Tag Archives: Paralympics

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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How can a company that has discriminated against the disabled be ‘DisabilityConfident’?

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Here’s a mixed message:

The Conservative-led Coalition government wants us all to believe that the number of disabled people getting support to get or keep a job is rocketing.

But the businessman it is using to front its PR campaign founded a company that has been convicted of discrimination against the disabled in the recent past.

According to the government’s press release, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of Easyjet, said: “Already over 100,000 disabled entrepreneurs employ an equivalent number of people in their business start-ups.

“I encourage disabled people out there who have a germ of an idea for a business, but are unsure of how to go about it, to take advantage of the support the government has on offer to help you make your business fly.”

But in 2011, EasyJet told a boy with muscular dystrophy that he could not fly – because his electric wheelchair was too heavy for baggage handlers.

And in 2012, Paralympics presenter Sophie Morgan received similar treatment.

It seems, if you are disabled, EasyJet’s business has been to keep you on the ground.

The government reckons the number of people using its Access to Work scheme has risen by more than 10 per cent, to 31,230 – and has claimed that disabled people are moving into jobs, training or work placements at a rate of more than 100 every working day.

But the press release does not elaborate on how many of these jobs are permanent, how many are merely temporary placements, how many are self-employment start-ups that will receive funding for a short period and will fold when the grants run out, and so on.

Apparently it is all part of a campaign launched by David Cameron last year, called DisabilityConfident.

From what’s on show here, it seems disabled people have precious little reason to be confident.

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Betrayed Nation: the speech, the lies, the threat

One suspects the on-screen caption was more apt than the BBC intended.

David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference may go down in history as the worst drivel ever coughed up over the public by a British national leader.

I was going to write a serious article about it but, on reflection, I have decided to mock and insult him pitilessly, interspersing my disdain with some medicinal doses of cold hard truth – and a few tasty pics from Facebook and Twitter.

Where to begin? Let’s go for the biggest groaner. Yet again with your disabled son, Mr Cameron? “When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair not the boy. Today, more people would see the boy and not the wheelchair – and that’s because of what happened here this summer.” He was referring to the Paralympics but what people saw was an overprivileged toff who took disability benefits for his son when he didn’t need them and is now cravenly using the deceased child’s memory to score points, while depriving the sick and disabled of the money they desperately need in order to survive. Did he really think anyone watching that, with an ounce of sense, would not be sickened to the pit of their stomach by his bare-faced, self-satisfied hypocrisy?

It’s the sort of line that forces me to agree with the Tweeter who typed: “I’ve got a great ‘Cameron’s speech’ drinking game. As soon as he starts to speak, drink bleach.”

There was a big lie about the NHS: “We made a big decision to protect the NHS from spending cuts.” In fact, in the current financial year, his government cut NHS spending by something like £25 million, and I believe he is also rationing access to treatment. He recently announced £140 million of new funding – but neglected to trumpet to the rooftops the fact that it’s in LOANS, so any organisation taking it would have to pay it back, presumably with interest.

He said the number of doctors, dentists, and midwives has increased – and this is true. But if you factor in the number of nursing staff that have been cut (there are now fewer than in 2010) then the number of full-time equivalent, professionally qualified staff in the NHS has risen by just a fraction of one per cent since the coalition took office. Hardly a ringing endorsement of his policies, is it?

Cameron: “So be in no doubt: this is the party of the NHS and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

Twitter: “There isn’t a god or Cameron would’ve been struck down.”

Even the BBC’s Stephanie Flanders was looking askance at this: “Cameron talks about the NHS but can they tell us how many of the Cabinet have private health insurance?!”

Cameron: “Aspiration is the engine of progress… That’s why the mission for this government is to build an aspiration nation.”

Twitter: “‘Aspiration Nation’ sounds like the title of one of Grant Shapps’ motivational courses!”

Cameron: “Line one, rule one of being a Conservative is that it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going.”

How many Conservative Prime Ministers came from Eton, then, ‘Call-Me-Dave’?

Cameron: “We don’t preach about one nation but practise class war…”

Twitter: “…says head of government of private-school-educated millionaires making big cuts to public services for the poor.”

Could this possibly be the conference pass that Andrew Mitchell famously hasn’t used this year?

He said we need businesses investing and taking people on. To do that, they need low interest rates so they can afford to take out a loan, and confidence that it’s worth investing.

Big explanation follows, courtesy of Ramesh Patel in the Huffington Post: “The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because the demand for bonds has risen and there is a an expectation that it will remain high because the markets expect the UK economy will remain stagnant.” That’s STAGNANT. Not “on the rise”, as Cam would have us believe.

“Consumers and businesses are not spending. As result, saving levels have risen, which has increased the demand for bonds [loans made for a fixed period of time at a fixed interest rate] and increased their price. There is an inverse relationship between the price of bonds and their yield-return or interest rates. Hence, if a £1,000, 20-year, bond is at an interest rate of 5 per cent, you would receive a return of £50 per annum. Now suppose the demand for bonds rises because more people are saving. Lets assume it rises from £1,000 to £1,500. With the interest rate remaining the same, the return will also remain the same at £50. Hence, the new effective interest rate falls because £50/£1,500 = 3.33 per cent.” So interest rates have dropped because the price of bonds has risen – but that won’t help anyone take out a business loan – and if you don’t believe me (as Dave repeated several times during his oration), just you go out and try it!

