Saturday, 30 July 2011

A spin on a familiar theme appeared on 'Ouch too' a disability forum I visit. Once again the Nazi slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is superimposed, gates and all, to frame Nick Clegg outside 10 Downing Street.
Is this reaction helpful?

Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies was originally put forward as a tongue-in-cheek observation on the nature of Internet discourse. While I don't believe using the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' slogan to make a political point against government policy is necessarily trivialising the suffering and deaths of the victims of Nazism, we are in danger of confusing two different issues.

Whatever my views of the Tories I cannot, at this point in time, compare their draconian, even vicious, policies to that of the Nazis Third Reich, 1933-45. The Nazis set out not to cow racial Untermenschen or political and social 'undesirables'; no, they set out a complex and universal programme of extermination of these groups.

Capitalism, and more especially its neo-liberalist form, is a flawed economic and social movement. Recent social and economic events highlight the incompatibility between the needs of the many and narrow interest of the few, between neo-lib capitalism and the welfare state. Of this I'm certain.

Yes, capitalism and its goals do militate against the poor and those less able to fend for themselves economically. As such their policies are cruel and heartless; they'll also serve to impoverish many people, who through no fault of their own find themselves defenceless against many of the vagaries life throws at them.

People will suffer unnecessarily for the sake of private greed. Some people will die as a direct result of cuts made to medical and care provision. And yes, we can point the accusatory fingers in the direction of government and condemn their ideology. However, what our government is doing and the planned atrocities carried out by the Nazis cannot be measured with the same yardstick.

Recent events in Norway and the menace of the EDL in this country are truer comparisons to the Nazi way of thinking. For years I have cautioned some of my Comrades on the Left on the problems of labelling all opponents as 'Nazis' and 'Fascists'. Once we've dressed all our opponents in jackboots and death's head badges, what happens when the real Nazis come along?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bladder and Bowel Problems

As someone with a neurogenic bladder and bowel problems, the latter largely due to inactivity - though I have some walking capability (albeit short distances in extreme pain and discomfort) I use a wheelchair for all activities outside of my home, which is not wheelchair accessible - I've been told suppositories would excite my bowel into greater activity.

My PAs/carers are both reluctant to insert things into my body. They, correctly tell me that such a task falls under medical care, an area that neither are qualified in. My bladder and bowel nurse agrees, and has come up with a possible solution to my problem; namely, she has suggested a digital bowel stimulator and a rectal suppository inserter. It sounds a bit S&M to me; but hey, I've got an open mind.

Does anyone out there have any experience of rectal suppository inserters and digital bowel stimulators? My BB nurse has suggested these pieces of equipment may be necessary in order to facilitate the insertion of suppositories.

Digital bowel stimulator and a rectal suppository inserter

I'd be grateful if anyone does use these pieces of equipment to know whether they were procured through a prescription or through an OT. There is some debate going on within the NHS as to whether such equipment can be classed as a prescription item. Currently the NHS is classing them as equipment that does not qualify as a prescription item. However, I'd say the inserter, as a delivery system, would have the same status as a syringe, which can be obtained through a prescription.

To Laugh or not to Laugh...

To laugh, or not to laugh...

'Oops. Did I say fit? - What I meant was chronic arthritic unable to walk without crutches

Today's Daily Hate cartoon. Given another newspaper or setting I would have found the humour in the above cartoon. However, given the Daily Heil's history of demonizing disabled people, their vicious propaganda against us, I now just look for the hidden agenda in anything that rag prints.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Government's Lack of Commitment to Disabled Job Seekers

The government's entire policy on getting disabled people into employment is crazed with fracture lines. The policy is ideologically driven to take as many people off Incapacity Benefit and Income Support and migrate them to a 'cheaper' benefit, Job Seekers' Allowance.

This is being carried out during a period of high unemployment, with a slump in the economy which has all the indications of sliding into a double-dip recession. To make things worse, the sector which has the best protections for disabled people and was traditionally more able to absorb larger numbers of us, the public sector, is currently haemorrhaging jobs. Thus, this avenue of employment opportunity is fast becoming clogged.

Access to Work, a scheme providing disabled people the means to go to work over and above what are deemed as reasonable adjustments is under threat. Access to Work has been taken out of many Ministerial Government Departments, again diminishing disabled job opportunities in the public sector; not satisfied with this the government has taken scores of items previously available under AtoW from the scheme. This will effectively mean less disabled people getting into paid work.

Currently there are something like 5 job hunters going after every job. Does anyone realistically expect disabled people to get a look-in; we are in the middle of an employers' market. Why would an employer choose a disabled person, someone who has possibly spent the past few years scrounging off the state while cheating the benefits' system, when they can cherry pick from the hundreds of thousands of recently laid-off workers.

