Do we live in a dictatorship?

November 28, 2010

I always understood that one of the most important characteristics of a liberal democratic state was that it’s government ruled with the consent of its citizens, and without such consent it became a dictatorship. In recent weeks there have …been successive protests whenever a coalition politicians showed their face anywhere outside Westminster, in many cases they have only been able to use back or side doors to get into events. ( Vince Cable ICC Birmingham, Nick Clegg at Hugo Young Lecture to name but two instances.)

At the same time the number of protests against cuts around the country by an increasing number of groups has risen dramatically including continuing protests against the tax evasion of £6 billion by Vodaphone and tax evasion by Chancellor Osborne of £1.6 million (latest, and rising HMRC estimate).

Yesterday myself and other disabled people attempted to join students, school children, and others ‘ School’s out children take to the streets’ (Guardian November 25th) at a protest in London, however we were refused permission to join this by the police who had kettled thousands of protestors in Whitehall. We watched school children as young as 14 or 15 being kettled, illegally searched and arrested.

Surely any government whose ministers can only sneak in back doors, who refuse to allow disabled people to legitimately protest and who feel the need to kettle children have lost any legitimacy to govern I’d therefore like to suggest that the Cameron and Clegg clones pack their bags and leave before they bring my country into a state of anarchy.

Linda Burnip
Co-founder Disabled People Against Cuts

The Coalition have said they accept all of the recommendations made by Professor Harrington in his report on the WCA, but what does this mean in reality?

I think the first thing we should note is that Prof Harrington, who will continue in his role as independent reviewer, said:

“This is not about ripping up the current system and starting all over again. I am proposing a substantial series of recommendations to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the assessment.”

The WCA  involves a “functional health assessment”, denoting an individual’s ability to work, rather than the previous “diagnostic medical assessment” which focused on particular conditions. Some would argue this new approach was a step forward and moves away from ‘medicalising’ disabled people’s lives. Others, like myself, argue that these assessments are in reality no better than the previous and therefore they remain the epitome of the ‘individual model of disability’.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

A major problem we have to contend with is that very few people outside the specialist medical professions and academics within the Sociology or Medicine or Disability Studies have ever heard of let alone understand the nature of “disability medical assessments”. Of course it would have been foolishly naïve of campaigners to expect Harrington to acknowledge that the methodology behind the assessment is in direct opposition to the approach recommended in the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We remain in the same position we were before the report was published; is difficult to demonstrate to the ordinary person in the street how flawed the methodology is and why, despite all the review’s recommendations, the disablism found within the WCA will remain intact.

Secondly, the fact Mr Grayling said the government accepted all the review’s recommendations, suggests that the changes already in the pipeline aren’t going to be derailed by this report. It is the opinion of the Benefits and Work website that Coalition are still going ahead with changes to the WCA which they set out earlier this year and that these change are going to make the assessments more harsh and unjust rather than ‘fairer or just’.

One very positive outcome of the Harrington review however is the recommendation that the audio taping of medicals should be piloted to see if it is a practical possibility.

 

To see my personal take on the WCA go to:

 

http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/?location_id=1228

Bob Williams-Findlay

Message from Lianna Etkind, Campaigns and Outreach Co-ordinator of Transport for All:

Accessible transport has been another of the casualties of the cuts. London Underground is threatening to cut 800 gateline and ticket office staff from the Tube network.

An adequately staffed tube is crucial to ensuring older and disabled people can travel safely. Transport for All, through our Transport Advocacy line, is already hearing of disabled people arriving at stations to find no staff members are there to offer assistance. Some have even been left stranded on a train or by a step.

Cuts to station staff will mean more disabled and older people will become housebound and isolated.

On December 8th, London Assembly Member Jenny Jones will be presenting our petition to the Mayor. Please add your signature, forward to your friends, tweet and post as your Facebook status! If you have the time to write to him as well, all the better.

www.petition.co.uk/safe-stations-are-staffed-stations

Together, we will show Transport for London and the Mayor that we are united in our demand to travel safely, in a properly staffed Tube.

London underground

Using the London underground

Nick Clegg effigy

Nick Clegg effigy

23rd Nov

DPAC was at York Way to picket Nick Clegg on 23rd November. We were there as part of the Right to Work Campaign.

There was a good number of people and we kept up chants such as “Shame on you for turning blue”.

An effigy of Clegg was hung up.

