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DWGism [userpic]

Has 38 Degrees Abandoned the Hardest Hit?

November 5th, 2011 (03:48 am)
irritated

current location: Waiting for the Avalanche
current mood: irritated
current song: Waiting for the Wheel to Turn - Clannad

I've got a new post up at Flat-Out, asking why disabled people are finding it so hard to get any support from the campaigning group 38 Degrees. It seems to have tapped into an undercurrent of puzzled annoyance amongst disabled activists - it's drawn nearly as many page views in a day as the rest of the blog has in two months...

DWGism [userpic]

In Another Place

November 2nd, 2011 (02:14 am)
groggy
Tags:

current location: Windmills of my mind
current mood: groggy
current song: Dizzy, my head is spinning

I've been semi-knocked out these last few weeks by repeated inner-ear bugs - I'm not sure if I'm on the second or third of the month, and spinning rooms are so not my favourite thing, but I've managed some entries over at Flat Out.

The first was prompted by a newspaper article which asked "Is Britain the Worst Place to Live in Europe?" I don't know about worst, but it's definitely not ideal!

Next up was 'Attack of the Flying Monkeys' commenting on the open hostility of Ricky Gervais fans after he was asked to stop trying to bring 'mong' back into use (for non-Brits, it's a local equivalent to the US 'retard' in all it's disablist hate and fury). The abuse I picked up along the way paled into comparison to some of that being thrown around.

'Flattened' talks about the non-obvious ways that disability can limit you. It was partly a reaction to the lack of empathy from the flying monkeys, partly a reaction to a real spike in my disability that fortunately seems to have eased off.

'30 Pieces of Silver, the International Paralympic Committee and ATOS Origin' is me in full-on political mode. It's a copy of a letter I sent to the IPC protesting their decision to partner with ATOS Origin, who have an appalling record of outright disablism. So yeah, really obvious partner for the IPC... My own experience with ATOS is documented in an article at WTB: 'The WCA, Sick Joke or National Disgrace'. 

Due up next is a report on the first national conference of Disabled People Against the Cuts, which I attended last Saturday, that should be written in the next couple of days, spinning head allowing, but will probably go on WTB.

DWGism [userpic]

New Blogs, But Not Here

September 27th, 2011 (12:22 am)
current location: Elsewhere!
current mood: creative
current song: Leaving on a Jet Plane (Ben Affleck/Armageddon version)

After the last farce with an entry that was date specific and LJ's editors being in scramble mode, plus some problems with non-LJers seeing posts here, I've decided to move my blogging to Blogger, as I already use that a lot for postings at Where's the Benefit.

The plan is to post anything new to my new blog, Flat-Out, but I'll keep up LJ to keep track of friends here and I'll try to remember  to post links to new postings for anyone who might want to read them. Postings so far:

Why Flat Out? - Intro
A Day of Infamy - the origins of Aktion T4.
The 100% Income Tax - What 400,000 disabled people will be paying from next April
How the Papers Help Make Disability Hate Invisible... - A slightly disturbing above the fold/below the fold editorial decision
Another Train Journey From Hell - A reminder of why I try not to take the train into London

Onwards!

DWGism [userpic]

A Day of Infamy

September 1st, 2011 (11:01 pm)
Tags:

