The Hardest Hit - A Week Later, Still Paying The Price

10/29/2011 12:38:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 5 Comments


The Hardest Hit - Paying The Price/Why More Of Us Didn't March

10/23/2011 01:32:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 14 Comments

Granada Reports video on yesterday's hardest hit protest in Manchester

By Graeme Lamb Media
And the day after....


What's In A Word?

10/19/2011 08:33:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 37 Comments

Cunt. Nigger. Dyke. Retard. Paki. Jew. Mong. All powerful examples of what can be in a word; power, oppression, prejudice, hatred, bullying, extermination, alienation. But, ultimately all just words. So what's the fuss about?

Context is everything, languages are fluid, constantly developing and the meaning of words can be subtle and nuanced. Sometimes humourous, sometimes insulting, it's the background and intention of use which matters not the word itself. Jokes can go wrong and humour fall flat, but that doesn't mean anyone should stop making jokes just because one isn't funny...although it might be time to add a Gervais exemption clause to that.

Ricky Gervais has recently joined twitter and typically for twitter it's the latest storm in a teacup. In short, Gervais made a joke that was frankly quite a lot shit and not at all funny. That's ok, we still (just about) have something approaching free speech and if a middle aged, overweight, acne scarred loser wants to make jokes that's perfectly acceptable. See, I just attempted a funny and it was almost, but not quite as crap and unfunny as Gervais. Next stop the Oscars for me.

So, what's all the fuss about? Gervais was making jokes about 'mongs'. Had he had the class to shrug his shoulders, admit that the joke wasn't funny in the way he intended it to be and accept that for many 'mong' is a word associated with hate and fear that would have been the end of it. But he didn't. Gervais moved on to whip up his twitter followers to 'prove' that the word mong totally, doesn't like mean anything to do with disability and is just, y'know all about monging around. Well yeah, sometimes it can mean that, but Gervais then went on to post photos on twitter pulling contorted 'mong' faces to prove his point that it absolutely definitely did not have any connection to learning disability and couldn't possibly be offensive.

Other comedians stepped up support those disabled people already pointing out that for many people mong was a hateful term, still used commonly in an abusive fashion. And that's when it got really nasty. Gervais was inciting his followers to 'prove' that mong was fine and his followers were dutifully following suit. One tweet I saw directed at Richard Herring made comments about how stupid it was to think that mong had any connection with anything...and ended by calling him a 'fucking mongoloid' for being stupid enough to think it did. Gervais insisted in a whiny way that 'it was all about jealousy of his success' and continued to insist he was funny.

In what must obviously be the same kind of coincidence as Gervais's forthcoming series, last night's episode of Shameless featured people with learning disabilities in a drama group as the community service 'punishment' for the character Mickey. Unlike Gervais's jokes, this episode of Shameless was beautifully written. The words may have been the same, but the intention and effect was entirely different. I howled with laughter when Mickey expressed dismay at being sent to a learning disability drama group and was firmly told that was what he got for calling the magistrate a fucking mong. I loved the way Mickey tried to hide his spliff until one of the young people offered him his, the confident and aggressive sexuality of one of the young women and the beautiful moment when, while still on her knees she looks at Mickey blustering as to why he doesn't want her to suck him off, shrugs and says...oh, you're gay. A scene which for me set up the biggest laugh of the episode, when they open the toilet door, the rest of the drama group are huddled outside eavesdropping and Mickey asks them not to tell anyone he's gay. A young woman in total deadpan fashion assures him that of course they won't...just as long as Mickey promises not to tell anyone she's got down's syndrome.

I could ramble on for a long time about how bloody brilliantly Shameless addressed the humour of disability, using the same words as Gervais, but unlike Gervais managing to make it hilariously funny all the way through. It boils down to just one crucial point though - at no point in last night's episode of Shameless were disabled people seen as weak, powerless, unintelligent or the butt of jokes. The language used went much further than Gervais as did the concepts, young women with learning disabilities in control of their own sexuality, or young autistic men using cannabis to assist their condition is not an image of disability seen in the mainstream media and it was frankly fucking fantastic to behold.