The greatest failing, in many ways, of this government is their inability to secure a decent contract with ATOS. Currently ATOS only do part of the job, and that badly, with the Work Capability Assessments. Rather than have healthcare workers simply signing people fit for work, and job done. Why isn't the process more holistic.

Anyone, so it seems, can sit down at a computer and deem someone fit or 'unfit' for work. While this information has some importance, it doesn't go anywhere near to solving the problem of, where someone is fit to do some kind of work...what kind of work...and where is the work.

What is needed are healthcare assessors with occupational medicine expertise. People who have worked within industry, commerce, services, etc in an occupational health capacity.

Their job wouldn't just be to make an assessment and move on. They'd be part of a bigger picture that also involved disability employment advisors. Together they would assess for a) someone's capacity to work, b) the kind of hours realistically achievable, c) the areas of employment suitable, d) the kind of work for which someone is qualified, and, e) training potential.

If this could be achieved then we'd only have the entrenched attitudes of employers to get around; that, and get the economy on an even keel that would allow for the levelling out of the playing field.

13 Years on and Still Governments Hide Behind the Freedom of the Press

As early as 1998 I wrote to Alistair Darling asking him why, despite the Benefits Integrity Project's abject failure to weed out the legions of disabled benefits' cheats infesting the economy, he, and his government, were in tacit agreement with the scum press and shite-end of TV documentary makers in their hounding of disabled people.

Darling's response, or that from his researcher, brushed me off with some freedom of the press guff; and, the media, especially the print side, carried on with their propaganda to the point where disabled people are today roundly demonised within society.

Fast forward to 2011. Disability hate crime and harassment is rife. The Scum and Daily Hate have made disabled bashing an accepted form of sport. Chris Grayling when challenged on the misrepresentation of benefits' fraud and the tie-in with disabled people blurts out "I do not control the editorial approach of the tabloids, and sometimes stories run in ways that completely bemuse me and are certainly beyond any expectations." 

No Pontius, off course you or indeed any government minister should not interfere with the freedom of the press. No, but you should protest in the strongest terms when the press take your figures and conflate them and through processes of aggregation use them as propaganda against people, the overwhelming majority of whom have done no wrong other than being disabled.

One of the duties of a free press is to hold the government of the day to account; to inform the public of what those who governing us are doing. They should keep the public informed, in an objective and accessible way, of the news as it happens, not as they choose to fashion it.

Freedom of the Press Cuts both Ways

As early as 1998 I wrote to Alistair Darling asking him why, despite the Benefits Integrity Project's abject failure to weed out the legions of disabled benefits' cheats infesting the economy, he, and his government, were in tacit agreement with the scum press and shite-end of TV documentary makers in their hounding of disabled people.


Darling's response, or that from his researcher, brushed me off with some freedom of the press guff; and, the media, especially the print side, carried on with their propaganda to the point where disabled people are today roundly demonised within society.


Fast forward to 2011. Disability hate crime and harassment is rife. The Scum and Daily Hate have made disabled bashing an accepted form of sport. Chris Grayling when challenged on the misrepresentation of benefits' fraud and the tie-in with disabled people blurts out "I do not control the editorial approach of the tabloids, and sometimes stories run in ways that completely bemuse me and are certainly beyond any expectations." 


No Pontius, off course you or indeed any government minister should not interfere with the freedom of the press. No, but you should protest in the strongest terms when the press take your figures and conflate them and through processes of aggregation use them as propaganda against people, the overwhelming majority of whom have done no wrong other than being disabled.


One of the duties of a free press is to hold the government of the day to account; to inform the public of what those who governing us are doing. They should keep the public informed, in an objective and accessible way, of the news as it happens, not as they choose to fashion it.

"How can the newer NHS hospitals compete?"

"How can the newer NHS hospitals compete?" someone asked on a website forum.

How indeed; but, more to the point, why are we even considering competition when it comes to the provision of medical treatment and care. Health, education, social services, why the hell are we still striving for competition in these areas of social welfare.

It's bad enough trying to run areas such as public transport competitively. They told us the old British Rail system was inefficient, too costly to the public. So, they smashed the system to smithereens, all in the name of efficient competition, and sold it to be privately run. 15-years ago the publicly run rail system cost the country £1B to run; today that figure has risen fivefold to an incredible £5B! Fares in the UK are also the highest in Europe.

That's competition for you.

Forcing hospitals to compete with one and other for patients is obscene. When a hospital fails to successfully compete they attract financial penalties. How on earth can a hospital, invariably in a poor and deprived area, be expected to compete after it's lost some of its funding to fines for not being competitive enough!

What next; bombing countries for peace?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'You Sold the Cushion?'

Sensitivity and services can sometimes be very distant relatives. About two weeks ago I didn't make it to the loo on time and my wheelchair cushion took another unwanted drenching. Alas, despite washing and airing the cushion I couldn't shift the smell and the cushion material was beginning to disintegrate.

