Thursday, 29 September 2011
Is the UK the worst? I don't know, but it certainly isn't an ideal place if you're disabled.
A media that claims on a near daily basis that we're all frauds and scroungers (the Guardian is a near lone exception).
People who overwhelmingly believe that 'they're all at it' and simultaneously that if their relatives fall ill the state will instantly meet every need (they're in for a rude awakening).
People who openly state that we'd be better off dead, who urge us to go to Switzerland and use Dignitas, who attack anyone who tries to argue that our life is just as valuable as anyone's else.
Complete strangers who attack me in the street as a benefit fraud, without knowing whether I am working or not, revealing it as an attack on me simply for being disabled.
Politicians who proclaim that we are the 'vulnerable', demeaning us as less than adult, but that we are safe in their hands, then turn around and cut the benefits the most disabled of all of us depend on, proclaiming all the time that only the fraudsters have anything to fear.
I don't know if Britain is the worst, but it could be a hell of a lot better, and a hell of a lot more equal.
Monday, 26 September 2011
“You can get on the 13:30” he said, stapling it to my ticket and handing it back without really looking at me.
“You’ve got plenty of time!” he said repeatedly, oblivious to the fact I was wearing a collar, using crutches and hanging desperately onto his counter lest I fall over. It wasn’t just questionable whether I could get to the train in time, I also needed to phone family to let them know about the change of plans, didn’t have a mobile on me, and would much rather have caught the 14:00 at that point, but he clearly wasn’t interested and I couldn’t face arguing with him any more, so I headed for the train, trying to make the best of a bad situation. I did get there before it was due to leave, barely, but the train guard took one look at me and said I had better get onto the first carriage and walk through the train to Standard Class, she at least realised I couldn’t walk that far before the train was due out.
Friday, 23 September 2011
Monday, 5 September 2011
Imagine how much worse the outrage would be if that tax was proposed purely to fund one minister's pet project.
Now imagine the outrage if it was targeted solely on a disadvantaged minority.
Never happen? Let me introduce you to Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Time-Limiting of Contributions Related Employment Support Allowance, and the 100% of 700,000 disabled people's income he proposes to take away.
Iain Duncan Smith is on a mission, he wants to transform the UK benefits system through Universal Credit and the Work Programme. Universal Credit is bad enough for disabled people, because wrapped up in it is the replacement of DLA by PIP and an absolutely arbitrary 20% cut in those eligible (worse, the supposed justification for this, an 'inexplicable' rise in DLA claims, turns out to be totally explicable once you account for minor things like people retiring and children being born, but DWP managed to hush that up for 3 months while they got the Welfare Reform Bill through its second reading in the Commons). But new welfare systems need years to put in place, so Universal Credit is something for the future, the Work Programme is the flagship programme IDS can implement right this moment.
The one problem in IDS's plan to leave his mark on benefits is that that nasty George Osborne at the Treasury won't give him the money for it, and has told him he has to find it from the existing Department of Work and Pensions budget. So IDS cast around and settled on the perfect victims, disabled people who are too sick to work, after all he already had his allies in the tabloids hard at work convincing the public, which has always been in two minds about disability, that disabled people were universally lazy benefit cheats and fraudsters as part of the justification for the Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance migration, so why not take advantage of that twice over.
The ESA Work Capability Assessment is a success in the DWP's eyes, it discourages 36% of claimants, rejects 39% (though an awkward 30% appeal, and c40%, 70%+ with advocacy support, of those have the audacity to win their appeal), leaving 17% going into the Work Related Activity Group and 7% into the Support Group. Now it's a bit difficult to hit the Support Group, because these are people even DWP recognise are too ill ever to work, and there is too much risk they'll get the sympathy vote from the media, but the ones in the WRAG, they may be unfit to work at the moment, but DWP have managed to get the media all confused about that, to the point that they largely think those in WRAG actually are fit for work, and so they make a nice, ripe target for cutting. You can't cut them entirely, there has to be some pretence of support, so why not give them a year of benefit, because if they can't find a job in 12 months, then clearly they can be spun as not bothering, to lazy to go out and help themselves (and icky little details like their not being fit for work can be glossed over). Of course it can't be called a cut, that would be too blatant, but 'Time-Limiting' has such a nice ring to it, not remotely negative, and doesn't it really sound like the kind of thing the responsible person would do?
And so there we have it, if you're in the ESA WRAG, no matter you are too disabled to work, no matter DWP admit you are too disabled to work, come 12 months into your claim, Time-Limiting will kick in and if you have a spouse earning a few thousands pounds, or a few thousand in savings or pension fund, then your benefit will be stopped in its entirety, taxed at 100% to fund IDS's darling Work Programme.
The changes leading to Time-Limiting aren't some future fantasy, they are part of the government's Welfare Reform Bill and they are going for their second reading in the House of Lords in just a few days time.
