Organised by Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC), Right to Work, Labour Representation Committee

Over 800 people came together on Saturday 12th in London to talk about the cuts and the way forward for the TUC march on the 26th March. Disabled people were there and the stage sported a big DPAC banner in the middle. The day was videoed and the DPAC workshop was also videoed. The report of the day overall will be elsewhere. Here we look at the great turnout by disabled people and celebrate the central place we had in this day.

Morning

The morning open floor brought great comments from some disabled participants, including, Richard Rieser, Adrian Whyatt and Sasha Callaghan on the effect of the cuts for disabled people, including the human rights abuses and the closure of poverty pimps ATOS offices across Scotland on the national day of protest against cuts.

DPAC Workshop

The DPAC workshop was held in the afternoon. It was great to see so many people at this with 50 or 60 people, some attendees from as far as Scotland. Speakers on the panel were Richard Rieser, Debbie Jolly, Sue Bott and Kevin Caulfield. The workshop was chaired by Eleanor Lisney. There were many comments and questions at the workshop, these included:

We are being sent back to Victorian times: we should all be involved in local anti-cuts groups, emulate DAN protests, disabled people need to be at front of things and be united

We are incensed by the coverage in newspapers against disabled people

Need to make sure we include Deaf people and those with invisible disabilities, but not impairment based- we cannot go back to arguing about impairments- we must all fight together, must be inclusive

Mental health resistance network couldn’t all get to London today but want to support and be included: facing difficult times being given ‘talking treatment’ but they (the government) concentrate on getting us ‘well’, but they just want to get us into work

Participant remembers Richard speaking at European Social Forum; there are many more people here and comments that Sasha did a brilliant job when speaking this morning about ATOS

We need to come together and find common ground, not just disabled people but across the board. We all need to fully support the campaign and get the trade unions behind this too

There are not many disabled millionaires and certainly none at the convention. This is an attack on working class people. We need to get joint campaigns with all anti-cuts campaigns. Disabled people need to link up, need to unite: Every single local group should make contacts with disability groups in the area

We need to stop people from the Charity sector taking over: Rights not Charity

Issues were raised with the dropping off of people from buses at Wembly for the 26th March TUC London march. Right to Work have sent a statement to Brendan Barber not to drop in Wembley because of access issues and cost of getting to central London for the march. Disabled people need to email too.

John McArdle of Black triangle reminded us of the story of Paul Reekie.

It was noted that sometimes people aren’t getting messages re demos and protests, but also that the police always seem to know where we are going to be.

It was suggested that a boycott of newspapers following the government line and producing rhetoric on disabled people as scroungers are boycotted including the Scottish Mail, Daily Mail and others.

A video of the workshop will be available soon

Afternoon

The afternoon was made up of invited speakers, feedback from the workshops and debate. The highlight of the afternoon was Liz Carr’s speech which received a standing ovation from the audience.


A full list of actions proposed by Disabled People against Cuts and accepted by the Peoples’ Convention

    The protest on 26th March needs to be fully accessible with disabled people involved in the planning. There needs to be representation of disabled people with and without visible impairments on the platform.
    We propose a day of national demonstrations against ATOS.
    We propose a month of action over the month of July to coincide with the second anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention.
    We propose that every local anti-cuts movement has an autonomous disabled people’s sub group. 

    We propose support for UKDPC’s day of disabled people’s protest proposed for 11th May.(to be confirmed)

We propose that we speak to our colleagues at Unison about how the cuts are being implemented.

Debbie Jolly

A People's ConventionPlease remember to register yourself at the RtW website!

* Disabled people –

at the forefront of resistance Sponsored by Disabled People Against the Cuts

Introductions and welcome:
Eleanor Lisney co founder of DPAC
Eleanor is a campaigner for disability  equality and
works on access and inclusion for disabled people.

About Disabled People against Cuts (DPAC):

Debbie Jolly co founder of DPAC

Debbie is a campaigner for independent living who has worked with universities and organisations ’of’ disabled people at local, national and European levels on disability rights

On the panel

Disability movement/history and what’s at stake with the Conservative led Coalition:

Richard Reiser coordinator for UK Disability History Month.