Banning individual words makes the liberal in me shudder in the same way burning books might, but reworking language is definitely to be encouraged. So, I'd urge you all to start using the latest insult for when someone's being an arrogant, unfunny, bullying prick ..... and start calling them a 'Gervais'


The Hardest Hit Protests - Saturday October 22nd 2011

10/18/2011 11:00:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are being hit hard by cuts to the benefits and services they need to live their lives. The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the UK Disabled People’s Council, brings together individuals and organisations to send a clear message to the Government: stop these cuts. You can find our key messages in this document.  Key messages on the Hardest Hit

Take action this October

Following our protest in May, when an estimated 8,000 people marched on Parliament, further events are taking place across the UK this month. These events are designed to raise awareness amongst the general public, the media and politicians of our key messages.  Click here to find your nearest event. 
Regardless of whether or not you are able to attend one of the events taking place on October 22, 2011, there are still lots of ways you can get involved to support this campaign. We need your help to really make an impact. It won’t take much time out of your day, but it will make a massive difference to the success of our campaign.
You can:
1. Write to your MP and invite them to attend their local event. We want as many MPs to know what’s about the campaign as possible.
2. Lobby your MP in the week leading up to the event by attending a constituency surgery or writing to your MP, you can help make sure that they are aware of our campaign and the arguments against welfare reform.
3. Write to the editor of your local newspaper. By doing this, you are helping us advertise the events and making sure that as many people as possible know they are happening.
4. Send a Press Release to your local paper, not only will you be sharing your concerns about Government cuts but making sure that as many people as possible know the event is happening.
5. Be a case study. Your story is the most important. Tell decision makers and the media why you support this campaign and help us show the human face of welfare reform.


Disability News Round Up - Week Beginning 17/10/2011

10/18/2011 08:19:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

Provided by John Pring

  • Three of the country’s leading disability organisations – the National Centre for Independent Living, RADAR and Disability Alliance – have agreed to merge within months.

  • Disabled people have expressed outrage after learning that benefits claim forms containing confidential and highly personal information are being opened by Royal Mail staff in a south London sorting office.

  •  Labour’s new shadow minister for disabled people looks set to spearhead a stronger line from the opposition over offensive government rhetoric on the “abuse” of disability benefits.

  • Disabled people and disability charities have complained to the press watchdog after a national newspaper suggested there was widespread abuse of the Motability car scheme.

  • Some of the UK’s most talented young disabled athletes are to take part in Paralympic-style events in key London 2012 venues, just weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

  • The possible closure of hundreds of ticket offices would make it “nigh on impossible” for many disabled people to travel by train, MPs have heard.

  • The mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change has secured £20 million in funding over the next four years.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service


The Call From Ed Miliband

10/14/2011 09:05:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 43 Comments

After a question about the treatment of disabled people feisty enough to bring a wry smile to the face of seasoned political commentator Peter Snow at the recent Labour conference, yesterday, the Labour leader Ed Miliband honoured his public promise to discuss the issues facing sick and disabled people further.

Sue Marsh and myself spent a day spent carefully planning what to say and what we might be able to acheive from this conversation; the pressure was on. We knew that at most the conversation would be scheduled for around 10 minutes and that there was a huge expectation for answers from sick and/or disabled people. We needed two clear objectives we thought we might be able to suceed with in that space of time so we decided to concentrate on the way sick and/or disabled people are being spoken about by politicians and the consequences this has for our lives. We also decided to focus on the particular issues with the Work Capability Assessment as that is affecting so many people already. It was difficult to narrow it down to just two issues but we wanted to be able to acheive measurable results from this phone call and decided these were the initial priority in getting Labour to listen to us.

The first thing Ed had to say when he phoned was an apology for calling me Harriet in the conference hall. Then he said he was ready to listen and to his credit, listen is exactly what he did. I must have done 90% of the talking, with Ed asking questions to clarify. We talked in some depth about the damage the scrounger rhetoric, used by New Labour as well as the Coalition government, is doing to sick and/or disabled people. I was able to explain that disability hate crime has risen sharply and that as sick or disabled people we see a direct correlation between that and the scrounger label. Ed explained that he has concerns around worklessness and disincentives in the benefits system but that he understands now the need to separate out sick or disabled people from discussions about worklessness and welfare dependency.