Nick Clegg went in at a side entrance and there was a good show of police but nothing compared to the student’s protest day.

Video from the Nick Clegg picket from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2010/nov/23/cuts-protest-nick-clegg and more photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157625456762536/

24th Nov

Linda and Paul outside Downing Street

Linda and Paul outside Downing Street

A few DPAC members made it to the students protest – as a wheelchair user, I wasn’t ‘advised’ by the police to go beyond the horse guard cordon, I didn’t think it would be advisable either so there was another young male student with his PA, we stayed near Downing Street. I waited for Linda and Paul to come find me and meantime I had a little interview with a journalist from The Militant as to why we were there. I said the cuts affected all of us – we shouldn’t think in silos. Reflecting on it, I should have ask that young wheelchair student how it affected him.

Are disabled students any different from those able bodied students – should he be put off from protesting with his mates because he was a wheelchair user?

The media pictures are focused on those few incidents but even though I was not in the ‘kettle’ it wasn’t that riotous. People were generally friendly and a man was willing to take some photos for me because he was standing on a wall!

I used to live in France where students regularly demonstrated and bus shelters get burnt etc and I remember taking part in one against the far right demonstration, it was slightly edgy but I was not stopped from participating. At a meeting with organisers and police at the 3rd Oct protest in Birmingham, there was a question by an anxious policeman – what if wheelchair users had a puncture on the route???

wheelchair protestor

wheelchair protestor

More photos at the flickr site

Harrington Report

November 23, 2010

Read the Harrington Report and it s summary  –

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-review-2010.pdf

Here is the Conclusion –

1. The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was designed to be an evidence based process to review an individual’s capacity for work and it built on previous assessments of this kind. It is a new procedure and the relevant legislation specified the need for an Independent Review of its fairness and effectiveness in the first five years of its operation.
2. This first review has examined the whole process from the claimant’s initial contact with Jobcentre Plus through to the final assessment, with or without the involvement of the First-tier Tribunal.
3. There is incontrovertible evidence that work is good for you. The benefits of work greatly outweigh the risks that some occupations carry, whilst the appalling harm that worklessness can inflict on an individual and their family is equally well
documented.
4. Too many people in this country have been assigned to incapacity benefits and abandoned. There is an urgent need to review whether these individuals could
work and, if so, what help they would need to be re-introduced into the world of work. For the future, we need to ensure that nobody is left unnoticed in the world of worklessness.
5. The WCA attempts to address these vital issues of modern society. The Review has found that it is not working as well as it should be but with modifications at all stages of the assessment, it would become a more humane process seen by claimants to be fair, effective, efficient and, most of all, as a positive step in bringing these claimants back as active members of society.
6. At the same time, those who cannot work through ill-health or disability must receive the full support that a caring, civilised community should provide. The end result should be a more productive, healthier and happier nation providing for its own needs, whilst ensuring support for those who cannot participate in gainful employment.

And this article about it on BBC News Politics –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11813186

(from the No to Welfare Abolition group)

Letter signed at the House of Commons:

We believe current Government proposals are not fair or just. Cuts to Housing Benefit, replacing future secure and assured tenancies with time limited short hold tenancies and up to 80% of market rents, are an unfair and ill-conceived threat to tenants and would be a disaster for communities.
These measures will create more evictions, homelessness and fear, but will not curb high rents. They do nothing to create secure, affordable homes for rent desperately needed for all those who are priced out by the housing market. They will create exclusion zones driving out the low-paid, the sick and the poor, and their families.
We call on Councillors, MPs, tenant and trade union organisations, housing, disability and poverty campaigners and all who want sustainable, mixed communities across the UK to join in a campaign around these Action points:

• Defend security of tenure for existing and future tenants
• Resist and campaign against the cuts in housing benefit: we call on Councillors and other landlords not to implement cuts in HB where this is under local control, and not to evict tenants who get behind with their rent as a result of the new cuts in housing benefit
• Oppose raising rents up to 80% of market levels
• Shortage of housing is a result of underinvestment and failure to build – it is not caused by existing tenants of whatever race or religion
• We need regulation to control private sector rents
• We are committed to campaign instead for a programme of investment in new and improved council and other house building at genuinely-affordable rents.

Contact mitchellav@parliament.uk to join us.