So where's the outrage?
Friday, 2 September 2011
(This is the piece that should have gone up yesterday, 1st of September, and prompted my move to Blogger. I deliberately haven't changed anything to reflect the delayed post as it is talking about the specific day)
LatentExistence wrote an excellent piece yesterday for Where’s The Benefit, entitled Godwin’s Law Must Die, discussing how people’s horror at Nazism actually gets in the way when 1930s Germany really is the only historical parallel for the situation you are experiencing.
It had slipped my mind what today is the anniversary of until I was reminded by someone else’s tweet, but it is an anniversary that brings that post by LatentExistence into sharp focus and reminds me of the things we must never allow ourselves to forget, whether disabled people or not.
Today is September 1st. Although in
The organised killing of disabled Germans had actually started before this, with children, or, perhaps more precisely, a single child. Part of Nazi Party ideology, a creed which in some cases literally became a religion, was a fetishizing of racial purity, the cult of the inherent superiority of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Aryan German, destined to rule over the untermensch, eugenics taken to its ultimate conclusion. That some Germans might be less than ‘perfect’, might actually be disabled, was problematic for the Nazi Party’s racial purity zealots, and in the confrontational politics of 1930s Germany problems were simply something to actively pour your hatred onto. They took the passive concept of racial purity and developed it into the active concept of racial hygiene, planning to purge the German Volk of undesirable elements, such as people with disabilities.
Eugenics run rampant wasn’t actually unique to Germany at that time, both the US and Sweden had programmes for sterilizing those with disabilities considered inheritable or who were judged to show anti-social behaviour, but Germany turned to sterilization with all its national fervour for efficiency and in June 1933, almost as soon as the Nazis were in power, passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, which mandated sterilization for disabilities such as epilepsy and ‘social deviances’ such as alcoholism. Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte), conducted a witchhunt through the German mental hospitals, asylums and other institutions, choosing those to be sterilized, a number estimated to have run to 360,000 Germans by 1939. Perhaps the only reason the programme did not progress to physical disabilities was that the senior Nazi Joseph Goebbels had a club foot. And all the while the Nazi propaganda machine was churning out films and posters intended to portray disabled people as a drain on the state and worthy only of euthanasia.
In 1939 Hitler asked Brandt, his personal physician, and Bouhler, head of his chancellery, to look into the case of a disabled baby, Gerhard Kretschmar, whose parents wanted him killed – the father’s letter to Hitler apparently referred to his son as ‘this monster’. In July 1939 the killing was carried out and Brandt was instructed by Hitler to proceed on the same basis in other cases, leading to the systematic classification of disabled German children by the Committee for the Scientific Treatment of Severe, Genetically Determined Illness, authorised on 18th August 1939, with doctors and midwives required to report all births of disabled children and preparatory measures being made to extend the process to adults. With the outbreak of war the need to proceed cautiously diminished and in October 1939, Hitler issued the Euthanasia Decree, bypassing the Health Ministry in favour of Brandt and Bouhler, his own men:
Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged with the responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, to the end that patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment of their state of health, can be granted a mercy death.
And so Aktion T4 was born, a programme that ultimately killed over 200,000 disabled Germans and started a full two years ahead of the Wannsee Conference and the decision on the extermination the Jews. But the killing had already started, and so Hitler backdated the decree to ‘legalise’ the actions that had already taken place.
The date he chose was September 1st, 1939, a day of infamy.
That shouldn't be taken as meaning I hurtle through life, all hurtling on my part is done in a thoroughly uncontrolled manner and strictly inadvertently.
Flat Out is more literally descriptive, I have a disabling spinal condition, actually I have two disabling spinal conditions, quite possibly two disabling spinal conditions and a separate and more general disabling joint problem, and that means I spend much of my life flat on my back.
I've been blogging for a while as dwgism on LiveJournal - 'dwg' being me and 'ism' reflecting that no one party seems to reflect my views, but the vast majority of my output is now for Where's The Benefit, where, as DavidG, I'm one of a collective of disabled people blogging on the current savage attacks by the ConDem government on disabled people, and I was already thinking of moving my non WTB-blogging over to Blogger to share my account here when I hit some issues with the LJ editor on a post that really needed to go up yesterday, and so here I am.
I'll still be blogging at WTB, I'll still be keeping up my LJ account to keep track of all the friends there (and as a Shadow Unit fan LJ is an essential part of the experience), but my non-WTB blogging should be here from now on. That's likely to be stuff on living with disability, crip-politics stuff that doesn't fit on WTB, and some technology/aerospace and defence stuff related to my sadly now former career, possibly some reviews as well. I'll try and keep stuff tagged so that people can steer around the stuff that doesn't interest them.