I had an interesting comment on my Wordpress blog the other day. I've added my response at the bottom of this post but but would be interested to hear what others make of it. You can access the blog comment directly by clicking here and maybe leaving your own comment?
Blog Comment left by Akiko Chan: "I don’t appreciate the Crippen images which have been put up on the Google Images site. These images depreciates the whole idea of seeing the differently abled not as people who have likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies and most importantly as those who could be our friends! We should remember the whole idea of a person who is disabled doesn’t surround her/his personality on being an individual."
My response: "I think there is perhaps some cross-cultural misunderstanding, my friend! My work actually makes fun of those who 'don't' see disabled people as individuals with full lives, likes, dislikes, interests and hobbies. I am a disabled person myself and have been at the receiving end of discrimination, prejudice and lack of understanding. So I don't think we really disagree. Perhaps it is a case of British humour not carrying across successfully to other societies or cultures? I and my disabled comrades see that the worst barriers we face are created by society, not our impairments - we face environmental, communication, information, institutional and attitudinal barriers in our struggle to be seen as full citizens. (A social modelunderstanding of disability.) Thanks for getting in touch though and making your comments."
BBC Children in Need, which has raised more than £600million since 1980, has allegedly stashed a large part of this into its investment portfolio instead of giving it directly to those children it claims to collect the money for.
BBC Children in Need has £87,705,000 invested in a range of portfolios, up from £81.2million last year. Another £2.2million is sitting in its bank accounts, up from £864,000 last year. The current charity drive, hosted by the BBC, is expected to raise another £40million.
The money is supposed to help charities that support disadvantaged and disabled children around the country. The BBC has insisted that all of the money it raises is given to charity, but said it does not release all of it at once so it is able to measure the impact of its donations and ensure funds are being put to good use.
In 2008 the BBC faced the prospect of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office after keeping more than £100,000 which should have been given to charity.
An independent watchdog said donating to the charity is ‘a bad idea’ because of its huge administration costs – £2.4million out of a total of £33million raised at the time.
Intelligent Giving said money is swallowed up by the need for two sets of bureaucrats: those who run the charity and those in charge of the organisations to which it gives money.
Pudsey was not available for comment ...
The following has been written by Bob Williams-Findlay, long time disabled activist and academic, who is explaining why Operation Invisible is taking such a firm grip on disabled people's imagination.
"What is Operation Invisible? It is a simple idea: to bring together disabled activists and our organisations to produce 'campaign material' aimed at making our allies aware of our current dissatisfaction with how we are both seen and treated within mainstream organisations and campaigns claiming to defend and further the interests of disabled people. Key to the Disabled People's Movement has always been the slogan: "Nothing About Us, Without Us" and this slogan remains central to disability politics today.
Disability politics are underpinned by the belief the society imposes social restrictions on people with impairments via structures, systems, environments and cultural attitudes. These restrictions disable, leaving us excluded from and marginalized within mainstream society. Disabled people are subjected to social oppression caused by unequal and differential treatment – viewed as burdens on society, socially devalued, patronised, physically denied access and made invisible. Too often we are seen and treated as objects of pity and spoken about by the use of degrading and oppressive language and labels – disabled people are not ‘the disabled’ or ‘the vulnerable’ – we are people who are disabled by the organisation of society not our failure to conform to constructed notions of ‘normality’, whatever that is, or our individual functional loss.
If disabled people are vulnerable it is because of the situations we find ourselves in, the discriminatory policies and practices we’re subjected to, and the differing forms of abuse we encounter. Our exclusion and marginalisation has resulted in us not being taken into account or having nondisabled people speaking on our behalf and deciding what is in our best interests. This is the basis of our invisibility and root cause of disablism.
Disabled people campaigned for decades for full civil and human rights; an end to social, economic and political exclusion. Yet, in 21st century Britain, disabled people remain largely invisible and powerless. Disabling barriers remain because institutions and other bodies still pay lipservice to inclusive practice – poor access, failure to make adjustments and no or little involvement of disabled people and our organisations in the decision-making and running of events and campaigns. How can you talk about solidarity in the fight against austerity when disabled people are absent or need to kick and scream to be heard?
