Saturday 14 January 2012

Not Scroungers Any More

What a week! What could I possibly write in a blog post? I have 500 stories to tell you at some point and I doubt you would believe half of them. My favourite quote from the week was from Sonia Poulton in the Mail who claims we had 3 MILLION tweets for the Spartacus Report in the first DAY!!

Today, I finally got the chance to sit down and catch up. I discovered we have a @SpartacusTweets account I didn't even know about. And a Facebook page. And a forum. I found "battalions" of spartaci all over the web planning their own campaigns and creating brilliant, innovative ways to be heard. I read beautiful blogs about our campaign written by people I didn't even know. I saw support from celebrities, politicians, journalists, unions, charities, DPOs and disabled people everywhere I looked. I found coverage and supporters in America, Canada, Finland, France and New Zealand.

But do you know what I didn't find? In a week where we finally got coverage in The Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Newsnight?

I didn't find a scrounger.

That was the great triumph of this week. Finally, after all the months and months of patient reminders, people thought about disability. They questioned the wisdom of sending terminally ill people to the jobcentre. They rejected the idea that illness or disability magically disappear in a year. They were amazed to find cancer patients were expected to look for work on chemo and that disabled children were to become chattels dependent on goodwill, no longer entitled to independent means.

We always knew they would. We always knew that if anyone cared to tell them, the public would be horrified.

When the DWP came out fighting with a raft of scrounger stories, everyone just ignored them and carried on talking about disability.

Lord Freud has had months to present evidence to the Lords. He has teams to brief them and money to pay for research and reports. He had goodwill on his side - the Lords don't seek to destroy bills, far from it. He had the might of the DWP and the ONS and the OBR to write his "evidence"

We had : A few thousand determined sick and disabled people, 4k, the internet and Hansard.

In the Lords, crossbenchers are not political. Unlike the Commons, there is a rump of independent thought. It happens that they are packed with disability experts too. They heard Lord Freud's evidence, and we made sure they heard ours.

Just one crossbencher voted with the government over time-limiting disability and sending cancer patients out to work. Just one.

All of the others - all of them - saw that we needed them.

We had no idea they had heard us and their overwhelming endorsement of our arguments was like a burst of hope. They can never know how grateful we are.

They reminded the country that we are disabled. Or unwell. Or both. They reminded us that any one of us could need help one day.

And once and for all they blew a lie-sized hole in the Government's scrounger rhetoric.


  1. Well done and huge congratulations to everyone!

    I'm in the middle of writing "very disappointed... this will lose your party support... etc etc" emails to the peers who voted with the Government. Thank yous to the ones who showed conscience are great, but I don't think the others should get away with it.

  2. PS. Especially well done, Sue, for Newsnight. WTF was going on there? Ugh, BBC.

  3. This week just brought a big smile to my face. Following the live feed of the Lords on Wednesday, I was on a knife-edge. I can only imagine what it was like for those of you affected by this reforms immediately.

    Everybody who's participated in this should feel proud. Whatever happens next, the public have sided with us. They look at a group of disabled campaigners on one hand and Freud and Grayling on the other, and I think they know who to trust.

  4. I wrote this on a comment in the guardian. i feel its apt for this blog...

    or me the spartacusreport movement has been life changing. I have mental health problems and I am very socially isolated. I'm findng life really tough at the moment and even getting out of bed was a struggle.

    And then monday happened. all of a sudden I was part of a community, all with the same aim and purpose. We wanted a pause to Pip and we had a legitimate case in the spartacusreport.

    I no longer feel alone, I don't feel helpless and worried about the future of my life on benefits. I feel empowered, stronger and feeling like I can make a difference, no WE can make a difference.

    I haven't met any of these people, but to me they have become family. Its been an emotional rollercoaster this week as last night we virtually held hands watching parliament tv as the vote came in, and then the explosion of tweets tentatively celebrating, and breaking out into a full blown party.

    Disability activism has found a new voice on twitter, thanks to the #spartacusreport.


    What has been great for me is how we all pulled together, supported each other, did what we could. I dont know how many people were involved in transcribing kaylias radio show, but someone saw a need and got people to help.