He said it was essential to get the deficit down, and the Tories’ deficit reduction plan is “the very foundation” of their growth plan.

This is nonsense. Back to Ramesh Patel: “A government that attempts to reduce its spending during a recession engages in a self-defeating activity. Rather than increasing its income, it increases its deficit and debt. Quite simply, cutting spending results in increased unemployment, which increases its benefit spending. As a consequence, consumption spending is reduced, which results in lower income or GDP. Austerity has never worked.”

Just so. Austerity has never worked. It isn’t like a household reducing its spending to increase the amount of money it holds; the opposite holds true in national economics. Cameron (and his chancellor, Gideon Gordon George Osborne) knew this before they got anywhere near Downing Street and have been stringing you along for two and a half years.

Do you need more convincing? Here we go – he said “The damage was worse than we thought, and it’s taking longer than we hoped.” It wasn’t. He inherited a growing economy, with falling unemployment. It is his government that dragged the UK back into recession. Borrowing is up by 22 per cent so far, in this year alone, because of his policies. His claim that he has cut the deficit by a quarter in the past two years is nothing more than a lie.

It certainly isn’t why interest rates are at record low levels. Mortgages might be low as a result but how many people really benefit from that? Businesses don’t have the confidence to invest – or the wherewithal, since the banks are stubbornly refusing to pay out, no matter what Cam the Sham’s government does. Sadly, more than 33,000 businesses have gone bust since the 2010 general election.

On employment, he said more than a million new jobs have been created in the private sector. What he FAILS to say is that they are mostly part-time. Those people will be topping up their income with government benefits – creating more government borrowing. And what about the unemployment figures – especially among young people? More than a million are out of work. We’ve got 1.49 million men out of work and 1.1 million women unemployed as well. These are atrocious figures – the worst since, well, the last Conservative government.

His attack on Labour was a child’s argument. He called Labour the party of “one notion” (see what he did there, mocking Ed Miliband’s “One Nation” statesmanship?) – borrowing.

But wait. His government is currently borrowing £802 every second. And I repeat: Government borrowing has increased by 22 per cent since the beginning of this financial year alone.

“We’re here because [Labour] spent too much and borrowed too much.” If Labour’s record was so bad (its borrowing record is in fact better than that of the Tories), why was Osborne promising to match Labour’s spending plans, right up until 2007? I think the only conclusion we can form is that Mr Cameron will say anything if he thinks it will appeal to the masses. Truth or fact have nothing to do with it.

The vacuousness of the argument he picked with Ed Miliband, over tax, defies belief! He took issue with Mr Miliband for saying a tax cut was like the government writing people a cheque, saying “If we cut taxes, we’re not giving them money – we’re taking less of it away”. What’s the difference? They’ve still got more of it than they would have had otherwise! Arguing over semantics is not an election-winning strategy.

This was Cameron’s defence of the cut in the top rate of tax, from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. He said: “It’s their money.” Was he saying the super-rich should not pay any tax at all, because it’s “their money”, not the state’s? In that case, what about the rest of us? Is the money we earn “our money” and should we then, also, be exempt from tax?

If so, then good luck paying off that huge deficit you’re building up, Dave – not to mention the benefits bill you’ve been steadily increasing over the past two and a half years!

I sometimes wonder if he knows anything about the real economy at all.

Oh look! I just unintentionally echoed something Mr Cameron said! About Labour?!? Deluded isn’t the word. If it weren’t for the deadpan, funereal seriousness of his delivery, this could be a comedy skit.

He talked about the threat of wealthy businesspeople moving to other countries, which – guess what, Dave? – they never, ever do.

He said the rich will pay a greater share of tax in every year of this Parliament than in any one of the 13 years under Labour – but has never produced any figures to back up this claim. How are we supposed to believe him?

He went on and on about the need to build more homes but declared no new policy.

On welfare, he referred to individual families in receipt of up to £60,000 in housing benefit. Who are these people and where in the country can they possibly live? Has anyone EVER received that much? I want to see Conservative Central Headquarters produce the evidence RIGHT NOW!

He said it’s an outrage, conveniently ignoring the fact that NOBODY RECEIVING HOUSING BENEFIT ACTUALLY SEES A PENNY OF IT. It obviously goes to the landlords. But his plan to cap housing benefit won’t harm landlords – they’ll just evict the tenants for being unable to pay the rent.

Why not cap RENTS instead? That is the real solution. But then, as somebody mentioned on Twitter, this isn’t about helping people in need – it’s about turning central London into a poor-person-free zone.