Operation Invisible exists to challenge those who deny our right to participate as full members of society. We will shout: “Oi!” if you exclude us, patronise us, misrespresent us or deny us our Human Rights – friends or foes, the message is clear:"
A couple of years ago, Toyah Wordsworth, a young disabled woman, commissioned me to create some cartoons for a board game she had devised. The game, 'Removing Barriers', was aimed at raising awarenness about the many barriers that exist in society and that exclude disabled people from full participation in everyday life.
Through her business 'Equal Equality' Toyah provides consultancy and equality training based on the Social Model understanding of disability. Having tested the game during her own training sessions, she now feels that 'Removing Barriers' is ready to reach a wider audience in the UK.
Toyal found that by introducing 'Removing Barriers' into her training sessions, she was able to address one of the more fundemental barriers without it really being too obvious - this was 'communication'. Also, by combining the game with her more conventional training material, Toyah discovered that the people on her courses were more easily able to identify with the whole concept of 'disabling barriers'.
Apart from having important educational value and being extremely easy to play, 'Removing Barriers' is also a great deal of fun and should be available to all disabled people involved in providng disability equality training thoughout the UK. This is in fact Toyah's wish and as a step towards this, she has created a page on CrowdFunder with the aim of raising enough funds to have sufficient copies of the game printed.
You can help Toyah, and also see how you could help yourself, by logging onto her CrowdFunding page.
Caught this excellent blog the other day by Lucy Britton about the pitfalls of using a wheelchair if you don't need it all of the time.
"Over the last few years I've become increasingly aware of raised eyebrows when I get out of my wheelchair. A couple of years ago when taking my children out for the day, the woman deciding whether or not I deserved a disabled person's ticket asked me, "are you stuck in there? It's just I need to know if you're one of those people who can just pop in and out".
My moral worth was to be measured by how many steps I could take. A wheelchair is key to leaving the house for people with a huge range of conditions, including those experiencing fatigue, yet we're constantly told we need to justify our usage.
And so, it comes to this: either I allow people to see me stand from my wheelchair and accept that they will assume I am morally deviant, or I play the game and look like the disabled person they deem worthy enough, and get on with life in the usual way. I often choose to play the part which alienates me and others like me most – the media stereotype of the worthy cripple."
The news from the US regarding Maximus' operating style has not been good. Information passed along the disabled people's networks paints a picture that makes ATOS seem like a well meaning, philanthropic organisation by comparison.
We'd already heard of the Maximus divide and conquer tactics when dealing with organised groups of complaining 'customers', so it really shouldn't have come as any surprise that one of the first things that they did was to suss out who the 'tame crips' were and then invite them into the fold.
The first to be sucked in was Sue Marsh, who ran a successful blog focussing on the extreme distress experienced by those disabled people who have had their benefits reduced or cut having gone through the ATOS process. She included herself in this and has described her own battle with ATOS and the DWP in great detail, encouraging people to join with her in the fight to achieve a fair level of benefit without having to face the humiliating and unfair system that Iain Duncan Smith has put in place.
However, having built a large following of mainly 'ATOS survivors' or friends and relatives of those who didn't survive, Ms Marsh suddenly announced that she'd accepted a senior position with Maximus. She's taken the job along with, what to most of us, is a very large salary. She has attempted to reassure those who follow her blog that she'll be allowed to continue her work for 'disability rights' emphasising the fact that she's not had to sign any form of gagging order whilst working for Maximus.
I could be a little charitable here and suggest that Ms Marsh is being just a little naïve in her thinking in this respect. I'm sure that Maximus will be only too pleased to get the same form of hammering that ATOS received from the many followers on her blog. Or would they? I think not!
To say that she's left a lot of hurt and confused people floundering in her wake is an understatement and - quite understandably - there's been a huge backlash against her decision from disabled people up and down the country. In the interests of balance, I should add that her blog explaining and justifying her decision to accept this job, also attracted some supportive comments but these were far out numbered by those expressing outrage, incredulity and disappointment.
A week or so later and the magician that is Maximus pulls another rabbit out of its hat. This time it's in the form of a disabled people's organisation who have agreed to undertake disability equality training with the Maximus senior management. Obviously, Disability Rights UK (DRUK) is not an organisation that Maximus would see as being any threat to them or likely to radicalize their senior management team into militant allies of disabled people. When compared to such organisations as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) for example, DRUK clearly presents as the Women's Institute's extreme knitting collective!
