Anne Novis was awarded an MBE in the Queens New Years Honours in recognition of her dedicated work and ‘Services to disabled people’.

She writes:

I am a disability activist, you know one of those people who will complain, (how dare I?), when facing discrimination, challenge inequality wherever I find it and advocate for other disabled people.

Oh one of those you might say, YES! one of those who believes in the human rights of every single person, those ‘rights’ so many take for granted as they have not had them taken away yet.

I have fought, yes fought, for nearly twenty years for disabled people to be believed about their experiences of targeted hostility, harassment and abuse, hate crime and for an appropriate response from society.

Within all this I also fight for myself as a wheelchair user who needs care to live independently.
One of those who relies on benefits to live, to carry on having a family life, to practise my faith and be safe.

Oh I hear it already I am ‘burden on society’, ‘work shy’, a ‘fraudster’ and should have been ‘killed at birth’, I have actually been told this when attacked on a local high street and read it every day in the media .

I would love to get paid for the volunteering I do, for the contribution I have made to this society, for caring for my children and 23 foster kids, for advocating and counselling, advising and supporting other disabled people.

But hey I am part of the Big Society, one of those who does all this for free, you know like David Cameron wants you all to do now.

I am qualified up to my eyeballs, have attempted to get paid work many times often just a couple of hours here and there as that’s all I can commit to due to my body not being as active as my mind.

Most employers don’t want those who are sick, disabled a burden, work shy and fraudsters to work for them you know?

Now I face cuts in my personal care, the ILF which funds half my care package is scrapped and I will only get 5 more years of such support, that’s if I still qualify of course.

To qualify for ILF you must be on the high rate care component of DLA and need more then £340 plus pounds worth of care from your local authority.

But DLA is to be scrapped too , the local authority has no money and will be implementing increased charges for care and cuts in care as soon as possible.

I will be reassessed for the Severe Disability Allowance I get and probably have this taken away and be put on Job Seekers Allowance, after all I should be in paid work you know.
It does not matter about my health issues, regardless I must be in paid WORK!

Yet if I lose my care I cannot function, get up, get dressed, shop, socialise, practice my faith, in fact do nothing let alone be in paid work in some sort of ideal world where priority is given to sick and disabled people to get into work first before all those others sacked, made redundant, not sick, more experienced employees out there seeking work too.

I may get a basic income but I will have to jump through hoops, attend interviews, training and more and if I don’t ? Well I will be punished of course, the finance will be lessoned and eventually stopped.

Yet if I have no care support I cannot get up, dressed, eat, go out, and attend interviews or training.

But that does not matter I should make more effort as I am work shy, a fraudster and a burden on the state and ‘unsustainable’ as government ministers keep telling me.

So how will I survive? I will not.

But that’s ok too as then there will be less disabled people and we will save the government some money and all these incentives will have been shown to work as I, and so many others, will not exist.

And if we do mange to ‘exist’ it will be in residential care, or in bedsits, living on the scraps of funding society can ‘afford’ or deem reasonable for us to live on, we will return to begging on the streets then everyone will be happier as I will not be a ‘burden’ or a ‘fraudster’.

Yet once upon a time I had a dream, to own a home, have a career, travel and enjoy my retirement.
I was in paid work, as was my partner, we contributed to society by it’s current definition.

But oops! One day my body gave out, my back ripped apart and I entered the world of spinal injury, discrimination, inequality and prejudice.
Overnight I was unable to move from a bed, lost my work, my foster children, my partner and myself.

I did not choose this,it happened to me, as so many illnesses and accidents do.

One day you may find you or a member of your family becomes sick or injured, be born too early or face being different.

Now I face increased poverty, for no matter what you think disabled people on benefits are not rich, I face medical tests (many of them) by unqualified people who will decide whether I am too ill/disabled or not to be in paid work.

I face serious cuts in my care package, lose the five personal assistants I employ to help me, lose my wheelchair adapted car, lose DLA which was meant to help with some of the extra costs of being a disabled person.

Once I fail the ESA medical, which most do, I will become one of the invisible disabled, those not on anyone’s radar. I will face sanctions for not complying with job seeking requirement’s and lose even more of the pittance I am meant to survive on.

