This is a guest post by Lisa Ellwood. You can find her website at thecreativecrip.com.
Morale within the disabled community has seemingly hit a new low, no thanks to the ideological war being waged by the millionaire cabinet at Westminster and their sockpuppets in the media. Desperate times call for desperate measures in making our voices heard. However, these are also the moments when it is necessary to detach our emotions from much-needed outcomes and scrupulously examine so-called helping hands.
I was broadly aware of The Hardest Hit campaign, seemingly in support of disabled people against the genocidal ideology driving the Welfare Reform Bill. Being an avid social media user, I first head of it via Twitter. My understanding was that a number of large charities were behind this effort and initially I felt that the campaign could give us incentive to carry on with the fight, knowing that we had powerful, high-profile entities behind us. We needed to find a "middle way", I rationalised, of bridging the gap between our need to raise awareness about the dangers of on-going welfare reform and the efforts of the charities who would deem to represent us.
The disabled community was split on the issue. Being a relatively new-ish crip, I took on board the justifiable ire of fellow campaigners towards the so-called "poverty pimps". These large charities are reliant on government funds to stay afloat, certainly more than they seem willing to admit to. As such, their bottom line will be driven by the dictates of their bank balance more than the ethics of what is right and fair for disabled people. Despite all this, I took a leap of faith and decided to support the campaign in spite of nagging doubts. My past work with The Broken of Britain aside, I set up Crip Island in Second Life and my own take on Occupy Second Life as a means for creative virtual participation outside of Twitter and Facebook for those unable to take to the streets and protest.
Little did I know.
The Hardest Hit website makes some valid points in a bid to help, but all signposts lead back to the big charities who profit from government workfare schemes. Like private entities such as A4E and ATOS, these charities will profit from our misery as they pander to the disablist anti-benefits ideology being enshrined in law. These smoke-and-mirror Jedi mind-tricks were understood early on by DPAC, who withdrew their initial support in April of this year prior to the first march.
"we were concerned about working with the major disability charities because unlike Tom Shakespeare for example we do not believe these major charities have completely broken with their past practices or have acknowledged their role in disabled people’s social oppression..."
Marches are one thing, but now many disabled people and Carers have signed the Hardest Hit Christmas Card for the Coalition - without looking very carefully at what they are agreeing to. The campaign wants "a fair benefits system" for Christmas, but their idea of what is fair is anything but.
"Please make the New Year something disabled people can look forward to by:
Not bringing in an arbitrary time-limit on Employment and Support Allowance for those who’ve paid into the system and still need support."
As tweeter @BubbleJet observed: "Are #hardesthit using 'those who've paid into the system' rhetoric? Am I not being hit? Do I deserve to be?" What about those who were disabled from birth, those disabled early on in their youth or those who worked but not long enough for their efforts to account for much in the minds of politicos who have never had to account for much in their own privileged lives?
The language in this petition is divisive and pits those who were fortunate to be employed against those who weren't. Agreeing to it is akin signing your own death warrant -- and those of others who are disabled through no fault of their own. There can be no doubting that disabled people are "the hardest hit" by welfare reforms past and present -- and it's time grass-roots campaigners and organisations not reliant on government patronage own it.
What's your Christmas message to the Government? (lass.org.uk)
DPOs boycott charities’ ‘independent’ review of mobility needs (dpac.uk.net)
U-turn on mobility payments is just the start (guardian.co.uk)
Protests highlight severity of benefit cuts for disabled people (guardian.co.uk)
Hardest Hit Campaign Rally Bradford (n1ck1ee.wordpress.com)
For disabled people on the Hardest Hit march, protest is personal | Frances Ryan (guardian.co.uk)
Why disabled people are annoyed (bbc.co.uk)
Hardest Hit March, Bristol, 22nd October 2011(wurzelmeone.wordpress.com)
Disability groups fear further benefit cuts after miscalculation (guardian.co.uk)
Pause welfare reform to listen to the Hardest Hit (burdzeyeview.wordpress.com)
[The image is a photograph of a poster reading "Hard times hit parade". It was taken by Roland Tanglao and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]