Monday, 12 December 2011

Benefits' cheating scum versus tax dodging chaps

Britain has always harboured particularly vindictive attitudes and meted out, often disproportionately long sentences,  for those who commit crimes against property. Sure, we lock away people who perpetrate crimes of violence. But, woe to he who would rob, for instance, the Royal Mail.

The Great Train Robbers were handed down sentences of thirty-years+ for having the temerity to rob the state. Yes I know that an innocent person, the driver of the train, was brutally beaten by one of the robbers; however, the sentencing wasn't a reflection of this deed, no it reflected their crime against property.

This propensity to give greater importance to property over the person obviously stems from the capitalist theology that permeates through all layers of society including the judiciary and penal system.

Thus, those that seek to cheat on benefits are bound to fall foul of a capitalist system that views their crimes as most pernicious. Forget that the perpetrator stooped to committing these heinous crimes in order to make ends meet. After all, what is the greater crime, allowing yourself or your dependants to starve, or making a few pounds extra from claiming benefits falsely - under our system the false claim is a far greater evil.

Even if we accept the twisted logic to which we're bound by capitalism; there is then the question of the greatest property crimes ever envisaged by man, tax cheating.

While benefits' cheats escape with less than £1bn annually (the DLA element of which is 0.5% [less than the 0.8% the DWP admits to making in error]), tax cheats are ripping us off for sums ranging from £70bn - £120bn annually.

Yet, if you look on sites such as and 'search' 'tax cheats', lo and behold in search results up pops issues around benefits fraud, The natural default for the word 'cheat' on search engines throws up benefits' fraudsters.

One can only come to the conclusion that cheating on taxes is not a crime against capital, thus doesn't excite the wrath of Middle England which is far too preoccupied seeking out the feckless unemployed; hounding single mothers into dead-end jobs that force them to abandon their kids; or, hunting down disabled people who, on a good day, raised a smile and managed to potter around the garden, when they should have been lying prostrate practicing for the grave.

Tax cheats should be rounded up and pilloried for their crimes against society. By cheating HMRC out of scores upon scores of billions of pounds annually it is they who have driven this country into deficit. It is the actions of these greedy parasites who deny our children a decent education; it is their selfishness on an industrial scale that forces our elderly and disabled people to make life-threatening choices between eating or heating at this time of year; it is the rich City neo-lib tax cheat who has hoovered-up the resources from around the globe, for whom the world is not enough.

A Rolling Festive Phone-in to Atos 'Healthcare'

"As part of the National Month of Festive Action Against Atos we are calling for a rolling mass telephone complaint to poverty pimps Atos in the run up to Christmas.

Beginning on Monday 12th December and running up until Christmas benefit claimants, disabled people and supporters will be ringing both local and national Atos Offices to complain about their obscene treatment of sick and disabled people.

How To Get Involved

We urgently need towns, cities, groups and individuals to commit to a morning or afternoon shift in the upcoming days and get as many people as possible to ring Atos and complain about their involvement in the Work Capability Assessment.

To maximise the protest we will aim to have as many groups as possible calling Atos at different times in the run up to Christmas. We'll maintain a list here and on facebook to try and help co-ordinate times/dates and see if we can keep the phonelines buzzing daily in the run up to Christmas. Please contact us by leaving details on the wall below or emailing us at:

Either ring your local Atos Offices, or their corporate headquarters, or why not both! Atos's main numbers (including a handy freephone number) are:

+44 (0)20 7830 4444 (Tel)
+44 (o)20 7830 4233 (Tel)
+44 (0)800 783 3040 (Freephone)
+44 (0)20 7830 4445 (Fax)

Atos 'Healthcare' who run the Work Capability Assessment have a main number at: +44 (0) 113 230 9175

If you aren't part of a local group, or even if you are, support the other protests by calling Atos along with them.

Whilst it's well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls will be low paid receptionist/admin staff so we call on people to be be business-like and non-confrontational. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls which are threatening, indecent or offensive. Keep it fluffy. Why not sing them a carol?

Anyone who manages to get through to Atos CEO Keith Wilman will win the customary prize of a free Crisis Loan*

Some calls may be recorded for the purposes of taking the piss.

Brighton DPAC who will be phoning Atos on the mornings of Monday 12th and Monday 19th of December have produced a script/template which can be read out, or emailed/faxed to Atos. Visit their fb event page (below) for details.

Join in online!

You can also contact Atos via email. Their Head of PR can be reached at: and general enquiries can be sent to: Atos 'Healthcare' can be reached at: or to ask for a job go to:

Atos have new facebook groups and pages springing up all the time. Search for Atos on facebook to find them. You can also tweet using the hashtags #atos, we'll be monitoring twitter for any other hashtags Atos use.

Action planned so far

Monday 12th and Monday 19th December from 9am

Brighton DPAC: For details visit:

Please organise and contact us to be added to the list!

If you are planning on braving the cold and holding a protest as part of the month of action please send details asap to: or leave details in the comments.