I will lose myself again.

Not due to an injury that was no ones fault but due to a society that is allowing a government to implement the most discriminatory harshest attacks on disabled people this generation has faced.

A society that is allowing those who can fight least to be targeted as the scapegoats for the financial mess they and the succeeding governments got us into.

Yes you, and you and you, all of you who stand by and say nothing or encourage such vicious and undeserving attacks are just as responsible for what is happening.

Those who stand by and allow this are equivalent to those who stood by when disabled people and Jews were targeted by the Nazi’s for annihilation.

Too harsh for you?

Its our lives we are fighting for, our very lives, some have already killed themselves due to what is happening, many more are considering it.

Will you stand by?

Anne Novis

God help us all!

December 19, 2010

Introduction

Not a week goes by without a fresh onslaught against disabled people at the hands of a Government who appear hell bent upon making the Orwellian nightmare into a reality. Big Brothers Cameron and Clegg have unleashed their bloody thirsty pack of rabid mongels – some simply pleased to be given the opportunity to climb the greasy pole; others who are like the pathetic playground bully, want to hurt those who can’t fight back.

 

The huge talking point in recent weeks has been the release of the consultation document on replacing the Disability Living Allowance with the absurd Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I say ‘absurd’ because everything about it adds up to smashing disabled people’s ability to be independent. For legal reasons DPAC must be careful not to stray into personal attacks – therefore I will merely state that during my reading of this document, Captain Ska’s song “Liar, Liar” was pulsing through my head.

 

Before I look at the consultation document itself I’d like to invite you to read the petition at:

 

http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/petition-the-minister-for-disabled-people-to-recall-the-public-consultation-on-dla-reform/569/0aa4fc2026635b34c32b57a1e644d746

 

Adding insult to injury

 

In the Ministerial forward Maria Miller states:

 

“The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives.” I want to suggest we ought to keep this statement firmly in our minds as we consider all the implications behind their proposals. She goes goes on to say, “We have been absolutely clear that our welfare reform plans are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable situations, including disabled people.”

What is absolutely clear is that this is “doublespeak” – it means the Government will discharge any responsibility for the well-being of the majority of disabled people.

 

The document is full of questionable assertions which are impossible to challenge if you’re a lay person. Here is a flavour of what I mean:

 

“For example, many people incorrectly believe that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is an income-replacement benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability.”

 

This comes from their own research … the words ‘they would say that wouldn’t they?’ spring to mind.

 

“The introduction of legislation, for example the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010, to protect the interests of disabled people and prevent discrimination has helped many disabled people lead more independent lives.

 

What kind of evidence is there to support this claim?

 

“People are unclear about whether or not they are likely to qualify and there is evidence that people awarded DLA do not fully understand what the benefit is for. For example, some view the benefit as a form of compensation for being disabled, some don’t view themselves as disabled and others incorrectly believe that their DLA payments will stop if they return to work.”

 

The fact the current system is too complex, I would argue, is down to the administration of it not the basic framework of the benefit itself. Again, like poor workers blaming their tools, the DWP are shifting the blame for ‘not understanding the benefit’ onto claimants and away from the zealot gatekeepers at the DWP.

 

Finally,

 

“Evidence suggests that DLA can also act as a barrier to work 6, when it should enable people to lead independent lives, including having or getting a job. DLA is widely perceived to be an out-of-work benefit and receiving it appears to reduce the likelihood of being in employment, even after allowing for the impact of health conditions or impairments. There is evidence that people who receive DLA have lower work expectations.”

 

As I said it is difficult to challenge the nature of this evidence because of how it was collected, but I suspect many disabled people and their organisations would suggest this doesn’t reflect their knowledge or experience.

 

The sleight of hand

 

In my opinion there’s evidence of sleight of hand to go with the ‘doublespeak’; the crucial one being the description of the principle behind the payment of DLA and future PIP.

 

First of all Miller states:

 

“We are steadfast in our support for the principles of DLA, as a non-means-tested cash benefit contributing to the extra costs incurred by disabled people.”

 

However in the very next paragraph she writes:

 

“Personal Independence Payment will maintain the key principles of DLA, providing cash support to help overcome the barriers which prevent disabled people from participating fully in everyday life, but it will be delivered in a fairer, more consistent and sustainable manner.”

