Sunday 5 June 2011

Another Poison-Pen Letter from IDS

So on Saturday IDS escalated the hate. His boss, David Cameron, crossed the line into direct attacks on disabled people last month with his open attempt to demonise those whose disabilities lead to addiction or obesity, attacks which led Scope and the Guardian to point out that government attacks were leading to increasing rates of Disability Hate Crime, but on Saturday his pet attack-dog ramped up the attack with more hate-filled articles from the sockpuppets at the Tory Rags. This time it isn’t just disabled people with addictions or obesity who are being openly derided as frauds and not worthy of benefits, the new target is DLA recipients, and particularly disabled people whose disability manifests through long-term spinal conditions, or as IDS’s anonymous source would have us believe, a mere ‘bad back’.

I talked about the myth of the ‘bad back’ a few weeks ago in That Proverbial ‘Bad Back’ , the myth that ‘bad-backs’ are some kind of scrounger’s charter or somehow less than other disabilities that is. My ‘bad back’ has destroyed my career and seriously limited the life I can live, even as I lie here to write this (sitting would be unbearable) it is causing me a noticeable amount of pain. No amount of money could compensate me for the pain I experience, and ESA, DLA HRM and DLA HRC combined wouldn’t come close to replacing the salary I have lost because of my ‘bad back’, even if I actually received them all – of those three benefits I only actually get ESA, the thought of putting myself through the ATOS ordeal again for DLA HRM is simply too much to face right now (DLA HRC, even LRC, I clearly have no hope of claiming). I did apply for DLA several years ago, but not knowing how to navigate the labyrinth didn’t get past the first hurdle of using the appropriate terms on the form rather than simply naively explaining how disabled I am (yes, there are hurdles, no matter what the Tories, the DWP and the attack-hacks in the tabloids would have us believe). I have been trying to gather the evidence to support another claim for several years now, side-by-side with trying to get myself the treatment to get back into the workforce, but the cuts to the NHS are making that a dreadfully slow process (so slow I’m actually going backwards), not helped when my local rheumatology department tell me that my ‘bad back’ is so complex that they don’t actually have anyone qualified to look at it in its entirety…

Yes, you didn’t read that wrong, even after having gone through the horror of the WCA test, and passing, even with my local rheumatology department struggling to cope, my disability is not clearly severe enough to entitle me to the benefit the Tories are trying to convince people is handed out like Smarties at a kid’s party.

But let’s get back to the tabloids, IDS, and their ‘anonymous source’. It’s amazing the courage that comes from having a tame journalist willing to quote you anonymously as ‘a source close to the reforms’, no need to hold back on the vitriol you can turn on disabled people. What we see here is demonization by insinuation. No direct statements, just the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, they’re all at it you know of your friendly neighbourhood poison-pen letter. Phrases like ‘a huge increase’ and ‘cash payments’ are clearly designed to imply that the sums involved are significant and somehow akin to backhanders, not the less than £20 a week that DLA is for many people, not the £51.40 per week that HRM claimants are expected to sacrifice for those ‘free’ Motability cars that provoke so much bitter jealousy against us (nope, I don’t get one of those either).

The ‘anonymous source’ then goes on to say “We are going to bring in a new assessment and regular checks to make sure support is getting to those who need it.” There’s a term to describe this, lying. DLA already has an assessment and regular checks, with stressful three-yearly renewals regularly terrorising disabled people, but the Tories and their tame attack dogs are trying, successfully, to mislead the tabloids’ core readership into believing that disability benefits are handed out just for the asking to people who fake their disabilities in order to scrounge from the State. The fact that seriously disabled people live in terror of losing their DLA in the Kafka-esque lottery of renewal, the intrusive medical checking, the thuggery of ATOS, these are inconvenient truths that they work to hide from their readership, treating them with precisely the same contempt they display towards us.

The Tories aren’t interested in seeing that support is getting to those who need it, if they were then they would never have closed the Independent Living Fund that provides for people with the most profound disabilities of all, it is just one more big lie to hide the truth from people by claiming the absolute opposite. The replacement for DLA, PIP, is simply an excuse to harden the rules and exclude 25% of the people currently in receipt of DLA, no matter their level of disability. Claims that it is meant to replace a broken system are simply more lies, DLA works, the aim is not to fix it, but to cut the numbers able to claim it, the predetermined percentage betrays that for all to see, yet the Tories lack the guts to admit it. Easier by far to demonise disabled people and convince the country that we deserve the cuts, after all, we’re only disabled, we probably vote Labour, what does it matter to the Tories if we’re attacked in the street as a result.