Knowing the prices of wheelchair cushions I contacted the wheelchair centre eleven days ago, explained my situation and was told they'd order me a new cushion. Today I got back in touch to check the progress of the cushion and was told that because it's been three years since my last consultation my case was being referred to a wheelchair OT.

"Ok, but I've been without a cushion for almost two weeks; any idea how long I'll have to wait for the referral?" I wondered.

"What happened to your cushion?" asked the wheelchair centre receptionist - I had explained this the first time and a record had been made.

"You have it on my file" I stated.

"Yes, but why can't you use your cushion until you see the OT?" persisted the receptionist.
By now I'm pissed off and beginning to get embarrassed. "Because I soiled the cushion!" I cried in desperation.

"You SOLD the cushion? Why did you sell the cushion?" asked the incredulous health worker.

"Not SOLD. I SOILED myself...peed myself. Satisfied now that I've managed to strip myself of any vestige of dignity I may have possessed up until five minutes ago..."

"Sorry, I thought it a bit odd that you'd sell your cushion!" replied this paragon of sensitivity. 

Monday, 25 July 2011

Motability and Personal Independence Payments (PIP)

Where does Motability stand on the reform of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP)? Motability has in excess of half-a-million customers, all of whom currently receive the Mobility component of DLA or the equivalent for ex-service personnel - Motability users usually have awards of a three-year duration or longer.

The government's proposals to cut 20% of claimants from the benefit has massive implications for Motability - if the migrations from DLA to PIP go the same way of Incapacity Benefit (IB) to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) the figure could be greater than 20%.

A 20%+ loss of business would be damaging for both Motability and its remaining users. Doubtlessly, such losses would drive up the prices for users. The 'no advance payment' option may well be abandoned; with higher advance payments being charged.

As 'life' and 'indefinite awards' of benefit are being phased out, this suggests more frequent testing and reviewing of claimants. If people are tested on a yearly basis how will Motability deal with its leasing periods; would it be feasible to award one-year leases - I doubt it.

Potentially disabled people have a strong ally in Motability. Should we be reaching out to this organisation to join ranks with us against this government's draconian policy?

Chris Grayling's Weasel Words are Disingenuous

"I do not control the editorial approach of the tabloids, and sometimes stories run in ways that completely bemuse me and are certainly beyond any expectations." So blurts Chris Grayling Tory Employment Minister in Sunday's Observer.

And nor should politicians control the editorial approach of tabloids; just as newspaper barons should not control the policy of political parties.

But then, nobody is asking Grayling or Duncan-Smith to control or dictate the editorial running of newspapers. No, what we expect politicians to do is to protect the interests of all its citizens. In relation to newspapers, I expect politicians to counter untruths or distortions against groups within society.

There is a great difference between an MP or Minister in the know dispelling a piece of sensationalist journalism and interfering with the freedom of the press. They'd be quick to defend themselves against scurrilous and distorted reporting. Isn't it only right and proper that they also defend the people they're charged to govern with the same degree of self-interest! 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

'Welfare to Work policy casts the disabled as cheats'

Broadly, I'm in agreement with most of what is reported in today's Observer piece,  'Welfare to Work policy 'casts the disabled as cheats'. However, a couple of statements in the piece make me feel uneasy, and a little disappointed in the reporting. For instance, this:

"The government's flagship Welfare to Work policy is inciting hatred and violence towards the disabled by portraying them as cheats and benefits scroungers, an alliance of charities has warned."

To reinforce this, the reporter should have backed it up with a case or two. This shouldn't be too difficult with the amount of disability hate crime currently being reported. 

"The government is feeding a negative attitude towards people with disabilities, which, the charities warn, will ultimately end in violence."

The first sentence tells us the government's Welfare to Work policy 'is inciting hatred and violence...' therefore the warning that negative attitudes 'will ultimately end in violence.' seems contradictory.

Where in the report are there instances of hatred or violence meted out to disabled people. The chief executive of a disability organisation stating that people are surprised that he, a wheelchair user, is in work is hardly damning. It serves to show people's ignorance rather than an incitement to hatred or violence.

Similarly, Scope's chair, Alice Maynard, another wheelchair user stated on the frequency of the negative reporting that: "I think in the end it ends up in violence."

While I don't doubt a causal link between the demonization of disabled benefits' users (and even non-benefits users)and hate crimes, the reporting of these links must be backed up by hard evidence.

We are constantly calling upon the scum press to get their stories straight, not to simply publish uncorroborated stories, thus feeding our demonization further. Since this is the case, it is imperative that the 'better' papers don't fall into the same lazy ways of the Scum and Daily Hate. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

RIP Amy Winehouse

The BBC Website News is reporting the death of Amy Winehouse. What a tragedy, dead at 27. According to her husband she's been on a 3-day drug binge and died in his arms after a series of fits and losing consciousness.

A rare talent, lost; broken on the wheel of self-indulgence; beaten by habits and addictions too strong for her to control?

