Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Lambeth ‘People’s Assembly’, 21 May 2011

The Lambeth ‘People’s Assembly’ showed that there is a lot of controlled anger in Lambeth ready to be harnessed into action/s. As a 'people's assembly' it lived up to its title. There was a wide cross-section of people and groups from, mainly, across the borough. 

John McDonnell gave a contemporary take on the deficit and how this government was mismanaging the recovery. While Ted Knight made a very good contribution from a historical perspective.

Kingsley Abrams received a rapturous welcome when introduced as the only Labour Councillor to make a stand against the cuts. Councillor Abrams was swiftly punished by the Labour Group in Lambeth and suspended for three months, ostensibly for comments alleged to have been made; but, in reality for breaking Party discipline.

Councillor Abrams
Ruth Cashman, a librarian and trade unionist working in Lambeth, drew a picture of the range of cuts across the borough going on to explain the wider implications surrounding the closure of libraries, the elimination of park rangers and the sacking of park rangers.

Anita Wright spoke passionately on education. She also flagged up the importance of the Lambeth Trades Council within the SOS and across the fight against the cuts.

I chaired the disability workshop. Sadly, we didn't have time to cover all 17 or 18 areas of cuts; and, by agreement we focused on how we as a group could pull together and fight against and assist one and other on benefits' cuts.

Future events for disabled people in Lambeth include the Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum’s ‘Protest and Survive’ meeting. This is an open meeting for disabled people in Lambeth, and interested parties, to meet and discuss how we as a group can resist the Tory cuts. It was also agreed that we fully support whatever action was taking place on 30th June.

Seán McGovern speaking
Left to right seated at table
Ellen Lebethe, Anita Wright and Richard Farnos
Ellen Lebethe, Lambeth SOS and Lambeth Pensioners Action Group, gave a grave account of the services elderly people in the Borough were losing; however, this gloomy news was tempered by Ellen’s indomitable fighting-back attitude.  

Queers Against the Cuts spokesperson, Richard Farnos, told how the LGBT community was disproportionately dependent on resources, including health. Communities should not be divided to “fight for the crumbs from the table,” he said.

The assembly was encouraging. There is a real passion out there for action. Hopefully, future assemblies will attract more people; hopefully we can get across to those thousands of people who think they're not political, yet if the surface were scratched deep enough their political soul would be bared.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Direct Action, yes. Reckless behaviour, no!

Was the driver of the bus aware of two people handcuffed to the rear of his vehicle? Can anyone imagine the horror of two protestors being dragged behind a bus; because, I doubt the driver could see the wheelies below window level and in effect in a ‘blind’ position, as they don’t have mirrors there.

While I applaud direct action; and fully agree with the right to a fully integrated and accessible transport system, I don’t agree with what could result in reckless behaviour.

As a trade unionist in a union that organises bus drivers I’ve had some approach me with their concerns on this very issue. No bus driver would drive off knowing there were people attached to his or her bus. And, the ones I spoke to feared that one day someone may carry out this form of protest without their knowing; and, they are terrified of the consequences.

So, may I suggest when you are carrying out this kind of action, please, let the driver know. It isn’t fair to put other workers on the spot like this. 

Peter Griffin in Homage to Che Guevara

While I was rolling along Great Russell Street, past the British Museum, this image on a T-shirt almost caused  me to void my bladder.

Peter Griffin as Che!

The idea of Peter Griffin as the iconic 'Che' Guevara. Yes, I know it's irreverent; and, yes Che is a particular hero of mine. But, the image of Peter Griffin as a revolutionary leader creases me up.

I do hope Che would have seen the funny side of it, even if it does mean being associated with the un-PC and decidedly dysfunctional Peter Griffin.

A Step too Far

This isn’t simply about the SWP’s view on an outcome of a dispute. No, this goes deeper than that. It’s about the constant digs at Unite as an organisation. It’s about an arrogance they possess when pontificating on all matters political, economic, social and industrial. It’s about the overbearing way in which they attempt to educate the rest of the labour movement. It’s about a refusal to accept that the other person has a valid view. It’s about their inability to work within the accepted structures of either Unite or the United Left.

SWP members celebrating the sale of a newspaper

My reading of the article in the SWP newspaper differs from that expressed by other Comrades. The piece isn’t at all balanced, but then, why would it be, balance and objectivity are not the aims of this party. No, their aims are at all times to sow discord while looking for the main chance to inveigle their way into and onto structures in order to give the party a greater platform.

Everything they do is party driven; and as history has taught us their party aims and objectives do not chime with the majority within the trade union movement. Yet, they maintain the right to interfere in the business of others, even when and where they don’t have party members, or so few as to be insignificant – remember the invasion of ACAS; an action which they still maintain they were right to carry out.

There is a grave danger in my Region, the L&E, that this latest breach by the SWP will drive out good committed United Left supporters. Some UL supporters in the L&E region are expressing deep concerns with the SWP. It is likely that an SWP presence at our future meetings will see a drift away from our group; a drift away by the very people we need in the Left.

These aren’t people who want to sit around discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. No, they want to attend meetings where they feel they can contribute; meetings that address their industrial concerns. Not meetings where a few practiced politicos deign to lecture them on arcane and esoteric party dogma.  

For my part I don’t agree with my friends from the North. We’ve tried the inclusive way. How many times does the hand of Comradeship have to be shunned before the penny drops? In the past the appeasers have pleaded a case of non-exclusion on the part of the United Left. We’ve been told that it’d be better if they excluded themselves rather than us using the ultimate sanction.

The article, the intervention by an SWP Executive member on the subject, and her ensuing attack on our BASSA reps, our union and its leadership is a step too far. These actions do in my view constitute the SWP excluding themselves from the United Left. However, we have a democratically arrived at process, which I’m willing to follow.


