Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Invisibility Cloak

What a week. In fact what a month. In fact, what a year.....

Sickness and Disability stories simply aren't newsworthy. No matter how many people are dying after being found "fit for work" no matter how many vulnerable people are being left without care or support, no matter how many of them march in protest or speak to journalists, the media choose not to report it and the politicians choose not to listen to it.

Charities are overwhelmingly opposed to the welfare reform bill. United as never before, you might think it would give government pause for thought, but no.

Noble Lords stand up one after one during committees to decry changes that will cause homelessness, suffering, poverty, increased burdens on the NHS, isolation and restrictions to treatment, but in response, we are simply told it will all be fine - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Campaigners nearly kill themselves trying to show the real face of these changes, but still they are invisible.

Legal groups warn of injustice over changes to tribunals but the coalition-steamroller advances regardless.

The EHRC, Mencap and ComRes warn of shocking rises in hate crime against the disabled, yet monthly, the coalition release the same inaccurate data that leads to "Scrounger" stories. Th Daily Mail use every last story of evil in society to blame disabled people and convince the public that we are all living the high life with free cars and houses, when the FACTS are that disabled people are more likely to live in poverty than any other group.

The Hardest Hit marches at the weekend saw thousands of sick and disabled people taking to the streets to highlight the shocking changes they are facing. Our media do not report it. Several interviews we'd arranged were cancelled in favour of the Occupy St Paul's story. I can't provide a link to this one, that's how poorly reported it was. More disabled people than ever in our history protest in the streets and I can't post a link.

When a disabled campaigner creates the most interesting moment in an otherwise bland Labour conference by putting Ed Miliband on the spot over attitudes towards the disabled, at a live event attended by thousands, reporters actually followed her to the toilet to get her story - but none of their editors wanted to run it. Surely the first and only time a damn good handbagging was ignored by the media?

Politicians tell you that they are "working with and listening to" disability groups, but it's just not true. They close consultations before the results are all in, refuse to respond to campaigners and have no hesitation at all in lying to the press to bolster support for their policies.

On Thursday, a documentary so riddled with inaccuracies (put together by John Humphreys no less) will air, presented as fact. No doubt unchallenged, with no right to reply given to those like me who disagree. I have evidence on my side, but that doesn't matter.

So today, I ask you to do something. Pick a "vested interest". It might be

-A newspaper editor
-A journalist
-Your MP
-A crossbench or coalition peer
-A TV station
-A political programme
-A favourite comedian or celebrity
-Your local paper

Tell them that soon it will be too late. We will have turned the clock back decades on disability rights. We will have all but abolished sickness benefits. "Hard working taxpayers" will need to find the money for yet another insurance policy, as the state simply won't protect you if you get sick or injured in a terrible accident.

Tell them that we need them. Now.

Tell them that a political consensus is not always in the national interest. Tell them your story or share one that has touched you. Build a relationship, don't be discouraged if you don't get anywhere at first. Be eloquent, not angry, be determined, not despondent. Tell them in your own words and keep telling them until they listen

Will you do this for me? Will you choose just one mind to change?

In a year or two, stories like the one's I write for this blog will be news. But by then it will be because people see the effects of these changes all around them, every day. Because they see people dying, or see them going hungry or left in their own filth for days at a time unable to get the care they need.

We can stop it before it gets to that stage. But not alone. Not against the enormous power and reach of a media, political class and corporate world who can't hear us.

Change a mind with me. Change an injustice. Change a world making the most vulnerable pay.


  1. A beautiful piece and well written but I have to tell you I have written to most on your list and received plenty of platitudes but nothing else.
    Until the day we chain ourselves to the gates and make a proper stand we will be ignored.
    I'm sorry but right now i'm far too angry to even try to debate with the cretins again. I'm more inclined to scream and shout and cause as much trouble as possible in order that at the very least it would be newsworthy...and yes I realise the haters would love it but at least as I said it would be newsworthy.

  2. I haven't read the Mail take on Humphrey's documentary, mainly because I expect it to be slanted. However, the trailer is definitely pushing the 'feckless' line, even using newspaper headlines which we know to be untrue. I won't be able to watch it (I have enough anger issues) but if it is as I fear, it will go a long way to explain the reticence of the BBC to give any coverage to the #hardesthit and disability issues generally.