    Its that iniative, the can do attitude. the sentiment thats in my twitter account name...

    All big ideas, start small.

    1. That makes every painful step, every desperate urge to just sleep, worth it xxx

  5. 187 crossbench peers sue

  6. This week has brought me hope, friendship, support and renewed faith in people. Thanks you Sue and everyone concerned !

  7. Disabled people have been crushed and scared for a long time. But most people I spoke to wanted to fight back. Most people desperately wanted to do something. This week they finally had something powerful to fight with. And once they did they needed no encouragement.

    A favourite saying of mine is "It was a pebble which started the avalanche."

    The Spartacus report was that pebble.

  8. thank you so much , i too am struggling with an incurable disease which has also brought on severe depression and anxiety. I like many , many others are constantly battling with DWP, i had to attend tribunal and won but had money stopped etc took a month to sort it out had housing benefit etc stopped despite carers provided by social services having to come to me everyday , i became suicidal in november and had had enough it was by a whisker that i am not now just another statistic in a file buried away with the words deceased/file closed stamped on it. I have done what i can to spread the word of Spartacus and harrassed the BBC and media to listen and start reporting. none of this would have been possible without you i thank you from the bottom of my heart for igniting a spark within me to fight and be heard that i thought had long ago been extinguished. THANK YOU

  9. A fantastic week. Thanks to all, from those who got the ball rolling, to the rest of us who joined in and helped as much as we could.

    Like Mazi, I often feel isolated in my illnesses (mental health and M.E.) and recently rather paranoid that some busybody will report me as a "scrounger". This week I felt part of a large, interconnected web of people, both disabled and not, who were willing to speak out for justice. What a wonderful feeling.

    I might even be on bbc radio 5 live on Wed am to discuss disability living allowance!

    So, thanks once again to all of you, it's been an exhausting, but also exhilarating week.

  10. p.s. Sorry, thought I could edit. I'm jayarte on twitter.

  11. I can't express the difference you have all made to me. I will carry on fighting, as hard as i am able to, for as long as I can.. I've said before that I have complex disabilities; epilepsy, verigo, anxiety disorder, depression etc.. I have also said that the anxiety & depression had been at it's best in all my life for 8 yrs...
    I have slowly relapsed over last 20 months as a result of the welfare reforms... i can fight everything except depression when it gets hold....
    I fear that even if all the amendments went through I am still lost.. As a result of relapse I spend day & night in some sort of WCA interview.. I have had many assessments, of all types, medical,dwp etc but never felt like this before... It was unfortunate that I lost my Dad & my home just as changes started & my obssession this time became fear of WRB of all things... & how to resolve when fears are legitimate?!
    My problem is that i may manage to discuss 90% of my disabilities etc but there is a crucial 10% that caused my problems that i cannot discuss with strangers...
    Part of my problem is obssessive thoughts when i'm threatened so now no matter what i'm doing,even asleep & including now, there is a dialogue going on trying to save my life... can't describe the stress...
    It is not just the threat of continual biased assessments.. I am constantly in assessment now & it's a nightmare!
    Presently i receive high care & low mobility DLA which would amount to being in the support group for ESA.. but I am waiting to be reassessed. All evidence is there but available to me to forward is another thing. GP, consultants, CPN all say not to worry, your position is obvious but is it?
    My reasons for needing the support group are solely for protection from failing to attend assessments, interviews or manage phone calls because of my illnesses!! The fear of missing one appointment, & I do not speak on the phone (no memory or proof), means I can't function & worst is i've gone into 'needless' crisis though some think it warranted...
    Without automatic transfer eg from Incapacity benefit &/or exemption for cases like me there will be disaster.. & best laugh is that from support group i would continue to strive.. It took yrs but I pased level 2 BSL & hoped to volunteer when well enough.. That all seems a lifetime away now & that person only presents in flashes now instead of the other way round...
    As you can see I might only want to make one point here but i never know where to start or stop & this is just one point out of thousands that will not stop. without changes to this welfare bill..
    This is not about sympathy.. It's about diagnosis, support, starting to accept, trust, finding some peace for first time in 40yrs THEN to be redefined..'No you don't need to concentrate on staying alive you need to be hunted & interrogated in case you are really happy & got loads of other people's money'... Which by the way saved my spirit, my sanity, my life & I have been constantly thankful to all for helpng me out of the dark...
    So I geuss my only hope is that DLA won't be demolished & somewhere in it all there will be a line that saves me & all like me..
    It is a privilige to be part of this campaign even though I really don't want to be (except for the people)...
    I know we will all carry on & I just hang on to the hope that the Lords will not let go of what needs to be preserved & bettered.. I really can't say how much I admire their expertise & capacity.. Must watch Lord Freud though.. I don't mind who falls asleep when you are working so hard for us but he won't lol...
    I am #spartacus
    Best wishes to all... Nita :)