Kids 'sexually abused every 20 mins in 2010'

Between 2009-10 over 23,000 children were sexually abused in the UK. This averages out at every twenty minutes a child was abused. Almost as tragic is the fact that one in four of the known suspects where under 18, children themselves.

Unfortunately, this is one area of crime that is showing an increase, up 8% from 2008-9 and 13% from 2007-8. One in four of the victims were aged 11 or under and more than 1,000 were four or younger, the data from the 43 forces showed.

The NSPCC is urging vigilance calling for people to report any concerns they may have about a child’s safety.

How to cut your throat with your tongue...

While chairing the TUC Disability Conference this morning one of the staff quietly spoke to me on my use of offensive language. As you might imagine I was mortified and began wracking my brain(s) as to what I’d said to offend someone, or people.

Probably blushing, I asked the official what exactly I’d said that had excited the complaint. “You said, ‘for God’s sake’” she replied grinning broadly. Of course, relieved, I laughed explaining that as a Catholic atheist some vestiges of my formative years of indoctrination had, sadly, stuck with me.

This conversation took place off mike. However, I was a little disconcerted not wanting a protracted off-agenda debate to take place; and asked whether I should apologise. ‘No’, was the response. Just as well really, for I may have apologised by saying “Good Lord. Did I really say that? I’m very sorry.”

This post isn’t an attempt to make light of the fact that language can offend and perceive to be offensive. Had I used ‘thank Christ for that’ or used the term ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’, which I often do when expressing my sadness and anger at some act of injustice or another, then fair enough; though, these were the Irish Catholic mild oaths with which I grew up.

They weren’t spoken in order to offend, but rather as an expression of exasperation or even sadness of a given event or happening.

As far as I recall on the issue of ‘disability language’ the only word of contention that I recall from the two-day conference was ‘vulnerable’. Although it was used on several occasions the context tended to be in and around two of the guest sessions, one on disability hate crime and the other was the BlackTriangle FaceBook social networking site.

Language can be a tricky tool; and, in the wrong hands quite dangerous. However, we need to be careful how we get our message across to other people. When someone uses explicitly offensive or hurtful language they need to be pulled up straight away and told they’re out of order.

Tell me, what we do when people use language, which to all intent and purpose is inoffensive, yet different groups within the disability ‘community’ find offensive. An example I’ve come across is ‘disabled people’ versus ‘people with disabilities’ (phrases that I interchange in speech). People have told me off for using ‘vision impaired’ instead of ‘visual impaired’ – I’ve use the former ever since a blind friend of mine objected to the latter on the basis that he regarded ‘visually impaired’ suggested he was ugly; and, he is of the opinion that ‘vision impaired’ is a more accurate description.

Recently, while taking part in a breaking down barriers education course another of the class members complained about the use of politically incorrect language and terminology. Considering we were all disabled and activists, the protestations seemed inappropriate. When challenged all she could come up with was the use of ‘disabled people’ instead of, in her school of thought, ‘people with disabilities’.

At this point I told the tutor that if we’re going to have every single thing we say dissected and politicised that I’d be off. Who wants to take part in a course where one person attempts to gag the majority on what are quite frankly issues of personal preference. Yes, there is a fine line between proper and improper language. And, where it is patently obvious that someone is being offensive, especially in a group of disabled people, in my experience, they’ll be brought to book in double quick time.

As things are with us now, we need, more than ever before, greater engagement with other groups of people under attack by this vicious Tory regime. Whatever alliances we forge must be on equal terms. And for this to happen we’re going to have to educate many people, especially in language and phraseology. My fear is that if we become overly proscriptive with people who wish to join forces with us, we could be in danger of, not so much alienating ourselves, but more putting others on the defensive, scared to say things in case they inadvertently ‘offend’.

So, going back to the ‘god’ expletive; was I the sinner or sinned against?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Protest and Survive!

Dear Comrades

The Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum is holding a 'Protest and Survive! meeting on Thursday 2nd June, 2011. The meeting will be held at the Accord Centre, 336 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AA from 6 pm to 8 pm. Disabled people, friends and family are most welcome. So, come along and lend your voice to an ever-growing protest movement against these savage cuts and the dismantling of OUR Welfare State!

Speakers include:

  • Councillor Kingsley Abrams (Independent Labour)
  • Roddy Slorich Disabled People Against the Cuts
  • Ellen Lebethe Lambeth SOS and Lambeth Pensioners and Lambeth 
  • Ray Ludford Lambeth Trades' Council

Seán McGovern

Chair of the Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum

Monday, 23 May 2011

Be-ready-to-ditch-your-dignity TV

Popped in to see my old grey-haired Irish Mammy today; and of course the TV is on with an unashamed Noel Edmonds resplendent in his timeless retro dress style sporting a slightly-changed-with-the-times bouffant and his trade mark highly stylised beard – rumoured to be a vegetarian mafia boss.

The man, the legend, and the mullet!

‘Deal or no Deal’ is obviously popular; it must be if the likes of my mum devour every box opened whilst hanging onto the banker’s offers as though they’re messages from above. Look, if my mum wants to listen to Noel Edmonds pontificate about ‘psychological’ games, or of ‘intelligent’ games, or even ‘mystic’ games, endowing upon a game which essentially calls upon people to point to numbered boxes as they inwardly pray it’s a lower number than £250,000, then great. But Edmonds is cute; and he’s managed to elevate his somewhat boring slot in the TV listings with all sorts of esoteric flim flam.

Today’s programme, however, seems to have deviated from its standard fare of stodgy TV to seriously stripping a human being of his dignity. Sure, we know the programme is predicated on that human frailty, greed. You’re confronted with two columns of money ranging from a measly 1p to a tantalising £250,000!