    Never has our media looked more like a part of the Establishment than they do right now.

  3. I note where you say policies will cause "homelessness, suffering, poverty, increased burdens on the NHS, isolation and restrictions to treatment." Well it won't cause these problems to the people who make the policies because they're rich. And they aren't concerned about problems for the NHS because soon, thanks again to their policies, there won't be one. It's a complete waste of time therefore to try appealing to them. It's not that they don't know. They don't care.


  4. How about a demo outside the BBC? Possibly including chaining ourselves to things? Warn them that we'll organise in response to the programme; they've already been warned about that Saints and Scroungers toss. Bring the fight to the bastards. I know everyone's worn out from constant demos, but this is fight or die stuff. Oh, and tell ITV and Channel 4 about the protest as well. I'm not thinking in terms of "what can we win", I'm thinking "how can we get right up to these sadists and shove the consequences of their actions right in their faces".

    A quick shufty of the TV-related forums shows a lot of anger with arrogance at the BBC and a refusal to admit that the viewer can be right or that they've made a mistake. That might be a good angle for giving outsiders a way in.

    The thing is, the "reform" going ahead will bring a shitstorm down on the heads of everyone involved, because history teaches us that the most dangerous people are those with nothing left to lose.

  5. see the daily fail running a piece on camilla's mother having osteo shame on them all. we are all doomed i tell ya. have to agree with Jan though we need to be better organised chaining ourselves is good

  6. People they aint gonna stop, they dont care dare i say it yet again cause it does not affect them one bit. We are all being so naive here its untrue. Its a great blog highlights all the issues we are all facing one way or another but that's it it's just a blog. some may read it some may be aware of it but in reality the MP'S LORDS Media papers do not care. ordinary people do not care why cause it dont affect them just yet!!. i am frustrated by it all and it makes me feel quite violent towards certain people in this country.

  7. Gosh Gosh Gosh only a few weeks ago I was asked by the BBC to go onto another show to speak about welfare, but to be honest I'm close to my retirement now, and boy will I be glad.

    But to be honest not to many people are willing to go out and protest we arranged one down here six of us turned up, we went for a cup of coffee and then went home.

    Then ITV phoned up asking would I like to talk about welfare reforms and I said nope sorry.

    I'm tired and I've done my bit, but when I look at the list of charities who are now backing the fight like Mind and many others it reminds me of the same charities telling us welfare reforms are good, they are needed, because they hoped to get money from contracts on getting us back to work, once they knew they not get any contracts they attacked the process.

  8. Hi new poster here

    Why is the BBC so obsessed with welfare and benefits?, its clear they have an agenda, but where is the direction coming from, are they just trying to 'reflect the national mood' unaware they are helping create it or is it the type of people who work for the BBC or is it something more sinister.

    I have written to producers of these programmes such as the Panorama one on I/B and they were very defensive and wouldn't give an inch. I have also been a long time campaigner on such issues since Blair made his infamous ''IB claimants are scroungers'' in Hungary.

    The whole reform process has been characterised by lies, smears and misinformation. I was once interviewed by the Today Programme as part of a groups challenging the first NL welfare reform bill, the then DWP Secretary John Hutton refused to appear on the programme if our package which was about grass roots oppostion to the Bill and where the BBC had spent the whole day with us was broadcast, it wasn't and the veteran senior Journalist who did the report was livid.

  9. I give up... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052847/UK-riots-1-8-defendants-incapacity-disability-benefits.html

  10. totally agree with you robert charities are all out for themselves now.

  11. 'I'm tired and I've done my bit, but when I look at the list of charities who are now backing the fight like Mind and many others it reminds me of the same charities telling us welfare reforms are good, they are needed, because they hoped to get money from contracts on getting us back to work, once they knew they not get any contracts they attacked the process. '

    Absolutely, the National Campaign Against The Welfare Bill had a small protest against the bill at the LP Conference in Manchester a number of years ago, 100 people maybe while 60'000 had marched against the Iraq war that weekend! It was obvious civil society wasn't concerned about us at that time, then in the evening we went to the Disability Alliance forum, this was sponsered by Serco, the services company now running 'workfare'

    The charities thought they could get a piece of the pie, now they have been pushed aside by the corporates, they are only now doing the thing they should have done then, defending disabled claimants!