 

Within the consultation document itself we find another articulation:

 

“We need a benefit that helps contribute to the extra costs of living independently, in a way that is right for each individual.”

 

(Emphasis added in each quotation – BWF)

 

Providing a cash contribution to offset extra costs arising from living with an impairment, helping to remove disabling barriers to participation in every day life, and contributing to the extra costs of living independently, don’t necessary add up to mean the same thing.

 

How dare these arrogant people at the DWP talk about confusion with the existing DLA when their own document is a dog’s dinner? The question is whether or not this “muddle” is deliberate or just the work of people who are “not fit for purpose”? Either way, the methodology is utterly flawed.

 

The document states: “The benefit will continue to take account of the social model” – excuse me? The existing benefit tilts it head at acknowledging ‘disabling barriers’ but in no way could the processes currently in place be regarded as working within a ‘social model’ perspective! Let’s not beat about the bush, it is possible to talk about ‘disabling barriers’ whilst enacting policies and practices which are firmly based upon ‘the individual model of disability’ – local authorities and charities do it all the time. Often both disabled and non disabled people are guilty of crude reductionism when talking about “disabling barriers” and the basic analysis that flows from the social model of disability. Within the original social model disability was understood to be social restrictions that were placed on top of the impact of having an impairment.

 

The model therefore focused upon the ways in which the structures, systems and social enviroments within western capitalist society excluded oer marginalised people with impairments in mainstream society. I would argue these social restrictions are primarily organised at the macro level of society, but they are experienced often as ‘disabling barriers’ at the micro level. This said, I would argue that not all social restrictions take the form of a barrier to participation – a defined social activity. The social model makes a clear distinction between the nature and degree of an impairment, and the imposed social restrictions. Attitudes towards impairments might result in disabling barriers, but they can also produce social restrictions in terms of negative evaluations of disabled people’s lifestyles which go beyond being prevented from taking part in an activity.

 

In my opinion the ‘disabling barriers’ approach found within the consultation document has nothing to do with the social model approach – it risks imposing an over-determinist approach through the construction of lists of ‘disabling barriers’ existing at the mirco level of social interaction that certain types of disabled people may or may not expected to encounter. Why do I say this?

 

“The new benefit will have two components, linked to a range of activities that will be considered in the new assessment. One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).”

 

If this were to happen, it would adopt a similar methodology to that found in the oppressive ESA assessment process. Disabled people would become the Pavlov dog’s of the 21st Century – no wonder they’ve cooked up a dog’s dinner, eh?

 

Another obnoxious and hypocritical part of this document – again proof of the Government’s disingenous nature – is the bankrupt idea that support should go to those “who face the greatest need”. Why do they insult us with this nonsense? How do you square ‘greatest need’ with enabling disabled people to fully participate within society?

 

What defines “need” within the the context of the ‘principles of the social model of disability’, Ms Miller? Why can’t this gutless “normies” be honest and call it “rationalisation” because every disabled person knows what the phrase “who face the greatest need” means; snot off the end of their noses for some and sweet FA for everybody else!

 

Once again the DWP relies on its own reseach to justify its claims:

 

 

“As it is difficult to measure costs objectively on an individual basis, DLA currently looks at ‘care’ and ‘mobility’ as proxies for the extra costs disabled people are likely to incur, giving priority to the people with the greatest care and mobility needs. Although these are important issues and reflect some disabled people’s biggest challenges, they do not necessarily remain the best proxies for cost. In fact, there is currently conflicting evidence on the factors that affect the extra costs that disabled people face in the 21st Century.”

 

Source: Review of the existing research on the extra costs of disability, 2005, DWP Working Paper 21. Review of the international evidence on the cost of disability, 2008, DWP Research Report 542.

 

The Consultation Questions

There are 22 questions within the document however I will only comment on a selected number.

 

1.       What are the problems or barriers that prevent disabled people participating in society and leading independent, full and active lives?