Who knows the true Amy. What lay behind this, seeming, appointment with self-destruction. Whatever we think, she has gone. She is gone, but not forgotten, as her music will live after her.

Looking back, how prophetic 'Rehab' was. Janis Joplin springs to mind here. Janis, like Amy, died young, 27 too, and drugs were involved. In 'Turtle Blues' Janis sings these lines:

"Whoa, call me mean or call me evil 
I've been called much of some things, all things around, 
Yeah, but I'm gonna take good care of Janis, yeah,
Honey, ain't no one gonna dog me down.
Alright, yeah."

Janis couldn't take care of herself; and, Amy should have given rehab a chance.

As I sit here listening to Amy's 'Back to Black', I realise my tears still taste salty.


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Atos Comes Unstuck When The Playing Field Levels Out...

Atos is excusing the high amount of appeals going against them on the grounds that the appellants brought supporting medical evidence to the tribunals that they, Atos, were not privy to. The fact that much of the evidence was ignored by the Atos healthcare worker originally seems to be overlloked.

Brings to mind a scene from the 1985 Alan Bleasdale film 'No Surrender'. A blind ex boxer, togged-up as a boxer going to a fancy dress party is accosted in a underpass by a group of scallies. Almost within the blink of an eye our vision impaired party goer has given the scallies a bit of a hiding; skulking off with tails between legs the beaten bullies complain about the unfairness of the situation - they didn't know the blind ex-boxer was indeed an ex-boxer.

Where else in industry, commerce or business (bankers excepted) would such levels of failure be allowed to go unchallenged. If any of us failed in our workplaces to such a high degree we'd be sacked. As a union official I'd be hard-pressed to win a case against someone who regularly cost their employer the amounts that Atos healthcare workers cost us, the taxpayers.

The government is considering introducing financial penalties for claimants who make errors when filling in benefits' forms. Thus, an amateur fouls up and is penalised, while a professional gets it wrong and is still rewarded. Michael Moore's sums up this product of neo-liberal economic policy gone 'mad' in 'Capitalism a Love Story'. 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Educational Priorities

There are many things that should be compulsory in our schools; educating our children, for me, is the first. Back in 1997, a failed rock star became Prime Minister of the UK. Early in his tenure of office he famously invoked the mantra of 'Education, education, education' when setting out his priorities. Actually, as a failed rock star what he meant to say was 'Testing, testing, testing'.

Because, for the past thirty-some years our kids are not being educated they are being groomed to pass tests. Monkeys and lab rats can pass tests given the enough prompting and stimulus. All too often children are forced to cram for tests; the knowledge they pick up this way, unless utilised, becomes learning fodder. It is learned for the short-term gain of a test pass, and then it disposed of.

Unless what we learn is put into practical use it becomes, for the large part, useless. Learning to cook in schools is, sadly, probably one of those subjects that would prove pointless unless the student had an opportunity to go away and put it into practice.

From the age of 16 to some time in my mid-thirties I barely wrote anything. Postcards, forms, and crosswords were the only time I held and used a pen. In that time I forgot the rules of English, the written, and to some degree the spoken language. This occurred because I left the tools of language locked away and they rusted. This would have been the same with cooking, except it would appear I needed cooking more than the rules of grammar.

What we should be calling for in this country is a complete overhaul of the education system. Our education system is predicated on academia. Everything is driven towards university. Yet, not all children are academically inclined, or interested. What is wrong with having vocational education? Trades people don't necessarily need to be educated to degree level; chefs, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc benefit more from a vocational style education.

How Necessary is Cursive Writing?

The Express has reported that the US state of Indiana's Department of Education is advising its schools that pupils from the age of eight will no longer be obliged to be taught cursive writing.

Lordy, lord! You'd think they were inviting Hannibal Lector into schools to take charge of cookery classes. This decision is stealing childrens' individuality, they assert; as though text-communicating youngsters are all clone zombies.

One Midwest state opts to drop handwriting from its curriculum and everyone assumes it'll happen here next week. Had the state in question been California there might have been more cause for concern.

The idea that what happens in America today visits us some time in the future isn't completely true either. For instance, they have the death penalty, we don't; they are a republic, we aren't; they drive on the right, we on the left; their petrol is relatively cheap, ours is expensive; creationism is widespread across US Schools, it hardly registers here.

Newspapers deliver news. News is information passed down to us by third parties, sometimes with a self-interest, concerning events happening, usually, outside of our immediate range of experience. Because something is printed in a newspaper it doesn't automatically become a universal truth; these stories don't have some kind of divine right that gives them prophesy status.   

Going beyond the Express story it transpires that it is cursive script which is being dropped, not handwriting per se. Given the demise of the hand written letter, whether personal or official; given the idiosyncratic nature of some people's cursive hand, maybe this form of communication is something that could be taught as a specialist subject.

