Tag Archives: Paralympic

The London Paralympic legacy, two years later: Vox Political’s predictions were true

Plight of the Paralympians: This is what they were being told to expect in September 2012.

Plight of the Paralympians: This is what they were being told to expect in September 2012.

Two years ago, Vox Political warned that the legacy of the London Paralympics would be the loss of disability benefits for the British athletes who took part.

“They have proven they’re fit enough to work and therefore don’t need [the money],” is how this blog’s article of the time described the situation. “Right?”

Right.

Gratitude goes to Tom Pride for drawing attention to the plight of basketball player Jon Pollock, who has been refused any benefits at all since he became unemployed after the Games.

His situation is exactly as Vox Political predicted in September 2012. Following up on previous warnings that the Coalition government had launched a campaign of hate against ordinary people who had been claiming incapacity or disability benefits, the article stated: “We knew that, once the chance for profile-boosting photo opportunities were over… the disability pogrom would be extended to paralympians.”

How true those words were.

On the website Inside the Games, Mr Pollock said: “”I retired after London and since then I’m not entitled to benefits because lottery funding isn’t taxable.

“So when I go and apply for a job, the woman in the job centre said I should do charity work. But that doesn’t pay the bills. “The job centre have been absolutely useless.”

Mr Pollock, who has spina bifida, said: “I’ve given everything I have to my career and now I just feel like I’ve been tossed on the scrap heap. If I’d given two decades of service to anything else, I’d be fine but disability sport is just not recognised as a career it seems.”

British Wheelchair Basketball says Mr Pollock declined support that was available, but this seems questionable. If you have a choice between spending two years looking fruitlessly for work and accepting help to plan a career after sport, you’d take the help – unless it wasn’t worth having, which would be par for the course with our useless unelected government.

Why aren’t ministers queueing up to tell us how well the UK treats disabled people who could have had normal careers but chose to represent their country instead?

They’re nowhere to be seen – because there isn’t a photo opportunity involved.

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Encouraging words about disability – masking a sinister intent?

paralympians

Even when David Cameron is saying something positive, we need to look for the hidden meaning, it seems.

This week, in Comedy Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron fielded a query from Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland about last year’s Paralympic Games. Mr Mulholland said: “We were all hugely inspired by the wonderful Paralympic Games in London last year – not only a triumph for sport but also a triumph for perceptions of disability.

“Will the Prime Minister welcome the ‘Generation Inspired’ report which is going to be presented to Downing Street today, as a great opportunity to use the legacy of this to improve the lives of young disabled people?”

On the face of it, this might seem very bright and noble – reminding us all of our paralympians’ achievements and making a commitment to keep trying to help them, so that their aspirations will not outstrip the support they receive.

But let’s all remember that this question was being put in the same week that Channel 4’s Dispatches programme aired a documentary about the disappointment that awaited our paralympians after the Games – the loss of interest, the loss of help and, crucially, the loss of benefits.

It seems that they are capable of work, you see.

Look at Mr Cameron’s response in this context.

“I thought that the Paralympic Games were an absolute triumph for Britain – the way they were put on, and also the way that the auditoria, the stadia were full for almost every single event.” On the face of it, very supportive.

But then he said: “I thought it was a great testament to the generosity of people in this country and their enthusiasm for paralympic sport, but I think the most important thing is the change in perception about what disabled people are capable of, and I think that is a real gift and something we should encourage.”

A “change in perception about what disabled people are capable of”? This is very worrying indeed. He’s saying that the performances of athletes are comparable to the abilities of other people with disabilities – many of whom struggle simply to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed!

Would he have grouped his late son together with paralympians in the same way?

It is completely unrealistic to compare the two – akin to equating a marathon runner with a 50-year-old woman with a tendency to overweight, who survives on junk food and runs a supermarket checkout all day (with apologies to any such ladies who may exist).

He thinks that’s a “real gift”? There can be only one reason for that – it’s a gift because it supports his government’s policy of clearing disabled people – real, honest, disabled people who deserve state benefits to help them survive – off the benefit books.

If the wider public perception of disabled people is that they can compete and win in Olympic sports, then that’s half Cameron’s work done for him. No wonder he said it was “something we should encourage”!