The main facebook page for the Month of Action can be found at:

Come to the Triton Square Christmas Party and Picnic outside Atos' Headquarters on December 16th from 2pm:

*actually we still can't give out Crisis Loans as prizes. The DWP are bastards like that.

Atos are the French IT firm responsible for carrying out the government’s Work Capability Assessment which has led to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people being forced into poverty after being stripped of essential benefits. Despite the process being dubbed unfit for purpose and an increasing number of suicides due to the stressful and vicious health testing regime, this form of assessment is to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit."

And, remember!

Disabled people to directly inform new strategy

Back on December 1st, this government set into train a consultation with disabled people, the aim of which is to gather ideas for a new cross-government disability strategy.

Sniggering, guffawing, chuckling, chortling and roaring with laughter aside; are they serious?  The idea of this government seeking our ideas and suggestions is, in light of their treatment of us thus far, both risible and insulting.

According to reports the government's objective is make possible for disabled people reach their potential and open opportunities for them to more easily access and involve themselves in society.

In order to achieve this government wants tackle barriers to the aspirations of disabled people, grant them individual control and to change attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people.

They intend building upon previous consultations with disabled people, including:

·       Roadmap 2025

The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) has, in conjunction with disability organisations, created a discussion document (see link below). They are hoping to hear from disabled people and their organisations by the closing date of 9th March 2012.

You've got to be in it to win it, innit? As the old saw goes. Yet, somehow I get a nasty taste in my mouth and the strong feeling that I'm being taken for a mug, yet again.

This government is under the impression that putting proposed policy out to consultation is a one-way exercise. They give the punter some proposals and three months in which to respond; then they totally ignore our views and press ahead with their, usually, draconian policies.

This particular consultation venture is a corker. Let's look at the areas the government is seeking to improve the lot of disabled people.

First, they wish to tackle barriers to the aspirations of disabled people. Would those be the barriers they've helped to construct? Such as not reinforcing legislation that debars disabled people from employment. Taking money out of education that would allow disabled children to participate in mainstream schooling. Impoverishing people by stripping them of benefits.

Next, they talk of granting us individual control. Individual control of what, exactly? Incapacity Benefit (IB), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), decent sized care packages, self-directed care and Direct Payments (DP) as well as the Independent Living Fund (ILF), all these gave us a great degree of individual control.

Migrating severely disabled people from IB to JobSeekers Allowance; making it more difficult to claim DLA and the introduction of PIP in the near future, and introducing annual reviews; scrapping ILF. All these measures militate against individual control.

Finally, they wish to change attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people. On this point I would say to them, 'Well done' you've succeeded in this particular area.

Yes, attitudes and behaviour towards us, disabled people, has certainly changed. We're widely demonised and vilified by both the paper and visual media. We're blamed for the deficit by Iain Duncan-Smith. We're all cheating the benefits' system, despite the fact that the government can only account for less than 0.5% of disability benefits being fraudulently claimed. We all drive around in expensive cars provided free by the state.

The print press anti-disability propaganda has hardened attitudes, and as a direct result negative behaviour towards disabled people. Disgracefully, the DWP has been compliant in this propaganda war by supplying rags such as the Daily Hate, Sun and Express with lies with which to fill their pages.

So, when this Tory regime talks of changing the public's attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people, forgive the cynics in our ranks for not taking this consultation too seriously. All we're getting here is, yet another, PR exercise by a government hell-bent on dragging us back to a pre-Welfare State Britain where fear ruled and everybody knew their place in the scheme of things.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Judging the conditions and disabilities of others

The problem with using 'real' people as examples when discussing the inequalities inherent in our benefits' system is the danger of making assumptions about conditions and disabilities. The threads of this site and the other manifestations of Ouch are littered with stories about people being reported to the authorities, sometimes maliciously, but also by people who, though not qualified, would make 'qualified' allegations of strangers' medical and disability conditions.

Someone, with a fluctuating condition, caught doing a bit of gardening; a wheelchair user seen walking around; someone not working but claiming IB using equipment in a gym.

Then there's the appalling way we are treated by ATOS healthcare practitioners who make their own assumptions about our conditions; and they're armed with the facts of our conditions and disabilities.

The point I'm trying to make is that we know how hard life is out there for disabled people. We know that there are detractors aplenty who would do us down because it suits their agenda. Therefore, when we post to Ouch can't we steer clear of 'diagnosing' or judging others, especially when we're discussing issues where, most of us, are not medically qualified.

The Daily Fail and others use the worthy disabled against the undeserving in a divisive fashion. They make totally unqualified judgements on us, which in turn misinform their readership to the point of frenzy at times, going by their comments section.

How can we make the claims system fairer, more equitable? Well, we can signpost. Benefits and Work is a good example. Pointing people to CABs or disability advice groups is another. Sharing, from our veritable treasure trove of experience is a definite. When I was applying for A2W another Ouch user put me in contact with an invaluable resource.

Sadly our society is riddled with inequity driven, in my view, by a class system encouraged by the current government. Only last week the British Social Attitudes Report indicated that the majority of those questioned felt that unemployment benefits were too generous; only 31% thought it right for tax rises to pay for the NHS; and, a whopping 63% of the darlings blame parents for child poverty.

