Saturday, 29 October 2011

Get Off Your Knees Motability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What message does royal patronage send?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Changes to Motability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course they can; and they will.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Let's Boycott the Mail, Sun and Express!

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hardest Hit Saturday

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

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

Claire Speaking at the Event with me Looking On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Tory Government Knows Exactly What It Is Doing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 17 October 2011

Sparks in struggle look to your own ranks for your leaders

Construction has always produced its own leaders, who in a time of struggle come to the fore. Jerry Hicks' support of the sparks is laudable, as is the support and solidarity coming from all quarters of the movement.

Construction Workers at Network Rail’s Thameslink
site in Blackfriars Protest Against Enforced Pay Cuts
The danger with this situation is that it becomes about Jerry Hicks and not about a group of workers being savagely squeezed by bosses in an industry that has a long shameful history of turning over its workers.

To the sparks in struggle I say look to yourselves for the leadership and steering of your own dispute, while we, the movement, take our instructions from you as to where and when you want our support. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Hardest Hit Event 22 October 2011

Saturday 22 October, 2011
Rally 11am – 1pm
Outside the GLA Building (City Hall), Queen’s Walk

Disabled people in London, along with their families and friends, are taking to the streets in London to protest against Government cuts to disability benefits and services.  Join us and help to make sure all our voices are heard.
The rally is taking place outside London’s iconic GLA building (City Hall) on Queen’s Walk.  There will be music from Dartford band Rush Hour who will be keeping us entertained from 11am, with speeches from 11.45 plus the opportunity for you to make your voice heard.  We plan to have a range of speakers who will keep us informed and entertained.  Confirmed so far is Chair of Inclusion London, Kirsten Hearn, who will share her views on the proposed changes and Cllr Darren Johnson AM.  There will also be the chance to hear the experiences of local people talking about what the proposed cuts to benefits and services will mean to them as disabled people trying to live independent and fulfilling lives.  If you would like to be one of those having your voice heard there will be a chance on the day for you to tell us what the changes mean to you.
For a detailed map of the area, including public transport links click here.  The nearest tube is London Bridge which is served by the Jubilee and Northern lines.  If you would like help in planning your journey then the Transport for London website has a journey planner that covers all public transport options:  Details about the accessibility of different types of public transport can be found here.  There are limited opportunities for parking in central London.  For details of where to park and how the blue badge scheme operates in Westminster click here
This gives advice on the different parking regulations in force and has a link to the Blue Badge London website that has a searchable list of the parking available.
As new speakers and contributors are confirmed we will be adding them to this page, so do keep an eye out for any changes.  Please also help us spread the word about Hardest Hit.  London is one of many cities across the South East that have been severely affected by budget cuts.  Across the region people are seeing deep cuts in services such as social care and transport, which they rely on to remain independent.  Please come along, and bring as many friends and family as you can.  Help us to send a clear message to the Government: stop these cuts.
To register your interest in the rally please email: call 020 8522 7433

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Labour Needs to Broaden its Representative Base

Sadly, the Labour MP base is not reflective of much of the working class; and, is most definitely not reflective of those we need to vote Labour in the next election for us to win. Where I live, in Stockwell, my three councillors, all Labour, are white; two work in lobbying types jobs, and the one with the real job is an actor.

The other two are the product of professional politics. None of them look or sound like the people they represent; yet, they will speak on our behalf,  and early next year, to a man and woman, will vote in more cuts.

Unite desperately needs to be putting active members up as councillors, as MPs, Assembly Members, MEPs etc. No disrespect to Unite members working within the bubble of Westminster; but, we also need representatives from the buses, markets, and banks; we need convenors from industry to represent us; people who've worked in the communities with youngsters to come forward and apply their know-how to local and central government.

So sure, let's support Shelley Asquith for Chair of London Young Labour in this instance; but, let's also ask that Shelley attends our UL meetings (indeed Mike should invite her to our next one on 13th October) and uses her position to seek out other young trade union and Labour Party activists from a wider cross-section of jobs - something we should all be doing anyway!