    We should continue to monitor and challenge the BBC and the MSM...

  12. Adopting American policies into the UK which is where most of this stems from will and can only end in the same horror result the Americans are now facing. Tent cities and soup kitchens everywhere how the mighty have fallen, it failed there it will fail here. And at the end of the day in both cases was any money actually saved? NO, billions and later trillions were lost and it will take trillions more to fix it if it can ever be fixed.

  13. Dunno about the Beeb's attitude (a slave to the state which funds it I'd imagine) but the other media's attitude might be explained by the fact that while they won't make any money from backing the disabled or the NHS, if there's no welfare state any more then everyone will need private health/unemployment insurance and the companies providing that will reach their market by advertising through the media. It'll be an absolute bonanza for the media, an occasion without precedent I would think. Fortunes will be made. So it's naive to expect any help from them. Don't take it personally, people - it's really just business!


  14. (Part 1, the rest to follow due to character restrictions)

    The documentary no doubt be used as an excuse for the government to warrant even more extensive cuts and sanctions to the most vulnerable.

    I'm going to have a rant sorry!

    From April 2013, I have calculated that due to the 'under occupancy' charge, and the proposed 16% cut in council tax benefit, I will have to pay an extra £135 to stay here. Rent to rise 10% each year whilst housing benefit is cut + 'Universal Credit' less than ESA + severe disability premium scrapped + 'Personal Independence Payment' less than DLA + care charges = abject poverty.

    I am a secure tenant, so they can only evict me on the grounds of arrears. Shouldn't I make way for a family? There are 2 reasons why not. Firstly, council houses were in a very poor state years ago – no funding available for improvements – so councils encouraged and allowed tenants to improve them. I couldn't afford to buy my home, but from my earned income, I saved thousands to install 2 multi fuel burners that feed a central heating system, installed a kitchen, paid for numerous repairs improvements and other things. At 48 I can't afford to start again. The garden took 10 years to sort out as well as it was in such a poor and overgrown state. Secondly, housing laws were established over the last century in order to provide stable and permanent homes for the poor, but successive governments have neglected to build more homes: why should tenants pay for that? Only middle income earners will afford the new 'affordable' rents and after we are displaced these people will then buy our homes under 'right to buy' policy.

    I pay £230 every 4 weeks towards my care package, which effectively wipes out the care elements of my ESA and DLA. You receive the care free if you are in employment, which I did until my illness deteriorated 2 years ago. That might sound fair, but I also need the care element to pay for other costs that the carers are not paid for, for example gardening, for which I have to pay £20 per week April-October, and I am obliged by my tenancy to do it.

    With the rent 'fines', council tax bills, care bills, and additional costs I face as a disabled person, from April 2013 the fact is that I will not be able to afford to live, not just here, but anywhere! The government say there are cheaper properties, but social housing in North Staffordshire is the cheapest to rent in the country; private lets are too expensive. Even if the [now] housing association did have a one bedroom flat (they don't, and cost more to rent than my semi), I would still have the care bill to pay, the housing 'fine' (plus make up the difference in HB due to CPI uprating), and council tax and I can't afford a removal van or to pay for carpets, curtains, to pay for someone to put curtain poles in now, let alone when welfare reform is implemented. My family cannot afford to take me in and they haven't got the space; there are no hostel places...

  15. ...Part 2

    So, I will be sleeping rough along with the many 100s of 1000s of tenants across the country. People who earn minimum wage will not be able to afford the 'affordable' rents either, so working really doesn't pay does it? Ironically, if I paid my full rent they couldn't force me to move, so this is not about freeing up houses, but moving the housing crisis firmly to those at the bottom of the pile, to the most vulnerable, who do not have the means, legal aid, or the wherewithal to fight it.