With such prevailing attitudes it is hardly surprising that we continue to meet with an iniquitous benefits' system.     

Monday, 5 December 2011

On a site that I contribute to someone's OP had "Nazi flags flying over the Palace of Westminster". The story was in relation to BBC Crimestoppers becoming involved with benefits' 'grass' lines.  

Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies) predicts that at some point during an online discussion the subject will be inexorably drawn to the beliefs of Hitler and the Nazis. Looking at Ouch in all its manifestations I'd say Godwin had a point.

The Picture Speaks for Itself
But, what was Godwin's point? It wasn't merely to point out this Internet phenomenon of the dead-end argument; that reductio ad Hitlerum, and argumentum ad Hitlerum are too often used as ad hominem or ad misericordiam to advance a weak thesis. No, it had a more important message. Godwin is pointing out that we should use caution when invoking such powerful points as part of our argument. He is saying that by casually introducing the Hitler and Nazi comparison into debates there is a great fear of actually diminishing your case.

Not only can it weaken your line of argument, it may also serve to lessen the important messages that the Holocaust sends us. Once something becomes hackneyed and everyday it loses some of its impact. When all around us we hear people being called Nazi or Fascist these become tired and clichéd. The danger then arises that we won't know the real enemy when it moves in our ranks. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Strike Day, 30 November 2011

Seán McGovern speaking at the rally in 
Windrush Square on 30 November 2011 
Brixton's Windrush Square is always an interesting space; but on Wednesday it was more electric than its famous neighbour a few score meters away. Lambeth people are not by nature the shy and retiring types, as was evident on Strike Day.

About three- to three-hundred and fifty of us basked under a blue sky on an unusually mild late November morning opposite the seat of power in Lambeth, but we were in undisputed 'FREE LAMBETH' territory. This space and this day was ours!

Whistles and vuvuzela's blew while a constant reggae beat thrummed the air. Chants and signing competed with the reggae and whistles giving the whole thing a carnival feel.

Bang in the middle of the square sat the 'battle car'. This vehicle driven around the borough earlier in the morning taking in some of the picket lines.

At around 11 am people began making speeches. Though the variety of speakers was wide and their words very different; the message was the same. We're not going to allow this government, or any other, to smash our welfare state or sell off our NHS. Nor are we going to stand by and let this bunch of privileged millionaire and billionaire government steal our pensions from us.

Just after midday the speeches ended and some of the people left to join the bigger demonstrations in Central London.

This government is trying to play down the affect of our strike; Maude has even lied about the numbers taking part in the actions on live television. Yet, this government knows it has a problem; and, that the unions are enjoying quite a lot of public support. We must now drive home the point with more concerted actions.   


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Brown envelopes, government lies, sour tastes in mouths, new jobs and DLA

A few weeks ago I started work and as so had to inform the DLA of a 'change in circumstances'. Within a few weeks the dreaded brown envelope met me as I crossed the threshold into my flat. Timidly opening this document of doom I read the words and knew they wanted to review my DLA claim.

On informing Blackpool, I had made it clear that the job was only three-days per week; I told them I wasn't even sure I'd manage this over a longer term, and was testing the water week by week. It was also explained that my conditions hadn't changed since the last review some six-years ago; indeed, some of my conditions had worsened with age; and my care needs would be greater as a result of my working.

So much for the government's insistence that they want to get disabled people into work and will give them all the support they need.

Anyway, after receiving the review the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth. It even took the sparkle off the new job I was really enjoying (and at heart still am).

So, I did what you do in these situations; I sat down, read the form, over and over; and, began to answer each question ensuring the smallest detail was covered.

Proof-reading the finished article I realised how much of my personal life was poured into those pages; just how much of my soul was bared in order to keep hold of a benefit. I wasn't trying to win a competition for a trip on a luxury cruiser; nor was I expecting to succeed in the lottery. No, I was putting my dignity and pride on hold in order that I could retain a benefit that doesn't even pull me up to the level of most non-disabled people in being able to live a 'normal' life.

What do I get out of DLA? The Mobility Component is swallowed up by a Motability car (plus a hefty downpayment); the Care Component used to be wholly subsumed into my care package (plus an extra £18 per week), now props up my laundry and heating bills, as well as those highly-priced disability extras, the ones that don't attract 20% VAT but seem to cost four or five times their non-disability equivalent.

The Daily Hate's Propaganda
Fuels Misinformation on DLA
Does anyone really materially gain from DLA? Most people I know either get by on this benefit or it goes some way to helping them get by. The idea that people on DLA are pulling a fast one; that they're somehow gaining an advantage over the rest of society is both risible and insulting.

As for the outcome, I pleased to say that my entitlement remains unchanged - well, until they tear me apart body and soul when I apply for PIP!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Strike! Don't bitch and bellyache...

Listening to the reactions of various people affected by yesterday's strike was quite telling. A guy in N Ireland in a reasonably paid job, by his own admission, wouldn't go out on the grounds of he couldn't afford to lose a day's money.