The only time I use cursive handwriting today is when I take notes, and that's only because I'm not using my laptop or notebook - oh, and my signature. Because we were forced to do all our handwriting cursively at school, this became the dominant form. For note-taking, the printed form of handwriting, especially in my case, would be more decipherable than the scrawl I produce when taking notes at meetings; yet, I am naturally inclined towards the cursive.

Apart from note-taking at meetings most other handwriting I do involves form filling; for which you're instructed to use block lettering (as this form of writing is, generally, more readable than a scrawled cursive hand).

So, worry not about the Express' piece of alarm raising. The truth is they're not overly convinced themselves, otherwise the headline wouldn't have read: 'The Writing's On The Wall'; no, it would have read: 'There's No Writing On The Wall!'

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Poorly Paid Care Agency Workers

Whether young or old the employment message these days is that there are no jobs for life and in order to progress, to work your way up the earnings ladder, you must continuously improve yourself, usually by gaining more qualifications - the better qualified the more marketable the greater potential for improved earnings.

Money, pay, is the determining indicator of value in the workplace. This wasn't always the case; but today we see workers in the public and voluntary sectors being forced to take pay cuts and having their, in many cases, pittance of pensions further eroded.

Given the hourly rates paid out by local authorities for PA/carers, it's fairly obvious this category of worker is poorly valued. My carers have not had a pay rise since April 2009; as such their hourly rates are now below the London Living Wage - a rate which even the arch-Tory Johnson is in agreement.

When people are valued so little, exactly what skills can we expect them to bring to the job? Should they be skilled cooks; do they need the table etiquette of a highly skilled, and probably equally financially rewarded, butler; can we expect them to be expert launderers?

Prior to receiving Direct Payments agency personnel carried out my care needs. For the most these were young foreign students, who, on the whole carried out their duties with care and respect to me as the client. As I recall over a 4-week period I had a turnover of about nine or ten different carers, the longest continuous period was ten days, followed by six and the rest a few days down to three in one day!

For the most part these workers were unfamiliar with English/British cuisine. It fell upon me to show them some very rudimentary dishes. Stews, casseroles, spag bol, chilli with rice, salads, etc for the two who stayed more than a day or two; pot luck for the others.

Let me give you an idea what these agency workers endured. They'd begin work at 8 am and sometimes finish at midnight. During that sixteen-hour period they may only have spent 8-hours with clients; they could have spent 3 or 4 hours travelling between clients in their own time; and, the rest of the time was unpaid.

Those studying tended to fill the 'idle' time between clients in university libraries or Internet cafes, when they could find such facilities; for others it was dead time - yet, they were effectively working a 16-hour day for 8-hours pay.

Who then should be responsible for ensuring these workers have the prerequisite skills to go into our homes and cook, clean and carry out our personal care needs. Is it the responsibility of the poorly paid and put-upon agency worker; or, is it the profit reaping agency? We've not even looked at H&S training or CRB checks.

Blaming poorly paid and undertrained workers for not owning the skills and tools for the job is, in my view, grossly unfair and an easy way out. Agencies must share part of the blame for under-deliverance of these vital services; they enter the contracts knowing that after they've skimmed off their profit the remaining monies will only stretch to delivering the poorest of services. Governments and local authorities are also aware that quality care when farmed-out to the cheapest tender delivers a third-rate service. But, more than anything, we the end users, the ones whose diets and health are compromised; we're the ones who have to tolerate the lack of continuity that agency care delivers; and, we're the ones whose quality of life suffers as the result of couldn't-care-less-Tories determining what is best for us.  

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How not to Treat PAs/carers

Reading about a PA who can't cook brings to mind someone I knew that treated his PAs like skivvies. He'd only employ either very young and inexperienced people or new comers to this country who were unfamiliar as to their rights; and, did he take full advantage of this.

Anyone he took on was made to take up self-employment status. He paid them the bare minimum; and, expected them to be gardeners, painter decorators, builders, carpenters, motor mechanics, etc, etc. On one occasion I recall him getting a PA to carry out a disability access audit for a community centre - a job this 'friend' had been paid to do, but couldn't be bothered to finish!

There's taking the Mickey; and, then there's taking the piss. My 'friend' definitely favoured the latter; extracting as much as he could. Hardly surprising, I''m sure you'll agree, that his turnover of PAs/carers was phenomenal; pretty much keeps an advert running all the time in a local paper.

Goodbye to Ouch

Where were you when Ouch closed down?
I was busy on a course in Durham town
In the Raddison Blu right near to the Weir
Online waiting for Ouch to disappear.

At the ten-thirty tea-break we all dispersed
For elevenses coffee and a chocolatine;
And, I went onto Ouch expecting the worse,
Sobbing and everyone venting their spleen.

To my surprise everyone was composed
With smiles and dignity and fond goodbyes
Not at all angry at Ouch being closed
Though, I suspect there weren't many dry eyes.