The only thing that surprises me about this is that I had thought that depression would be the next disability to be attacked, piggybacking on society’s poorly hidden fear of mental illness, with spinal conditions following afterwards. There is a clear strategy behind the attacks on us since the turn of the year. Before that the focus was simply on demonising us all as scroungers, but then opposition started to cohere and find a voice, whether from disabled people themselves, as seen in WTB, DPAC and the Broken of Britain, or from charities, campaigning groups, the Guardian alone amongst the national dailies, and even from members of the general public who had realised what the propaganda campaign really amounted to. Faced with a potential backlash, the Tory campaign has taken a new tack, seeking not just to undermine us en masse, but to divide and rule by targeting and demonising individual sectors of the disability community, implying that the people who fall within those sectors aren’t really disabled, and actively deserve everything that happens to them. Obesity and addiction have already had their turn in the stocks, on Saturday it was the turn of spinal conditions, I suspect depression and mental health will see their turn soon enough. We actually have a term for this in the disability community, we call it the Hierarchy of Disability and I have written before on why it is such a divisive, dangerous idea even in normal disabled life, but now we see someone actively seeking to use it against us for political ends and I am unavoidably reminded of the (sadly forgotten) earliest form of Pastor Martin Neimoller’s poem:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the sick, the so-called incurables, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't mentally ill.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me

Together we stand, divided we fall.

Rounding out Saturday’s diatribe of hate is the contemptible disdain of Martin Sinclair, the mouthpiece of the ‘Tax Payer’s Alliance’ who states DLA claimants are “a particularly unwelcome burden” on taxpayers, failing to acknowledge that a great many DLA recipients are taxpayers. Apparently Mr Sinclair doesn’t agree that part of the role of the state, the very reason we pay it tax, is to support those of us who, through disability, face extra financial burdens. I was a taxpayer for twenty-three years, Mr Sinclair, given my choices I still would be, and there are several million more disabled people like me who either pay taxes, have paid taxes, or would love to have the opportunity to pay taxes. Doesn’t your organisation feel an obligation to represent us too, or does the fact that we are who we are make us beneath your notice, too likely to vote for the wrong party, ultimately just unspeakably disabled?

There is one final name I haven’t talked about in this catalogue of shame, the Liberal-Democrats. This is the party that, even more than Labour, has traditionally portrayed itself as the party that puts Social Justice first, ahead even of political power, the party that currently shares in the government of the country alongside the Tories. So where exactly does your party stand on this, Mr Clegg? People like Danny Alexander were vocal enough about the problems arising from ATOS assessments in Opposition, but as soon as a ministerial position was wafted under their noses they became strangely silent. Less than three months ago your party’s Spring Conference, specifically addressing DLA Mobility Component, made it clear to the parliamentary party that attacks on disabled people had gone too far, finding it necessary to remind you of your obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Your party has spoken, Mr Clegg, but they, and we, are still waiting for your reply….


  1. Well said - I post regularly in the comment column whenever the Daily Mail spews up its bile, pointing out the inconsistencies, the lack of real detail, and that disability is only a slip on a step away. Sometimes they publish - and its surprising how many people green-arrow my comment. But often it sinks without trace.

  2. Fantastic post!

  3. The 'Tax Payers' Alliance' is an inaccurately titled organisation, as it doesn't represent the majority of ordinary tax payers - it merely represents the narrow vested interests of the super-rich.

  4. What can we do to protect ourselves?

    The propaganda is working - one only needs to read the comments in Daily Mail & even the Guardian right-wingers.

    I am ashamed to belong to the same species as some of theose who feel the disabled are an expensive luxury that needs to be culled given that we are solely responsible for the global collapse of the economy.

    Perhaps the tax dodgers alliance could ensure their members & followers paid their share of taxes to reduce the burden of deficit rather than pontificating about the disabled.

    I read an excellent comment in the Guardian that simply said:

    "If you don't have an illness that limits your opportunities, you're not better than me, just luckier. For now"

  5. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Gandhi

    At least we're at stage three :)

  6. " What can we do to protect ourselves? "
    " The propaganda is working - one only needs to read the comments in Daily Mail & even the Guardian right-wingers."