    I live in fear every day of the humiliation of becoming homeless. I told my carers last week (who will also lose their homes despite working), that I will end my life before I am forced into homelessness. I am so ill, I wouldn't last one week sleeping rough in the winter, so either way I'm dead, and I'd rather die in my own home than face the elements.

    This is the certain future 100s of 1000s of people face: no one will listen and no one cares. As you state in your blog, by the time that there is a public outcry, it will be too late: the government will have a humanitarian crisis on their hands.

    What an absolute disgrace.

  16. The vested interests behind the these so called reforms are rich and powerfull and of course we know thier agenda is to gain gvt contracts and sell us health insurance and run the NHS or what WAS the NHS.They spend huge amounts of money to achieve thier aims and use lobbying companys and have MPs on thier payrolls in advisory roles and use the full force of the media to spout disabalist hate propaganda and its working.People do believe its all the fault of anyone in reciept of benefits BUT especially the sick and disabled whilst they forget about THIER tax credits or family allowance or whatever else they get as THAT doesnt count.
    Charities will NEVER nail thier colours to the mast and fight this govt or any other becuase they dont want to lose funding or charitable status.If they werent bothered about this they would have done something by now and they havent.
    Even today i have read a post on bookface spouting nothing but vitriol to people with blue badges and so called spacas...disablity hate speech out there and being laughed along to.Yes i did tell that friend exactly what i thought and dont care if we remain friends.Theye even went on to say about the disability marches..if they can march they should get jobs....whats the bloody point sometimes eh.This govt will never listen until its election time and thats the only time we have a chance but only then if we all stick together...

  17. The problem then is who to vote for?

  18. One problem is that many able-bodied people just don’t care about what happens to disabled people – until it affects them. Another is that most people (including a lot of disabled people) don’t know what’s happening. The whole emphasis of the reporting of these reforms has been on the need to root out scroungers and malingerers. But successive crackdowns and fraud investigations have failed to find any widespread criminality – indeed, they have cost more than they’ve recovered. The aim now is to save costs by wiping out welfare altogether. It won’t matter whether you’ve been assessed as unable to work – after 12 months, the benefit stops. But Humphreys’ article (and presumably his documentary) makes no mention of this.

    It beggars belief that people can look back to the pre-welfare state as if it constituted some kind of golden age. True, there were no single parent benefits … instead many young single mothers were sent to mental asylums, thousands of children were put up for adoption (many transported to the Commonwealth). Anyone who’s looked back into their family history knows that the idea that single parenthood is a product of the welfare state is a ridiculous myth, it’s just that the stigma associated to unmarried mothers led to harrowing hardship and ostracism. Many on the right would like to see a return to the use of stigma as a ‘tool of social policy’.

    For the severely disabled, the pre-welfare state meant incarceration in long-term institutions, or being housebound and entirely dependent on the family. For many, that is where these reforms – the abolition of disability benefits and the phasing out of the Independent Living Fund - will return them.

    The idea that the market will provide insurance to cover long-term illness or incapacity is a fallacy – but private insurers are already advertising their products in anticipation of the changes, which is not surprising given their active involvement in the welfare reform process: http://goo.gl/twBhU

    Unfortunately disabled people (and all those who will become disabled at some point in their lives) were doomed when the Labour Party signed up to the neoliberal project, and until the general public wake up to what neoliberalism actually means that process will continue.

  19. I am sixty one years old I can remember some of this as a child but the previous generation lived it. The pre-welfare state had children with bowed legs caused by rickets many were undersized and anaemic and suffered from malnutrition the list is long. Many died young. Those that made it to adulthood then died young too. Many diseases will return and people will die like flies as they now have no immunity to them. Trust me we do NOT want to go back to those times.

  20. Yep the problem is indeed who do we vote for well we know who we WONT vote for so thats a start and the ones who wwe wont vote for should be told in no uncertain terms why.There are enough sick and disabled and thier familys to make a differnce when the time comes.
    It is also true, and a sad one at that, that a lot of sick/disabled dont know whats going on and will find out when its too late.My point above about the use of the media was indeed that those vested interests use the media to put the emphasise on cheats and scroungers BUT they make it look as though we ALL are cheats and scroungers because it serves thier exact purpose as indeed we do see from those adverts on tv whicch are becoming more prevelant now.It doesnt matter that you cant fool all the people all of the time........all you have to do is fool most of them for most of the time....then its too late for them to do anything about it

  21. Anon 16.05 My greatest political influencers were my granddad (born 1910) & my Dad (born 1922)

    It is their experiences of a life without welfare that inspire me.