He then went on to bemoan the fact that his pension contributions were set to go up while his final pension would have a shortfall of a few thousand pounds a year.

The next was hilarious, in my view. A uni student who on going to uni found it closed. His tutors and other college staff were on strike. Instead of taking the hint, matey decides to go to the local library, no doubt for a prolonged study period.

Guess what! He arrived at the library...yes, you're ahead of me - of course, it was closed due to industrial action!  

What a turd! What is wrong with kids at uni today? He should be out and about; or, out of his head; or, something. He looked the kind of knob that will remember his uni days with fondness; instead of, like the rest of us barely remembering what we studied, let alone knowing where the fucking library was!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Oh what fancies we conjure up...

"The point is to get enough votes for the petition for the mainstream media to take notice."
I don't share your optimism on the scum media taking notice. They've ignored our pleas in the past. Disabled people have killed themselves as a result of disgraceful ATOS assessments. Was there an outcry from the Fleet Street filth? No, there wasn't. hundreds upon hundreds have testified to the brutality of government policy against disabled people. Have the Fail, Sun or Express ever taken our side? No, they haven't.

Petitions don't usually achieve anything. Mostly they're used in campaigns to make people feel better about themselves. The best thing about petitions is not the getting of thousands upon thousands of signatures; no, it's the engaging with people in the street who stop and ask what the petition is for. In my experience, and I've ran scores of petitioning and leafleting events; and,  for every 20 signatures you receive or leaflets you distribute, a three-minute conversation with a passer-by is more beneficial.

"When some of the gutter press realise the "shop a cheat" hotline is costing a shedload of money for next to no result, they will squeal like stuck pigs about the waste of taxpayers money."

No they won't. To begin with, the government will not allow this to appear as a failure. They'll massage and manipulate data to show the venture a success; and by the time a decent newspaper has got to the truth it'll be yesterday's news. Remember the Benefits' Integrity Project (BIP)? This was going to expose disability benefits' cheats and save the country a fortune. It ended up bringing a handful of people to court, not all of whom were convicted. That particular exercise cost scores of millions of pounds. There was no outcry from the right-wing press or media.
If, as the Mail Online shows is true, that 84% of those who responded to their poll claim to support the strike, this is indeed an irony of ironies!

Such a thing certainly put a smile on my face; and I imagine it seriously pissed off the Mail management, staff and many of its rabid dog readership.

Make it a criminal offence to maliciously report someone for benefit fraud.

The whole idea of grass lines leaves me cold. People being encouraged to spy on friends, family or neighbours just in case someone is getting something for which they've no entitlement. This kind of Big Brother quasi-totalitarian tactic isn't fit for decent society; it breeds a culture of disharmony rather than one of civility.

But then, isn't that exactly what this junta we have in power wants. They'd prefer to see working class people at each other's throats as this averts attention away from the destruction of the Welfare State they're carrying out.

Curtain Twitcher's of the World Repent;
you've nothing to lose but your nets!
Rather than us pit ourselves against one and other by using grass lines, why aren't we attacking this rotten lot of Bullendon boys for protecting their mates when it comes to cheating the country out of scores of billions of pounds every year - not some piddling 0.45% of DLA fraud. We should be venting our anger at the Eton mess who are flushing this country down the toilet with their ideologically focused austerity measures.

Calling for scum who whisper false accusations down the line to a government official to be prosecuted if found to have maliciously misreported a situation isn't the answer. We need to reclaim our societies; we need to politically educate people as to the real meaning of right and wrong; we need to identify the real cheats, those billionaire vampires who sustain themselves by bleeding us dry.

Stop fighting each other; it's costly a distraction. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

What's the TUC Doing in the Fight to Protect Disability Rights?

The TUC is already engaged in the struggle against this government's austerity measures, including those directed, most viciously in my view, against disabled people.

Indeed, the 26th March demonstration, which drew over half-a-million people into one of the largest ever protests ever seen on the streets of London was a TUC initiative. On that day, it's estimated that there were probably 20,000 to 25,000 disabled people on the march or at the rally. Someone also spoke on behalf of disabled people at the Hyde Park rally.

On the 11th May, the TUC supported the Hardest Hit march in London; and, again a message of support from Brendan Barber, speaking for the TUC, was sent to the Hardest Hit marches and rallies a few weeks ago on October 22nd.

The TUC is also active in other areas of disability rights; as expected we, with the support of affiliate unions, are pushing for the government to keep open the Remploy factories; we're arguing for an increase in the Access-to-Work budget, pointing out to the government the positive benefits this resource creates; we're strenuously promoting initiatives on the relationship between workplace stress and mental illness, and ways to counter these conditions.

The TUC also promotes Disability Workplace Champions. We're striving for this group of reps to gain the same industrial recognition as shop stewards, H&S reps and ULRs. Reasonable adjustments in the workplace is another area in which we assist our reps.

However, much of our energy is directed at opposing this government's cuts and their plans to dismantle both the NHS and our Welfare System. 