You then begin to eliminate boxes numbered from 1 to 22. Each box contains a single monitory value from £250,000 down to 1p, incrementally spaced in blue and red columns. The aim of the game is to eliminate all boxes containing the blue amounts and the lower red amounts; you progress in tranches of three boxes at the end of which the ‘Banker’ (an invisible component of the show, painted by Edmonds as mean, but with a streak of good old-fashioned British fair play permeating from his judgements) makes an offer for the box the player holds.

Essentially, a contestant calls out a number from 1-22 and in doing so eliminates a money value from the board. The player who takes off the incremental values from 1p-£100,000 from the board and boxes retains the box with £250,000 is the winner.

Of course this is difficult; and so people often leave with a few score thousand, down to as little as a few pounds, or less. Contestants who have turned down £30,000 have walked away with a couple of hundred.

Where I believe the chicanery lies is with Edmonds’s manipulating the weaknesses of individuals. After all his interests differ from the poor mug who has agreed to come on ‘Deal or no Deal’ to win as much money as possible; and, if that means throwing dignity to the wolves of TV ratings, well it’s all for the good of popular programming – oh yes, and Noel Edmonds’s ego and bank balance.

What set today’s programme aside from others is the nature of the contestant ‘picked’ to play today. Here we had a young man who appeared to have quite marked learning disabilities. Noel Edmonds and the other wannabee contestants were treating him as though he were a youngster; when in fact he was a man in his thirties.

Not seeing the programme from the start I hadn’t heard the full extent of the gushing that Edmonds always pours out in an attempt to bestow upon his show some kind of intellectual highbrow-ed-ness – forgetting that it’s simply a game of chance; someone pitting their luck against a series of boxes containing sums of money; while an unseen and unheard banker is lent an air of mystery as he gets inside the minds of the players.

However, the player hits a bad run eliminating some of the high amounts from the game; and, the banker accordingly offers him £8,000. Uncertain of what to do the guy looks to the other contestants who offer advice. Knowing that he has recently turned down £14,500, mainly because Edmonds keeps reminding him and us, the home viewers, the man begins to cry. At this point the host invites the contestant’s mother to join them (Edmonds likes to wrench every drop of low dramatic effect possible).

Then his mother, seeing that her son’s distressed by the whole thing, begins sobbing. By now the two of them are in each other’s arms; and, this is where the snake Edmonds comes into his own. For, the game’s not over. Oh no; now the sap has taken the banker’s money it’s time to elicit the maximum humiliation.

Now we see people’s greed in high profile. Remember, the contestant has won £8,000. That’s a profit of £8,000. Not enough to excite enquiries from the tax man; but, enough to accomplish a fair few things. But this game isn’t about cheering the contestant on and wishing them well with their winnings; no, it’s about testing a person’s greed level.

Once the player has dealt (agreed) at a figure the game then continues, but in reverse. Now the player is trying to open boxes with high money values to prove they’ve stopped at the right amount themselves, thus beating the system – getting one over the banker.

So now after every third box is opened the banker tells the player how much he would have offered at that point; a figure lower than that dealt, grows a grin on the players face; a higher figure, a look of pure pain.

So, after accepting the 8 grand the offer the banker would next have made was over £14,000. The poor man is now sobbing uncontrollably, as is his mother who cradles his head; while Edmonds stands to one side sombre-faced, but cracking jokes about crying.

It didn’t end there. Edmonds milked it for everything it had; and, it had more. As the Banker’s bids went up; so rose the level of sobbing. The final act in this disgraceful dignity stripping show was when the contestants box was opened it revealed the £250,000! More tears.

I could be wrong; but that poor sod seems to have sold off his dignity for a poxy 8K; while that wanker Edmonds salivates over his ratings. If, and I’m fairly sure he did, this man had learning difficulties, was it right to expose him to this kind of be-ready-to-ditch-your-dignity TV programme?   

Trying to get linked to Facebook etc

Can't for the life of me work out how to link 'BombasticSpastic' Blog to Facebook and other social networks!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Frog and the SWP

“Finally why would the SWP want to attack UNITE LEFT BASSA reps – and our left General Secretary -  and try to undermine this latest deal as it goes to the membership for a ballot vote?”

Martin, there once was a frog, a frog accused by some of lacking judgement, especially where scorpions and snakes were concerned. You see, the frog was a patsy for a sob story, and trusting to a degree of recklessness.

Anyway, one day a scorpion collars the frog just as he’s about to cross the river (which was a result in itself since the frog in question hardly ever crossed the river these days, finding himself quite tied up with business that eliminated most river crossing duties) asking for a lift to the other side.

The frog, a tad cautious, asks the scorpion for an assurance (his word would suffice) that he wouldn’t sting the frog while crossing the water.

“Sting you; don’t be daft, if you go down, why I’d drown too. No, you can rest assured we don’t involve ourselves in the old stinging business these days. On no, reformed characters, that’s us.”

So, froggy, with the scorpion’s promise still ringing in its ears, was quite disconcerted, and feeling more than an incey wincey bit betrayed, when half way across the scorpion stings him. Unable to think of anything remotely funny as he looked into oblivion’s infinite empty space; the frog just managed to gasp an incredulous “Why?” to which the soon to be drowned scorpion shrugged, what passed for his shoulders, and pointed out, in his most honest and matter of fact tone, “It’s me nature, froggy,!”

Martin, to quote Johnny Rotten “...ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Goodnight!”



Yes, Atos does kill!

On another site someone wrote in defence of Atos Origin the following:

“Guys I would advise caution…. Atos kills no-one! It’s the impact of their assessment that has such diabolical results but the decisions to alter benefits is down to the DWP – that leads to the dispair etc.

We know from people who have worked for Atos, used their systems and been instructed to find in favour of the DWP, that an Atos assessor is a key part of the whole process.

If Atos had any scruples or professional integrity it would point to the short fallings of the computer questionnaire and refuse to operate a system that has such obvious built-in bias. The fact that they continue to assist with an obviously flawed (even the designer of the system believes it is not fit for purpose) system makes them as guilty of the deaths of poorly assessed people as their paymasters the DWP.