Feeling a bit nostalgic I returned to the site
And, spookily wandering I felt like a ghost,
When all of a sudden to my great delight
I saw it was me who had made the last post!

Well, she's gone for good, our dear old Ouch
And, with her the prissiness and that old grouch
Rose, who can now roam his empty boards
Knowing he'll never win any Internet awards!

The Running Down of Remploy Factories

For reasons best known to themselves that at the upper echelons within Remploy have done little to exploit the opportunities afforded by 2006 Public Contracts Regulations (Regulation 7) -  restricting the tendering process for goods or services to supported businesses only. Supported businesses are defined as those where over 50% of employees are disabled.

Government guidance is that every public body should reserve at least one contract for supported businesses. In this way, public bodies can fulfil their social objectives in helping more disabled people into work.

The public contract regulations came in originally as an EU directive; and, the trade union side has been pressing the company to grab what should have been in effect a life-line. Except the company, for reasons unknown to us, allowed this god-send to pass them by.

While a handful of the 54 factories are running at a profit, the overwhelming majority are not. How exactly do you run at a profit when the kind of work you're the fourth or fifth sub-contractor down the line; when you've got people sitting around factories on idle-time; and, when you have a few hundred people from factories which closed down over three years ago being paid by Remploy for doing nothing - that's not a criticism of the Comrades who had their factories closed around them and decided to remain employed by Remploy on full pay and Ts&Cs.

An outsider looking at the Remploy scenario might be forgiven for wondering why the board had adopted a scorched earth policy for its own company -because, we on the trade union side have been wondering this for a number of years.

The idea that when the funding is withdrawn that at least fifty factories can somehow slough off their subsidy dependency and go it alone is risible. How insulting of Liz Sayce and this government to suggest that the Remploy workers suddenly gain the gift of entrepreneurship and run the factories as co-ops or social enterprises. These are factories denuded of contracts; in some instances factories that were forced to deskill some years ago as the company began its race for the bottom.

Co-ops and social enterprises are not the universal panacea for Remploy factories; not that is unless the government agrees to fund such schemes as they grow their order books. These kind of schemes can only work and succeed if there is work on the books.

Another suggestion by Liz Sayce is that Remploy factories could go into partnership with local businesses and local authorities. The private sector has, and is still, avoiding its duty to employ disabled people; why would it at a time when the economy is struggling take on a 'failed' Remploy factory.

Similarly, local authorities are taking funding away from their own supported employment schemes and closing them down; so, why would they then come into partnership with, and subsidise, a Remploy factory.

On the 13th May 2010 ex-Remploy workers from the York factory signed the documents under the Cooperative and Provident Societies Rules and the York Disabled Workers Cooperative Ltd was born in the GMB offices on Gillygate in York. Out of 51 people from the old Remploy York factory 5 are working in the new co-op.

Of course we support the York Co-op; and, we wish them success for the future. However, in these times of cutbacks and austerity will we be able to repeat another 54 Yorks?  Even if we did, we'd be lucky to secure jobs for 10% of the current factory workforce. What happens to the 90% who aren't successful. Does the government mean we should create 540 new businesses and introduce them into a shrinking economy; into a moribund economy already bristling with Big Society social enterprises and community projects competing for fast shrinking pots of public sector money.

We must fight to keep Remploy factories open. We ask the government to get rid of the current board of directors and put in their place people willing to make a go of Remploy. The government must ensure that Remploy 's books are filled with public contracts; that decent work is brought into the factories, work that reflects the skills of Remploy workers. Give Remploy workers good profitable work and they'll ensure that they can add value to the end product; and, given time they'll be able to reduce the subsidy.

Monday, 11 July 2011

What Price Dignity?

ILF can be applied for if you have a local authority care package of at least £320 per week. Unfortunately, the scheme closed its books to new claimants earlier this year; and, those currently in receipt of this resource have only until 2015 when funding stops - I've not heard of a replacement scheme coming into operation.

The borough in which I live has a set rate for overnight care, around £65 per night. Therefore, the annual bill for this portion of a care package would amount to around £23,660, plus additional statutory costs. 

To have turned down ILF one must assume that Elaine McDonald qualified for the resource. Given that ILF pays up to a maximum of £475 per week (this is for Group 2, people who've applied after April 1993) this would not have fully covered the costs of Ms McDonald's night care needs - add-ons such as Income Tax, NI and other costs would increase the amount.

This case interests me on a couple of levels. First of all there is the inhumane aspect of expecting people to lie in their own bladder or bowel waste for periods of time as high as 12 hours.

Second, I too have a neurogenic bladder, as a result of a head injury, that forces me out of bed sometimes five or six times a night; luckily I have a commode within a short lurch of my bed, though I've also fallen over and at times failed to reach the commode and peed myself. If I fall or pee myself I phone one or other of my PA/carers to come and help - but this means I have to renegotiate their hours for the rest of the week, or week after, in order that they don't exceed their contracted hours.