A number of members of the TUC Disability Committee, including its Chair, are supportive of many of the disability organisations and initiatives currently fighting against draconian government policy. They support Hardest Hit, Black Triangle, Disabled People Against the Cuts, as well as being closely associated in fighting against Disability Hate Crime and promoting Disability History Month.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Sense of Duty, to Whom?

The photograph below speaks volumes. That unholy link between majesty and military. The commemorations at the Cenotaph somehow cementing a common bond between fallen soldiers and the royals on display in their regimental regalia.

Rally to the colours
And die for your queen
Life ain't worth living
And death is obscene... 
The monarch in grave black her face a stony mask of duty for duties sake. Princes, princesses and dukes adorned in their uniforms of death.  

They're telling us to carry on answering the call to colours and they'll with dignity tread respectfully over our memories every November 11th. For there is no greater sacrifice than the surrendering of one's life in order to uphold an anachronistic social system, such as royalty.

Watching the choreography played out at the cenotaph every November brings home to me the real dignity that I have witnessed at small war memorials in different parts of London over the years. Some years ago I attended one such ceremony in Kennington Park. The small crowd, mainly of elderly men, was quite and dignified.

Afterwards we went for a pint. Naturally, the talk was about the war; yet there was no recrimination, lots of sadness tempered by laughter at the good times. Almost to a man, these old soldiers held firm to their Socialist ideals. They spoke most disparagingly of the likes of Churchill and Montgomery, who according to one ex-desert rat, "Would 'ave 'ad our fuckin' fag ration if 'e 'ad 'is way!"

A couple of my uncles who came to England in the 1930s and served in N Africa and Italy rarely spoke of their war experiences. But, there was one thing they couldn't stomach and that was the idea that they, or indeed many of their British Comrades, had fought for king and country. No, they were fighting the Nazis and what Nazism stood for. Thus, they regarded the ceremony at the cenotaph as an insult to the memory of all those who died fighting fascism. 

Why do we need the Poppy Appeal?

Why the necessity for a 'poppy appeal'? I looked at the Royal British Legion site for clarification and found that the monies collected from poppy sales go to help ex-service personnel with:

  • purchasing Electrically Powered Vehicles or scooters to give elderly or disabled veterans back mobility and a independent lives.

  • providing severely disabled people and their carers with much needed welfare break.

  • arranging bathroom adaptations which assist disabled people to perform basic functions in their home such as showering or washing safely.

Nobody, neither disabled soldier nor civilian, should have to depend on charity for such necessities. As a Socialist I believe the state should provide both medical and personal care at the point of need; and this should include any equipment and services needed to ensure full medical and care provision.

On the news yesterday there was a 'feel good' story about a little girl with quadriplegic cerebral palsy whose parents had raised the £40,000 needed to send her to the USA for an operation that would greatly improve her mobility. Of course her parents were grateful to those kind people who had contributed to their cause.

But why are disabled soldiers and children depending on charity for that which the state should fund.

In my work I see the state moving further and further away from its responsibilities for providing medical and personal care. There is a seismic shift coming in health care; and we are heading for massive changes in the provision of personal care and support for disabled and elderly infirm people.

This winter may well be a cold one; but for scores of thousands of disabled and elderly next spring will really bring a chill to their lives.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Get Off Your Knees Motability

"Although it is disappointing that these changes will mean disabled people will have less choice, we know that the longevity of the scheme is the most important thing."

Motability is a registered charity, a scheme open to some recipients of Disability Living Allowance that allows, amongst other things, disabled people to lease cars. Recipients of the Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA may (usually people given a three-year, or longer, award) spend this money on leasing a car.

People can lease a vehicle by giving up the mobility component of DLA. Sometimes there is a down payment on larger or higher spec cars. The lease tem is three-years, after which you 'swap' the old car for a new one (unless you wish to keep the three-year-old vehicle for a further term, thus dispensing with an up-front payment for a new car).

As a user of Motability, now on my second vehicle, I see a scheme that is working for the end-user, namely disabled people; and yes, its continuance should be a priority.

For quite a while now, the British media, in particular the paper side, has been running a hate campaign against disabled people, more so those of us receiving benefits, often DLA. Sensationalist stories of 'scrounging, lead-swinging unemployed disabled people driving around in brand-new £30,000 cars provided by the state' populate the pages of the scum press. The country's going to the dogs and disabled people are bleeding it dry!

They rarely report that for every 'free car' provided by the state, a disabled person pays £51.40 per week; or, that sometimes we may have to contribute hundreds, or thousands up-front payments in order to get vehicles that suit our impairments. Many disabled people can't simply take the cheapest car on offer; no, they often need extremely complex and complicated adjustments to their vehicles which up the price.