  12. Sue, the hard work you, Kaliya, Spoonydoc and others have put in at the risk to your own health speaks volumesand I am extremely grateful for that. I am not disabled, unless left handedness counts, but I have friends that are. They're all young adults, and I want them to be not scared about the future. All the cuts proposed seem to be affecting the poor and vulnerable, yet those that caused the crisis get off scot free. Where is this 'fairness' of which ShinyDave speaks? Long may this campaign prosper. My best wishes to you Sue, you're an inspiration!

  13. P.S. Nothing in PiP for supervision or in WCA for night seizures.. Thanks very much!.. If supervision meant so little when i unknowingly set my flat on fire 10 yrs ago no-one else in other flats would have been warned either so it would not have just been me lost..
    It's a shame we have to say sad things so I also want to say that something has also changed in me this week.. I may have only been out twice since 20th december but I've been in with the best crowd & have found my community...
    Off top of my head:
    1. Please pause any changes to DLA for at least 6 months to exlore research
    2. Accept the amendment to protect disabled youth which was passed by the majority who left trustingly.
    3.Essential to keep 3 rates of DLA (DCA, DCAP)It will be much more complicated, wrong & disputed with two.
    4.Death is not the worst. Please protect people in the WRAG..
    I feel they will do just as they like with me.. even say I phoned when I wouldn't & stop an appeal?? Paranoid? Nita
    I am #spartacus

  14. Don't stop now Sue - this week it's DLA/PIP in the Lords and we must hope that they see sense this week in the way that they did last week. It's been great this week but we really need to break through onto the BBC news. DLA is harder for non-disabled people to understand, so we'll need clarity above all. You'll find an email from me with my own case study of the effect of the change from DLA to PIP on the availability of benefit to help with cost of non-mobility equipment - hope it helps. I'm going to use the same in emails to Lords.

    So well done Sue, so proud of you and so humbled by your and Kaliya's sacrificial work to help us all. We owe you so much xx

  15. I lost my home of 10 yrs when my landlady sold.. moved but still haven't unpacked (2yrs) cos was supposed to be just till we could get me somehere nr my friends & carers again.. Then what?! 30th percentile!.. In Birmingham where i lived 30 yrs I could now only find a room in a building with anyone around-done that! So I'm alone 2yrs with one ill friend 3 miles away.. I qualify now for the extra bedroom for non residential carers but i'm afraid to move in case they say i'm not disabled & then i won't be able to transfer rent to landlord..
    I can't eat & i'm afraid to spend hardly at all so even if i keep benefit i've got to learn to eat again.. Nita
    I am #spartacus

  16. For many like myself dancing is not possible but we can virtual dance!!!

    ♪┏(・o・)┛♪┗ ( ・o・) ┓♪┏ ( ) ┛♪┗ (・o・ ) ┓♪┏(・o・)┛♪

  17. All I can add is it was wonderful to be a part of it.. its made me see that along with others we have the power to make people listen and sometimes even change things


    part of the #spartacusreport crew

  18. Thank you so much is all I can say, Finally things I've been posting to family and friends for months started to hit home, people are beginning to realize that alongside fighting for ourselves we are fighting for their potential future selves safeguarding a future support system, that has never been so under threat as now. It was a joy to be part of and see so many others posting and blogging and tweeting about the #sparticusreport. You have opened the eyes of so many with your hard work thank you... Dxxx

  19. I see that the Arch Bishop of York is speaking out against the changes to the Welfare Bill and how people are being treated.