So, what I'm saying here is don't hold your breath waiting for those disabled people who are now involved with Maximus to suddenly appear in their midst - Trojan horse style - and smite them with the sword of equality!
Show your support for Not Dead Yet UK on Friday 16th January
The House of Lords will be in committee again to debate Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill on Friday 16th January 2015. They will be specifically looking at amendments concerning the definition of terminal illness and the role of doctors in 'assisted death'.
Not Dead Yet UK (NDYUK) will once again be showing its opposition and its strength by gathering outside the Houses of Parliament from around 0800 hrs until 1300 hrs at the latest.
One of the principle organisors Liz Carr asks:
"Please do your best to join us on the day and let us know if you have ideas for how we can make our point more effectively. We cannot let this change in the law take place. Please join in and make your voices heard".
It would help NDYUK if you would register on their website in order to receive their newsletter and other important information about forthcoming events etc.
Iain Duncan Smith has made sure that the information available on the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) web site has supported his claim that he is successfully saving the country untold millions of pounds by 'weeding out the work-shy'.
He's painted a picture, usually with the help of his right wing tabloid friends, that those people who were claiming to be chronically sick and disabled were in fact fit for work. He even presented figures to Parliament that showed over 75% of incapacity claimants had been found to be fit for work after undergoing a Work Capability Assessment ... Lies, all lies!
Figures released by the DWP make a complete mockery of these earlier claims. They in fact reveal that 93% of long term sick claimants HAVE qualified for Employment & Support Allowance, with 81% qualifying for intensive support on the grounds of severe health problems.
The latest figures from the DWP publishing 'scores' for Work Capability Assessments carried out between January and March 2014 show that 93% of longer term incapacity benefit claimants qualified for Employment & Support Allowance with just 6% being found 'fit for work' - most of whom will appeal (with almost half of them winning their appeal and having their benefits reinstated!).
Following the loss of our court case in December against the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) you'd be forgiven for thinking that we've given up the fight.
WRONG - we're still here and we're still as determined as ever to get the government see sense and keep the ILF for those disabled people that need it.
WE plan to let politicians know we are still here and are neither going away nor allowing ourselves to become prisoners in institutions or our own homes. Our place is in the community alongside our family, friends and neighbours and we're fighting to stay.
We're therefore planning a further series of mass actions in London in 2015 in an attempt to save the ILF. The first of these is to be held at 1.30pm on TUESDAY 6TH JANUARY at the House of Commons. We will meet in the central hall (just through security) and suggest people arrive for 1.00pm to allow time to get through security.
We need as many disabled people and their supporters to join us for this mass visit to parliament. We need you to be THERE and be SEEN.
Join us for a lobby of parliament on January 6th 2015. Let’s kick off Revenge Tour campaigning (2015) by making sure we let politicians know we are still here and are neither going away, nor allowing ourselves to become prisoners in institutions or our own homes.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are offering to help with specific access needs or help towards travel costs. You can contact them by email: email@example.com
SEE YOU ALL THERE!
It's got to be said, and it probably has, but it's worth saying again - the woman's work is mad, totally mad!
She once had someone holding the bottom of her step ladder as she reached up to replace faulty light bulbs in the sky. To be fair though, it was rather a dull day!
And then there's the sheep ... but let's not go there!
And now she's producing her take on the christmas advent calender, called, of course, a Madvent calender!
But don't take my word for it. Click here to go to her mad art world and see for yourself.
You'll be sad if you don't!
A clever piece of journalism by Frances Ryan, writing for the Guardian newspaper, leads with the statement 'Iain Duncan Smith thinks he can cure disabled people as if by magic'
She goes on to say that that: "Iain Duncan Smith is Jesus Christ. For anyone who missed the Second Coming, it happened at around mid-morning on Thursday when it became apparent that the secretary of state for work and pensions has started to cure the disabled and chronically sick."
I've taken the liberty of quoting some of the hard facts that she's put into the article, but I recommend that you read it in full by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page. Although extremely tongue in cheek, Frances provides a chilling insight into the Machavellian nature of this cruel and vindictive man. She writes:
"It has emerged that more than a third of people with disabilities such as Parkinson’s and MS are being denied the full version of employment support allowance and pushed into “work-related activity” – the group expected to be well enough to work, that gets less money, and is routinely sanctioned."
