Tuesday, 24 September 2013

On a platform which included Len McCluskey, GS of Unite and Chaired by Kevin McGuire three women, Jackie Monroe, Mary Laver and Hetty Bower each brought a powerful message to a fringe meeting organised by the Daily Mirror at this week's Labour Party Conference.

Hetty Blower an 107 year-old Labour supporter with a simple message to Ed Miliband: "Stick to the principles of social justice".
Jackie Monroe is unemployed. Though striving to find employment she has yet to succeed despite applying for three hundred jobs. Things are so bad that she often goes without food to ensure her two year old son is fed. According to a leading charity Jackie is among half-a-million people who now depend on food banks; largely as a result of delays and cuts in benefits.

Yet, if you thought food banks were the preserve of the feckless few; those who'd rather shirk than strive, then think on. Increasingly more and more people in low-waged work, many of whom have not seen a pay rise in four or more years are reliant on food banks.

Mary Laver a severely disabled woman who uses a power chair to mobilise also relies on a social care package to support her with day-to-day living. The package affords her the basics of life such as washing, dressing, toileting and eating. Her concerns are how the cuts are eroding that care package.

Mary fears that things will get so bad that she will have to choose between eating and keeping clean; maybe having to sit in her own mess for hours on end. That social services cuts will turn her home into her prison.

Mary speaks for scores of thousands of disabled people many of whom depend on the Independent Living Fund to get out and about in their communities. By April 2015 ILF will finish. Those of us that rely on this service to pay PAs to assist us will find themselves, as Mary fears, in the grips of social isolation.

Hetty Bower is 107 and has been a Labour Party member for 90 years. Hetty has taken part in many Left-wing campaigns from the General Strike in the 1920s, through Cable Street in the 1930s onto the anti-war marches of the 2000s.

Hetty recalls "I can remember hearing a mother discuss whether she could pay for the visit of a doctor or whether it's got to go on food for the family. I can remember women singing in the street for pennies generous people threw at their feet. Those days must never return."

When Ed Miliband asked Hetty what advice he should take as leader of the Labour Party, she told him to: "Stick to the principles that started the labour movement, which was social justice".

Social justice. Two little words, Ed. Yet two words with the power to get us back into government.

So, get rid of your spin doctors, Ed. Dispense with those weavers of empty rhetoric; throw out your kitchen cabinet full of blunt knives and twisted forks and look to people with progressive ideas; people who put social justice ahead of the propping up profligate bankers and the worn-out policies of failed neo-liberalism.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lord Freud: Crimes against reasonableness

Lord Freud couldn't be any more removed from real life if was to become an anchorite on another planet in a far off galaxy. A man from a privileged background first of all deployed by New Labour to review the welfare system; and then by the ConDems demolish the rest of the welfare state.

To say Freud has no concept of the hurt and damage his policies are causing would be to assume that the man had a scintilla of empathy or understanding of disability. He has neither. No instead Freud and his kind have an ideology so clearly defined in their minds as to protect them from contrary concepts such as fairness, decency, right and wrong.

This Black Triangle representation of Lord Freud as a 'Fraud' sums up
how many regard this man of privilege who is wrecking or welfare state

This is how Freud can dismiss someone with motor neuron disease asking for a reasonable adjustment, the right to an extra bedroom without incurring the bedroom tax, with this disgraceful comment: “The normal expectation is that a couple are able to share a bedroom whether or not one of them is disabled.”

There speaks a man devoid of any recognisable sense of compassion. A man to whom the test of reasonableness rests on "alternative options" if a "greater degree of choice" was needed by this family.

So, the needs of someone with MND are not measured in favourable outcomes, such as allowing the husband and wife separate bedrooms without the imposition of a bedroom tax penalty. They're measured in unrealistic terms such as "...negotiating with landlords and local authorities and taking proactive steps to find more suitable accommodation of the right size – for example, with a bedroom large enough for two single beds..."

Again Freud shows his complete ignorance of the spatial capacity afforded by the majority social housing accommodations. Firstly, there is a dire shortage of one-bedroom flats in social housing stocks. Second, council flats bedrooms are not over generous in size, making it difficult to fit two single beds in one room - that is if the person with MND could cope with a single bed. What about where hospital beds are used.

Thirdly, Freud completely dismisses the physical difficulties that someone with MND would experience sharing a room; and in reverse the difficulties a wife or partner would encounter trying to share a room with somebody with such a condition.

Finally, Freud falls back on the tried and trusted Tory way, that is they should take in a lodger. Failing this the person with MND or their partner/carer could find work or increase their hours of work. Though I'm not sure how a carer on call 24-hours per day, seven days per week could physically increase their hours of work.

Any suggestions, Lord Freud?


Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Rock, Rattle and Roll of Brixton Town

On Friday evening I joined a few Comrades from the Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum outside Brixton Tube Station petitioning to stop Boris Johnson's cutting of railway staff across the tube service in London.

For many disabled people travelling by underground train is problematic enough. Without decent support staff in place tube travel would become impossible for lots of disabled people - not to mention the multitudes of tourists and others assisted through the system by these helpful workers.

Ginger caning the skins in a concert hall setting
Sadly our mission wasn't too successful as 'Ginger Baker' and 'John-The-Baptist' decided to compete with Brixton travellers at the time we were trying to attract the attention of to-ing and fro-ing Brixtonites.

That is to say, to our right was set up a musician with a full drum kit and sound system bashing away at the skins like a frenzied Ginger Baker on speed, thus drowning out our puny efforts to grab the attention of passers-by with our pleas to stop Boris Johnson de-staffing our stations.
A God botherer of yesteryear in Brixton - notice the need for amplification even then!
While to our left stood the apostle of the apocalypse assisted, again, by a mechanical sound system (why God's messenger needs such equipment is beyond me. Why doesn't his Godly Guvnor just intervene divinely by endowing him with the power of Stentor) booming out the message of Christ the Redeemer.

Oh well, such is the rich and varied hubbub of a hot Friday afternoon in the centre of Brixton Town; and I wouldn't want it any other way!