So, the scum press has pushed the government into making the following negative changes to the Motability Scheme:

1.     Limiting the range of vehicles available to cars with an Advance Payment of £2,000 or less, approximating to a Recommended Retail Price limit of circa £25,000. The changes to car selection take place immediately, although Motability will honour all existing orders and commitments, changes will be fully implemented in December 2011.
2.     Limiting the nominated drivers to those who live within 5 miles of the customer in order to minimise the risk of the car being used other than for the benefit of the disabled person
3.     Piloting new vehicle technologies to monitor how cars are used where the greatest risk of abuse is perceived.
4.     Requiring a Statement of Responsibilities to be signed at the beginning of each lease by the customer and nominated drivers together with the supplying motor dealer to ensure that the key responsibilities of each party have been communicated and are clearly understood.
5.     No longer accepting nominated drivers under the age of 21 on the Scheme from January 2012, unless they reside with the disabled customer. 
6.      Restricting young drivers under the age of 25 to cars in ABI Insurance Group 16 or lower which also have a power output of 115 BHP or less.

The first change smacks of pure vindictiveness. A means to mollify the rabid readership of the Daily Hate. Some disabled will need vehicles whose spec goes over the £25,000 limit. Indeed, some will be able to afford dearer cars, remember this benefit is non-means tested.

As for the second in the list, the government has cannot have thought this through, unless they really are as nasty as they're beginning to appear. For me the 5-mile rule is not a particular problem; my PAs, who drive me everywhere I go, all live within walking distance of my home. Not so for people living outside big cities. Why, for cities such as Sheffield a 5-mile+ journey are not out of the ordinary. If you happened to live in the Yorkshire Dales, or pretty much any rural part of the UK, 5-miles is not considered a great distance.

With youth unemployment a national disgrace, and with no sign of improvement, PA and care work is one area that would attract this age demographic. Young disabled people don't want middle-age PAs and carers, especially when out and about, going out at night, that kind of thing.

What about children who look after disabled parents or siblings? They often surrender their childhood to care for disabled family members. Many undergo great hardship balancing school and caring duties, sadly with little or no help from the state.

Well, this government is now going to disallow people under 21 from becoming a nominated driver on the Scheme. So, an 18-year-old disabled recipient of DPs and ILF cannot employ a PA of her own age to drive her to and from university, go shopping with, or take her to a club or pub.

Similarly, a young man who has cared for a disabled mother since he was 10; fetching, carrying, cooking, etc, etc cannot, though he has passed a driving test and has a full driving licence, be nominated as his mother's driver on the Scheme because he is only 18 and has moved away from home.

Motability, why didn't you get off your knees? Why didn't you approach your clientele, us the disabled people and ask for our advice. We would have backed you against a vicious bunch of thugs that masquerades as a government. Are you so gutless that you allow the best interests of your customers, us disabled people, to be overridden by the baying of a few scummy media hounds.

Motability needs disabled people. We also need the service you provide. This government has stared you straight in the eyes; and, you blinked! When they introduce PIP within the next couple of years, prepare for a massive drop in your customer-base. As has been shown with ESA where they were hoping to see a third on ESA, a third on ESA WRAG and a further third going over to JSA; this hasn't happened.

No, thanks to their tame poodles, ATOS, they're pushing far greater numbers of disabled claimants onto JSA, thus making massive savings. ATOS will also carry out the reviews from DLA to PIP. So Motability, it won't be the 20% figure the government touted when it announced the introduction of PIP; no, it could be 30, 40, or 50%, maybe even more.

Could Motability survive a halving of its business? We'd be looking at thousands of job losses across the Scheme itself, the dealerships, carmakers, insurance providers, etc. Not to forget those hundreds of thousands of disabled people who will be left abandoned; many will be resigned to a prison-like existence locked away by distance from family friends and loved ones.

Finally, if you, Motability, believe that by meekly accepting the government's changes to the Motability Scheme you'll somehow draw away the scum media's attention from 'free cars to disabled people', then you're woefully mistaken; and, I'd say don't understand the motives of either the gutter press or this government.   

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Royal involvement in the disability movement is a sop to the masses

Oh dear. Why do so many people fall for the old three-card-trick. The one that has royals championing disability causes, thus suddenly becoming part of the movement.

I see the existence of royalty as part of the problem, not part of the solution. There is no room in a modern democracy for such anachronisms. The royal family perpetuate the culture of privilege in this country.

The fact they are so heavily involved in charity is a kind of pay back; it's a sop. But, more sinister than that it also breathes life into the charity culture. Cameron and the Tories are trying to sell this idea in their Big Society spiel. If we're not careful our very Welfare State, and NHS, could be displaced by charity.

Things are bad enough now with cuts; with benefits qualifying criteria tightening. However, benefits and services are still available to disabled people. Imagine having to rely upon the whim of a charity for benefits and services. We'll end up like the tramps of old who were forced by the Sally Army to sing hymns for their bread and dripping; or worse, like the poor of Ireland, not so many years ago, who had to undergo a virtual inquisition from the Society of St Vincent de Paul in return for the very basics of living.

Disabled people must join in with all the other anti-cuts movements. Bit by bit events such as Saturdays are beginning to stir people into action. Let's throw our support behind the strikes on 30th November; as it isn't just service providers that are losing out, we, the service users are also being hit.

Royals and charities are not the solution to what this government plans for us, the demolition of the Welfare State, and along with it the NHS. Royals and charities are actually part of the problem. For as long as we have these kinds of systems in place we, as disabled people dependent on services and equipment that the state is no longer willing to fund, are going to beholden to organisations that are only answerable to their trustees.