Perhaps you thought the Paralympics were excellent – and they were. Maybe you thought they struck a blow for recognition of disabled people – and they did.

But not all disabled people are the same. I’m no marathon runner – and I consider myself to be relatively fit.

But I’m not superfit. Neither are the majority of disabled people even remotely able to achieve the feats of our Paralympians.

Cameron should be ashamed of himself for trying to group them all together in this way.

At the very least, Conservatives across the UK should be ashamed of him.

End of Paralympics signals benefit loss for athletes

Some of us saw this coming, weeks in advance. We knew that, once the chance for profile-boosting photo opportunities were over – whether or not they backfired, Mr Osborne – the disability pogrom would be extended to paralympians.

And that’s what is happening, according to today’s Sunday Mirror.

Team GB footballer Keryn Seal is blind and relies on his £70 per week Disability Living Allowance to get to training. He fears for what will happen to himself and hundreds of thousands of other disabled people when DLA is replaced by the more restrictive Personal Independence Payment as part of a plan to cut £2.2 billion from benefit costs.

“I can’t understand why the Government would dream of taking this money away from us. It shows a complete lack of empathy,” he told the Mirror.

Disillusioned, disenchanted and disappointed are all words I would use to describe how I feel about the Government.”

Double-amputee Derek Derenalagi, who came 11th in the discus, said the changes would have a “devastating” effect: “Not every Paralympian is sponsored and we would hugely struggle without it. We do not get paid like footballers and it really helps us.”

And wheelchair dancer Laura Jones, a star of the Paralympics opening ceremony, said she was worried her £50-a-week payment is under threat.

She told the Mirror: “If people miss out on leisure activities and sports, they end up stuck at home and that will obviously be worse for their health.”

Another thing that looks as though it will be worse for people’s health is the Universal Credit, which the government is touting as “the most radical redesign of the benefits system this country has ever seen”, adding that it will ensure that it pays people to work rather than claim benefits.

What did I say yesterday about this lie? Oh yes: Forcing people off of a benefit system that doesn’t pay their costs and into a job that doesn’t pay their costs is no solution at all and any Tory who spouts this nonsense in the media is to be mocked and targeted for unseating at the next election (in my opinion).”

Honestly… Do they think we’re not paying attention?

It seems there are problems with a plan to pay the new credit only once a month, meaning it will make a mess of people’s budgeting plans and they may be unable to make ends meet.

Also, the plan to make it payable to only one member of a household is likely to cause friction and upset the family dynamic – possibly destabilising family groups and leading to splits.

Bear in mind also that this is another continuation of the attack against disabled people, as the new credit will replace, among other things, Employment and Support Allowance. I wonder if Atos will be interviewing all its disabled ‘clients’ yet again, to find out if their missing limbs have grown back yet?

Cabinet reshuffle: Does Cameron think he’s the Joker?

Today’s blog entry will be relatively short. I had an operation on my leg yesterday (September 4) and it seems to be affecting my ability to think.

… And if you think that’s bizarre and illogical, let’s have a look at the decisions made by David Cameron in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle!

Firstly, the really shocking news: George Osborne is remaining as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not really news, I know, but at the outset it makes a mockery of a process that is supposed to be about improving the government of the UK. Osborne’s policies are a disaster; he has sent British industry nosediving while increasing borrowing by £9.3 billion in the last four months. He was booed when he got up to give out medals at the Paralympics and he was booed at Prime Minister’s Questions today. But he remains in the Number Two government job.

Also remaining in post are Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Secretary William Hague; Education Secretary Michael Gove surprisingly keeps his brief, despite having proved by his activities that he is not up to the intellectual challenge (see previous Vox articles).

And Iain Duncan Smith will remain at Work and Pensions – oh yes he will! – despite having been offered Justice by David Cameron. This shows the weakness of the Prime Minister. As LabourList’s Mark Ferguson put it: “Cameron tried to move IDS. IDS said no. Cameron said ‘ah…um…ok’. Weak, weak, weak.”

Fellow Tweeter Carl Maxim added: “Iain Duncan Smith was offered a job at Justice but refused to take it. Therefore his benefits should be cut.”

And a fellow called ‘Woodo’ tweeted: “Gove and Duncan-Smith to stay in roles to ‘get the job done’. ‘The job’ being making educating poor kids harder and killing off the disabled.”