Thanks AfterAtos

After Atos, thanks for doing what you do; by exposing this scum, Atos Origins, and all the other poverty pimps out there snout-deep in the spoils of our Welfare State, you’re carrying out a real service to disabled people.

If they do close you down. Fuck them; we’ll open up another site; and another. They may have the power to manipulate our medical tests to boost their own bank balances; but as long as we have the strength to shout ‘Foul!’ and ‘Killers!’ the profits they make will stink and our words will ring in their ears as they spend it.

Atos Origin Launch Legal Threats

Atos Origin is threatening an anti-Atos site, ‘After Atos’ with legal action. The administrators of the site received a copy of ‘Cease and Desist’ notice (link below) from the organisation who ‘carry out’ ‘medicals’ on behalf of the DWP.

‘After Atos’ hasn’t yet decided whether to comply with the notice or take another stance. Please, visit their site (link below) and bolster their fight against the forces of neo-con evil with a resounding message of solidarity and support!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Inaccessible Eateries in South Lambeth Road

Little Portugal in Lambeth South London has in the past 15 years opened scores, if not more, of eateries. These range from single unit shop size to establishments seating a couple of hundred customers.

In one road alone, right in the heart of the Little Portugal around every third shop is now a cafe, take-away food joint, or restaurant; most of which have been refurbished within the past 10-years.

Sadly, not one of these recently refurbished eateries is fully accessible. Some can be accessed from the street; but once inside the toilets are invariably down stairs or upstairs. One, which is actually the oldest in the road, a well-known Spanish tapas restaurant frequented by the spooks down the road in MI5, has its toilet on the second floor.

One of the many inaccessible Portuguese eateries in South Lambeth Road

This isn't a small place; no, it seats in excess of 100 people. The front, tapas bar, area seats about 30; and, the back which opens into a large restaurant-style space can accommodate at least another 70+.    

At my local CLP last week, there were a number of Portuguese speaking guests. Seems as though my branch of the Labour Party is finally doing something to connect with the massive Portuguese speaking community in our part of Lambeth.

When I arrived, a well-spoken woman from this group was holding forth on things Lusofonia. Five minutes later, and she was still telling us of the benefits of Portugal and things Portuguese.

Feeling a bit mischievous, and quite bored too, I chipped in with a facetious remark about the area being endowed with a statue of an historical Portuguese rosy loving monarch. Back in February when minds were focused fixedly on the cuts, one of our ‘cutting’ councillors posted a story about the erection of a statue of the tea-loving queen, Catherine of Braganza, in the middle of Little Portugal. I responded on his blog criticising him for running such a soft story when there were a-hundred-and-one cuts issues on the lips of concerned residents of Lambeth.

Anyway, the woman bit on my dig welcoming the statue; and, I was then able to make the point about all the, relatively, new and newly refurbished eateries in South Lambeth Road that were inaccessible to me and other disabled people.

At this point, another of Lusofonia group began remonstrating with me. Apparently, he actually ran such a place in the road I’d pointed out; and, he assured me he had followed every regulation to the letter. Turns out, I knew the gaff to which he was referring. His cafe is two units knocked into one; and I’d say at a guess it could accommodate about 100 people.

The toilets are down a flight of twelve stairs. There is a 10” step up into the cafe. This I know because I used to use the place some years ago.

On the way out of the meeting one of my councillors, the one who doesn’t appear to be looking for office, collared me and suggested I gave her a list of inaccessible eateries in SL Road. Be interesting to see what comes out of injudicious approach to cross community dialogue.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Birmingham City Council care funding cuts unlawful

19 May 2011
Birmingham City Council acted unlawfully over a decision to reduce its provision of care for disabled people, High Court judges have said.The judgement has implications for local authorities in England and Wales.Thursday's ruling said local councils must abide by existing disability laws to eliminate discrimination.It said councils must take account of people's disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than others.'Climate of cuts'Across the UK there are 122 councils, as well as Birmingham, that currently only provide care to people with either substantial or critical care needs.The judges said all public bodies had a duty to follow the disability discrimination law, while acknowledging that placed "significant and onerous" obligations on local authorities.

Nick TriggleHealth correspondent, BBC News

The social care system is creaking at the seams. A combination of the ageing population and squeeze on spending means Birmingham is not alone in needing to make cuts.One of the easiest ways for councils to do this is to raise the eligibility threshold at which people are entitled to help. There are four levels of need - low, moderate, substantial and critical.Most councils are already at substantial - 116 out of 150 to be precise - leaving them with only one option - restricting support to only those with the severest need.This, of course, excludes many people who have for years been relying on social services and raises the question whether their rights have been infringed.Many believe this judgement tips the balance back towards the individual by suggesting that councils can no longer take it for granted that they can keep on cutting back on social care - a statutory service after all - just because money is tight.The families of four severely disabled people fought Birmingham council's spending cuts decision and took legal action against the authority.Solicitor Karen Ashton represented the families and welcomed the High Court ruling in London saying it gave disabled people a voice in law.

'No new money'

She said the council's proposed policy would have had "devastating" results."With consequences of this kind, then councils must look if savings can be made elsewhere," she added.Birmingham City Council said it welcomed the greater clarity of its duties with regard to theDisability Discrimination Act 2005.Peter Hay, the council's strategic director of adults and communities, said: "The original dilemma between reducing services in different areas remains."There is no new money as a result of the judgement and hard choices about meeting growing needs with fewer resources will have to be made by local authorities."The Conservative-Liberal Democrat run authority had proposed the cuts as part of a plan to save £212m.In April a court sitting in Birmingham made an interim judgement that the council had acted unlawfully and this latest ruling is the full finding.