  22. Another thing that’s seldom focused on is for every sick and disabled person who manages to make it to a demonstration or meeting there must be at least a hundred who cannot because they are too ill and disabled also MP’s and decision makers and the media only ever see the most fit and extrovert among the disabled.

  23. My grandfather was born in a workhouse to an unmarried mother. My grandmother was born out of wedlock and brought up by her uncle – her mother was banished from the village. Her husband left her with five children in abject poverty. My wife’s mother was brought up by her aunt after her unmarried mother was ‘encouraged’ to emigrate. Most families will find similar histories.

    Most severely disabled people in those days were confined to the home – partly because there was no accessible transport, partly due to the shame associated with disability. And this was going back only a couple of generations. Ironically, the welfare state has erased the fear of falling into the mire so successfully that many people now feel they no longer need a safety net. But one chronic sickness or disability brings them face to face with reality.

    To quote Melanie Reid – the Times journalist paralysed in a riding accident: “A year ago, as your average tolerant but ignorant able-bodied person, if you’d asked me whether enough was done for the disabled, I’d have said I thought society bent over backwards to help them. How naive was I.” – and that’s before the cuts.

  24. The Trade Union movement ought to link up with the disabled, they should be at the forefront of all the marches when they occur, so that the issue and and the numbers that support it is made obvious to the public.

    It would be helpful to get disabled ex-servicemen on board. They are treated totally differently by the Tories for propaganda purposes. To have them criticising the government would be a problem for them because they couldn't hit back.

    The BBC and other public service broadcasters conducted a heavily one-sided campaign against Gordon Brown (giant black and white posters to make him look ugly, saying everything he did was for selfish tactical reasons). At that point I knew that we have a problem with the media.

    Jan's idea sounds good to me but I would like to know how the editorial system works from the inside. I get a feeling that this government knows how to put pressure on behind the scenes so that those you would normally rely on are taken out of action.

    William Hague said of the EU Commission, we ought not to be opposing it but getting our own people on the inside to change it. Perhaps that is how they operate these days.

  25. Lest we forget, the Tories are already planning to ban the feeding of the homeless via soup kitchens etc., thereby quickening our deaths once benefits have stopped, our homes have been taken away and there is no NHS to look after us!

  26. unfortunaly I agree with the anon of the 25-10-11at 11.38,I as well after having been one of the beneficiarys of an Atos miracle,cure of the sick,give sight to the blind,stand up and walk to the criple,resusitation of the dead I found nowhere to turn and nobody that can give you any advice

  27. Having lived in America and experienced the benefit system with an Autistic daugher I can tell you that they provide housing benefit (housing or cash towards private), medical, food stamps and cash. My daughter received the highest amount of cash which went up each year with the cost of living increase and when we moved back home she was receiving over 632.00 per month cash. She was qualified under her Doctor and specialist’s diagnosis not looked at again until adulthood to see how it continued to affect her ability to function as an adult. We received housing as a family and both our medical was covered, food stamps as a family. They are tough on individuals capable of working, however for the disabled and the family carer they are taken care of and the system is more efficient and professional. England has always been our home and we love it here, however the system of care for the disabled and the primary carer be it family or someone else is horrendous, the GPs and Specialist are the professionals when it comes to the individuals disability along with the individual with the disability. Many disabilities are for life therefore a life award or a look again as the individual reaches adulthood. Things such as cancer or illnesses that can improve then yes look at them again in a reasonable time and depending on the individual’s circumstances, but with the GP’s and Specialists’ advice. Continuing to evaluate an individual with a disability that is for life is throwing money away never mind the unneeded stress and concern on the individual. All illnesses should be based on the GP/Specialist and those that are not permanent looked at individually and periodically as the illness warrants.

    Surely what Cameron is doing is illegal and we can come together and file a class action suit against him?