Biggest winner in the reshuffle has to be former Culture moron – I mean secretary – Jeremy Hunt, who has been moved up to take the Health brief. This has been seen as a reward for his work on the phone hacking controversy that led to the departure of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson from the Downing Street press office, and to the Leveson Inquiry into the behaviour of the media.

This seems a nonsensical move. Leveson has ordered not only Cameron, but Cameron’s friends Coulson, Rebekah Brooks (who now faces criminal charges for her part in phone hacking), and Hunt himself to give evidence in hearings that were highly embarrassing for those under scrutiny.

Hunt’s own close connections with Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns the papers that were mainly responsible for the crimes, is well-documented, and led to this tweet from James Lyons: “BREAKING – Rupert Murdoch to buy the NHS.”

This may not be far from the truth. Hunt co-authored a book dealing with the NHS at length, with Daniel Hannon MEP who called the NHS a 60 year mistake. The book states: “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain“.

He reportedly tried to remove the NHS tribute from the Olympic Games opening ceremony and his record in government is as dodgy: he voted to halve the time allowed for an abortion from 24 weeks to 12. His support of homeopathy has also attracted ridicule from some quarters.

Hunt’s arrival at Health follows the ejection of Andrew Lansley, the man who worked for eight long years on his Health and Social Care Bill, that effectively privatised health care in England. This work constituted the biggest lie this government ever sold to the public – that the Conservatives would safeguard the well-loved 64-year-old national institution. His reward? Demotion to become Leader of the House of Commons.

Former employment minister Chris Grayling, a man who believes bed and breakfast owners should be allowed to ban gay couples, has been promoted to the Justice brief. In response, one tweeter asked if Cameron will be building more prisons.

This means the oldest Cabinet member, Kenneth Clarke, has been ejected from Justice. David Cameron reportedly tried to sack him outright, along with departing Conservative co-chair Baroness Warsi, but ended up compounding his weakness by creating new roles for them instead. Clarke will be a minister without portfolio (although it is believed he’ll be sticking his oar into Osborne’s business at the Treasury), and Warsi will be minister for faith and communities.

Nick Parry tweeted: “Now ‘Baroness’ Warsi really knows what it’s like to be Northern and working-class – she’s been made redundant by the Tories.”

And Rory Macqueen asked: “Who has replaced Warsi in the <issue off-the-shelf statement about “Labour’s union baron paymasters”> role? It looks really challenging.”

That would be tireless self-promoter and foot-in-mouth artist Grant Shapps.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel… The new Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, is afraid of flying.

And the former minister for the disabled, Maria ‘Killer’ Miller, is the new Equalities minister. She’ll be victimising women, gays and ethnic minorities as well, from now on. If you think that’s harsh, bear in mind that she voted for a (heavily defeated) proposal to stop abortion providers like Marie Stopes counselling women, and is on record as being in favour of defining homophobia, racial hatred and prejudice as ‘freedom of speech’.

Beyond that, we’re into comedy territory. For example, Mid Wales Labour member Ryan Myles said: “Apparently David Cameron was planning on moving Eric Pickles but couldn’t afford the crane.”

All in all, it’s been a wholesale replacement of anybody with talent, by idiots. The tweeter who identifies himself with Yes Minister lead character Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP summed it up perfectly: “Expected a night of the long knives, may just be a morning of insignificant pricks!

The great debate – the incapable assessment regime

The most telling moment in today’s (September 4) Westminster Hall debate on Atos and Work Capability Assessments came when Chris Grayling was delivering his speech. A woman shouted, “You’re killing us!” and was immediately told to shut up or the public gallery would be cleared.

It was an act of insensitivity that put into a nutshell the Coalition government’s attitude to public discontent over its Work Capability Assessment regime for claimants of the new Employment and Support Allowance (and soon, the new Personal Independence Payment); it doesn’t care what we say, it will carry on doing what it wants, and it will lie to us about what that is.

I was listening to the debate and watching responses on Twitter. John McDonnell MP tweeted: “Protesters sum up exactly what this debate is all about. The Atos system is causing immense suffering & killing people.”

Mr Grayling did not address these concerns in his speech.