'Strong message'

In a statement Unison said: "The council should rightly be condemned for defending the indefensible. Thousands of vulnerable people in the city would have been put at risk if it were not for the intervention of the courts."Deafblind charity Sense said the ruling should be a warning to all authorities.Click to plaIts head of legal services Kari Gerstheimer said other councils in England and Wales may be considering making similar cuts to social care."We hope that this judgement sends a very strong message to those councils, that we are in a climate of cuts."But even in a climate of cuts there are choices to be made and a civilised society does not choose to cut services to people with the greatest need - that's disabled people."Previously the council said it had identified £118m worth of cuts by 2014-15 from its adult and communities directorate and needed to save £308m in total in the next four years due to the central government cuts outlined in the Spending Review.It said only people whose needs were judged to be "critical" would qualify for council-funded care. Following the Adult social care judicial reviewon Thursday, the council said it would revise its plans and re-run the public consultation.A council spokesman added: "It is important to point out that Mr Justice Walker has said that we were considerate and thoughtful of disabled people, in making our new offer, that our consultation was extensive but that it needed to be fully informed by impact assessment."

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

When a ex-Swappie called Richard Allday

When an ex-Swappie called Richard Allday

Said “I’m going to drive to Gaza one day”

McGovern said, for the craic,

“Go, but don’t come back!”

And, the rest of the committee cried Hooray!

A rather dour Scot, let us call him Ray

A rather dour Scot, let us call him Ray

Smelled revolution in the air every day

He’d introduce a Motion

Just to start a commotion

Thus, his antics made him a Lefty cliché.

When Gill George stood up to speak

When Gill George stood up to speak
From the chamber all hope would leak
As any subject of renown
Was very soon worn down
By her overbearing lecturing technique.

Chair Kelly presided with an iron hand

Chair Kelly presided with an iron hand

Bullshitters he immediately banned

From raising points of order

As a front for their disorder

Thus showing who was in command.

A Swappie called Pete had it all planned

A Swappie called Pete had it all planned

That whatever the topic up went his hand

He willingly took the risk

To query an errant asterisk

Which was more than the chair could stand!

A Unite member named Jerry Hicks

A Unite member named Jerry Hicks

Was a loner with no time for cliques

He thought unions were right

Not to talk but always to fight

And, thus started pointless conflicts.

An IT consultant named Beaumont

An IT consultant named Beaumont

Fancied himself quite the savant

And for terms consecutive

Tried for the Unite executive

But, winning was not his penchant.

A Barge Owner Named Dave

There was barge owner named Dave

Whose mission in live was to save

Unite’s democracy

From an autocracy

Where everyone’s McCluskey’s slave.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A quote by Jerry Hicks from Saturday’s GRL meeting in a broom cupboard at ULU:

A quote by Jerry Hicks from Saturday’s GRL meeting in a broom cupboard at ULU:

“Following a superb debate a proposition was put to the vote: "This meeting is in favour of setting up a Grass Roots Left organisation, currently operating in Unite but which can be extended to other appropriate unions." This was overwhelmingly agreed.

However, owing to the fact that there were many supporters who had wanted to be at the conference but were not able to attend, the meeting decided to:”

a) Send each absentee delegate a signed photo of Jerry;

b) Send each absentee delegate a signed photo of Jerry and a video of Jerry’s best hustings walk outs;

c) Send each absentee delegate a form to complete and return to Jerry explaining why they so cruelly built up his hopes only to send them crashing down by their absence.

Why I Missed 11 May 'Hardest Hit March'

My intentions were honest; but, the London traffic, and more annoyingly, my bladder, let me down today. Given that on a good day I can usually get over to the Victoria Embankment in around twenty minutes; leaving home at 10:50 am to get to the rallying point of the march seemed adequate.

10:30 took a whizz; in the car and off by 10:50, with 2.8 miles to travel. Piece of pie, I hear you say. Not so, rebuts I. Oh no; get to Nine Elms, and traffic is naughty, lots of the stuff, mostly impeding my efforts to get to where I’m hoping to get, on time...

At 11:35 we’ve remained static outside St Thomas’ Hospital for about twenty minutes; our position giving such an appearance of permanence that the road workers are nonchalantly weaving in and out of the traffic with fully laden wheelbarrows; even stopping for a tea break in the middle of the road – yes, they knew something we didn’t; they knew they controlled the temporary traffic lights.

Here I use ‘temporary’ in its loosest of senses. At least with temporary there is some promise of normalcy returning within a reasonable time frame. Not here, the wait was interminable.

By now my bladder is doing that thing it does when it wants emptying – getting on my bloody nerves! But, once it starts, my mind then becomes a slave to its needs; so I slavishly obey, and we’re forced to turn around to find a toilet. Within a couple of minutes we’re at Vauxhall; from here it’s as well I go home and use my own loo.

On the road again at 12:10, this time we take Vauxhall Bridge – those road workers won’t lure me into their ‘temporary traffic lights’ trap again! Now we’re doing well; past Millbank Tower (where I discover there is a cinema attached to the complex) we drive; and, suddenly the flow slows down. Here we go again, another traffic jam – seems there’s some kind of demo in the Westminster area (that’s what happens when democracy is extended to the masses – they clog up the roads with marches!’).

Being a bit slippery, as I’m wont to be, we slide down Horseferry Road, and I direct my PA to a shortcut; one that’ll take us around the demo bring us to the Methodist Central Hall, from here to Parliament Square, up Whitehall, do a right at Horse Guards, and Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt and we have kippers for tea – it’s great when a well-executed plan slips effortlessly into action.

Doing a deft bit of navigating around the back of streets, mostly famous for Tory Party leadership challenge intrigues, we come out into Great Smith Street – time now is 12:30. Should make the march in another 10 minutes, or so I reckon.

However, I wasn’t reckoning on another set of temporary (for temporary read perpetual) traffic lights way ahead of us at the top of Great Smith Street. Once again the forces of the mighty utility companies and nature were joined to thwart my plans. By 12:50, and only having inched an inch or three, my bladder, bless it, made its feelings known to me.

