Jane Campbell – Secret Agent
November 19, 2010
An article by Crippen, one of the co founders of DPAC
A week or so ago I made mention in my weekly cartoon blog of the fact that, despite being elevated to the House of Lords Jane Campbell was still hard at work fighting our corner, albeit no longer on the streets with other Disabled activists.
I know that some of you think that by accepting her seat in the House, she abandoned the cause and effectively sold out to the establishment. Well for those of you who doubted my statement, and her, read on!
Speech to the House of Lords
Last week Jane Campbell told the House of Lords in no uncertain terms just what she thought about the ConDem’s programme of ‘Fair Cuts’ and its impact upon Disabled people. This speech, apart from causing them a great deal of embarrassment and a lot of work trying to find an excuse other than their pathetic cries that this is really a local authority issue, looks as though it may cause the Government to make some kind of reassessment; in effect a U-turn. No mean fete in itself.
But not content with that, she went on to directly confront other senior government ministers the week preceding the speech – Kenneth Clarke, and Lord McNally when she was taking evidence as a member of The Joint (Select) Committee and Maria Miller in Her Regular One-To-Ones. She is also due to see Eric Pickles and Treasury ministers on the same subject over the coming weeks about the inhumanity of some of these cuts, in particular the Mobility Allowance issue. Where would we get that kind of immediate access to the decision-makers so quickly I wonder?
Jane’s argument is that the Government’s proposal is seriously flawed. In her speech to the House of Lords she gave four main reasons to support this view.
1. These cuts will have negative and costly effects on disabled people’s health and well-being, their ability to develop social and community networks, and their capacity to move on from residential living.
2. It conflicts with the government’s policies for personalisation, independent living and encouraging Disabled people to gain or retain employment.
3. It is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of modern residential care and the potential of the people living there.
4. It is incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.
She reminded the House that the Government’s own figures regarding DLA estimates that this cut alone will affect 58,000 Disabled young people and
working age adults and that over two-thirds of the care home resident’s income will be taken away (see Bert Massey’s comments regarding this issue in last week’s Crippen cartoon blog).This makes Britain’s most severely disabled people the group who lose most from the cuts.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Jane was heard to ask the Ministers: “Some politicians are accepting a 5% cut but would they accept a 45% or 69% cut to the money that buys them their personal freedoms?!”
I’ve managed to get hold of a copy of Jane’s speech to the House of Lords and have summarised just a few of the points she made. She said:
“I am sure we all agree that people living in care homes are full citizens. We should therefore expect and want them to exercise their human and civil rights, and contribute to civil society like everyone else …
“Residential care homes are not intended to be prisons or to hide people away or deny them opportunities the rest of us take for granted – independence and choice, access to public life, education, and for those who can – the possibility of work.
” … I do not accept that the national finances are such that we should now deny people living in care homes the same rights as other members of our society.”
Jane also raised the concern that this cut in spending was not subject to a disability equality and human rights impact assessment; or discussed with those Disabled people who have had years of experience of advising governments on disability matters, or indeed, why the treasury failed to run it by its own expert department – the Office for Disability Issues (ODI).
She asked: “Could the Minister please explain why this budgetary cut was not subject to any form of analysis?”
Employment and Support Allowance
Jane also took the Government to task on the issue of ending the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after one year and for targeting this allowance for a £2 billion cut.
She confronted them with their claim that a high percentage of fraud was evident amongst people who claimed ESA and argued that the tough requirement to access ESA means that fraud is highly unlikely and that there is no evidence to support that this is the case to date.
Jane ended her speech with the following words:
“Disabled people have campaigned for the last 30 years to be treated as equal citizens. The CSR proposes cuts that will hit disabled people, (already some of the poorest in society), disproportionately hard and undermine their independence. That doesn’t fit well with the government talk of a ‘fair’ and ‘Big’ society.
“The “Big fair Society” can only be achieved, if support structures are there to enable disabled people to play their part. Otherwise we go back to a time, when most disabled people were caught in a culture of dependency with no alternative but to beg for charity and be grateful for what they received. This, my Lords fills me with dread.”
I’ve known Jane for quite a few years now and can remember her during earlier days of protest, waving her placard along with the rest of us on Westminster Bridge and chanting “rights not charity!”. It’s good to see that by accepting the ermine, she hasn’t lost any of her grass roots feelings and is playing the part of a very effective political agitator within the system.
For those people who doubt her integrity I would remind them that Women won the vote and slaves were emancipated by a combination of grassroots activism and friends inside governments. Like myself, I trust that you’ll now see just how effective she is in this role.
Aka Crippen – Disabled Cartoonist