Already the Labour Party Conference is producing memorable speeches.
Here’s Emily Thornberry, bigging up Labour’s election performance – the biggest increase in Labour’s vote since 1945 – and putting down Theresa May on Brexit. She said the “grown-ups” would handle it after the Tories have gone:
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Andrew Marr that Labour gained voters in all sectors of society and confounded the commentators:
Bless. Clearly he hadn’t been reading Vox Political in the run-up to the election. Perhaps he was too busy campaigning. I don’t mind because This Site was hugely popular in the run-up to the vote.
Finally, I wanted to draw attention to the following speech by disability activist Paula Peters, who reminded the Labour Conference that disabled people have suffered particularly badly under the current Conservative government. But let’s allow her to speak for herself:
I don’t know Paula Peters personally, but everyone in the UK who has a disability should be aware of her activism, fighting government changes to benefit conditionality, fighting injustice against people who are forced to endure pain and prejudice through no fault of their own, and trying to make the UK a country in which life for the disabled is bearable, despite Conservative government policy.
If conditions for people with disabilities is any more bearable today than the Tories intended when they came back into office in 2010, it is because of Ms Peters and people like her.
If you don’t believe me, just type her name into This Site’s search box and read about a few of the initiatives in which she has taken part.
What follows is an example of the way she is treated, because she has a disability. It is deeply unpleasant; it is a stain upon our lives as citizens of the UK today.
Why do we sit quietly and tolerate this abuse?
It has taken a week for me to write this as was too upset to put this into words. I want to share this with you all now.
This is an experience I had on the R3 bus last wednesday morning 16th August 2017 at 10.40 am.
I had chaos with me. I call my tri rollerator walker Chaos. I give names to my mobility equipment, it helps me deal with the fact I need the equipment as part of my every day life.
I need to use chaos as unsteady on my feet due to POTS and lots of other health issues. Its not much fun falling over with no warning.
Chaos has a seat so I can sit down when i need to rest. I can fold it up when required to do so.
I often take chaos into the wheelchair space when no wheelchair user is using the space a) to keep the walk way free so other passengers can get to the back of the bus and b) more room for me to get in and out of the bus easily and somewhere for me to sit down. I would move for a wheelchair user if required to do so. I never get offered a seat in priority seating or one easy for me to access. I have often experienced abuse on the bus when asked, which has left me distressed. There have been times I have been threatened with physical violence, called a scrounger, fraudster and worse. I have to say not one person on the bus came to my aid on those occasions.
Anyway, last week experience on the R3. I waited for the bus to arrive at my local stop. Doors opened, driver saw my walker and immediately looked behind her at the wheelchair space where a pram was already parked to see if i could get in. There was plenty of room for me, but could see the driver was not happy about me boarding the bus and tutted loudly when I did so. As I went past her to access the space I got fucking disabled people should not be allowed on any bus.
I ignored it, not the first time I have had that to be honest, and before bus drivers on my wall have a go at me, not every bus driver is like this, and I have met many who are lovely people go the extra mile and i see first hand the abuse they get from passengers every day and feel for many of them.
So I get in the wheelchair space. I sit on my tri rollerator and another pram user comes on behind me and immediately goes into wheelchair space. I said to driver there is a pram already here and myself. There was not room to swing a cat. I get told aggressively by driver the space is for wheelchairs and I can move fold up my tri rollerator and sit on a seat. Well there were no seats for me to sit in where i had access to fold up chaos and keep the tri rollerator out of the way and I could not access the back of the bus.
Driver then thought I was being awkward and decided to switch off her engine. I took my headphones out of my ears and said to her what is the problem? Got told to move. I said I have no where to move to and as wheelchair user is not on the bus i am in the right space for my mobility equipment.
I then get threatened to be removed from the bus! By the driver! I told her she was discriminating against me and not taking my access requirements into account and putting my safety at risk. I then get screamed at which triggers my anxiety and has me on the verge of tears.
I get out my notebook to make a note of the date and the time and get the bus driver’s number located at door. MB 321 a metrobus bus. So time 10.40 am 16th August 2017 Wednesday 2017 in case anyone here thinks I am making this story up which I am not. I have a friend of mine who can back up this story who saw me in deep distress within two minutes getting of the busl later on as I was shaking like a jelly and in tears.
Because I got out my notebook to make a note of the time and date, I then get abuse from the passengers and accused of being rude to the driver. I can assure you now I was not, but the driver screamed at me and I got sworn at by three passengers.