Almost 8,000 people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, cystic fibrosis and arthritis have been put on this lesser “will be able to work soon” benefit, according to an investigation by the conditions’ respective charities. Of these, 5,000 people were put into the category despite assessors actually writing the phrase “unlikely [to be fit for work] in the longer term” on their reports."
This level of incompetence means that seven out of 10 new claimants with a progressive condition have been reassessed two or more times on the same claim. Health experts claim that repeatedly harassing people who are too ill to get out of bed and threatening to remove the money they need to eat is causing stress and anxiety."
Frances Ryan's article in the Guardian can be found by clicking on this link
PS. One of the comments following the article made me chuckle: "With IDS as the target of their ire, I'd suggest Disabled People Against Cu ts are missing a letter in their name."
And so it goes on ...
At the same time that the High Court has upheld the Government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (which thousands of disabled people rely on to live independently), the House of Lords have been squabbling over the quality of their champagne!
The House of Lords have rejected the suggestion that, as a way to reduce costs, they use the same caterers as the House of Commons. They claim that this would involve lowering the quality of their champagne which is not something they are prepared to do!
Meanwhile, in the real world, about 17,500 disabled people who currently receive an award from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will see those funds transferred to their local authority with no guarantee that the money will continue to be used to support them to live independently.
This government are obviously hoping that this will be the final straw that will see disabled people off the streets and going quietly back into those institutions that we were forced to live in before.
Quietly eh? I think not!
Not satisfied with her triumphant installation on a column in Trafalgar Square or travelling around the UK in her bed, disabled artist-activist Liz Crow and her team from Roaring Girl Productions is throwing herself into yet another exciting project.
Entitled ‘Figures’, it involves Liz sculpting 650 small human figures, each one representing an individual experiencing at first hand the cuts being imposed by this current government.
When I asked Liz to explain the thinking behind this new project, she told me:
“The project is a mass-sculptural performance that is setting out to make visible the stark human cost of austerity and urge action against it. Our intention is to build strong emotional connections with difficult facts in order to encourage deep public questioning and debate that will continue long after the work is over.”
Over a period of 12 consecutive days and nights, on the foreshore of the Thames and in the run-up to next year’s general election, Liz will sculpt these 650 small human figures from excavated raw river mud, each one representing an individual at the sharp end of austerity.
Along with the others from Roaring Girl Productions, she is also collecting 650 stories from people at the sharp end of austerity, across a range of topics, including benefits reform, local authority spending, homelessness, malnutrition, NHS rationing, etc, which will be read out during the final stages of the project. Alongside this roll call of experience the project team will engage members of the public in discussion about the issues raised by the work.
Incidentally, the number of figures also echoes the 650 constituencies throughout which the effects of austerity are felt, as well as the number of MPs whose choices determine those of others.
Once dried, the figures will be toured en masse in a mobile exhibition that will visit city centres along the route of the M4, from west of Bristol to London, over five days, the figures creating a talking point to involve diverse members of the public in discussion about the questions raised by the work.
In London, the figures will be returned to the foreshore and raised into a cairn.
A bonfire will burn into the night, firing the figures, while their corresponding stories of austerity are read aloud, until the returning tide douses the flames. At first light, the figures, fired, burned and broken, will be reclaimed, gathered and ground down to dust.
In the final phase of the performance and on the first day of the new government's tenure, the ground remains of the figures will be scattered from a tugboat on the Thames alongside Parliament. Figures will end with a poignant reminder of the human cost of austerity and a completion of the lifecycle of the work.
Liz ended our interview by telling me:“ Figures will hopefully raise profound questions about how we treat each other, what kind of society we want to be, and what role we might each of us have in bringing that about.”
You can keep up to date with the Project
The project will have its own website
its own twitter account
and also a zequs page
If you’ve been listening to the likes of Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), Esther McVey, Lord Freud and of course David Cameron, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that everything in the disability garden was coming up roses.
They claim that the changes that they are making to the benefits system are all designed to help genuine disabled people get the financial assistance that they need, and at the same time weed out the imposters who are responsible for bankrupting this country [sic].
Well, we’ve all seen what their ‘weeding out’ processes can do, with a high percentage of disabled individuals having their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and/or their Access to Work (ATW) payments stopped resulting in thousands of recorded deaths.