current location: Remembering our roots
current song: Something sad

Apologies to anyone trying to read this, LJ seems to be wiping out my formatting, normal service will be restored when I figure out what is happening. ================================================================================ LatentExistence wrote a piece yesterday for Where’s The Benefit, entitled Godwin’s Law Must Die, discussing how people’s horror at Nazism actually gets in the way when 1930s Germany really is the only historical parallel for the situation you are experiencing. It had slipped my mind what today is the anniversary of until I was reminded by someone else’s tweet, but it is an anniversary that brings that post by LatentExistence into sharp focus and reminds me of the things we must never allow ourselves to forget, whether disabled people or not. Today is September 1st. Although in Britain we usually remember the start of WWII as the 3rd of September, based on our own declaration of war in support of Poland, it was on the 1st that Germany executed Fall Weiss, the invasion of Poland, having used commandos the night before to manufacture an incident of ‘Polish’ provocation. Attacked from three sides - Slovakia invaded with Germany, while Russia stabbed Poland in the back on the 17th - organised Polish resistance soon collapsed, although many Poles slipped away, coming to Britain and France to continue the fight. The end of organised resistance did not bring an end to the killing, it just provided freedom for the massacres and the men of Einsatzkommando 16 moved through the mental hospitals of Western Poland, slaughtering the disabled patients: 7,000 at Gdansk, 10,000 at Gdynia, and hundreds at Poznan in the first example of mass gassing, a process Himmler came to see in December of 1939. The organised extermination of disabled mental patients then spread back into Germany itself, clearing the hospitals of the ‘useless’ to free them for war-wounded: 1,400 in Pomerania, 1,600 in East Prussia, 8,000 of their own people in this wave, killed for the crime of being disabled. The organised killing of disabled Germans had actually started before this, with children. Part of Nazi Party ideology, a creed which in some cases literally became a religion, was a fetishising of racial purity, the cult of the inherent superiority of the blue-eyed, blonde-haired Aryan German, destined to rule over the untermensch, eugenics taken to its ultimate conclusion. That some Germans might be less than ‘perfect’, might actually be disabled, was problematic for the Nazi party’s racial purity zealots, and in the confrontational politics of 1930s Germany problems were simply something to actively pour your hatred onto. They took the passive concept of racial purity and developed it into the active concept of racial hygiene, planning to purge the German Volk of undesirable elements, such as people with disabilities. Eugenics run rampant wasn’t actually unique to Germany at that time, both the US and Sweden had programmes for sterilizing those with disabilities considered inheritable or who were judged to show anti-social behaviour, but Germany turned to sterilization with all its national fervour for efficiency and in June 1933, almost as soon as the Nazis were in power, passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, which mandated sterilization for disabilities such as epilepsy and ‘social deviances’ such as alcoholism. Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte), conducted a witchhunt through the German mental hospitals, asylums and other institutions, choosing those to be sterilized, a number estimated to have run to 360,000 Germans by 1939. Perhaps the only reason the programme did not progress to physical disabilities was that the senior Nazi Joseph Goebbels had a club foot. And all the while the Nazi propaganda machine was churning out films and posters intended to portray disabled people as a drain on the state and worthy only of euthanasia. In 1939 Hitler asked Brandt, his personal physician, and Bouhler, head of his chancellery, to look into the case of a disabled baby, Gerhard Kretschmar, whose parents wanted him killed – the father’s letter to Hitler apparently referred to his son as ‘this monster’. In July 1939 the killing was carried out and Brandt was instructed by Hitler to proceed on the same basis in other cases, leading to the systematic classification of disabled German children by the Committee for the Scientific Treatment of Severe, Genetically Determined Illness authorised on 18th August 1939, with doctors and midwives required to report all births of disabled children and preparatory measures being made to extend the process to adults. With the outbreak of war the need to proceed cautiously diminished and in October 1939, Hitler issued the Euthanasia Decree, bypassing the Health Ministry in favour of Brandt and Bouhler, his own men: Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are charged with the responsibility for expanding the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, to the end that patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment of their state of health, can be granted a mercy death. And so Aktion T4 was born, a programme that ultimately killed over 200,000 disabled Germans and started a full two years ahead of the Wannsee Conference and the decision on the extermination the Jews. But the killing had already started, and so Hitler backdated the decree to ‘legalise’ the actions that had already taken place. The date he chose was September 1st, 1939, a day of infamy.

DWGism [userpic]

We Were Only Following Orders

July 29th, 2011 (03:45 pm)
angry
Tags: ,

current location: On the Borders of Bizarro-World
current mood: angry
current song: Everybody Hurts


The letters to the Guardian reacting to its latest article discussing problems within the administration of the Work Capability Assessment by ATOS Origin have drawn an interesting, if rather odious, response.

The powerful article by John Harris can be read here and is a reaction to the new report by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions (see here), but steps beyond the report to look at a string of examples of malpractice, and wonder how all this can be happen while the general population remain blissfully unaware.

And now today we see a response from Geraldine O'Connell, National Secretary of Prospect, the 'union' for ATOS Health Care Professionals (the doctors, nurses and physios who administer the test). Does she join in the horror at what is happening? I'll let you make your own minds up:

 

John Harris's article makes compelling and disturbing reading. But there are always two sides to a story.


