Sunday, October 24, 2010

To The Disabled People Of Great Britain - Transcript


The changes announced by George Osborne in Wednesday's comprehensive
spending review have so far caused a shockwave of terror through the
approximately 10 million people who have disabilities living in Great
Britain.
 
We're a small country; there's approximately 60 million of us live
here, so disabled people make up roughly 1/6th of the population. Some
of those are over 65, most are under 65 and of working age. We have
the best part of a million disabled children living in the country.
But of those 10 million people we only have 2.9 [million] in receipt
of Disability Living Allowance which is a non means-tested benefit
paid to, not compensate, but a way of saying that we understand as a
country that there are phenomenal extra costs involved in living with
a disability and we recognise that a role of our society is to provide
for those additional costs.
 
People are scared. I have received many messages of support since the
video I made. Messages from people telling me that I'm brave to speak
out publicly. There's nothing brave about what I'm doing. My story is
the same as millions of people's stories. My life was fairly normal, I
come from a very middle-class area, my parents are still married. I
worked hard at school. I went to a Grammar school, and I went to
University and I studied Law. None of those factors prevented me from
becoming a disabled person and none of them were enough to help me get
a job. Only 50% of disabled adults are in work, unlike 80% of the
general population. There are many reasons why we're not in work -
ranging from those whose disabilities are so severe that work will
never be possible for them, to those whose disabilities are very minor
and with the right support they could and should be encouraged into
the workplace. The problem is it all requires support and it all
requires money and really that's what these changes and announcements
are about.
 
I've always been proud to be British. It's a country with values that
I believe in. On my mother's side of the family, they were Jews
fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe. Those who remained
behind in Germany were all wiped out during the Second World War. What
many people don't know is that before, long before, the Nazis started
exterminating Jewish people, they went for the most vulnerable people
of society; those with disabilities. They were marked out by a black
triangle. Advertising was widespread, telling the German people
exactly how much each dependant person cost them. It was a
well-thought-out campaign to devalue the lives of disabled people and
ensure that there would be less complaints. Now I'm not suggesting the
Conservative government are Nazis, I'm not suggesting any politician
is. What I am suggesting is that as a world, we have learnt lessons
from that war; lessons that we wish never to be repeated.
 
Travelling down a path in which all the value of a person's life is
considered to be solely on their economic contribution is wrong. It's
fundamentally and morally wrong. It's also bad for our society;
voluntary work holds us together. People being at home during the day,
using shops and services, builds communities, and those communities
are what holds us together. Actually, that's pretty much what David
Cameron keeps going on about in his Big Society. But what he's
forgotten, is that projects like that cost money. They're very rarely
profitable for the private sector, so the State picks up the slack.
People disagree on how much a role the state should play. But really,
party politics is not relevant to this argument, nor should it be. As
disabled people, we have no representation.
 
The coalition government have made it quite clear that they intend an
all-out attack on the Welfare State. Whilst reform is welcome, these
are cuts. Cuts with only one agenda, to reduce the level of welfare
paid. Now in some cases that's admirable. In others it's shocking and
despicable, such as removing the High-Rate Mobility Allowance from
adults resident in care homes. But really it sends a wider message; a
wider message against a background of rising Disability Hate Crime. Of
people torturing disabled people, given sentences of 18 hours
community service and a slap on the wrist, or families who are already
so desperate that mothers commit suicide after murdering their
children, because they feel it's the only way they have to protect
them.
 
I did believe, on a personal level, that David Cameron valued the
lives of disabled people. I was furiously angry with Gordon Brown, who
is also the father of a disabled child, for the betrayal he made to
disabled people. Danny Alexander has been wheeled out a lot on
television lately to defend the coalition's spending cuts. This is the
same Danny Alexander who, while in opposition, was the one main
champion for disabled people falling victim to the Work Capability
Assessment of the Employment Support Allowance. Danny Alexander railed
against that. Now he stands there and defends cuts far more savage and
damaging than those which he previously protested.
 
It's very clear that help for us will not come from the main political
parties. We have to form together and stand up for ourselves even
though many of us can't actually stand. We still have to do this.
Civil change, in some countries like France, happens with rioting. In
Britain we're more reserved than that. We're very big on the stiff
upper lip, and everything being cured by a cup of tea. But we do have
one way to effectively protest. We can speak out. We can tell our
stories, publicly. There are 10 million of us, that's a lot of stories
to be told. It is impossible to ignore 1/6th of the population but
it's very easy to ignore one individual. I urge you to do the same as
I am. Write your story, record it, put it on the internet. We can
collate them. We can present them together. We can fight these
changes. They are, after all, only proposed cuts in a spending review.
They have yet to be got through parliament. Unfortunately, they are
unlikely to be opposed by Labour. The new Labour leader, Ed Milliband,
has already committed himself, in parliament, to supporting and
working with the government on their cuts to Disability Living
Allowance. Angela Eagle also backed up the cuts to change the gateway
to Disability Living Allowance on Newsnight this week. They will not
defend us. We have to do that for ourselves. And those of us who can
speak are obliged to do so for those who can't.
 