We’ve seen IDS caught out in his lies about the true cost of his cuts to benefits, and his flagship private enterprise company ATOS found guilty of the wrongful assessment of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, most of whom had their benefits reinstated when challenged through the court of appeal!
Surely it can’t get any worse? Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you, but it is. IDS and his cronies are now targeting many of the services and resources that disabled people rely on to find work, or to remain in work. These include the British Sign Language translation services which allow many Deaf people to engage in employment or to interact within the arts.
Speaking with some Deaf friends recently, one of them told me that they’ve had their entitlement to a sign language interpreter cut completely whilst at work. According to the ATW advisor who assessed their claim for a continuation of this service, the DWP was not in the habit of paying someone to do the job that the disabled person should have been doing!
No, I don’t get it either ...
Something that most disabled people have been aware of for some time now has been the change in attitude of the Access to Work benefits advisors.
Originally set up to assist disabled people to find work and then enable them to keep their jobs, these ATW staff seem hell bent on throwing up as many barriers as they can, rather than working with disabled people to remove them.
Now a whistleblower in the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has come out of the woodwork and told BBC News of a “cultural shift” within the Access to Work (ATW) department where he’s employed as an advisor.
He told the BBC reporter: “We were checking [applicants] rather than supporting. We weren’t asking ‘how can we help you?’ We were looking at how to possibly even try to catch you out or restrict you.”
BBC News has also obtained additional evidence suggesting the changes to the government's Access to Work programme is denying disabled people the chance to work rather than helping them into employment with the number of new successful applicants dropping by nearly 25%.
And all this time we thought it was just us ...
See Hear's programme investigating changes in the Access to Work scheme is available on BBC i-player until 23 November
You must have heard the collective groan from thousands of disabled people across the country as the latest charity gimmick rolls out across the UK. Yes, the 'Ice Bucket Challenge', yet another divice aimed at raising money for the many charities that claim to represent us.
By participating in this sort of fund raising event, people have not only been conned into supporting the stance taken by these big disability charities - that disabled people are unable to live their lives without them - but that we continue to be the subject of mindless, undignified stunts, that undermine our real credibility as meaningful members of society. By associating us with the continued role of society's 'Jester' we are still seen as an object of amusement or at worse a target for abuse, humiliation and discrimination.
For many years disabled activists like myself have tried to educate society into watching well meaning but misguided folk wallow around in a bath of cold custard to raise money for disability based charities does nothing to address the real issues around disability. Namely the oppression and inaquality that disabled people continue to face everyday.
Most of these charities are run with only a token involvement of disabled people, often in the role of unpaid, focus group members. The mainly non-disabled people employed by the charities not only benefit from a well paid job, but also receive perks and benefits denied to the very people they claim to represent.
By their very nature, many of these charities depend upon the general public feeling sorrier for disabled people than - let’s say - abandoned kittens in Greece. And in order for society to feel this, we have to be portrayed as tragic, but brave or plucky, and needing their help to overcome our awful handicaps. In this case ‘help’ is defined as giving money to the particular charities that claim to represent us by participating in some 'funny', one-off stunt.
By perpetuating this scenario, the big charities continue to suck in vast amounts of money, with only a small percentage actually filtering out to those disabled people they supposedly represent.
Compounding this, Mr and Mrs Public having donated some money, go away feeling that they’ve done their bit for society and that the problem of ‘the disabled’ has been sorted. What in fact has happened is that the stereotypical beliefs that most people have about disability have been reinforced yet again, making it even more difficult to get our own messages about equality and civil rights across.
So the next time you think about taking part in the current craze of Ice Bucket Challenge, think about what you're actually doing and saying about disabled people. Talk to us and ask how you can work with us to turn this whole cycle of oppression around.
It's been a funny couple of months, especially with being locked out of facebook again. Seems that one of my cartoons caused offence to someone (again), who complained, the cartoon gets suspended and investigated and then I'm told my work is too Political for a place on Facebook.
I've put in the usual appeal, about non-disabled people finding a lot of my work innappropriate, especially when confronting their misconceptions about disability and challenging their stereotypical beliefs about disabled people; that the work isn't Political but political etc ... see where that gets me.