Having introduced herself she goes on to explain:

 

Recent media interest on the experiences of claimants during the migration of incapacity benefit to employment support allowance has left heath care workers feeling bruised and demoralised

 

I'm sorry? Several disabled people are dead, dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands have been reduced to contemplating suicide, tens of thousands more have been forced through the stress of appeals (and left without the benefits they depend on for months, even years), the Tribunal Service is creaking under the strain of dealing with all of the foul-ups created by ATOS Origin HCPs (at a cost to the country of £50m), while thousands upon thousands of disabled people (including me) have been treated with utter contempt by her members, and she wants us to feel sorry for them? What kind of twisted mirror-world does she inhabit to think that her members are the sinned against?

She goes on to state:

 

Prospect fully supports the absolute requirement for all claimants to be treated with dignity and respect.

But gives no indication of how she proposes to ensure that is the case, because it certainly isn't the way her members are behaving now.

Then follows the big justification:

 

The criteria for qualification for benefit are determined through government policy and not by Atos.

 

Or in other words 'we were only following orders', and that's a defence that works really well, isn't it?

And for her grand exit she goes for the Big Lie:

 

health care professionals do not make any decisions on claims themselves

Yet Professor Malcolm Harrington made clear in his review of the WCA, as Geraldine O'Connell must be well aware, that the DWP 'decison makers' are institutionally incapable of overriding the ATOS HCPs due to an overdose of Doctor As God syndrome, meaning that every conclusion by an HCP is in near certainty a decision on a claim.

I'd like to congratulate Geraldine O'Connell on her letter, I didn't think that it was possible for my opinion of ATOS HCPs to sink lower, but her breathtaking arrogance in trying to claim that her members are the sinned against means that she has achieved it. If she really wants the sympathy of the public, then isn't it time the members of her organisation remember the oath they swore to do no harm, and the basic humanity that demands that they ensure that every WCA assessment takes place in such a way that the claimant understands what is being scored by every question asked of them, how their answers will be interpreted, that sits, and listens, and asks about things like repeatability and limitations they might not have thought to mention, and beyond all else, treats the person on the other side of their monitor screen as fully their equal, and a person in need of, and fully entitled to, their help. Anything less is a failure in their duty of care, and a violation of their oath.

And perhaps when her members have done that, then they will be worthy to ask the forgiveness of the disabled people they have abused.

DWGism [userpic]

Schadenfreude

July 10th, 2011 (03:58 pm)
current location: Watching Karma Come Home to Roost
current mood: predatory
current song: Another One Bites The Dust

I came a little late to this week's eruption of the News International scandal, I was too uncomfortable to sleep on Monday night, which spilled over into general crapness Tuesday and Wednesday and it was Thursday before I was well enough to really get caught up with what was going on, and I'll be totally frank that once I did my grin just kept getting broader.

None of us can be happy with the degree of corruption that has been exposed, or the evidence that the political establishment, the police and the rest of the press, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, have run scared of News International for pretty much 40 years. Nor can we draw comfort from the attitudes betrayed by the hacks and executives being put in front of the harsh glare of the cameras for once. There's something very wrong with the profession when prominent hacks can appear on the leading political and news shows, defending hacking grieving parents, even hacking missing murdered teens to the detriment of the murder investigation, and see nothing wrong with their attitudes. Possibly more worrying is when a political leader as prominent as Ed Miliband is threatened by a nameless News International executive for daring to suggest that a more senior executive should be held to account for all the sins that happened on her watch, or when the executive editor of The Times launches a rabidly contemptuous attack on Mumsnet, blaming them for the closure of the News of The World, rather than the journalists who were responsible for the hacking and corruption, or the executives who at best sat by while they did it, at worst actually colluded in it, and who ultimately threw the New of the World hacks to the wolves in the hope of saving their dash for the prize of complete ownership of BSkyB and the domination of British media it will bring them. I guess for once the public have seen the real, contemptuous, attitude of the hacks towards the rest of the world.