Richard is an expert disabled international equality trainer, consultant and teacher.
Independent living and the Impact on Independent Living:

Sue Bott Director of the National Centre for Independent Living.

A disabled person with a visual impairment from birth, Sue has been active in the disability movement in the UK for many years
Local Grass Roots Actions against the Cuts

Kevin Caulfield Chair of Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC)

Kevin is an active campaigner for all disabled people’s rights to equality and equal citizenship from a social model perspective at a local, regional and national level

We will be in groups to decide on two action points to take forward to the end plenary on how we will fight the cuts and especially in preparation for the 26th March TUC rally.

The venue is Friends Meeting house near Euston Station. You need to book tickets from www.righttowork.org.uk £2 unwaged £5 waged to cover the costs of putting on the conference.

Access of venue – Friends Meeting House is accessible for wheelchair users. Accessible Parking can be found at Euston Station (£25 per day). Frequent buses stop at Euston station.

BSL We have requested for BSL interpreters. We are still looking very hard for BSL interpreters - please let us know asap if you are willing to help!

There is a hearing loop in the hall.

Easy Read worker will be available at workshop.

There is NO access to Screening of ‘Blacklisted’ and workshop hosted by the Blacklist Support Group

Lunch is NOT provided – there is a vegetarian cafe en site at the venue. Eateries and food available at Euston Station including Nandos, Harry Ramsden Fish and Chips, and Marks and Spencers.

For those unable to come, Jon Cheetham (of Bellerose Films) has kindly offered to help video it.

 

Liz Carr

Liz Carr

Disabled comedian and activist Liz Carr will be speaking at the People’s Convention with

Eyewitness from the Egyptian revolution

Diane Abbot MP

Tony Kearns CWU senior deputy General Secretary

Jane Loftus CWU President

Alan Whittaker, president of UCU

Pete Murray, president of NUJ

Jimmy Kelly, Head of UNITE in Ireland

Steve Hart, London and South East regional secretary of Unite

Zita Holbourne, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC)

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Katy Clark MP

John McDonnell MP

Barbara Pettine of FIOM (Italian metal Workers Federation)

Captain SKA, producer of the hugely popular ‘Liar Liar‘ YouTube hit

Alan Gibbons, children’s author and organiser of the ‘campaign for the book’

Barnaby Raine, School student activist

Mark Bergfeld from the Education Activists Network

Jody McIntyre, the student who was hauled from his wheelchair by the police during the student demo in December

Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member

Michael Chessum, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

Kat Craig, vice chair Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Painting of woman pressed against window pane

"Inside" with thanks to © Ann Whitehurst

Under New Labour for awhile there was much talk of ‘joined up thinking’ in terms of policy development. Interestingly, one area where ‘joined up thinking’ would’ve made perfect sense – addressing structural and system barriers faced by disabled people – very little was actually done. What we did see is a re-working of an old paradigm. Why am I talking about this now? Well I want to embark upon a piece of ‘joined up thinking’ myself and link the campaign against the cuts with an appraisal of Disablism in 21st Century Britain. People better informed than me have argued the Spending Review has little to do with the nation’s debt – there are areas like Trident where the money could come from – but is more to do with an ideological re-shaping of the State and its relationship with modern society. Moreover, I would argue, this process had begun long before the global markets were screwed by greedy bankers an multi-national companies.

During the 1980s and 1990s there was much talk of “community care” however by the time Labour took office the idea of care in the community and the linked practices were under fire. Much of the criticism was valid but too often there was a failure to notice that the original concept of ‘community care’ was nothing like the Thatcherite policies that were under attack. Walter Benjamin once explained how ruling classes who were fearful of radical ideas would borrow the language of these ‘radical ideas’ yet empty out the meaning of these ideas and replace them with meanings which supported the status quo.