Now I’m totally pissed off – pun or no. Again, there are places to pee in the vicinity; but, disabled parking in Westminster’s as rare as a compassionate Tory. Sure, I could get dropped off; however, if I needed any help in the loo there’s no one to assist. The Blue Badge scheme is great; I can park up in a town in a country hundreds of miles from my home; a country whose language is a, foreign language to me; but, I’ll be able to use the Blue Badge scheme. I try to park less than two miles from my home and Westminster make life impossible.

If you’ve got this far, well done. You have great perseverance; and, if perseverance was featured in the WCA you’d be on JSA. Needless to say, I didn’t make the march today. For all those of you who battled and fought their way from around the country, I humbly thank you for your tenacity; and, I hope you will find it within your capacious hearts to forgive a crip with a weak bladder for not being able to get there from a distance of three miles.

Is Atos Penalised for the Large Amount of Errors it makes in its WCA Assessments?

Given the number of successful appeals against Atos assessments for ESA is quite large; is Atos penalised in any way for the errors its assessors make during medical assessments for migration between Incapacity Benefit and ESA, or if unlucky, JSA.

If a building company made errors on the scale that Atos is making them they’d be subject to penalty clauses. Similarly, when we in the workplace mess up we’re, usually, disciplined in some way.

The Tories have for decades promoted private industry over the public sector. The disciplines of the market, we’re informed, ensure that the private sector is more efficient than its over indulged cousin, the public sector. Therefore, it is more economically advantageous for us to use private sector contractors, such as Atos, to carry out DWP medical assessments.

This is the same argument the Tories made when privatising our railways in 1993. Under private management we’d get a cheaper and more efficient service. Nearly twenty years later the privatised railways cost us more than under the old British Rail management – obviously, taking into account cost of living rises in the intervening years. The UK’s privatised rail system is also the most expensive in Europe.

Is it any surprise then that companies such as Atos bid tenaciously for government contracts? Where else, apart from the finance sector, can you expect to be rewarded for failure on such a massive scale?

Why aren’t the readers of the Heil and Telegraph dipping their pens into their wells of poison and scratching vicious letters off complaining about the millions of pounds that Atos is costing the DWP in appeals against their shoddy assessing.

Newspapers correct incapacity benefit claims after Full Fact complaint

Several newspapers, the Heil, Telegraph, and Sun, have, after much pressure, from Fullfact.com, finally admitted they ran erroneous articles relating to the numbers of IB claimants who failed the WCAs, and were thus deemed fit for work. The papers in question have agreed to print corrections.

Next stop the DWP. Much of the misreporting around the migration from IB to ESA or JSA via the WCAs was taken from DWP’s briefings. This in turn has led to lazy journalism. Newspapers appear to have forgotten what the role of a reporter is. It isn’t to take the word of an individual or government department.

No, such information should serve only as a source of information from which the reporter then goes and investigates. It’s called researching the story. In my trade union activities I get to talk to NUJ members. They are not happy with their colleagues in the Heil, Sun etc, nor indeed local newspapers, blithely returning copy that is little more than propaganda put out by government departments.

The media, including the press, is not there to serve governments. Quite the opposite in fact, they’re there to inform the public of, amongst other things, the excesses of government. Sadly too many of our newspapers are doing the governments bidding; acting as propaganda machines helping to drive forward draconian legislation.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011



Look out for the camera

The government spy

Perched up high

The telltale eye.

Look out for the snitch

Whose curtain will twitch

As surreptitiously

And, viciously

They call the grass line.

Look out for the hack

From the Daily Heil

He’ll lie and dissemble

And, his copy

Won’t resemble

Your truth.

Look out for ATOS

Who may profess

To be fair

Yet will assess

You fit for work

Though you’re dying.

Look out for the MP

Who’s after your vote

He’ll promise

You heaven,

To float your boat;

For just one more term

The treacherous worm!

No Such Thing as a Lousy Job!

Funny thing work. Some would have it there’s no such thing as a bad job; especially if you’re a disabled person who feels worthless if not working. When someone tells you they feel suicidal because they can’t get work; and, by not working they consider themselves of less value to society than someone in employment, I begin to reconsider my views on lousy jobs.

Fortunately, the person of whom I’m speaking is receiving medical guidance for his condition – but sadly no prospects of work. Because, as a union rep I’m not qualified to deal with my members’ mental health issues – only offer an ear and signposts, where I can.

Disabled people who can work are all too often poorly qualified for ‘decent’ jobs. Some are failed by the education system; others who acquire disability in adulthood and later life find their previous qualifications and skills inadequate for the type of jobs are able now to tackle.

That disabled people are dependent on third parties to seek out their employment is of course problematic. The third party ‘job placer’, while needing to match work seekers to jobs with a degree of interest and security, still has a different motivation to the person seeking employment.

The ideal we must strive towards is that where the disabled job seekers chances of getting the job fall solely on their qualification to do the job. Once this is determined any exterior factors, such as reasonable adjustments should be considered. Sure, this is an aspiration; and like all aspirations will be subject to doubters and opponents; but, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t press for a better future.

Job providers should be paid entirely by outcomes


My ‘Google Alert’ usually throws up mundane stuff of no interest to me; so much so that recently I during a blitz on unwanted emails I almost ‘unsubscribed’ from this service – glad I didn’t.

The story it brought me today is interesting and, possibly, a positive for disabled people seeking employment. As many of us are aware the current programmes the government has put in place to assist disabled people into employment are not working.

Remploy’s Work Programme, for instance, operates a revolving door approach to placing disabled people into jobs. When Remploy boasts it has secured jobs for 6,500 people 2007/8, this doesn’t mean that they found gainful employment for 6,500 individuals; no, it means they achieved 6,500 placements. Some of the placements would involve the same person more than once.