It's been a bit of a blessing though as it's given me more time to work with my web wizard and help rebuild my web site. As I mentioned, we're using Wordpress, which I'd only associated with blogging before. The style of the new web site is certainly more blog oriented but has a fresher and punchier overall presentation. I'm liking it and enjoying presenting the different areas of work I'm engaged in along with other bits of information that wasn't really appropriate for the old web site format.
BTW, the old web site is still there, hanging in cyberspace and available through a link on my new Home Page. It still has the old galleries section, but I'd be grateful if poeple would check with me before lifting anything from there as a lot of them are a bit dated now (I think I mentioned this is an earlier blog here).
I'd also be grateful for any feedback about the new format and especially if it's as accessible as the old one, particularly with regard to the text descriptions that are attached to each cartoon.
The link to the new web site is still the same. Just click here to find it. You'll find most of my new stuff under the Blog heading/current work ... enjoy.
Over the past few weeks I've been working with my Web Master Ken Scott to relaunch my web site.
The old site had become a bit clunky and it was becoming increasingly more time consuming updating the cartoons in the gallery section of the site. Consequently, people were using cartoons from the site that were now out dated, which meant that I had to chase them down in order to provide them with the latest version.
As I say, time consuming and quite frustrating at times, especially when I tracked a cartoon download to a non-disabled people led organisation that had used a cartoon without permission - and who would have normally been charged for the privilege!
The new site is built upon the Word Press format and is far more flexible and easier to access, for me and for the people who view the site. It's in its early stages yet and we've still got a fair bit of tweaking to do, but if you log on, you'll get the general idea of how I want the new site to look.
As always, I'm happy for feedback regarding access issues ...
Only 6 months ago, disabled bloggers and commentators like myself were making reference to the poor turn-out at protests and demonstrations that specifically targeted cuts to services provided for disabled people. It was rare to see anyone there other than the usual old die-hards who have been protesting about this government and its draconian measures since they first set up shop.
Now, suddenly, within the space of two weeks, disabled people have started staging protests right on the doorstep of government. Showing a determination and boldness that hasn't been seen since the 90's when DAN organised protests about the poor access to public transport, disabled people have been chaining themselves together, blocking roads and causing enough disruption to have even got the mainstream press interested!
Just over a week ago a 'flash mob' of some 60 disabled protesters and their allies materialised in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, alongside the Houses of Parliament. A few days later came a mass demonstration outside the Head Office of the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). Both events involved a heavy police presence, people being arrested, and both attracted main stream newspaper and television coverage.
And the common theme of these two events? The proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), a fund that supports the independent living of a relatively small percentage of disabled people within our community.
Outraged by this attack on the more vulnerable members of the disabled people’s community, this cut is seen by many to be the final straw in a long chain of cuts to benefits and support services for disabled people.
This call to arms is an opportunity for disabled people in this country to focus their anger and frustration at this heartless government and its unremitting attack on our lives.
Now is the time for disabled people to join together and be counted.
If you feel angry enough to join our fight then please click here for more information on the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) web site -
Also, click here for a direct link to the Face Book group -
If there has been one thing that has been consistent with this government, it has been the single mindedness of it's Minister for Works and Pension, Iain Duncan Smith (IDS).
Once an out of work white collar worker with a wife and children, dependent upon state benefits and the hand outs provided by his wife's family, he has become the antithesis of this. He seems intent on punishing all those who fell into the same poverty trap that had captured him all those years ago, and who haven't been able to escape as he did.
This projection of his own feelings about the humiliation and worthlessness that he must have felt when signing up for his dole every week, is now directed at all of us who are in the same position. It's a common enough phenomenon, people who have been powerlessness, once in a position of power, then often become the abuser of those they once were.
It's obviously not about saving money, this single minded ruthlessness aimed at erradicating those members of society who, due to ill health or impairment, are now labelled 'benefit cheats'. According to latest figures IDS has managed to waste a staggering six billion pounds since coming to office! We don't have access to his figures showing how much he has actually saved the tax payer by his mercyless cull, but my guess is it's nowhere near what he's wasted on ... but let's have a look at what we know he's wasted money on shall we.
The one closest to our hearts and the one that has, according to the government's own figures, resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of disabled people, is the privatisation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). We know that over 60million pounds has already been paid to ATOS, a French company with fingers in many government pies. This would have seemed a reasonable price to pay by some people, accept that so many disabled people contested the companies wrongfull decision to stop their benefits, and won on appeal, that it has cost an additional 150million pounds. Total cost to the British tax payer so far is in excess of £210million.
