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Labour’s buried treasure

The Labour Party has commissioned, received – and buried – a superb and timely report into poverty and disability in the UK today.  If they won’t publicise it, then we must!

One of the big social and policy challenges in Britain today is the persistent and complex link between disability and poverty – disabled people are more likely to live in poverty,[1] but people living in poverty are also more likely to become disabled.[2] Approximately one-fifth (19%) of the UK population is disabled or has a long term health condition.[3] Disabled people are 30% less likely to be in paid work than non-disabled people[4] but face very high disability-related costs.[5] And this is all in spite of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, ratified by the UK Government in 2009.

Against this background, last Summer Labour commissioned a Task Force to look at ways to break the link between disability and poverty, sending out a press release.[6] All six members of the Task Force are supremely well-qualified, both personally and professionally, to bring together evidence, research and their own understanding of the complexity of disability and chronic ill-health to produce an outstanding report. Mindful of the economic constraints that will face whatever party forms a government in 2015, they tailored the report’s recommendations accordingly, although it is unrealistic to expect to tackle this issue effectively without any further investment at all. Using current expenditure more effectively is the priority. Continue reading

Miriam’s open letter to David Cameron

Miriam’s letter poignantly describes the sorts of battles disabled people face every day in our country… this is our reality:

Dear Mr Cameron

On 16th August 2006 I was judged to be sufficiently disabled to warrant being awarded the higher rate mobility component and lower rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, indefinitely as my condition is not curable. I have severe Peripheral Vascular Disease. I was also in receipt of Incapacity Benefit at that time. Continue reading

The perils of being a “vulnerable” benefit claimant

JobCentre Plus logoToday, the Commons Public Accounts Committee published its report into some of the activities of JobCentre Plus (JCP), managed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). Despite being snowed under with other work, I’ve read some of the report with interest, since I know very well that sick & disabled people who are dependent on benefits are often treated very badly indeed by the system that’s supposed to support them.

As an aside, I dislike the word “vulnerable”, as it tends to be used in relation to most or all sick & disabled people, and there’s no automatic reason why people have to be considered vulnerable just because they happen to be disabled. However, I do think  most sick or disabled people who are dependent on benefits are made vulnerable by the benefits system itself, which is steadily becoming less supportive and more punitive. Indeed, in a meeting I attended yesterday, we were reflecting that we really don’t believe punishing people and making their lives more and more stressful is going to “change their behaviour”, which in DWP-speak means “make them get a job”. Quite the reverse; the more punitive the measures taken against sick & disabled people and the more hardship they suffer, the more stressed they will become and the more their health will worsen. It’s not rocket science! If DWP doesn’t understand that, it’s because they don’t want to. 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

The Pressure Mounts…

Disabled woman looking out of the windowThe one word that describes how I feel right now is pressure. Partly, pressure on me to deliver various types of work, both small pieces of work and more significant projects but, more significantly, the pressure of knowing how many are suffering and how little our Government and most of our politicians, across all parties, actually appear to care. And alongside pressure, my feeling about what is happening to our country is moving close to despair.

So I could barely bring myself to listen to David Cameron’s speech today. What I read about it on Twitter told me all I needed to know, anyway – a Prime Minister using personal, emotive anecdotes to give a totally hypocritical, even mendacious impression of his Government’s priorities. It feels wrong to criticise when he uses the example of the death of his disabled son Ivan, but this blogpost: http://sturdyblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/we-need-to-talk-about-ivan/ written in March makes the case much better, and probably more sensitively, than I can. Interestingly and concerningly, when I talk to my MP about the suffering being caused by Government policies I realise how powerless he is to make any difference to his own Government’s actions. Continue reading

Political promises – worth the paper they’re written on?

Along with other commentators, an article in today’s Guardian by my own Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/07/third-runway-heathrow-betrayal) set me thinking. In his article, Zac makes the comment:

political promises need to mean something

In my own comment on the article, I point out to Zac and his colleagues that if you value your integrity, you can’t demand that some promises are kept while supporting policies that clearly break other promises. Continue reading