Signed
Austin Mitchell MP, Chair Council Housing Group of MPs
Eileen Short, Chair Defend Council Housing
Dot Gibson, General Secretary National Pensioners Alliance
Ken Livingstone former Mayor of London
Councillor Phil Waker Barking & Dagenham Council lead member for Housing
Paul Brandon, Chair Right to Work Campaign
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Richard Downes, Brent CHIEF

Linda Burnip

Linda Burnip

DPAC members, Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip, will be attending the Coalition of Resistance Conference .  Linda Burnip will be speaking.

Saturday November 27
Camden Centre
Bidborough St, London WC1H 9AU
10am-5pm
Tickets:

  • Unemployed/Student Rate £3
  • Standard Rate £5
  • Representative £10

Conference Agenda

10:00 – 10:30 REGISTRATION

10:30 – 11:45 OPENING PLENARY
Mark Serwotka PCS, Andrew Murray, Jean Lambert MEP, Bob Crow RMT, Christian Mahieux (Solidaires unions, France), Clare Solomon NUS, Heather Wakefield UNISON, People’s Charter, John McDonnell MP, Lindsey German CoR.

12:00 – 13:15 ORGANISING AGAINST THE CUTS LOCALLY
Range of speakers from anti-cuts and other organisations from around the country

ANALYSING THE CRISIS
James Meadway, Stathis Kouvelakis, Derek Wall, Hilary Wainwright

MOBILISING THE UNIONS
Alan Whittaker President UCU, Rebecca Allen PCS, George Binette UNISON

WHAT SHOULD POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES DO?
Liz Davis, Samir Jeraj (Green Party), Billy Bragg, Laurie Penny

YOUTH, STUDENTS AND EDUCATION
Speakers from recent school and student protests, Alex Kenny NUT, Jean-Baptiste Tondu (NPA student , France)

RESPONSES TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Chris Baugh PCS, Jonathan Neale CACC, Peter Robinson

13:15 – 14:00 LUNCH

14:00 – 15:15 DEFENDING THE WELFARE STATE
Colin Leys KONP, Chris Nineham CoR, Dr Jacky Davis, DCH

ALTERNATIVES TO THE CRISIS
Ozlem Onaran, Richard Brenner, John Hilary (War on Want)

STATES OF INEQUALITY
Zita Holbourne, Terry Conway, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Katherine Connelly, Linda Burnip

COR: HOW AND WHY
Paul Mackney, Andrew Burgin, Lindsey German

DEFENDING BENEFITS AND PENSIONS
George Thompson PCS, Colin Hampton (Chesterfield UWC), Pip Tindall (BBC), Pensioners’ Convention

15:30 – 17:00 VOTING, ELECTIONS AND CLOSING PLENARY
Dot Gibson (Pensioner campaigner), Lee Jasper (BARAC), Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Jeremy Corbyn MP, John Rees (CoR), Kate Hudson (CND), Chris Bambery (RTW), Lowkey, Tony Benn. Chairing by Paul Mackney and Romayne Phoenix

There will be elections for a National Steering Committee – nominations will be taken at the conference from individuals,organisations and anti-cuts groups that support Tony Benn’s statement. There will a vote on a campaigning plan for the forthcoming period. The plan of action will be amendable at the conference and will include suggestions from the sessions. This is a founding conference and we are proposing that the incoming steering committee prepare a resolution based conference to take place within 9 months.

DPAC is working closely with Right to Work Campaign so for those of you who are interested in campaigning together for common goals in unity. Linda Burnip and some other members,  will be attending this forum

Sunday 5 December
11am-4pm
NUJ Head Office
Headland House, 308 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8DP (Kings Cross tube)
£3 waged, £1 unwaged
Places have to booked in advance. To book ticket ring 07986 085162 or email righttoworkconference@gmail.com

There will be a short intro and then discussion. RtW will be saying how best we can move forward to working together  asking John McDonnell to outline his suggestions as to achieve unity.

There are just 70 places at the forum – they want it to be of a size to allow discussion – and these are filling up. Priority will go to delegates from campaigns, trade union bodies etc

The venue is wheelchair accessible but if anyone has any specific access questions they can phone 020 7278 7916

Crippens cartoon: Eire

Excuse me for seeming a little confused here, but hasn’t the Prime Minister just been telling us how little money we have and that we’re all going to have to tighten our belts and that Disabled people have to accept benefit cuts to the tune of 12 billion pounds …?!

So, what’s with this sudden appearance of seven billion that is going to be paid into the Irish banks as a token of the “particular economic relationship” that exists?

Read the rest on Crippen’s blog