Along with this has been his disasterous handling of the Universal Credit Project. To date over 241million pounds has been overspent on the IT aspect of this scheme. A further 90million pounds has been wasted on the purchase of IT equipment that will be obsolete in two years. Total cost to the British tax payer so far exceedes £331million.
And while all this has been going on, the opposition take delight in quoting back his own figures that, far from stopping fraudulant benefit claims, he's allowed over 1.2billion pounds (yes, 1.2 BILLION) to be wasted on over-payments at the DWP due to fraud for three years running (2010-11) (2011-12) (2012-13).
Need we go on? Well, yes we do!
How about the £194m wasted on the Back to Work Scheme for troubled families that helped just 3% of the families’ targeted.
Or the £2.25bn wasted on a Work Programme that was only 10% successful.
Or the £457m wasted on Youth Contract Scheme that achieved a 95% failure rate.
Or the £29m lost from 40,000 Bedroom Tax victims who are exempt due to a loophole he created.
Not forgetting the £150million Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) increased to cover the mess of the Bedroom Tax.
There's more, lots more. But let me end by reminding you of the current total figure of estimated waste that Iain Duncan Smith is responsible for, and then you can wonder, as I do, why is this man still holding down such a powerful position in this government.
To date IDS has managed to waste over £6,221,875,00.00 - That's six billion, two hundred and twenty one million, eight hundred and seventy five thousand pounds of tax payers money!
And if you want any more details just click on this link
'Do not resuscitate' the sign
that sits above our bed
tells all those hard professionals
that we’d be better dead
Though 'mercy killing' is the term
to soften this cruel law
it takes away our right to choose
our voices heard no more
But we're not dead yet
despite what they all say
no we're not dead yet
and we’re not going to go away!
They see us as a burden
dependent and so needy
consuming their resources
always taking, always greedy
So even when there’s treatment
that other folk may get
our impairments cloud their judgement
and their minds are fully set
But we're not dead yet
despite what they all say
no we're not dead yet
and we’re not going to go away!
So when you think of killing us
just pause and make a list
of all the famous crips there’ve been
the world would then have missed
We’re all creative, clever
though in different quirky ways
So stop your trying to kill us
Let us all live out our days
‘Cause we're not dead yet
despite what they all say
no we're not dead yet
and we’re not going to go away!
(Optional) Yes we're not dead yet
though we hear the medics scoff
no we're not dead yet
so they can all ... FUCK OFF!
Anthem created by Dave Lupton aka Crippen in collaboration with Liz Carr, music and song by Simon (Woody) Wood – 23rd June 2014 All Rights Reserved
I was privileged to play a small part in the anti-ATOS demonstrations that took place on the19th February across the UK.
At the Brighton ATOS Assessment Centre we had over 80 people, many of us disabled, who turned out to protest against the inhuman methods employed by the French company ATOS when undertaking Work Capability Assessments (WCA) of sick and disabled people on behalf of the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP).
ATOS has been heavily criticised for its handling of this work, causing unnecessary suffering and hardship to people who are already diagnosed as being sick or disabled by the medica profession.
However, our biggest concern was that thousands of people have died following their involvement with this controversial scheme. This is based upon the government's own figures showing that between January and November 2011, 10,600 claimants died within 6 weeks of their claim ending. Many of these people having been found fit for work by ATOS and therefore no longer entitled to benefits.
A government study published in 2012 also found that one-half of the people identified as "fit for work" by ATOS remained unemployed and without income. It is believed that over 20 people who have recently committed suicide fell into the category.
The day after this successful protest the news broke that ATOS were now asking for their contract to be terminated before the renewal date in 2015. You would be forgiven, therefore, for claiming that our actions contributed in some part towards this.
But as others have commented, even though the mighty ATOS has been shown the error of their ways, this does not put an end to the envelopes that will still drop through the doors of disabled people telling them to attend WCA's or stating they are fit to work in jobs that simply do not exist. The DWP will just outsource the contract to another private company and the carnage will continue, albeit with a different face.
Until the present government, along with their draconian policies are gone, then nothing will really change. They will continue to involve private companies who's sole aim is to target vulnerable members of our society, assett stripping our health service, our pensions and making massive cuts to benefits.