Together, we can make the kind of changes that start with a woman
sitting in a front of a bus. Quietly, and carefully, Rosa Parks got up
and sat at the front of the bus. As a black woman, in America, at a
time when black people were not considered to have rights. She changed
the world. Others stood with her, alongside her, and spoke up about
the injustice of judging one group of people as less worthy than
another. We've moved on as a world. Generally speaking we recognise
that people of colour, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what
colour your skin is, it doesn't make you of intrinsically less value
than somebody else. We understand that about sexuality. Religion is
more complicated but most of us recognise that everybody has a right
to believe whatever they wish to. All those things are protected
within law. Disability, however, does not have the same legal
protection when it comes to crimes based upon it. There are no
specific laws to protect disabled people against hate crimes in the
way that there are if hate crimes occur because of religion, race or
sexuality.
 
We have to change this. We have to come forward and we have to tell
our stories to change things to a world that we want to be part of.
I'm ashamed to be a Britain, who lives in a country where we think
it's ok to torture others. To fight wars against people for reasons
that most of us don't understand. They're not the British values of
fair play and justice. Values that I suspect Mr Cameron actually
believes in. Maybe not as a politician, but certainly on a personal
level. The more we tell our stories, the stronger we become. Changing
the world may come with a shout but it starts with a whisper. And 10
million whispers, held together, make a very loud collective shout. So
please, tell your story. Tell us why you're scared, tell us what the
cuts will mean to you. And together, our voices can drown out the
cruelty and the callous disregard for the lives of people affected by
the cuts.
 
 With huge thanks to 'Your Friendly Neighbourhood Grammar Nazi' and 'Crystal' for their hard work providing a transcript.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank You! These are the words I want to say, but my illness has robbed me of the energy to do so.

I truely hope some of the politicians mentioned will get to read this. We are so hurt by what they do but sadly cannot stand up to defend ourselves.

Jackart said...

I have written a post from the point of view of those PAYING for the system. Please don't think I'm being harsh, but we all have to make sacrifices. THERE IS NO MONEY LEFT, except from the money that the state can wring from me, and people like me.

And we're at breaking point.

Are 1 in 6 really disabled?

Is it really "TERRIFYING". Or is it scary in the way getting away from the apron strings is scary to a child?

I'm going to get abuse heaped on me for asking that rhetorical question, but you've written elequently about the demotivational aspects of the welfare to work process. You as a benefit recipient are just not rewarded for doing the right thing. Well, now the out of work benefits will be cut and in work benefits (in part in the form of a higher allowance) is raised.

You can't expect to go through the cuts without pain. We tax-payers have endured pain for the last decade. No-one shouts for us.

Labour's inasane profligacy has fucked everyone. Everyone has to endure some pain as we try to fix it.

I'm taking tax-rises. You're getting a benefit cut. We're in this together.

http://tinyurl.com/32xz9m3

Anonymous said...

No, Jackart, we're not in this together, because if you're earning enough to be taking a tax-rise and you're not on any benefits, you're not relying on benefits to enable you to get out of bed or have a meal or communicate with the world around you.

It may surprise you to know that many people on benefits are in work and that many people on benefits that are not in work have previously been in work.

You're not the one facing the prospect of being incarcerated in a residential home with no way of getting out to see your family or friends. You're not the one who is using their benefits to pay for the electric wheelchair or high-prescription glasses or therapy that the NHS won't pay for.

You're not the one suffering because social services have been cut so they no longer have help with shopping and cleaning.

You're not the one that's fought like fury just to live as an ordinary human being in the community and is having all that taken away.

So no, we're not all in this together.

Jackart said...

"if you're earning enough to be taking a tax-rise and you're not on any benefits, you're not relying on benefits to enable you to get out of bed or have a meal or communicate with the world around you..."

No. I'm paying for you to be able to do these things. A "Thank you" would be nice.

Anonymous said...

When you kick someone when they're down, they don't always feel inclined to thank you.

Jackart said...

I detest passive aggression. I'm not kicking anyone. I'm just pointing out that there is no money: the less-than-half of the population who's paying the bills can't be squeezed any more, and the Government borrows 1 pound in 4 that it spends, something has to give. As benefits are between a third and a half of Gov't spending... what is going to give? There have to be cuts, and every cut is going to lead to a parade of the bleeding stumps. What would you cut in its stead?

Anonymous said...

Try Vodafone's written off tax bill.

Try all the rest of the unpaid tax that HMRC isn't collecting.

Jackart said...

Where does this pathetic meme about Vodafone's tax bill come from? I'm seeing it all over the lefty blogosphere.

And that's a feeble argument. There is no more money that can be raised from tax. I'm fully taxed out. Sure tax evasion would be less with a flatter, lower, less complicated system, just as welfare would be less crippling with fewer, more generous benefits. But that's not the argument here. Where are the cuts going to be in the welfare budget? It's nearly half of GME, so there can't be cuts without cuts to welfare. So, if not you, who?

Henry said...

