Saturday, 23 October 2010

Our individual voices are too quiet.....

Disabled People of Great Britain.... A video post by @BendyGirl


The changes announced by George Osborne in Wednesdays Comprehensive Spending Review have so far sent a shock wave of terror through the approximately 10 million people who have disabilities living in Great Britain.

We're a small country. There's approximately 60 million of us living here, so disabled people make up around a 1/6 of the population. Some of those are over 65, most are under 65 and of working age. We have the best part of a million disabled children living in the country. But of that 10 million people, we only have 2.9 [million] people in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, which is a non means-tested benefit. Paid to not compensate, but a way of saying that we understand as a country that there are phenomenal extra costs involved in living with a disability and we recognise that a role of our society is to provide for those additional costs.

People are scared. I have received many messages of support since the video I made. Messages from people telling me I am brave, to speak out publicly. There's nothing brave about what I'm doing. My story is the same as millions of other peoples stories.

My life was fairly normal, I come from a very middle-class area, my parents are still married. I worked hard at school. I went to a Grammar school and I went to University and studied Law. None of the factors prevented me from becoming a disabled person and none of them were enough to get me a job.

Only 50% of disabled adults are in work, unlike 80% of the general population. There are many reasons why we're not in work, ranging from those who's disabilities are so severe that work will never be possible for them, to those who's disabilities are very minor and with the right support they could, and should be encouraged into the workplace. The problem is, it all requires support; it all requires money, and really that's what these changes and announcements are about.

I've always been proud to be British.  Its a country with values I believe in.  
On my Mothers side of the family, they were Jews fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Those who remained behind in Germany were all wiped out in the 2nd World War.

What many people don't know is that before, long before Nazi's starting exterminating Jewish people, they went for the most vulnerable members of society; those with disabilities.  They were marked out by a black triangle.  

Advertising was widespread, telling the German people exactly how much each dependent person cost them.  It was a well thought out campaign.  To devalue the lives of disabled people and ensure that there would be less complaints. 

Now I'm not suggesting Conservative Government are Nazi's.  I'm not suggesting any politician is.  What I am suggesting is that as a World we have learnt lessons from that war, lessons that we wish never to be repeated.

Travelling down a path in which all the value of a persons life is considered to be solely on their economic contribution is wrong.  It's fundamentally and morally wrong.  Its also bad for our society.

Voluntary work holds us together.  People being at home during the day, using shops and services, builds communities; and those communities are what holds us together.  

Actually that's pretty much what David Cameron keeps going on about in his Big Society.  But what he's forgotten is that projects like that cost money.  They're very rarely profitable for the private sector, so the state picks up the slack.

People disagree on how much a role the state should play but really, party politics is not relevant to this argument, nor should it be.

As disabled people, we have no representation.  The coalition government have made it quite clear that they intend an all out assault on the welfare state.  Whilst reform is to be welcomed, these are cuts, cuts with one agenda; to reduce the level of welfare paid.

Now in some cases, that is admirable, in others it's shocking and despicable.  Such as the removal of the high rate mobility allowance from adults resident in care homes.  But really, it sends a wider message; a wider message against a background of rising disability hate crime of people torturing disabled people, given sentences of 80 hours community service or a slap on the wrist.  Or families who are already so desperate, that mothers commit suicide after murdering their children because they feel that's the only way they have to protect them.  

I did believe, on a personal level, that David Cameron valued the lives of disabled people.  I was furiously angry with Gordon Brown who is also the father of a disabled child, for the betrayal he made to disabled people.

Danny Alexander has been wheeled out a lot of television lately to defend the coalition spending cuts.  This is the same Danny Alexander who while in opposition, was the one main champion for disabled people falling victim to the Work Capability Assessment of the Employment Support Allowance.  Danny Alexander railed against that and now he stands there and defends cuts far more savage and damaging than those he previously protested.

Its very clear that help for us will not come from the main political parties.  We have to form together and stand up for ourselves, even though many of us can't actually stand!

We still have to do this.  Civil change in some countries, like France, happens with rioting.  In Britain we tend to be more reserved than that, we're very big on the stiff upper lip and everything being cured by a cup of tea. 

But we do have one way to effectively protest... We can speak out, we can tell our stories publicly.  There are 10 million of us... That's a LOT of stories to be told! 

I urge you to do the same as I am... Write your story, record it, put it on the Internet.  We can collate them, we can present them together, we can fight these changes!

They are after all, only proposed cuts in a spending review.  They have yet to be got through Parliament.  

Unfortunately, they are unlikely to be opposed by Labour.  The new Labour leader, Ed Miliband has already committed himself in Parliament to supporting and working with the Government on their cuts to Disability Living Allowance.  Angela Eagle also backed up the cuts, to change the gateway on Disability Living Allowance on Newsnight this week.

They will not defend us, we have to do that for ourselves and those of us who can speak are obliged to do so for those who can't.

Together, we can make the kind of changes that start with a woman sitting in the front of a bus.  Quietly and carefully, Rosa Parks got up and sat at the front of the bus as a black woman in America at the time when black people were not considered to have rights.  

She changed the World!

Others stood with her, alongside her and spoke up about the injustice of judging one group of people as less worthy than another.  

We've moved on as a World.  Generally speaking, we recognise that people of colour, it doesn't matter; it doesn't matter what colour your skin is.  It doesn't make you of intrinsically less value than somebody else.  We understand that about sexuality.  Religion is more complicated but most of us recognise that everybody has a right to believe whatever they wish to.  

All of those things are protected within law.  Disability, however, does not have the same legal protection when it comes to crimes based upon it.  There are no specific laws to protect disabled people against hate crimes in the way that there are if hate crimes occur because of religion, race or sexuality.

We have to change this.  We have to come forward and we have to tell our stories.  To change things, to a World we want to be part of.

I'm ashamed to be a Briton who lives in a country where we think it's OK to torture others, to fight wars for reasons most of us don't understand.

They're not the British values of fair play and justice.  Values that I suspect Mr Cameron actually believes in, maybe not as a politician but certainly on a personal level.  

The more we tell our stories, the stronger we become.  Changing the World may come with a shout, but it starts with a whisper and 10 million whispers held together, make a very loud, collective shout.

So, please, tell your story... Tell us why you're scared.... Tell us what the cuts will mean to you.... and together our voices can drown out the cruelty and callous disregard for the lives of people affected by the cuts.

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