A US scheme pioneered by ‘America Works’ has come up with a method that eliminates the Remploy double count system. While I’m sceptical of most employment related ideas that cross the pond; this one at least makes the ‘job provider’ work for their money.

Rather than the government paying a company like Remploy on performance, an upfront payment for finding somebody a job; the ‘America Works’ system is reliant on employment longevity. Whereas Remploy is paid the full amount even if the job seeker only lasts a few months, AW is paid in increments stepped from 30 to 180 weeks!

By today’s employment expectations a job that lasts for almost 3½ years is quite rare. Because the scheme has succeeded in the US doesn’t mean it will have a successful transition here; however, anything that is based on results rather than the in-out-in-out-in-out Remploy model of securing employment for disabled people is worth investigating.

Monday, 9 May 2011

PIP Fact Sheet: Courtesy of 'Disability Alliance'

Personal Independence Payment

This factsheet gives a basic introduction to the proposed personal independence payment (PIP). It is based on what we know so far and will be updated as we get more information.

You can find out detailed information about the current benefit system in Disability Alliance's Disability Rights Handbook, available to buy at www.disabilityalliance.org/drh36.htm

All our publications are available at www.disabilityalliance.org/shop.htm. You can also place an order by contacting Disability Alliance on 020 7247 8776 (this is not an advice line) or by fax on 020 7247 8765. All our factsheets are available at www.disabilityalliance.org/fact.htm.

What is PIP?

The personal independence payment (PIP) replaces working age disability living allowance (DLA) from 2013-14.

Part 4 of the Welfare Reform Bill 2011 currently going through Parliament contains proposals to introduce PIP.

What are the rules?

To get the personal independence payment you must:

· be age 16-65

· satisfy the daily living and/or mobility activities test for 6 months prior to claiming and to be likely to continue to satisfy this test for a period of at least 6 months after claiming.

As yet there are no plans to extend PIP to children under 16 or claimants who are over 65. However migration from DLA may apply to these groups at a later date.

Draft regulations on the daily living and mobility activities test have now been published.

How much is PIP?

Personal Independence Payment will have two components:

· daily living component

· mobility component

Each component has two rates.

· daily living component standard rate – If the person’s ability to carry out daily living activities is limited by the person’s physical or mental condition; and the person meets the required period condition.

· daily living component enhanced rate – if the person’s ability to carry out daily living activities is severely limited by the person’s physical or mental condition; and the person meets the required period condition.

· mobility component standard rate – if the person is of or over the age prescribed for the purposes of this subsection; the person’s ability to carry out mobility activities is limited by the person’s physical or mental condition; and the person meets the required period condition.

· mobility component enhanced rate - if the person is of or over the age prescribed for the purposes of this subsection; the person’s ability to carry out mobility activities is severely limited by the person’s physical or mental condition; and the person meets the required period condition.

As yet the amounts for these rates have not been set.

People with a terminal illness (same definition as for DLA) will automatically receive the daily living component enhanced rate and will not have to satisfy the period condition for the mobility component.

People in care homes, hospitals or prison will not receive PIP.

The Activities tests

In order to qualify for any component of PIP you will have score points in relation to certain activities.

The activities for daily living are:

1. planning and buying food

2. preparing and cooking food

3. taking nutrition

4. managing medication and monitoring health conditions

5. managing prescribed treatment other than medication

6. washing, bathing and grooming

7. toileting and managing incontinence

8. dressing and undressing

9. communicating with others

The mobility activities are:

1. planning and following a journey

2. moving around

As yet we do not know the points awarded for each task within these activities or how many points are required to satisfy a particular component.

Daily Living Activities

1. Planning and buying food and drink.

a. Can plan and buy food and drink unaided.

b. Can buy food and drink only with continual prompting.

c. Can plan food and drink only with continual prompting.

d. Can plan food and drink only with continual assistance.

2. Preparing and cooking.

a. Can prepare and cook a simple meal unaided.

b. Can prepare and cook a simple meal only with the use of an aid or appliance.

c. Can prepare and cook a simple meal only with continual prompting.

d. Can cook a simple meal using a conventional cooker only with continual assistance.

e. Can prepare a simple meal for cooking only with continual assistance.

f. Can cook a simple meal using a microwave only with continual assistance.

g. Can prepare a simple snack only with continual assistance.

3. Taking nutrition.

a. Can take nutrition unaided.

b. Can take nutrition only with the use of an aid or appliance.

c. Can take nutrition only with the use of a therapeutic source.

d. Can take nutrition only with intermittent assistance or prompting.

e. Can take nutrition only with the use of a therapeutic source and with intermittent assistance.

f. Can take nutrition only with continual assistance.

4. Managing medication and monitoring health conditions.

a. Does not receive medication or need to monitor a health condition; or can manage medication and monitor a health condition unaided or with the use of an aid or appliance.

b. Less than once a day requires continual assistance or prompting to manage medication or monitor a health condition.

c. Once a day, requires continual assistance or prompting to manage medication or monitor a health condition.

d. Twice a day, requires continual assistance or prompting to manage medication or monitor a health condition.

e. At least three times a day, requires continual assistance or prompting to manage medication or monitor a health condition.

5. Managing prescribed therapies other than medication.

a. Either is not prescribed therapies or can manage prescribed therapies unaided or with the use of an aid or appliance.

b. Where prescribed therapies are required for up to 3.5 hours a week can manage only with intermittent assistance.

c. Where prescribed therapies are required for between 3.5 and 7 hours a week, can manage only with intermittent assistance.

d. Where prescribed therapies are required for between 7 and 14 hours a week, can manage only with intermittent assistance.

e. Where prescribed therapies are required for at least 14 hours a week, can manage only with intermittent assistance.