As disabled people we have shown that we can organise and work alongside our non-disabled allies to make our voices heard. We can't afford to rest on our laurels. Let this recent protest be just the first of many as we start to hold this government to account and return our society to the caring and supportive fellowship it once was.
The National Audit Office (NAO) are to launch a new investigation into ATOS Healthcare, the company that carries out controversial medical tests for people claiming sickness and disability benefits when it emerged that they've been paid £754m since 2005.
In a House of Lords question this week Lord Alton of Liverpool asked the NAO to investigate the reason behind such a large amount being paid to ATOS by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP).
Lord Alton said: “The Atos contract with the Government has become like a licence to print money. Astronomical sums are involved. Worrying questions have arisen about whether the terms of the company's tender have been met; whether performance matches promise; and whether a project undertaken on the pretext of giving value for money has done so. When millions of pounds of public money is being diverted to private companies, it is crucial that there is accountability, transparency, and public confidence. I welcome the NAO's decision to scrutinise the ATOS contract and think the Public Accounts Committee should ask ATOS and the DWP to appear before them."
Stephen Timms, Labour’s employment spokesman, said: “This Government has been warned time and again to get a grip of this contract, but the truth is Iain Duncan Smith [the Work and Pensions Secretary] has let ATOS spin out of control and the taxpayer and vulnerable people are picking up the pieces. Anyone taking the Work Capacity Assessment today is now eight times more likely to end up in a tribunal than a job and the cost of those appeals has soared by 40 per cent in the last year alone. Ministers have got to fix this mess – fast.”
Some 40 per cent of people claiming incapacity benefit appealed against its rulings (costing the government a further £500 million) and 38 per cent of them were successful. Despite that, the company won a further contract to assess the new personal independence payments for disabled people. The Government has been criticised by MPs for allowing a virtual monopoly to develop.
This week Jayne Linney has offered to provide a guest blog on this Crippen DAO Blog page. Here's what she has to say ...
"We know from the official Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) report that between January & November 2011 ten thousand, six hundred disabled people either in receipt of or awaiting benefits died. Since then the DWP have, despite numerous requests refused to release further updates; we can only speculate their reason why, as we can only surmise just how many more disabled people have since lost their lives?
"It is well documented how the 'Scrounger' rhetoric have adversely affected disabled people and those who are chronically ill, and even Esther McVey - Minister of State for DWP stated she “would not disagree" when it was put to her in October 2013 that " hundreds or even thousands of people who had died sooner than they should have done, or had a much lower quality of life over their last few weeks or months because of their experience of the WCA.".
"From this we believe it is safe to presume there has been an increase in the number of annual deaths of disabled people in 2012 & 2013; given the loss of life in 2011 was 10,600, even a 2% increase per annum would result in 12,720 in 2012 and a startling 15,264 in 2013. That would give a overall figure of 38,564 deaths over the 3 years the Coalition has been in Government.
Is this shocking statistic what the DWP don't want us to know?"
The climate of fear that is being generated by this government is making disabled people think twice before participating in any form of protest against their callous behaviour.
But protest we must as everything that we need in order to remain independent and to play a productive part in society is being eroded. The rights that we have fought long and hard to achieve are being systematically dismantled, taking us back to the time when we were shut away in institutions, abused and forgotten.
The next major action, which is being planned for 19th February and will target 144 Atos assessment centres across the UK, has been called to protest about the unacceptably high level of deaths of sick and disabled people following the assessment process.
Atos, the company hired by the Department of Works and Pension (DWP) to assess people who are claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is also facing claims of deliberately failing over 65% of claimants in order to meet government figures. This claim appears to be supported by the fact that approximately one in four of the claimants found to be fit for work by Atos have then had this decision overturned by the appeals tribunal. Interestingly the DWP continue to pay Atos even when their original assessment has been found to be wrong.
Talking to other disabled people about this Atos Protest I have discovered that many of us, especially those who have been, or are being made subject to the ESA assessment process, are frightened that they will be identified and therefore lose their entitlement to benefits if they do participate.
So, is it worth sticking your head above the parapet and joining with other disabled people to protest about this callous government and their draconian policies, or is it better to just keep your head down and try and absorb the punishment being meted out to us?
Or is it a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't?
What do others think?