Jackart
I am a tax payer - have been for years. My daughter was a tax payer before her accident. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we can afford to behave decently to the disabled (and to children and the poor and unlucky). To equate the loss of mobility to you and me tightening our belts in a depression is insulting and unimaginative. All my life I saved and worked hard and I am happy to pay so that we support those who can't. I'm sorry to say Jackart that you need to widen your experience of life - I just hope you don't have to learn the hard way as my daughter did.
As to the 'meme' about Vodafone (and yes I do know what a meme is), it has been well reported that they were excused a huge tax bill, you don't have to spend any time on leftwing blogs to know that.

Jackart said...

We can afford to be generous to the disabled, but not to the "disabled". If one in six are registered disabled, then either we prioritise amongst these or accept lower benefits for all. It's the hundreds of thousands off work with a "bad back" who are breaking the system.

Henry said...

Ok, that's very slightly more reasonable. Please then would you spread the word that people in receipt of DLA and the mobility supplement are not the same as those few who abuse the Incapacity benefit. The point is that this is a complex issue and should not be responded to with knee-jerk anti-scrounger rhetoric. We all know that in any system there will be abuse, although personally I think it is less than people think. The abuse however cannot come from the system - I'm talking here about the government abusing by neglect vulnerable people.
thank you for responding with a more reasoned tone.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

NB: I am pleased to see that the comments have not descended into a slanging match.
For those who are new here, Jackart has been reading my blog for years. He is representative of many tax payers who feel overburdened and unfairly treated - just like we do. Jackart has always been polite and engaged in debate. He has changed his views about certain issues as a result of reading this blog as I have understood and developed my views from reading his.
We must engage with the people Jackart is representing so that we can all work together towards a fairer system which protects the most vulnerable.
Keep up the polite debate, it's wonderful to see! BG Xx

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I left this comment on Jackart's blog as a response to his post.

"You've been reading my blog long enough to know I've expressed my gratitude for the benefits I receive on many occasions ;)

I think we DO all have to take our fair share in this. I'm broadly supportive of the *idea* of Universal Credits, whilst worried about the details of how it would work it seems the fairest option to me. My biggest concern there is the amount of money that's going to be spent moving people from Incapacity Benefit/ Income Support to Employment and Support Allowance, only for those people all to be moved onto UC a few years later. Why not just go ahead with UC? Perhaps because it'll cost money and will only be universal in the sense that benefits payments will be rolled into one rather than lots of different benefits. UC will hopefully make it easier for people to move into work, but the harsher cuts announced will apply for years before UC comes in, if it ever does.

10% cut in Housing Benefit is a huge chunk of income to poor people, many of whom are legitimately claiming HB while they work. It would hurt, it would cause major problems in specific areas but it wouldn't seem wildly unfair like the new proposals are.
The change from RPI to CPI will hit hard as the loss of income of a few pounds a week is huge to people living on £65 p/wk. It will bite harder as years pass and benefits reduce proportionately. But, it isn't wildly, disproportionately unfair.

Moving on to DLA, there's lots of ways that money could be saved without harming people's lives. A reduction of say £5 a week of mobility allowance would have been hard to absorb, and caused individual problems but it would have been more fair. Using the GP's to do the assessments would be more fair AND more cost effective.

There are lots of ways we could all have shared the burden. Asking those in receipt of benefits who are capable of work to contribute an equivalent of 1 day's work a week in the voluntary sector would seem fair. Encouraging those who can't go out to work to contribute to voluntary projects for a few hours
a week from home would seem fair.

A final point, probably as incoherent as the rest as I'm knackered ;) is that the video you linked to is far from being specifically about benefits. It's about disabled people having a represented voice in the media and politics that comes from disabled people not a charity or state organisation. Targeting out of work benefits so that people can't have their entire livelihood from them is one thing, but applying that to disabled people is not as many are not capable of doing any work. Out of the 10 million disabled people in Britain, nearly a million are children. Many are pensioners who've paid tax and NI all their lives. Most are not in receipt of out of work or even disability benefits as they don't qualify, many are in work paying tax just like everyone else. It's just that disabled people tend not to be all that visible as disabled people. It's not all wheelchairs and white sticks, those numbers include people with heart conditions or cancer, or diabetes or any myriad of conditions which are not neccessarily visible or preventing them from working.

That's very rambly for which I apologise but I wanted to make it clear that I do think disabled people have to accept some cuts like we all do, but that there are better ways of going about it. The main theme I'm finding in the stories that people are now sending me is that they've paid national insurance and tax, for all their working lives until becoming disabled.

A very tired, rambly BG Xx"

CHatter said...

As well as disabled people often having paid or still paying NI and tax, they often have close family members who are paying. There is not a firm line where you are on one side or on the other.

Jackart said...

Obviously, my intention is not to impugn BG, who's laudable efforts to get a job featured recently on my Own blog.

I have always been clear that the Disabled should be treated MORE generously, at the expense of "the disabled".

I Ire is not directed at benefits claimants, but the system whose perversities and complexities make Benefits a full time job rather than a safety net for people between jobs. The bureaucracy is the villain, the recipients more often the victim.

Anonymous said...

"a safety net for people between jobs"

Where does that leave people with conditions for which there is no cure? Do we have a worth if we are not between jobs?