6. Washing, bathing and grooming.

a. Can wash, bathe and groom unaided.

b. Can bathe unaided but can groom only with the use of an aid or appliance.

c. Can bathe unaided but can groom only with continual assistance from another person.

d. Can wash unaided but can bathe only with the use of an aid or appliance.

e. Can wash unaided but can bathe only with continual prompting.

f. Can wash unaided but can bathe only with continual assistance.

g. Can wash, bathe and groom only with continual assistance.

7. Managing Toilet needs or incontinence.

a. Can manage toilet needs or incontinence unaided.

b. Can manage toilet needs or incontinence only with the use of an aid or appliance.

c. Can manage toilet needs only with continual assistance.

d. Can manage incontinence of either bladder or bowel only with continual assistance.

e. Can manage incontinence of both bladder and bowel only with continual assistance.

8. Dressing and undressing.

a. Can dress and undress unaided.

b. Can dress and undress only with the use of an aid or appliance.

c. Can dress and undress unaided but can only select clothing appropriate for the environment or dress in the correct order with intermittentprompting.

d. Can dress and undress lower body only with intermittent assistance.

e. Can dress and undress unaided but cannot determine appropriate circumstances for remaining clothed.

f. Can dress and undress upper body only with intermittent assistance.

g. Can dress and undress only with continual assistance.

9. Communicating with others.

a. Can communicate with others unaided.

b. Can communicate only with communication support.

c. Cannot, even with communication support, understand or convey a choice to an unfamiliar person.

d. Cannot engage socially with other people due to such engagement causing either-

(i) overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant; or

(ii) the claimant to exhibit uncontrollable episodes of behaviour that would result in substantial risk of significant distress to either the claimant or another person.

e. Cannot, even with communication support, understand or convey choice to a familiar person.

f. Cannot, even with communication support, understand a simple verbal or non-verbal instruction or warning from another person.

g. Cannot, even with communication support, convey a basic need by either verbal or non-verbal means.

Mobility Activities

1. Planning and following a journey.

a. Can plan and follow a complex journey unaided.

b. Cannot follow any journey alone due to such a journey causing overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.

c. Can follow a complex journey only–

(i) if the journey has been planned by another person; or

(ii) with the continual prompting or intermittent assistance.

d. Cannot follow any journey due to such a journey causing overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.

e. Can follow a simple journey only -

(i) if the journey has been planned by another person; or

(ii) with the continual prompting or intermittent assistance.

2. Moving around.

a. Can move at least 200 metres unaided or with the use of a manual aid.

b. Can move at least 50 metres but not more than 200 metres either unaided or with the use of a manual aid.

c. Can move up to 50 metres unaided.

d. Can move up to 50 metres only with the use of a manual aid.

e. Can move up to 50 metres only with the use of a manual wheelchair propelled by the claimant.

f. Can move up to 50 metres only with the use of an assisted aid.

g. Cannot either–

(i) move around at all or

(ii) transfer from one seated position to an adjacent one unaided.

What the rules mean

aid or appliance - a device to improve either a physical or mental function or both. It includes a prosthesis but does not include an aid or appliance ordinarily used by a person without a physical or mental condition which limits that person’s ability to carry out daily living or mobility activities;

assistance - physical intervention by another person

assisted aid - a wheelchair propelled by another person or an aid or appliance propelled by a motor;

bathe - take a bath or a shower;

buy -

(a) determine how much money is required to purchase food and drink

(b) assess the availability of the money referred to in (a) and

(c) purchase online, by telephone or in a shop

continual - throughout the entire duration of the activity;

cook - heat food at or above waist height

communicate - convey and understand information in the claimant’s native language

communication support -

(a) support from a person trained to communicate with people with limited communication abilities: or

(b) use of an aid or appliance

complex journey - a journey:

(a) which involves more than one mode of transport; or

(b) to an unfamiliar destination

groom -

(a) comb or brush one’s hair

(b) wash one’s hair; and

(c) clean one’s teeth, above a level of self-neglect

intermittent - for at least half the duration of the activity

level of self-neglect - a level that is considered socially unacceptable

manage incontinence - manage evacuation of the bowel or bladder including using a collecting device or self-catheterisation but not clean after evacuation

manage medication - take medication at the time advised by a healthcare professional

manual aid - an aid or appliance other than a wheelchair or an aid or appliance propelled by a motor.

medication - prescribed medication

mode of transport - includes walking

monitor a health condition -

(a) detect significant changes in a health condition; and

(b) take action advised by a healthcare professional,
without which the health condition is likely to deteriorate significantly

plan - in the context of food, means determine what food and drink the claimant reasonably requires and, where the claimant’s physical or mental condition requires a specific diet, determine what food and drink is required for that diet

prepare - in the context of food, means the activities required to make food ready for cooking or eating

prescribed therapies - therapies prescribed by a healthcare professional to be carried out at home.

prompt - remind or encourage and references to prompting are to prompting by another person

simple journey - a journey:

(a) which involves only one mode of transport; or

(b) to a familiar destination

simple meal - means a cooked, one course meal for one using fresh or frozen ingredients

snack - an uncooked meal using fresh or pre-prepared ingredients

take nutrition -

(a) cut food into pieces

(b) convey food or drink to one’s mouth; and

(c) chew and swallow food or drink; or

(d) take nutrition by using a therapeutic source

therapeutic source - means parental or enteral tube feeding using a rate limiting device such as a feed pump;

toilet needs -

(a) get on and off the toilet; and

(b) clean oneself after using the toilet; and

unaided - means without:

(a) the use of an aid or appliance; or

(b) assistance or prompting

wash - means clean one’s face, hands and underarms above a level of self-neglect.

Where can I get more help or information?

You can view draft regulations for PIP on the DWP website at http://tinyurl.com/67a88qp.

You can view information on the Welfare Reform Bill at www.disabilityalliance.org/welfarereformbill.htm.

9 May 2011

Disability Alliance