He said the DWP would not be changing the controversial ‘descriptors’, that are used in WCAs by the tick-box assessors, who need them to understand whether any person’s abilities mean they deserve a much-coveted place among the 13 per cent of claimants in the ‘Support Group’ – or whether they should be turfed out into the ‘Work-Related Activities Group’ or market “Fit For Work”.

But a potential new set of descriptors, more appropriate to the conditions suffered by the sick and disabled, is still being considered. Where’s the truth?

He said the assessment regime had “no financial targets”. This was a flat-out lie. We know there are targets because Atos trainers made that perfectly clear in the recent Dispatches and Panorama documentaries on the subject.

“Atos do not take decisions.” Another lie. The DWP decision-makers rubber-stamp Atos recommendations in the vast majority of cases.

He repeatedly told us the process was “not an exact science” before contradicting himself by stating that the government wants to “get it right”.

Before he got up to speak, the criticisms had been mounting up like a tidal wave against him. All to no avail, as he sailed on, oblivious.

“How many people have died between being rejected and their appeal, and how many committed suicide?” This was a question I was hoping to hear, as this blog has been criticised for using the “32 deaths per week” statistic. No response to that one, though! And what about corporate manslaughter? The issue wasn’t even raised, but the government – and Mr Grayling, together with his (now former) boss Iain Duncan Smith – might be guilty of killing thousands.

“Will claimants still get ESA while they ask for a reconsideration?” The current answer is no. Judging from the lack of response in the debate, that will remain the case.

Assessors’ lack of mental health knowledge came up time and time again.

One MP after another got up to speak, making it clear that they had all received multiple accounts of mistreatment at the hands of a company that clearly couldn’t give… well… Atos: “There cannot be an MP that hasn’t heard terrible constituent stories over WCAs.”

Labour MP Stephen Timms made some strong points. He pointed out the fluctuating nature of many claimants’ conditions, and warned that the work capability assessment does not take account of changes. “The WCA must not be a snapshot,” he said, and went on to add that the test needs “radical improvement”.

He admitted that Employment Support Allowance was a Labour initiative – but made it clear that the Coalition rolled it out before trials to ensure it was fit for purpose had been completed.

And Dame Anne Begg MP won praise for listing poor decisions by assessors and the failings at Atos, repeating, like a mantra: “When people feel this persecuted, there is something wrong with the system.”

She called for the contract to be re-written, saying it “can’t be fixed with a few tweaks here and there”.

Tom Greatrex, who opened the debate, said too many people were being found fit for work when they weren’t fit at all. He said the £60 million cost of appeals against assessment findings meant the taxpayer was effectively paying for a system that doesn’t work, then paying again to put it right. He said details of the Atos contract should be made public (a forlorn hope; confidentiality is a large part of many government contracts with private firms, although the Atos contract is particularly vague).

And he pointed out that, although Mr Grayling had said the transfer schedule for moving people off Incapacity Benefit and onto ESA was on-target, it was in fact very far behind, with waiting times up by 85 per cent.

Honourable mention was given to the disability campaigns Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle. Dishonourable mention was made of police brutality at last Friday’s protest outside the headquarters of Atos and the DWP in London.

Calls were made to reduce unnecessary assessments (of people whose condition was unlikely to change), anger was expressed that Atos is a sponsor of the Paralympics. The debate heard that applicants find the process of going through the Work Capability Assessment terrifying (I can personally attest to this, having witnessed my girlfriend’s. Terrifying and humiliating) – and that it was felt to take away their dignity as human beings.

Sadly, nobody called for a comprehensive study of the mortality rate.

Not one single Coalition backbencher indicated a desire to speak.

Amid all this, one online wit tweeted: “I do hope Osborne comes in at the end to take the now-traditional booing” – a reference to an incident the day before, which has already become infamous, when the Chancellor appeared at the Paralympics to hand out medals and was booed by the 60,000-strong stadium crowd.

Sonia Poulton, the Daily Mail columnist who became a campaigner against Atos, summed up the event: “W-C-A….SEIZE THE DAY! Yes, Labour started it, we ALL know that now…but Con-Dems butchered like never before. Time to get rid!”

If only we could.

For another perspective on the debate, please see the BBC website’s report at – oh. There isn’t one.