Oh yes, and somebody should really make it clear to Mr Cameron that 93 per cent – the overwhelming majority – of new housing benefit claimants are in work. What does this say about the kind of work available in Cameron’s Britain? To me, it says that it doesn’t pay enough for people to survive. He should be asking why the government is effectively subsidising these employers when they should be paying a proper living wage! (A living wage? Isn’t that a… Labour idea?)

On his state-sponsored slavery Work Programme, he said, “Work isn’t slavery; it’s poverty that is slavery.” Firstly, when it’s compulsory, unpaid work, I think Mr Cameron will find it IS slavery. Especially when it’s the kind of work that helps the firm but not the worker, who can be slung back on the dole after a few weeks, and another slave – sorry, worker – pulled out of the line to do the same ‘training’. Secondly, the Child Poverty Action Group tells us that, thanks to Mr Cameron’s policies, child poverty in the UK is set to rise by 800,000 by 2020; this is the biggest increase in generations and Cameron’s comment on that was “it’s us, the modern compassionate Conservative party, who are the real champions of fighting poverty in Britain today.”

There was more – much more – of this tosh but I can’t be bothered any more. You get the idea. If you want to see what someone from Eton has to say about the state education system, go to the Tory website and read it yourself – if you can stomach it. Let’s just say the point at which Cameron started attacking teachers who choose to work in the toughest schools was the moment when one man, whose girlfriend is a teacher, gave up all attempt at calmness and started screaming swearwords in response.

There was no mention of the police at all. We know he’s cutting the force nationally by 15,000, though – let’s face it, the billboard with his face on it made his intentions perfectly clear!

The verdict? One Tweeter typed: “What an absolutely vacuous, empty tokenist deluded speech riddled with lies, mistruths and divisive barrel-scraping spin.”

My favourite is this. It’s short, pithy, and to the point: “One of the worst dictator speeches since 1945.”

But I’ll leave the last word to Ed Miliband, who delivered his critique of Mr Cameron and his party in advance, during last week’s Labour conference:

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?

The wages of sin: promotion?

The minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, may be in line for promotion in David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, according to the BBC.

This individual, under the guidance of DWP boss Iain Duncan Smith, has presided over the closure of dozens of Remploy factories, forcing thousands of disabled workers onto the dole.

Her colleague at the DWP, Chris Grayling, is also in line for promotion after being responsible for the Work Capability Assessment regime run by the infamous Atos organisation, which has caused the deaths of 32 people per week, on average, since the beginning of last year.

(The figures show that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the “work-related activity group”. A further 1,600 people died before their assessment had been completed, and 5,300 seriously disabled people died after being put into the support group – the group for people who are found to be genuine in their need for continued support. The number who died after being judged “fit for work” was not recorded because the DWP does not keep records of those who have been written off its books.)

The latest person to lose her life was cancer patient Cecilia Burns, who was judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos in February this year. Her benefits were restored just a few weeks ago but the ordeal was clearly too much for a person in a weakened state due to fighting a potentially terminal illness, and she passed away last week.

Atos is still claiming that it does not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement – it merely carries out the assessments and refers the results to the DWP. We know from TV documentaries Dispatches and Panorama that the findings of the assessments are rubber-stamped by the civil servants in the vast majority of cases.

The firm also claims that its service is “highly professional and compassionate” and that it adheres strictly to the rules. What it doesn’t say is that the government changed the rules – and the benefit – in order to make it easier to cut claimants off. Even after that, 40 per cent of those who appeal win their case at tribunal. If they have legal representation, that figure rises to 90 per cent.

I understand that our Paralympians have been safeguarded from assessment so far – but will all face Work Capability Assessments of their own next year. Like our armed forces, it seems the Coalition government is happy to use them for good publicity in the public eye; once that gaze has moved elsewhere, they’ll be shunted onto the scrap pile.

The reshuffle – and possible promotion for Ms Miller and Mr Grayling – follows a week of protests by the Atos Victims Group, focusing on the Paralympic Games. This culminated in demonstrations outside Atos’ London headquarters and the offices of the DWP on Friday, in which it has been claimed the police physically attacked those present, breaking one protester’s shoulder and damaging a wheelchair user’s chair.

This is what the Coalition government wants to do with the disabled, it seems – push them out of the way, cut off their benefits, forget about them, let them die.

This is extremely pertinent at the moment. Why? Because it is 73 years since the government of a certain European country put its own policy for disabled people into action. Adolf Hitler signed an order to begin the systematic euthanasia of Germany’s mentally ill and disabled people on September 1, 1939.

According to the Nazi policy of racial hygiene, people with physical and mental disabilities were “useless” in German society, and they were a threat to Aryan purity. They were deemed unworthy to live. The euthanasia programme (‘Operation T4’) cost the lives of around 270,000 people.

The best figures we have suggest that the new British assault on the disabled has killed nearly 5,000 so far (rising to almost 10,000 if you include those in the support group). But the Chancellor wants to cut a further £10 billion from the welfare budget (rather than get his rich pals to pay their taxes) so who knows how high this figure may rise before we get a chance to restore sanity in 2015?

I’m already having nightmares about it.