    Tell the truth. Refuse to be silent.
    Maintain solidarity. Refuse to acquiesce.

    Divide & rule is a very old and nasty Tory tactic.
    A newer tactic to bear in mind is what the journalist, George Monbiot, calls astroturfing. This is where individuals are paid to post under multiple false identities and infest the Comments section of popular internet blogs/articles to counter or obstruct any criticism of the Establishment. Astroturfing = a fake grass roots.

  7. I've read hundreds of superb blogs over many months, but this for me is by far the best one yet, a truly excellent piece of writing. This blog needs to be circulated as far and as wide as possible. Guardian perhaps?
    What ever our illnesses and/or disabilities it's absolutely crucial we stick together. If they divide us, we don't stand a chance of winning this battle.
    United we stand !!!

  8. excellent blog, we have a fight on our hands as if we hadnt enough to deal with coping with our illness.None of us asked to be ill, it can affect anyone. I earn about a 1/4 of what I used to , is that an incentive to claim DLA ?? I think not. We cannot let them get away with this.

  9. Carolyn Roberts5 June 2011 at 22:44

    DLA has the lowest fraud rate of all the benefits apart from the state pension at a rate of 0.5% and yet many claimants are seen as scroungers. I am very disappointed that the Lib Dems who I voted for are not opposing the welfare reform bill and are allowing these attacks on disability benefits to take place. Disabled people did not cause the deficit so why should we be targeted to pay for it.

  10. my son fell 30 feet in his place of work a year ago , he is twenty years old he recieved 6 months ssp that was it , his shoulder id destroyed and he was 3 weeks short of his apprenticeship, i could go on but i wont !!!! im disgusted by the way he has been treated , he is a worker and had a very good work ethic , i could understand that would no longer be the case. who is going to fight for cases like ours !!!!!!!

  11. Why can't we reverse the process turn it all around and start dividing the people. After all thats what the Govt are doing isn't it. How do we do this well we actually need some national daily to start printing our concerns a lot of people who are not affected do not even read the blogs or are aware of the situation, the only time they become aware is if thney or someone close to them falls ill then they become involved.

  12. I have a bad back and I also suffer from depression. To say I feel 'beleagored' is an understatement. For years my back problems were undiagnosed and I was told 'imaginary'. I tried to ignore them and as a result regularly passed out with pain and ended up in A@E. Eventually it could no longer be put down solely to depression. I get the lowest rate DLA and IB. The future terrifies me. My first and last thought of every day is 'when will it be my turn to be assessed? What will happen to me when, inevitably, I get pushed onto JSA?'. Fear is slowly destroying my life.

  13. At the turn of the century, my kid brother was a fit & healthy, 38 year old salesman. Four years later, he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's Disease. Now he is registered disabled.He is seperated from his wife & family and manages to hold down a job.
    But for how much longer? When it gets to the place where he can physically no longer work, cuts like this will hit him hard and thousands like him. This government: what a class act.

  14. I was talking to someone I know today and realised how difficult it is to get people to understand. I tried to explain how I am likely to lose my benefitis on the migration to ESA, that I have useful skills, but that with millions of desperate unemployed people out there, few employers will want someone with unstable moods, psychosis, arthritis, bad back, dodgy eyesight, dodgy hearing and PTSD.

    In my last job, in few months at less than average wage, I did key work to generate an income of over a million pounds. That's in addition to overhauling their HR, reviewing around a hundred job descriptions, resolving conflicts, staying late to edit a magazine etc. They really, really got their money's worth out of me. But when I got ill, that was my job gone. They could have paid me for twelve months for four months work each year and still have made a tidy profit.

    Until employers understand that people like me have something to give, it will continue to be unbearably cruel for the government to chuck people like me off incapacity benefits.

    Sunny Clouds

  15. I'am 32 and have been on IB for 5 years my illneses are getting worse with age.

    I have Scoliosis , Depression , Insomnia and an undiognosed problem in my stomach area.

    I am in constant pain from the momment my eyes open untill the momment I fall asleep Thats if I do sleep sometimes i just dont sleep.

    Iam in constant worry of what the future will hold with this shake up.

    Its unfair to the genuine people who need this benefit. All this worry is making me worse

    This was an exelent post Thankyou very much