    Can be heard as a guest on Radio 4's religious programme sometime after 7am today(can be heard again on the BBC I-Plyaer for the next 7 days...)

  20. Just to note I've had some positive responses from the Bishops, I've sent the report to.

  21. Thank you all!! Thank you all!! Apologies for only having enouigh spoons to follow and tweet fibrojen

  22. It has been an amazing week! I have found this campaign so empowering, to think that we really can a difference has been so liberating. Like Mazi said earlier it feels so good to be part of something, part of a community with a common cause. I am very isolated socially by both mental health and physical conditions and as such you can really develop a feeling of despair and hopelessness.

    My thanks to everyone concerned

    We still have a way to go but the success of Wednesday, when Peers voted against the Government on the ESA amendments, was an encouraging beginning and I think we a good have a chance to really make a difference and bring about positive changes.


  23. As said earlier...
    I'd still like to know considering how loaded and unfair the feature on Newsnight seemed to be and how Sue seemed to get little chance to say anything so had to sit and listen to Grayling and Makeless most of the time and when Sue did speak often it was to correct questions that had no relevance to the topic put by Makeless...

    What the brief was that Sue was given as to why she would be there?

    Was Sue given any idea what was going to be asked or discussed?

    And after or before the interview did Sue get chance to express her concerns to the Newsnight producers?

    Did Sue get chance to talk to Grayling after or before the interview or did he just arrive and disappear as soon as he'd been on camera?

    It would be interesting to know what actually happened behind the scenes and what we didn't see.

    It did seem a bit of a stich up! Grayling was just allowed to talk and was never challenged.

    Sue seemed to be at every opportunity.

    Sue was very polite and measured and did the sensible thing of not interupting or arguing which may have gone against "Our" very good case.

  24. Like so many others, I've been worried sick since hearing about ESA, DLA, HB etc...

    The response by the Lords and, eventually the media, went some way to soothing those anxieties. I know it's not over yet but I have more faith than I did this time last week.

    The empowerment to actually do something useful was liberating. Knowing there are thousands of us and we will work as one. Thank you Sue and everyone.

    I've had two responses re: emailing politicians... One from an AM and a letter from Ann Clwyd, Labour for Cynon Valley. I sent many more to relevant politicians but am awaiting even an acknowledgement. Oh, and an old school friend is a Lib Dem MP and I've been corresponding with him about it all :)

  25. I would have pitched in with the death toll so far and the stress that has been created that to me is all that needed to be discussed at this point as justice has not been served on the victims and we need to remember that first and foremost

    Otherwise down the line David Cameron and co are let off the hook with the plead of "i didn't know " and that is what Gordon brown said in the interview he gave in good morning Britten just before the general electhion

  26. and i for one and maybe the only one in the uk that will continue to fight for those that have died as to me that is the big crime here and i for one wont be forgetting it not now not never

  27. grayling was lucky i was not their as all hell would have broken loose and the bbc would still be talking about it for a long time to come so he can count himself very lucky

    He wont always be lucky that i do know people like him always throughout history get their comeuppance and downfall

    Sue is to much of a lady to have inflicted any verbal damage on him but had she had been with David dimbleby you could have been sure the interview would have gone fifty fifty and she would have won the argument hands down

    Sadly that was not the case here and sue i must say did a remarkable job in what were difficult circumstances

  28. Thank goodness for common sense... I have been so worried as the politicians attacked my son's right to live a semi independent life. First of all they try to take his DLA away (he lives in a care home)as the " home provides for all his transport needs" ....oh I wish they did! But they have one car and 10 people to cater for, so not likely! Then they want to take away his ESA so he has no money at all. The home only provides " in house activities " and as this is a tv and he is a young man, this is not much. He would have got more if he went to prison ! The little bit of the ESA that he keeps (the rest goes to his home) gives him money to go swimming and bowling in the week and to buy toiletries and loo roll. Take that away and he wouldn't even be able to go to the loo !
    I am so grateful that there are decent people who are willing to stand up to the bullies who pick on the vulnerable... I wish the politicians could spend a week in our shoes.