A close examination of policy issues in relation to disabled people would reveal that the State at national and local level, along with all the major disability charities, have adopted the language and concepts of the Disabled People’s Movement but in forms which are a pale reflection of the original concepts. It is almost a version of the emperor’s new clothes – our oppressors pretend they have collected new clothes to sell in charity shops to benefit us but in reality it’s the same old garb designed to keep us under their control.

These bodies talk about: ‘adopting the social model’, independent living’ and ‘direct payments’, yet their policies and practices fail to empower disabled people or remove the structural and system barriers I spoke of earlier.

One example of these ‘new clothes’ was the project of developing what the Blairites called ‘Health and Social Care’ was a form of ‘joined up thinking’ but its aim was both to reduce costs and to restructure the State’s intervention into the lives of disabled and elderly people. However this is not the time or place to rant about the bankrupt nature of the concept ‘social care’ nevertheless it’s important to highlight its oppressive ideological methodology – a methodology based upon ‘the medicalisation of social need’. In my opinion the Blairite ‘social care’ project acted as the launch pad for the attack on disability benefits.

Instead of protesting against the policies of New Labour – their hypocrisy in terms of ‘adopting the social model’ and the so called 2025 Equality agenda – the major disability charities all climbed on board the gravy train and gladly spoke on behalf of disabled people. Even now some of the same people are jumping all over each other to claim front seats in the CONDEM’s Big Society sell out whilst making muted noises about Welfare Reform. Meanwhile Disabled People’s Organisations are either going to the wall or having to whore after local authority service level agreements designed to cut jobs, reduce services and quality.

Disabled People Against Cuts has spoken a great deal about disability and housing benefits and the overall impact of the cuts on disabled people’s lives, however, there is now an urgent need to look specifically at the massive destruction of what the Disabled People’s Movement would call Independent Living. Independent Living is often associated with meeting “Seven Needs” which were first developed by the Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People and identified those needs as follows:

Information: Disabled people require information on what is available to assist with independent living.

Peer Support: Disabled People need the support of other disabled people to discuss and draw strength from our shared experiences.

Housing: Disabled People need accessible housing. By this we mean accommodation that meets our access requirements and is close to family, friends and local facilities so we can live independently

Equipment: Many disabled people need information and resources to obtain practical equipment to assist them in living independently.

Personal Assistants: This is the one to one support that some disabled people need to live in their own home and be part of the community.

Transport: This may mean improved public transport in terms of physical access, information about the routes, more assistance for passengers who are unsure about using public transport.

Access: The most obvious examples are about physical access such as dropped kerbs, tactile paving, provision of induction loops etc. However access goes much further than this because there are barriers created by systems, practices and attitudes which prevent disabled people from participating.

I want to suggest that these “Seven Needs” are under severe threat and the whole basis of Independent Living is being undermined by the CONDEM Government’s “new clothes” vis-à-vis direct payments, personal budgets, entitlement to and cost of social care.

A recent BBC You and Yours programme revealed a variety of different perspectives on Social Care. In November, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow unveiled the Vision for Social Care which pledged that one million older and disabled people who were eligible for social services support should be assessed for personal budgets by 2013. A number of disability charities have voiced concern over the relationship between this policy and the cutbacks in local authories because personal budgets for social care are being used by some local authorities to save money. Geoff Fimister of the RNIB was quoted as saying:

“When misused as an opportunity to implement cuts, the introduction of personal budgets could have a negative impact on care services and fail some of the most vulnerable members of our society”

This is denied by Jeff Jerome, national director for Social Care Transformation, who is reported to have said ‘… there was no reason a council would use the change of mechanism to allocate resources to individuals differently.’ DPAC has paid particular attention to two quotations from Jerome and have analysed them in terms of reports coming in from all over the country. Jerome:

“Councils have got to pay attention to the resources that they have available to them for every individual and they should assess every individual’s needs fairly and equitably in an open way and say this is what we think you are entitled to because of your own needs.”