Unfortunately the reality of how contemptuously the hacks view the public isn't a revelation for those of us who are disabled. For the past several years the tabloids have been calculatingly drawing a picture of disabled people as systematic fakers and fraudsters, a justified target for public anger, and that anger has manifested itself on the street with many disabled people, including me, being harassed by complete strangers simply for the 'sin' of daring to be disabled in public, harassment that is leaving many scared to leave their houses. The campaign of vilification might have started with the politicos (and 'might' is an increasingly interesting word as we realise just how deeply the Murdochs has sunk their manipulative claws into the heart of the British establishment), but the tabloid hacks were their willing bullyboys in seeking to demonize and victimize a minority who had done nothing other than have the misfortune to be disabled in a frequently disablist society. So when the News of the World editor complains that he and his current employees are the innocent victims of this affair, forgive me for feeling more than a little bit of schadenfreude*, and viewing him with increased contempt, not sympathy, The current generation of hacks have been actively and consciously disabilist, whipping up hatred against us, because they know latent jealousy and ignorance about disability benefits mean the public can be easily manipulated into a frothing lynch mob, eager for yet more tales of disabled people daring to be too sick to work,. or to sacrifice their mobility allowance for a decent car that's actually big enough to hold a wheelchair. If the sin they are being sacrificed for might not be their own, then in no way should we assume that they are innocent of any crime, or worthy of our sympathy. They have spent years savaging disabled people who can't find jobs in our openly disablist employment regime and if they now face hunting for jobs themselves, then that's just the karma coming home to roost.

There are rumours that the corruption extends far further, into other tabloids from other stables, perhaps even into the broadsheets, and my schadenfreude hopes that that is the case, because after the way disabled people have been hounded by these rags there's only one thing you can call one closed tabloid -- a start.

* Schadenfreude - joy in the discomfiture of others.  

DWGism [userpic]

15 Seconds of Fame

May 16th, 2011 (01:14 pm)
frustrated

current location: Underneath the fold
current mood: frustrated
current song: What's the Frequency, Kenneth - REM

 
I was quoted in the Observer (the Sunday edition of the Guardian), in two different versions(?!) of the same article, here and here. I like the first better because it preserves my line "I feel more under threat of violence than for years due to the 'jihad' waged against us by the government.", the second version, presumably the one in the print edition, had the last half chopped off :(

Unfortunately the journalist made a complete hash of explaining disability benefits, when confusing people about them is a big part of the government strategy the article is attacking - d'oh!

Disability Living Allowance - covers extra costs of disability whether in work, out of work, or still a child. Not an out-of-work benefit, despite what the Observer says, that's precisely the confusion the government are trying to create as people then see someone working and getting benefit and presume they're a fraud. The government policy also taps into the widespread jealousy over the Motability scheme, which is linked with DLA and widely misunderstood to consist of the government giving free cars to disabled people, whereas at a minimum they're paying £40+/week. I don't get this - though I've had close colleagues assume my car was free - I wish!

Incapacity Benefit - the old benefit for people unable to work due to disability, closed to new applicants in 2008. The government are busy mis-managing the migration of IB recipients to its replacement. I don't get this either.

Employment and Support Allowance - the new benefit for people unable to work due to disability, with much harsher acceptance criteria -- the widely hated WCA. I do get this, but it's the only one the Observer didn't mention at all!

Being targeted for discrimination by your own government is a hell of a way to get your 15 seconds of fame!

DWGism [userpic]

#BADD2011 What’s Wrong With Our Society?

May 1st, 2011 (02:04 am)
angry
Tags:

current location: Putting Society in the Dock
current mood: angry
current song: Bad Day, REM

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2011

 

It’s Blogging Against Disablism Day, a day for writers to turn their skills against the disablism that makes living with disability so much more difficult than necessary. I’ve already written a piece for Where’s The Benefit, but my conclusions there started me thinking.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, felt able last week to launch a hate-filled attack on disabled benefit claimants whose disabilities happen to make them subject to addiction or obesity. Never mind it would be disability related harassment under the Equality Act if addressed to an individual (and I would like to see the case for generic harassment addressed in court – I certainly felt attacked and threatened, no matter my disability being something else entirely), never mind that it was in clear breach of Articles 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 16, 19, 22, 27 and 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, never mind that it is certain to exacerbate the already worrying rise in disability benefit related hate crime (‘he’s disabled, he must be on benefit, he must be faking his disability, get him!’ – logic isn’t the bigot’s strong point), there he was on national news, confidently spouting his bile with that arrogant smile of his, saying how he was sure that the little man would agree with him.

