick and Disabled Claimants Now to Be Sent on Workfare (by the same charities who claim to support them) including:

"Charitable Work Programme sub-contractors include @scope,  @MindCharity, @mencap_charity, @RNIB, @LCDisability, @salvationarmyuk, @AddactionUK

Charities who exploit workfare staff include @thebhf, @barnardos, @age_uk, @CR_UK"

Since then Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation have decided to withdraw from the workfare schemes and Scope are reviewing the matter. This discrediting of charities, who are supposed to be supporting us, has meant a damaging backlash and concomitant fall in trust. See for example the comments after Neil Crowther's article for DRUK To eliminate hostility towards disabled people we must cut the deficit.

My suggestion to Neil Crowther was:

 Or actually seek disabled folks' views (not charities') for our priorities to determine their agenda. 

He responded:

 why do you believe was based on charities views? EHRC had & has a statutory Disability Committee made up of disabled people

 like Jane Campbell, Mike Smith, Alun Davies, Andrew Lee, Rhian Davies, Kirsten Hearn & Saghir Alam

I doubt many of us have heard of these grandees. I myself have only heard of Mike Smith and that is due to correspondence with the EHRC.

Why should not all the organisations in this article seek out the opinions of their users, donors and stakeholders? Why do we little people not get to have a say? There will always be a need for specialists and experts, but that does not mean that we should be told our priorities or have our choices decided for us. Of course, there will always be a need to give some weighting to minorities within our community who otherwise might never get a say, such as BME disabled folk, or LGBTI disabled persons (which includes myself!). But that alone should not be used as an excuse not to have regular listening exercises and consultations.

Who represents we disabled? Who should?

This article is part of "International Day for Persons with Disabilities".