Firstly, consider the emphasis: ‘….pay attention to the resources that they have available to them’. This we would argue has helped to determine who councils grant an assessment to. Birmingham and Camden look to be adopting similar approaches. For example in  Birmingham the Council has proposed to move to a “super-critical” eligibility threshold, thus the plan is to only directly fund users’ critical personal care needs. This policy would mean Birmingham would be establishing a care threshold that is higher than the four bands set out in the government’s Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) guidance: critical, substantial, moderate and low.

And what of other service users’ needs? The message from Birmingham is extremely disturbing:

“….people with substantial needs and critical needs that do not involve personal care will be supported outside the formal care system by external agencies, assisted by some funding from the authority.”

The most obvious question to ask is: where will the additional money come from? Using the example of Birmingham we can now consider the second quotation from Jerome:

“And whether that’s given to them as a service or a pound sign, shouldn’t make any difference. It still should be an open transparent and fair way of telling people what they’re entitled to.” Yeah, right.

I’m reminded of what a poster on the BBC’s Ouch messageboard wrote recently:

“And just in case anybody forgets the disingenuiously named “Fairer” Charging guideline were issued under the last government in 2003 and updated to makes sure the same applied to Personal budgets before the last election.” (Peter aka Sociable)

Whilst sharing many of the concerns expressed upon the You and Yours programme by the disability charities, I couldn’t help feeling there was also a degree of self-interested mixed in with the genuine concern. On the same programme Sue Bott, chief executive of the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), said there was a “crisis” in social care.

“My great fear is that, years and years ago, we got people out of residential care into the community, … what we are going to end up with now is people being institutionalised in their own homes because they will only have enough funding to do the absolute basics of toiletting, feeding and getting in and out of bed. And there will not be the resources for anything else.”

This point of view was echoed by Ann Macfarlane from the Kingston Local Involvement Network who said, “…people living independently with disabilities would be forced into care homes by the care charge increases.” Here is the another aspect of my own ‘joined up thinking’ – alongside the disabled people who may lose services altogether are those who are going to have a massive hike in having to pay for services.

David Lindsell reported that nine organisations which work with elderly and disabled people have written an open letter criticising a consultation on charging more for vital services like dressing, washing and preparing meals. Kingston Council‘s price hike would begin in April and affect an estimated 600 people who currently receive home care, respite care or direct payments. Jane Young, Kingston Council’s former disability equality and access officer described the consultation as a total shambles. She was quoted as saying: “The vast majority of disabled people are unaware of how much of their income and savings they stand to lose as Kingston seeks to charge huge sums for their basic care and support.”

It is a similar picture emerging elsewhere. Councillor Rory Palmer, lead member for adult services on Leicestershire City Council reported increased charges for care homes would only affect 45 people, while about 500 of the 2,000 people using home care services would end up paying more. He also said: “Let no-one be in any doubt that this is as a direct result of Government cuts. We don’t want to do this, but we have to.”

Those forces fighting the cuts at a local level, especially within Labour areas need to be mindful of this type of argument. There is a danger that it can produce this kind of response:

“We now recognise that the local authority is in dire straits and we’re more concerned about services being cut altogether than price increases. These are means-tested so will only affect those who are in a position to pay. The key thing here will be to make sure people are informed of the rises clearly and with enough time to prepare.”

DPAC doesn’t accept the argument that measures of this kind will only impact upon the lives of those able to pay; means-testing has had a negative impact on disabled people’s lives over decades. The truth cost of disablism is rarely taken into consideration.

My ‘joined up thinking’ has reached this conclusion. Nearly all the gains disabled people have made over the last thirty years are being taken away. Disabled people are not only losing their rights, many risk increased poverty and the lost of independence. We should not ignore or play down the stark reality that many disabled people could be forced into residential care against their wishes because of inadequate support and high cost. The Tories have made no secret of their dislike of the Human Rights Act, but now alongside the three illiberal and anti-democratic monkeys – Clegg, Alexander and Cable – they are prepared to deny disabled people their basic human rights and we must do our utmost to thwart them.

–Robert Williams-Findlay

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