Monday, 12 December 2011

Disabled people to directly inform new strategy

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

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

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

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

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

·       Roadmap 2025

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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