The attack, and the sycophantic repetition in the press, stretching even onto the BBC,  drew plenty of condemnation from disability groups and individuals -  we had three different responses on WTB alone, but the best Labour could manage as the flagship party of Opposition was Stephen Timms, the Shadow Employment Secretary, wetly agreeing with him. That is, unfortunately, not too surprising, there has been a deafening silence from Labour over the onslaught on disability benefits and the demonization of disabled people as benefit frauds, possibly because those attacks started under our last, Labour, government, and possibly because all the new ideas and policies, even the ludicrous ‘imaginary wheelchair*’ are ones that were planned while Labour were in government. So the Government are confident that there is nothing to be lost in demonizing disabled people, the Opposition were confident that there was nothing to be lost in demonizing disabled people, and the right-wing press are absolutely overjoyed to have a new minority group they are positively encouraged to torment now that the Moslem thing is growing old.

The politicians don’t think it will lose them votes, the press don’t think it will lose them sales, the only conclusion you can draw is that open disablism has become socially acceptable, that it is so widespread in our society that the people who will take offence can simply be discounted. And that is why I think that there is something very wrong with contemporary British society.

 

* The ‘imaginary wheelchair’ is a proposed new tool for assessing mobility disability: if you are a person with a mobility disability and an assessor decides, potentially in direct contradiction to the opinion of your specialists, that using a manual wheelchair (and whether you have or can afford one or not -- hence 'imaginary') you could self-propel for 50m, then you won’t be eligible for mobility benefits, one of which is the disabled parking 'blue badge' that a wheelchair user would need to actually get into town in the first place - logic really isn't the strong point here. 

DWGism [userpic]

Ooh, Shiny!

April 12th, 2011 (08:31 pm)
frustrated

current location: Going Nowhere
current mood: frustrated
current song: Everybody Hurts - REM

…. or the difficulty of keeping specialists focussed on what you want, rather than what interests them.

I saw a new specialist last night, this one a spinal surgeon, but the appointment didn’t go entirely to plan. What I really wanted to talk about was the holistic effects of having injuries at both lumbar and cervical spine, and the fact that what would be a comparatively simple neck/arm problem for anyone else compromises my entire mobility, because it’s interfering with using crutches. She just wanted to talk necks.

Now to give her her due, she did do a reasonably full work-up and did talk to me about the lumbar issues, but no more than reasonable, I don’t think she really understood the extent to which things revolve around my pelvis, and she just plain wasn’t interested in how I’m disabled by the pain I experience, barely so by the fact I spent most of March only sleeping on alternate nights. The pain interested her, what it meant for me didn’t.

I’m reasonably happy about the fact she’s sending me for nerve conduction tests, no matter they are reportedly unpleasant, I’m very happy that she’s thinking about sending me back to pain management, because they will listen to me, but is it too much to ask that she listens to me too?

DWGism [userpic]

Catch 22

April 11th, 2011 (11:09 pm)
aggravated

current location: Standing next to Yossarian
current mood: aggravated
current song: I Predict A Riot, Kaiser Chiefs

It being the end of the financial year, my bank invited me in last week in order to discuss my savings and investments. So I struggled in and explained that, despite the savings I racked up during a couple of decades of work, not to mention my redundancy payment, I am currently receiving ESA (disability benefit), which doesn’t cover all of my outgoings, and, as it is Contributions Related ESA, at the start of the next financial year it will drop to nothing, so I really need to optimise my savings and investments.

What I wasn’t expecting to be told in reply was 'Sorry, the FSA won't let us give you financial advice if you have outgoings exceeding earnings.’ So, the government is going to force, by its own estimates, 300,000 contributions-based ESA claimants to live on their savings as of next April, but won't, for that very same reason, allow the banks to give them financial advice on how to maximize the income from those same savings.

I seem to have wandered into Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’....

Also posted to Where's the Benefit  along with a larger piece on the abuses of WCA.

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