The commode was given to me instead of night cover I'd requested.

My BB (bladder and bowel) nurse is trying out a range of aids to assist me. My main problem is leakage and wetting myself because I'm not fleet enough of foot to get to the loo on time. So far self-catheterising has failed; also, a sheath with a bag attachment for night time use didn't work (I did as suggested, that is put the sheath under my pillows when I'd used it - two problems with that a.) my pillows stank of pee within a couple of days, and b.) the sheath fell down the back of the bed and stayed there until my PA/carer arrived the next morning.

My BB nurse, and earlier my Urologist, suggested a suprapubic catheter. This is a device surgically fitted which allows the self draining of the bladder. Whenever I can I keep away from intrusive surgery. My life has been one full of doctors prodding, feeling, injecting things and cutting into me; enough is enough, I've reached a stage in life that says 'leave my body alone!'

What the future holds for Elaine McDonald is uncertain, as it is for me. It is a safe bet though, that somewhere along the line the price we'll pay is first the surrender of our dignity followed by illnesses and disease brought about by urinary or faecal contamination.

Well, at least we now have the answer to 'What price dignity' the most £22,000, but I suspect there are people out their who have had theirs taken away for a lot less.

So What if Siemens and ATOS are Sister Companies

The loss of 1400 skilled jobs at Bombadier, Derby, and the Sieman's connection has far-reaching consequences for disabled people. The fact that Siemans is a partner of ATOS is immaterial; capitalist organisations merge and all forms of partnerships are formed. This is the nature of capitalism - merge or be merged.

I'd me more concerned about the fact that yet more skilled manufacturing jobs are to be lost because of the contract to build trains for use in this country is going abroad, and that our government is not protecting jobs in this country. As the unemployment queue grows, so the opportunities for disabled people to compete for jobs diminishes. 

Couple the demise of our manufacturing base with the, ever growing, closure of household high street shops; then add the hundreds of thousands of public sector joining, and soon to join, the unemployed; and, disabled people would be forgiven for despairing.

What chance do we have of finding decent jobs? Whereas once we could look to local authorities for employment; this source of employment is rapidly drying-up as the numbers of those employed in the sector drop; and, as departments see their budgets slashed, so they're less inclined to employ people whose employment requirements may cost them money.

The relationship between Siemans and ATOS is too me secondary to the British government not doing its job properly. The Germans and French would not allow such important domestic contracts to be awarded to another country; no, they would interpret EU completion rules to favour their domestic employment industries.

By all means attack ATOS; but, as disabled people we need to look at the bigger picture. Personally, on this issue I'll reserve my energies for fighting against job losses in this country rather than looking for links between capitalist concerns. So, let's all join in the fight to get the government to reverse its decision by awarding the contract to Bombadier. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Care Provision Case Lost

Yesterday’s Suopreme Court finding against a disabled woman’s right to overnight care provision will hit many of us adversely.

Elaine McDonald, a former dancer, had a stroke in 1999 which left her with reduced mobility. Miss McDonald, who has a care package from Kensington and Chelsea (K&C), is asking for over night care to assist with toileting; K&C is offering Miss McDonald incontinent pads and absorbent sheets to meet the need.

K&C maintain the pads and sheets are adequate; that this kind of provision reduces the chance of Miss McDonald hurting herself when using the commode. Oh, and it saves them some £22,000 per annum.

Miss McDonald, who isn’t incontinent, feels that using pads, which can mean the user lying in their own waste overnight, which she considers an “intolerable affront to her dignity”.

Lady Hale alone of the five supreme court justices allowed the appeal, however the other four didn’t, so the case was lost 4-1.

This scares me. On a few occasions I’ve been unable to get from my bed and use the commode; on these occasions I’ve had to remain in my soiled bed for several hours until my PA/carer arrives in the morning. Now when it occurs I ring one or other of my PAs and call them in regardless of time – this means I lose care time later in the week, but needs must.

Interestingly the comments page threw up a range of views and opinions as to the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of this case. As to be expected cost features high within these comments; however, the last post raises an interesting point, namely ‘how the Big Society will operate’.

How will this work in relation to personal care provision? Is the use of volunteers in this field feasible? Who will supply training? What about CRB checks; surely we can’t allow complete strangers into the homes of disabled and elderly people without checking their backgrounds.

Who amongst us would relish the idea of a stranger coming into your home? We’re not talking here about a tradesperson coming in to carry out some maintenance work; or a social worker entering our homes to carry out an interview; no, we’re talking about inviting someone into our homes as well as into the most intimate aspects of our lives.

When someone’s cleaning me after I’ve voided my bowels it’s important that s/he is doing so willingly. I also need to feel comfortable with someone who is carrying out this very intimate function. The task needs to be carried out carefully, due to the sensitivity down their, and properly, if not cleaned properly this can lead to discomfort and medical problems.