We also talked about some of the problems with the Work Capability Assessment, acknowledging that the original idea to support disabled people into work was well intentioned but not working in practice. Ed asked for clarification about what was happening, and what we thought the most pressing issues were. I was able to explain that although there are all sorts of issues surrounding the competence of Atos who carry out the assessments, the real problems are being caused by the change in the descriptors intended to ensure less people qualify for the benefits. We discussed how inappropriate it is for sanctions or conditionality to be used against people in the Work Related Activity Group, all of whom have been recognised to be sick or disabled and I was able to explain to Ed how impossible it is, particularly for people with fluctuating conditions to engage with the work programmes as they are currently set up. We also covered the problem of people with long term health conditions being found 'fit for work' and put onto Job Seekers Allowance where they are not able to access the more specialist work support intended for them via the Work Related Activity Group.

We also talked about how for sick and/or disabled people it feels like we are round pegs being forced into square holes, and that for as long as that continues to happen we will fall straight through the holes in the system. I emphasised that sick and disabled people need unconditional support when we can work and for those of us who feel able to participate it isn't that we don't want to work or contribute, but unless we are able to do so on our terms we won't be able to acheive that. For many people contributing to the world of work financially simply isn't possible, but that does not mean they are not contributing to society. We talked about how inaccessible the country still is to us, despite laws surrounding access and that not being able to get onto public transport or into businesses means yet another barrier for people who might want to work. I was able to explain that unless the world of business is ready to offer more flexible working options, part time, from home, small amounts of hours etc any of these work programmes will fail, not because disabled people are lazy or work shy, but because we have to do things in a different way to the 'normal' working week and world. 

Ed promised to set up a meeting between Broken of Britain activists and the new shadow minister for disability Anne McGuire. He also promised that he and Liam Byrne will meet with us all after intial meetings with Anne. We would like to thank Ed Miliband for honouring his promise to speak to us in more depth about these issues, for listening to our views and for making a committment to improving the way Labour speak about sick people, disabled people and worklessness to be clear that we are NOT scroungers.

We could possibly speculate as to the connection between this conversation and the press release late yesterday evening from Anne McGuire, but we welcome this as a hugely positive first step on the long road to improving the Labour party's perception and treatment of people who are sick and/or disabled. 

“I’m delighted to have been appointed as Shadow Minister for Disabled People. There is a responsibility on all of us to care for those in need. However many disabled people feel that they are unfairly being portrayed as scroungers and are feeling very vulnerable"
“Labour will be the voice for those in genuine need, who need extra help live a full life. The introduction of the Universal Credit will see support for disabled children halved, while the Severe Disability Premium is to be scrapped with nothing appropriate put in its place. We believe there can be reforms made to the system, but this is the wrong way to do it, and we will do all we can to stop these changes.”

Thanks also to John Pring of the invaluable Disability News Service who provided us with the press release from Anne McGuire. John is the only full time investigative journalist working on disability issues and without his fantastic service all those involved in grassroots activism would find it much more difficult to source the information we require.


Disability And Sickness At Labour Conference - The Easy Read Version

10/12/2011 04:09:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

Huge thanks to everyone at United Response who've worked so hard to produce an easy read version of the Q&A session with Ed Miliband at the Labour Party Conference. Information about politics should be accessible to everyone, but we think this may be the first time information about an exchange between a disabled person and politician has been put into an easy read format. It is also a welcome collaboration between a grassroots disabled people's organisation and a charity showing all the political parties that people with learning disabilities are a powerful voting block who want and need to be enabled to engage with politics just like everyone else.

Please note we are aware that putting the easy read version into Jpeg format makes it inaccessible to people with visual impairments and we are working on getting the PDF version uploaded.
Update: PDF version available here 


Orbilia's experience

10/12/2011 09:20:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

 This comment was left under an old blog post by Orbilia and was so striking I felt it deserved it's own post.

I got a letter from the DWP today telling me that this ratification of this bill will mean I get no support from the state until I've eaten through the monies I'd saved for my retirement. 

My condition is degenerative so won't get any better. 