What message does royal patronage send?

"If it takes a royal or a celebrity to highlight the difficulties disabled people face, than that's not ideal, but at least the message is getting out.."

The thread isn't about royalty highlighting the plight of osteoporosis it is about the Daily Hate's willingness to on the one hand demean disabled people on benefits while on the other promote a disabling condition because it has royal backing. The point is about the hypocrisy of this particular paper.

As for 'the message is getting out' argument, yes it's true. The message is saying if you have osteoporosis you're genuinely disabled, therefore worthy of consideration by the Daily Heil and its readership; but, woe to the rest of you with so-called disabilities, because we're on your case and will continue to run our campaign of hate until the government gets the message!

As an afterthought to the OP and to comments made, this isn't about a royal or a celebrity highlighting the difficulties encountered by disabled people. This is about an individual using her position to focus on a particular condition because it's close to her heart. This is about individuals, maybe inadvertently, creating hierarchies of disability and conditions. This is about what conditions are acceptable to people of influence and editorial boards of newspapers.

We shouldn't be running our medical services on the whim of a royals personal connection to an illness or condition; nor should we be depending on a charity that taken the fancy of some celebrity to dole out equipment or services to disabled people. And, we certainly shouldn't be applauding the Daily Heil for jumping on a royal bandwagon.  

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Changes to Motability

Under PIP manual wheelchair users who can self-propel 50 meters or more will be deemed as having no mobility needs. Now the authorities are placing a 5-mile barrier on nominated Motability vehicle drivers. The idea that this Conservative regime has any interest or concern for disabled people speaks volumes with these two proposals.

At the moment I have a Motability car; for now, I also have a support package that allows me to employ PAs - this could all change when my DLA is reviewed. So, for the time being I'm able to employ carers who happen to live close by - that is they all live within a five-minute drive of my home.

But then, I live in Inner London; where time and distance are measured differently than in suburban or rural locations. There is no way I'd employ a PA who lived 5 miles away, due to the time it'd take for her to reach me in an 'emergency'.

 On the 50 meter self-propulsion issue. Whoever came up with that idea is obviously believes in the Eastenders Model of day-to-day living. You know, that model that has everyone living, working and socialising within the confines of Albert Square. In some ways I'm supportive of such a way of living, it'd cut down on travelling time to work; save us money; be environmentally beneficial; and give us more leisure time. The down side would be that disabled wheelchair users wouldn't qualify for the mobility element of PIP; and, we'd be bored witless in no time!

Camilla: I watched in horror as Mama died slowly and in agony from osteoporosis

"Camilla: I watched in horror as Mama died slowly and in agony from osteoporosis"

This from Camilla, the woman married to the next in line for the throne. Which shows illness and disability can visit the richest as well as poorest - though if you have the means you can cushion yourself from the extra costs of disability.

"Research suggests that an astonishing 1,150 sufferers die needlessly each month...  Better care would save the NHS millions of pounds a day."

The Duchess makes a passionate plea for better diagnosis and treatment; and, immediately the "
Daily Mail campaigns to spare other women the same fate!"

In the past I've been criticised on here for using the class card to underpin the cuts argument. Well here we have The Cripple-Finder-General of the press taking up the cudgels on behalf of sick and disabled people, pretty much at the bidding of royalty. This is a class issue. The whole cuts business is class based.

Disabled people and groups have been telling the likes of the Heil of the great hardship and poverty hundreds of thousands of people with, often life threatening, illnesses and disabilities are undergoing when they lose ESA or DLA. Not content with ignoring our stories, they go further and publicise and distort articles that paint us as cheats and scroungers.

It will be interesting to see how they treat a benefits claimant with osteoporosis who ATOS assess as fit for work. Can they be so crass as to make distinctions between illnesses, impairments and disability?

Of course they can; and they will.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Let's Boycott the Mail, Sun and Express!

Whatever happened to the British sense of 'fair play'? Where has the tolerance this country was once noted for gone? Whatever happened to journalists motivated by objectivity; whose job was to challenge the administration and report their failings.

Once-upon-a-time newspapers held governments to account. Today publications such as the Mail, Express and Sun are no more than an extension of political parties. They blithely do the government's bidding; they're briefed by the DWP and simply produce Tory propaganda. They're too lazy and tied-up with the Tory party to properly investigate government data. They, generally, ignore the voices of ordinary people, even when we approach them with corroborated evidence of wrong-doing by organisations such as ATOS, and even the government.

They play their readers like cheap fiddles; knowing exactly which strings to pluck in order to produce just the right discordant note, the one that leads to a chorus of howls from their baying readership.

Since these rags have declared war upon disabled people why don't we do what Liverpool did against the Sun after that particular rag told disgraceful lies that served to denigrate the reputation of football supporters who had watched family and friends die at Hillsborough. The people of Liverpool stopped buying the Sun; and, this ban still holds up in many parts of the city.

