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Mistrust and discrimination – or empowerment and aspiration?

A conversation with a colleague earlier this week made me think about what’s really wrong with this Government’s disability policy. I know disabled people are set up to fail by the actions of DWP and JobCentre Plus, that the Work Capability Assessment is a disaster, that many disabled people will have their independence compromised by the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment, that “protection” of the “most vulnerable” (whoever they are!) from cuts is merely a rhetorical illusion, that cuts in funding to local authorities and the closure of the Independent Living Fund are undermining social care – to list just a few aspects of this Government’s lamentable record. It’s a depressing litany of failure… Continue reading

Vicious Vulnerability

Guest blog by members of the Spartacus Network

Vulnerability seemed to be last week’s buzz word. Are people on JSA with mental health problems “vulnerable”? Should society only support the “most vulnerable”? Is Cameron’s targeting of the “most vulnerable” a progressive policy?

By now your blood will probably coming to the boil and you’re likely to be screaming at your “interactive device” of choice. I really don’t blame you – “vulnerable” has become a toxic word in a toxic society with toxic Government policies.

The Social Model of Disability describes how society disables people. However, “vulnerability” seems to be a very different sort of model, artificially created to describe those who are “worthy” of help, to differentiate them from the rest – and it’s a double edged sword. Continue reading

Dignity and Opportunity for All – report published!

Report coverDignity and Opportunity for All:
Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era

This report I’ve helped to write for Just Fair has now been published. It analyses the extent to which the UK is meeting its obligations to realise the following rights in relation to disabled people, as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

  • The right to independent living (UNCRPD Article 19)
  • The right to work (ICESCR Article 6 and UNCRPD Article 27)
  • The right to fair and just conditions of employment (ICESCR Article 7 and UNCRPD Article 27)
  • The right to social security (ICESCR Article 9)
  • The right to social protection (UNCRPD Article 28)
  • The right to an adequate standard of living (ICESCR Article 11 and UNCRPD Article 28)

Continue reading

Report launch: Dignity and Opportunity for All

Good news! The report on disabled people’s human rights, which I’ve been working on for 6 months, is to be launched on Monday 7 July.

The report

Last November, I was commissioned by Just Fair to produce a report entitled “Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era”, to help fulfil the charity’s aim to increase understanding of economic and social rights and ensure that law, policy and practice comply with the UK’s international human rights obligations. The report analyses the extent to which the UK Government is meeting its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil some key disabled people’s rights, including the rights to independent living, work, social security and an adequate standard of living. These rights are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The analysis is rigorous and evidence-based, and includes a set of recommendations in relation to social care and social security policies. The report will be submitted to the UN committees that monitor these human rights treaties, in order to influence and inform their conclusions regarding UK compliance.

The launch

The report launch will take place in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London SW1A 2LW, on Monday 7 July from 6.30 – 8 pm.

If you would like to attend the launch, please book your ticket online at Eventbrite, not forgetting to book an extra ticket if you need to bring a PA with you.  Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis. See you there!

We’re a wealthy country… money’s no object…

FloodingI’m supposed to be writing an important human rights report, but the political messages around today have tempted me to blog – for the first time since the turn of the year, when my anger about poverty spilled into a much less measured blog than usual. My anger has now got the better of me again…

First of all I must say, very clearly, that flooding is terrible for those affected and my heart goes out to all those who have experienced the horror of dirty, sewage-contaminated water flowing through their homes. This blog is not directed against flood victims, but is a comment on the political message and reality behind the Prime Minister’s promises.

The floods have reached the home counties. Beautiful homes next to the River Thames are awash. This is archetypal middle England. Confirmed Tory voters are now being affected by the floods which have ravaged the West Country and other areas for many weeks. Strangely, now that the water is affecting the homes of the “middle classes”, money is suddenly no object. Cameron even says “we’re a wealthy country”. He should choose his words with care…. Continue reading

In its disability policy, the Government wants to “have its cake and eat it”

This morning the Court of Appeal quashed the decision of the High Court that the Government acted lawfully in deciding to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which provides funding for independent living for around 19,000 disabled people with the highest support needs. This has some significance for me because in the first article I ever wrote for the Guardian  I explained how adequate, self-directed social care support, provided by local authorities and/or the ILF, can enable disabled people to live active and fulfilling lives, engaging in paid work and participating fully in our communities, and how this is at risk due to cuts to social care funding and the proposed closure of the ILF. Continue reading

Independent living is expensive – but its value exceeds the cost

This is the 8th annual Blogging against Disablism Day but I’ve never participated before. I’m not good at these ‘special days’. I write when I want to, when I have something to say and, above all, when I can. Campaigning, advising, writing briefings, attending meetings, maintaining websites, ill-health, family responsibilities etc all take their toll, which is why I don’t blog very often.

So I was going to leave it to others to mark this day… until I watched a set of videos recently produced by Scope for their Britain Cares campaign. Continue reading

Fighting for our independence

Since the Coalition Government came to power, it has become increasingly clear that through a combination of austerity policies and ideological cuts (or ‘reforms’) the independence which disabled people have fought for over several decades is under real threat. These threats include, but are not limited to: the replacement of DLA by the ironically-named Personal Independence Payment, the scrapping of the Severe Disability Premium under Universal Credit, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the pressures on local authority adult social care services which are increasingly under-funded and over-stretched. These latter two threats go hand in hand, and both are in the news today. Continue reading

This Government is bereft of compassion as well as competence

Words seem inadequate as I contemplate what this Government is doing to our country and its people. As I struggle with the reality of winter, so soon after autumn, when my health is at its worst, I know there is little or nothing I can do to change the cruel policies inflicted on those least able to fight back.

But I don’t want to accept it. I don’t want to accept that I’m powerless to change things for those who are desperate. So I sit here, thinking, wondering… who do I know, who might be able to influence the Government, even just a little bit? Will they listen? Will they demand ‘quantitative evidence’ – numbers, statistics – which I can’t provide? Or will they listen as I tell them how sick, disabled and poor people are suffering? How some are stockpiling tablets for the time when they can no longer face the fight for survival? How others are going on hunger strike in protest at how they and other sick & disabled people are treated? Do they read the same reports as I do? Or do they inhabit a different universe? Continue reading

On International Day of Disabled People this year, I’m ashamed to be British

Poor woman using crutch to climb stairsToday, 3rd December, is International Day of Disabled People, a day on which we should celebrate our progress in achieving human rights and equality for disabled people. But this year there is little to celebrate, as we anticipate the implementation of a horrifying range of policies set to devastate the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled Britons.

Most disabled people rely on benefits of one sort or another – to help meet the additional costs of disability and because many disabled and sick people are unable to do much, or any, paid work. So most disabled people will be badly affected by welfare ‘reform’ as the Government seeks to reduce the benefits bill. Continue reading