I have applied for over 1000 jobs in the 2 years, 7 months since I was made redundant. I've had 4 interviews, 2 of which couldn't even me bothered to inform me I didn't get the job. A close second place resulted in the feedback that my previous employer had been under-utilising my skills and that I should be applying for jobs in the £40 to £45k mark. Not many of those jobs about in good times, let alone now. Applying for lesser jobs results in no interview due to being over-qualified!

In short, I have a broken spine, qualifications, experience, dedication to job hunting (even applied for jobs whilst in hospital!), have studied throughout life, put money away for retirement, and whittled away my youth working like a dog only to find myself on the scrap heap at 47, treated like a dole bludging scum bag and left to rot. Well, thank-you very much Cameron. May you rot in hell.


Today Is World Mental Health Day

10/10/2011 01:37:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

So please watch this short film made earlier this year by Hugo Williams and Ruth MClean featuring Alistair Campbell and yours truly which investigates some of the issues surrounding mental health and benefit cuts.

The Hardest Hit: mental health and the UK welfare system. from Hugo Williams on Vimeo.


Home, By Blood In The Sand

10/06/2011 09:11:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 1 Comments

First published Oct 19th 2010 

Time limiting benefits such as Incapacity Benefit is an idea which plays well in some sectors of the press. It might seem a tempting way to 'encourage' those people represented by figures on a spreadsheet off benefits and into the workplace. But every one of those official figures stands for someone's personal history. We all enter the world naked and equal. Life however is far from equal and no-one becomes disabled in isolation, there is always a journey which takes us there, a journey which some of us start earlier in life than others. It's easy to demonise an official statistic, but incredibly difficult to condemn an individual with an all too human story to tell.

Home by  Blood In The Sand

The killing stopped 10 years ago. I am stood in a shabby office, a kid in a suit speaks with me. 'You've filled the forms out wrong mate' He is maybe 19 - I see yellow and brown suits, flashes in the night sky. 'We can't pay you anything'

I walk away from the Dole office with no money. I haven't eaten for four days. Mum gives me 30 quid for food. So I take it to a bar and order a Pint and a Chaser. Biting down hard as my empty stomach objects to the Whisky I pour into it. The bile stings my throat - So I light a cigarette.

I haven't shaved since I last ate. My face is sunken and hollow. Fingers yellow. I order another round for myself and stare at a girl feeding the jukebox. She is laughing and dancing. I see white teeth flash out from burnt lips and the steel floor of a helicopter.

'What you fucking looking at?' The words slammed out with venom. A young man is standing in front of me. I focus on him now. Adrenaline surges. Voices scream 'Gas Gas Gas' My heart pounds. I go back to my drink and light another cigarette with the butt of my last one.

'Don't fucking ignore me cunt' The young man is breathing shallow. Eyes wide as he prepares for battle. 'Go home' I say. The words barely a whisper from my aching throat. He jabs a hand into my chest. I see a glass in his other. The fear erupts. Deep inside my head there is a fracture. Screaming. Blood. I am stood between two worlds.

'Fucks sake mate' A frightened man has his hands raised, the bleeding man on the floor is coughing and sobbing. I order a drink. The barmaid stares in silence so I pour it myself.

The Police stand either side of me. I am arrested. The cell walls close in as the war pours out. Doctors arrive. I am naked and screaming. Inside my mind I try to stem the memories, like a child protecting his sand castle against the tide. Mum sits at the end of my Hospital bed. She is crying. Dad holds her hand as I stare at the wall. I close my eyes and the dead wave at me.


'Dole Boys' By Blood In The Sand 1st Posted Oct 1st 2010

10/05/2011 11:57:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 2 Comments

By Blood In The Sand

I logged onto Face book last night and saw some words that filled my veins with ice and left me feeling hollow and desperate.

I'm going to and I'm gonna kill my self Ive had enough of this shit life love you all but this is it good bye

They were written by my friend. He's unemployed and a smack head. You'll find him most days sitting in a pool of blood/sick/shit shouting at passers by. He's not worked for years...

It's the in thing right now to put the boot into folk like my mate. Poncing off the state, a waste of space oxygen thieving bastard right? That's one description I suppose but I prefer 'Veteran.'