Let's stop buying this filth. Not only that, let's get our families and friends to do the same. Come on, let's get a campaign going against these purveyors of disablist propaganda; get our voices heard.   

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hardest Hit Saturday

I Attending the Hardest Hit event today in London. Our venue was the amphitheater adjoining the iconic GLA building on the Thames, near Tower Bridge. Though being in the 'pit' of the amphitheater it in no way felt like a 'lions versus Christians' event.

The day was bright and sunny; and, as though divined by architects, the surrounding glass buildings reflected the sun down, thus warming us against a chill wind gently whipping us from the river.

Claire Speaking at the Event with me Looking On

There was a good turnout, around 350, as I was informed. Forgive me for not recalling the names of all the speakers, there were about eight or nine in all - three of whom were politicians. Kirsten Hearn, Chair of Inclusion London, MC'd the event. Chivvying us along by urging us to chant a few, by now standard, slogans - so standard indeed, that I've forgotten the words. But reader, you'll guess the kind of thing: "No ifs, no buts, no benefits' cuts!"...

Sadly, the message from most speakers was the same as that on March 26th, May 11th and at the scores of cuts rallies, pickets and protests I've attended since this mob came into government 17 months ago.

My contribution was well received. First of all I delivered a message from Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary; he'd sent a message of support from the TUC's General Council to all the cities that held events today.

Continuing from this I assured the crowd that the trade union movement was, as it proved in both March and May, 100% behind the Hardest Hit and campaigning against cuts in benefits and services for disabled people.

Remembering where I was I sent a message of warning to Mayor Johnson; telling him we were on his lawn and if necessary would be back on it again to protest against his party's vicious cuts if things didn't change.

Your's Truly Prepared for the Autumn Sun on 22 October
at the Hardest Hit Event by the Thames in London

The remainder of my speech touched on various areas of the cuts. At the end of the speech I gave a plug to the excellent document by Demos 'Coping with the Cuts, 2011', a title laced with irony, I hope! Incidentally, I'd recommend this to my reader; follow this link from Scope:

This Tory Government Knows Exactly What It Is Doing!

On a forum one of the posters made a few, what I regard as either naïve or misguided, comments about this government and its treatment of disabled people. In a letter to his local Tory MP, he stated:

"Instead, I believe that you are simply not aware of the potential affects of this bill on the lives of disabled people."

That the above was true. Sadly, this government is on an ideological crusade, along the same lines as Thatcher's regimes; which is to finally rid the UK of its Welfare State, including the NHS.

Thousands of disabled people have spoken and written, by now, billions of words on the dangers of ESA examinations, the changeover to PIP, cutting vital disability services and medical provision. This government has had ample opportunity to listen to and heed the warnings heralded by a combination of disabled individuals, disability charities, people working in the public sector and in the voluntary sector.

"One cannot help but think that someone has decided how much less they want to spend and are now moving the goalposts to make that happen." That's a sound analyses of this government's policy on disability benefits.

This government is aware of the affects their draconian policies are having and will continue to have on disabled people. When a government puts in train a framework of fiscal policies that purposely set out to target some of the poorest people in the country; when it continues with policies that are pushing the country deeper into economic meltdown; when it practices austerity measures that are a complete failure, as demonstrated in other countries such as Greece, Ireland, and the US amongst others; when a government becomes complicit in failing its own people, then we can only assume they are operating on ideological grounds.

Thatcher knew exactly what she was doing when she ripped the heart and soul out of the UK's heavy industry. She driven by an ideology that openly admitted that mass unemployment was a price worth paying in order to defeat inflation. Thatcher's children are adopting the same measures, for different reasons, yet the end result will be similar - except this time it'll be our Welfare State and NHS that is destroyed.

Ironically, the Tories are still pinning their hopes on the private sector pulling the economy around; finding jobs here for the millions unemployed through their public sector cuts. The trouble is that much of the private sector is made up of finance and service industries. The finance sector is still haemorrhaging jobs; and, the many areas within the service industry rely on government contracts, as does the manufacturing sector - the train builders Bombardier a good case in point.

Yes, we have a financial deficit; though by no means the largest we've been faced with. Yes, it does have to be reduced; but, this can't happen with unemployment rising and economic growth falling. All this will create is a larger deficit as fewer people pay tax and NI whilst mass unemployment puts a greater burden on the state.

Another indicator that these Tories are pushing an ideological agenda and know exactly the affects of their actions is who they're targeting in order to reduce the deficit. As has been pointed out mass unemployment will not speed up the rate of deficit reduction; no, it'll have the opposite effect. Yet there are ways in which the deficit could be reduced over a five to six year period, without the wholesale wiping out of public services and sell-off of the NHS.

Rather than writing off taxes for their billionaire friends in business the government should commit its resources to tackling the real criminals in our society, those rich tax dodgers and cheats. Every year they're costing the country anything as much as £120 billion!

Just think of the decent schools, hospitals, homes and social services we could have if these parasites paid their way. But what hope for this from a government who engage billionaire tax cheats to advise them on economic policies; and whose chancellor refuses to pay his fair share of taxes.