3.       What are the main extra costs that disabled people face?

 

Are these questions for real? How can they seriously expect a

meaningful response from people concerned with welfare reform by

the 14th February, 2011. Colin Barnes wrote a whole book that merely

touched the surface! Let’s be clear: this is a political honey trap. It is

not possible to produce a complex matrix which takes into account,

for example, a myriad of impairments and illnesses, the range of

personal experiences that relate to these. All the systems,

structures, social environments, cultures and attitudes that are

involved in disabled people’s social interactions (recognising too all

the equality strands) vis-à-vis participation within society.

 

The DLA focused upon personal care and mobility because they are the mainstay of human activity. If the DWP are claiming these are considered outdated, why haven’t they made more public their “evidence”? Come on Miller, either put your money where your mouth is – produce the goods – or sling yer hook!

 

4.      The new benefit will have two rates for each component:

 

• Will having two rates per component make the benefit easier to understand and administer, while ensuring appropriate levels of support?

• What, if any, disadvantages or problems could having two rates per component cause?

Why is there a consultation process if the DWP have pre-determined

the framework of the new benefit?

 

6. How do we prioritise support to those people least able to live full and active lives? Which activities are most essential for everyday life?

 

Surely this is not the same remit as meeting ‘the extra costs of living independently? Miller appears to moving the goalposts again with this question. Remember the Independent Living Fund; trying to be clever isn’t smart – we can see right through your shallowness!

 

8. Should the assessment of a disabled person’s ability take into account any aids and adaptations they use?

 

Depends on whether or not the DWP want to demonstrate their complete ignorance of the role aids and adaptations play in the lives

of disabled people – how many different ways does this Government want to penalise us?

 

11. An important part of the new process is likely to be a face-to-face discussion with a healthcare professional.

 

• What benefits or difficulties might this bring?

• Are there any circumstances in which it may be inappropriate to require a face-to-face meeting with a healthcare professional – either in an individual’s own home or another location?

 

Many disabled people know more about their medical conditions than

healthcare professionals – so why attempt to “medicalise” everyone’s experiences? So much for the ‘principles of the social model’!

 

Question 12 asks how the reviews be carried out? For example:

 

• Should there be different types of review depending on the needs of the individual and their impairment/condition?

 

Doesn’t this sit oddly with Question 11?

I could go on and on raising issues with question after question, but the end result would be the same: it’s all a pile of ill considered poo!

 

I have tried to stay focused and avoid flying into a rage, but it has proved difficult. There’s not a polite way to describe this consultation document and I would dearly love to personally return it to Maria Miller but doing to her what she and her Government are attempting to do to disabled people is clearly not the answer.

 

As soon as the festive season is over we must do all we can to turn the heat up on the Government and disablist lackeys at the DWP.

 

Bob Williams-Findlay

A Disabled constituent of Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, has emailed to her asking if the equality impact assessments of the coalition government’s policy decisions are available and whether or not she has seen them?

Ms Lucas, who represents the Green Party, answered by return email and stated that she had tabled a series of written parliamentary questions in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending review asking each department whether an equality impact assessment of their planned cuts had been conducted. None were able to produce such an assessment and all claim this work will be done at a later stage.

She told her Disabled constituent: “I do not think this is good enough and it makes clear that despite the government’s claim to have produced a fair budget there is no evidence for such a claim. On the contrary, as you know, cuts to the disability living allowance, to housing benefit and to employment support are distinctly unfair and will penalise the most vulnerable.”

Ms Lucas added: “The budget announced last month will destroy half a million jobs in the public sector, according to the Government’s own estimates. And the knock-on effects will be at least as many jobs lost in the private sector. Moreover, when those public sector workers find themselves out of work they will, along with disabled people, feel the full force of the additional £7 billion worth of cuts in welfare spending, on top of the £11 billion of cuts announced in June.

“The Chancellor talked a great deal about fairness but I think there is nothing fair about a budget that lets vital public services go to the wall, hitting the poorest hardest.”

Ms Lucas has spoken out about the cuts and has made the point that in the long term changes are neither cost effective nor fair. She has also spoken in the debate about housing benefit – to argue that cuts in this area will impact disproportionately on disabled people and that by crudely slashing help with mortgage interest payments in half the Government is potentially forcing thousands of disabled homeowners into arrears or homelessness.

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