I went to war with him once. We walked down Basra road together, murder mile. Body after body lay where they had died. The stench of blood, cordite, roasted meat and petrol stung my nose.

I saw my mate sitting down next to a mangled heap of twisted metal, flesh, bone and misery. He was smoking a cigarette and tapping his fingers on his helmet.

'You OK mate?' I asked, then wished I hadn't. How could any of us be OK in that shit hole.

He nodded at me. 'Yeah man, it's all just a bit... Well you know.' I nodded back, I was 19 years old and dead teenagers were all around me. My mate was 17 and we called him Junior.

Junior came home a little different, we all did. He then went to Bosnia and then he left the army. No longer part of the machine he turned to drugs to take away them dead kids on that piece of road that took a bite out of our souls.

I saw him a couple of months ago, he looks 60 years old now, he's 37. We stood in the line, carried rifles and saw things that hurt us inside. Tears have fallen, veins have filled with heroin and we still walk the road.

We live among society, some of us in jails, others in the gutter. What we need isn't pity, it's a hand. Junior has mine and last night was a cry for help. Others won't be heard.

I wrote some words once...


It isn't nice to have to beg the country you once served,
On bended knee with cap in hand a fate quite undeserved.

Once shiny boots now gather dust and medals hide away,
And dead men crawl through silent dreams when darkness steals the day.

Be the best the small screen cried enlist before the crown,
How many of the best are now locked up in iron towns.

The freedom they once fought to save is no longer theirs,
These broken troops a burden on societys affairs.

And what of those who gibber nightly screaming in their beds
As worms crawl through the the faces of the teenage freshly dead.

And dare not mention names of those who could not bear this strife,
Who with rope or blade or happy pills did away with life.. 

reposted in full with permission from Blood In The Sand


'Benefit Thief' By Blood In The Sand. 1st Posted Oct 5th 2010

10/05/2011 11:55:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

Originally posted here by Blood In The Sand

It was Wednesday, free money day, a reason to get out of bed. So I did. I then wandered down to the post office and stood in line with old dears posting mittens to grandsons, businessmen posting invoices and mums paying the gas and electric.

There were tuts and frowns of course, I mean I was 23 years old. Should have been out grafting, earning some wedge. A smartly dressed middle aged woman even said as much. 'Young man, hang your head in shame. I've never claimed benefits once.'

I looked at her and thought of my mum. I then grabbed my free money and bought 20 cigarettes with it. This didn't go down well with Mrs Average. 'Well how pleased am I my taxes pay for your cigarettes. I suppose you'll be off to the pub to waste the rest?' Her voice was raised and it brought disapproving looks and more tut-tutting from others.

I closed my eyes. Screaming, terror. My friend holding a severed head in his hand, 'Do I bury this mate or just bin it?' I looked at the attractive lady and smiled at her. 'Fuck off, you civvy cunt before I gouge your painted fucking eyes out.'

The man behind the counter took offense and joined the fray. 'Steady on son, there's no need for that.' I spun round to look at him and he saw for a brief moment the hate and pain inside my head. He went back to shuffling the papers and I went to the pub.

I should have been out looking for a job, instead of pouring whisky and beer down my throat. I felt bad about my unkind words, then I remembered faces shattered by metal and ordered more whisky.

That night I sat on a stool, pissed out of my head with a rope around my neck trying to find the balls to save the taxpayers some cash. But I wasn't brave enough. So I cried about the war for a bit, felt sorry for myself and I hung my head in shame...


1st Committee Session Of Welfare Reform Bill Today - Ppl Needed To Attend URGENT!

10/04/2011 09:14:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

Are you based in or around London and interested in the impacts of the Welfare Reform Bill on all our lives? If so please try to attend the first committee session today in the Houses of Parliament. It is open to the public so just turn up, go through the security checks and make your way to Committee Room 4A. The room is larger than normal, chosen to allow access and there is also an overspill room with live feed link should it be needed.

We understand that this is short notice and a big ask, but the more people who can attend, even if only for a short period of time, the better. We need to show the government that they cannot quietly slip this destructive bill through without disabled people, sick people and carers speaking out about what they are doing to us.