Monday, 6 May 2013

Left-wing activists’ treatment of disabled people as objects of pity is far more disgusting than anything the government has done

Brendan O'Neill's article in today's Telegraph (follow the link below) is yet another example of the lazy journalism to which we're exposed all too frequently these days. Here we have another ex-Leftie turned right-wing libertarian attempting to paint the Left as a politically moribund entity bereft of ideas and direction; while portraying the Right as the true champions of the working classes and disabled with their 'work is the only solution' message.

From beginning to end this piece is a gross insult to the very group O'Neill purports to defend - disabled people. He begins the article by speaking as though the "...Left-wing observers..."  (the villains of this piece) are the spokespersons for disabled people; when the reality is that it is disabled people who are speaking up for themselves on a variety of social media sites, in Blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, in newspapers and out on the streets via direct action.

So, O'Neill's take on the fear for many disabled people expressed by themselves is a casual: "Concerned commentators tell us disabled people will be propelled into “destitution" by the government’s overhaul of disability benefits."  O'Neill, we are the concerned commentators; and many of us are enduring the real destitution caused by the dismantling of the welfare state!

"They claim disabled people will commit suicide in droves if their benefits are changed or removed."  O'Neill, look to sites such as Black Triangle, DPAC and ATOS Stories for proof of the suicides caused as a result of a flawed system that disregards the frailty and sense of hopelessness associated with some disabilities and conditions, especially those of a mental health nature.

"They refer to disabled people as “the vulnerable”, as “this country’s most vulnerable people”." Sadly, we do refer to ourselves as vulnerable; because the actions of this government is forcing vulnerability upon us. Anyone that cannot see that taking away the very means that affords us independence, or power, thus placing us in a position of vulnerability fails to understand the power politics of independence.

Add to the scenario a constant barrage of negative stories, especially from the scum papers, those attack dogs of the Tory press. They have vilified and demonised disabled people for years; and it's hardly any wonder we're feeling vulnerable. When lies and propaganda are daily drip-fed to Scum and Daily Hate readers, why are we surprised to learn that disability hate crime is on the rise.   

"The government’s aim is to address the fact that currently some 3.2 million people receive disability living allowance by renaming the allowance a personal independence payment, and gradually reducing the number who receive it by checking if they're more capable of work and independence than we previously thought." 

Oh dear, Mr O'Neill really demonstrates his ignorance of a subject he has spewed out over a thousand words on. Disability Living Allowance is a benefit paid to some disabled people to help cover the extra costs of transport and care they meet in everyday life. This benefit is non-means tested and paid to people whether in work or out of work.

It's replacement, the Personal Independence Payment, will, consistent with information out in the public domain, be more difficult to claim for many disabled people given that the criteria for qualification appears to be more stringent.

However, and unless they have other plans as yet unknown, PIP will also be non-means tested, that is, available to people in work and out of work.

His statement on DLA proves that Brendan is a lazy writer who has failed to delve into the most basic of research in order to create a balanced article.

"And the Left was definitely on the side of work for the disabled over handouts for the disabled."  This is an inaccurate statement. The Left has always defended disabled people's right to work. While the more progressive of us defended the right for Remploy workers to choose supported employment.

Of course the Left was against  "...handouts for the disabled."  so inflammatorily phrased by O'Neill. Instead, the Left supports a decent level of benefit for those disabled people unable to work or forced from getting work by a discriminatory employment market; and that remains our position.  

 "Today, the exact opposite is the case: the Left sneers at the idea that disabled people should be expected to work and fights tooth and nail for the preservation of a benefits system that explicitly defines disabled people as incapable, unfit, as invalids, effectively."

No Brendan, our call is as loud and clear as it has always been; and that is to demand the right for disabled people who can work to be given jobs. Scores of thousands of us desire to be employed. Several thousand Remploy workers made redundant over the past six years demonstrated their wish to work; yet they had their employment stolen from them. Likewise countless unemployed disabled people dream of the day they can go to work on equal terms with other workers.

O'Neill, even you must have come across this saying in the days you flirted with the Left: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."  This still holds strong today. Therefore, those of us who are able to work do so without discrimination; and those of us unable to work are afforded a living income. It is your Right in its clamour for the maximisation of profit who label us as incapable or unproductive. It is capitalism that sees us as invalid; surplus to their requirements.

"Likewise, the Lib-Con government’s approach to the disability issue leaves much to be desired: it should never have outsourced to a private company something as socially important as redefining disabled people as fit for work, and it should be investing more money in creating fruitful work for disabled people to do." 

One area that we can agree upon. However, if you believe this government has any plans to invest more money into creating meaningful work for disabled people you really are lost to the dark side. Trends show that expenditure on Access to Work is falling. On closing Remploy factories and ending Residential Training Courses for disabled people, the government saved around £116 million of which they pledged £15 million extra to A2W (£5 M per year until 2015); a mere 13% extra by a government who want to show people that work works!

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