There is then the issue of unemployed people being forced to take on voluntary work. This is how I see the Big Society playing out. People who can’t secure paid work being forced to take on voluntary work or lose benefits. To me this will create a lot of disgruntled people; people being forced to work for £1.63 an hour will be unwilling participants.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Direct Payments

I've been in receipt of direct payments for around five-years. At times I will have several thousand pounds in the DP account. Living on a low waged income money is tight; and, so on occasions I've been tempted to dip into the care account for some short-term financial relief. Thankfully, these instances have never gone beyond the temptation stage - nor, I'm certain will I succumb.

What keeps me vigilant is the fact that my LA can at any time ask to see my care account 'books'; and I must be available to present them with an up-to-date reckoning of all receipts and expenditure - maybe not an up-to-the-day record as I only submit returns on a quarterly basis.

My advice on DP's is to keep on top of the paperwork. If you're unable to handle the payroll end of business, engage a company that delivers this kind of service; though be careful here as some offer a more comprehensive service than others do - after all there is no point in paying for a service that expects you to complete, for instance your employees tax returns.

Most local authorities give advice on DPs either directly or through third-party voluntary sector set-ups. I'd advise any DP users, if they begin to get into difficulties, to look for help sooner rather than later. Issues financial have a horrible habit of compounding; and, what starts in month one as a few pounds gone adrift may end up in month six as a substantial amount of money.   

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

On the Closure of BBC Ouch!

Hey people, the nag is dead, giving it a good thrashing now is a bit pointless. Damon Rose and his chums in the Beeb aren't going to move on this one (and if they do I'll have scored a monumental own goal in kicking down the closet door and fessing up to being pretty much every pantomime villain that ever trod the creaking boards of Ouch)...

Dignity, that's what we have left. Damon and his paymasters the BBC can take away our message boards; but, they can't touch our dignity. Don't give Damon Rose the satisfaction of presiding over the last few days of Ouch gloating over our, very real, pain and sadness.

The BBC has done a hatchet job on Ouch; and, I doubt they will now go back on this decision. Like so much in the UK today, we're being treated as a political football; this we should be used to considering we've been kicked back and forth from goalmouth to goalmouth and wing to wing for a number of years now.

Ouch Too looks like a good alternative to BBC Ouch. Looking at its membership it looks to me as though there has been a Diaspora from the original Ouch to its successor; thus, Ouch Too begins life with a wealth of experience and knowledge at its disposal. For a burgeoning group this is a massive boon.

So, come on let's get off our knees and leave this site to the ghosts of a once thriving community and Damon Rose.

What is 'Oomph'?

I was asked what I meant by 'more oomph' in relation to the ideal disability related message board. 

Oomph is what you want it to be. It can be an explosion of thoughts with political direction - a movement of ideas. Oomph can be incisive pieces of writing that capture the zeitgeist of disabled people, especially in these times of uncertainty in which we're living. Oomph may simply be a funny story or an inspirational yarn, the kind that slaps a smile on a gloomy kisser. Oomph may excite, delight, give respite, brighten and lighten, enthuse, stimulate, motivate, agitate and incite us into action, or even reaction!

Monday, 4 July 2011

'Daily Hate' Plumbs New Depths of Disgrace

Just when we thought the Daily Hate had sunk lower than a Tory's sense of compassion so they show there are even greater depths of depravity yet to plumb. According to the Daily Hate the teachers' strike's to blame for girl being hit and killed by a tree - in reference to the tragic death of a young girl hit by a falling tree branch whilst in the park yesterday.

When I picked up this story from 'urban 75' (U75) it didn't surprise me. For that matter I imagine there's a lot of us out there, disabled people, that look at this kind of headline, and while we're saddened at the context of the story, we're not overly shocked that a newspaper can have the gall and insensitivity to present a piece in biased a way.

Maybe we've become inured to scum like the Daily Hate misrepresenting us as a group. In the past few years they, with a little help from their friends in high places, have done such a hatchet job of demonizing us that the shock value from other stories has become devalued.

About 6 months ago Ian Duncan-Smith blamed IB claimants for the financial deficit we're in. A situation brought about by bankers and the elements within the financial sector losing control; and, governments happy to play along with casino capitalism as long it was aces being turned over and not deuces or treys.

ADS was widely criticised within disabled circles, and as I recall quite a few voices from the political Left joined in the condemnation. However, once again someone high in the echelons of authority managed to walk away from an outrageous slur on a group of, mostly, innocent people, unpunished.

The story of the girl's death led a U75 user to ask "Hopefully this will awaken people to the role the media are playing in pushing an anti-union agenda." And, I say 'Amen' to that sentiment; and, while this awakening is taking place they could also look at the role the media is playing in the demonizing of disabled people.