I am sick and tired of having a daily battle to access public transport. Sick and tired of being looked at like I am a fraudster and I don’t need need a mobility aid. Well, people want to try living with what I have see the pain I am in on a daily basis with RA, Fibro POTS and the balance problems I experience on an hourly basis, and the severe and enduring mental health issues I have on top of all of that.
I often feel anxious leaving the house, mainly because I do not feel safe when leaving the house because a I can fall and hurt myself, but mainly because of people’s appalling attitudes towards disabled people like myself.
I did not ask for my disability. No one does. All I want to do is live my life, access services and public transport and go about my way. Life is made all that much harder because of incidents like this.
Needless to say I have not used the local bus again. I do not feel safe to do and it has ramped my anxiety up.
To the bus company, while you have many good drivers, you also have ones who need to seriously have updated disability equality and awareness training and one driver’s bad attitude gives the company a bad name.
Anyone can become disabled. Anyone. It can happen to the bus driver. In the world we are living in now and the high rate of stress, she could have a break down. No one is immune from that.
I am scared to complain due to retribution. I took a risk to write this because I am frightened of a back lash. But, if I do not write and share my experiences and show just how bad things are getting how can i encourage anyone else to.
I feel deeply sad, disappointed by people’s attitudes, but most of all scared. It is getting to the stage due to the reheotric, in large part due to the government propaganda in our media that has caused such huge divisions in society that has seen an implosion of hate crime towards disabled people and society thinking we deserve to be treated in this way.
I have rights, I am a human being and I will not stay silent on incidents such as this any longer.
I am glad Ms Peters had the presence of mind to note the details of the bus, the date and time – and I have no problem with re-publishing them here. Let the driver be identified; let us see how the bus company handles prejudice by its employees.
Let us all remember: Bus companies are legally obliged to give priority to wheelchair users over mothers with baby buggies after a court ruling in January; that ruling is pointless if they continue discriminating against other people with disabilities.
And if any of us witness the same, I hope we have the courage to stand up and support the disabled person. These ugly incidents happen because good people do nothing, and that makes them complicit.
Don’t be complicit.
Set a better example.
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Paula Peters is a friend of Vox Political who campaigns on behalf of the disabled (she has disabilities herself). Here, she writes about the value of the Independent Living Fund, which is scheduled to be closed by the Conservative-led Coalition government next year.
If you are disabled, you will appreciate what Paula has to say; if you are not, please try to imagine what it must be like to cope with debilitating conditions that can turn even getting out of bed into a feat of endurance. That person, one day, could be you. That’s why it is important to keep this fund open.
“I got up this morning, brushed my teeth, showered, ate breakfast, got dressed, checked my e mails, went to work, had lunch with colleagues, met with friends on the way home from work, popped in on my mum to see she was alright before coming home to do a couple of hours work on my open university degree before bed. I was able to do all this because the money from the Independent Living Fund that helps pay my personal assistant to support me to do the things I can’t manage to do directly because I have a condition that means my hands do not work and I get around using a wheelchair” – ILF receipent.
The money from the ILF helps pay for a personal assistant and enables disabled people who need support to have a quality of life do the same things everyone else can do. Live.
The government says, “ILF receipents will be reassessed by their local authority, and will be funded by the local authority”. The money given to the local authority to meet a disabled persons support needs will not be ring-fenced. The local authority can spend that money meant for disabled people and their support needs on other resources. Disabled people who need the support fear LESS or NO support at all and then being placed into residential care, far from friends and family.
Imagine this: Your local authority has cut your support needs, you would have to rely on the local pop in service, carers you do not know keep you clean, warm up a meal in a microwave, at a time convenient for the carer, but not at a convenient time for you. If you need night care you would then be forced to wear incontinence pads or even worse, be catheterised.
You would then be able to shower only once a week, have no social life, have to perhaps use a hoist and then be excluded from everyday activities outside, forced to give up the pets you rely on for company, no garden, forced into isolation, having to sack the personal assistant you relied on for many years, with no redundancy payment to give them.
Now you are thinking you do not want to go on anymore. It’s “how do I go on like this with little support”, and you are now isolated at home, cut off from society and from friends and family – and the lack of support means no independence, no social life, can’t work, no quality of life; it would make anyone feel down and even depressed. It’s awful to contemplate, isn’t it?
Disabled people want rights, rights to live independently in the community, to have our support needs met, so we can have a quality of life, and do the same things everyone else does. Live.
Society forgets that we are human beings – people. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbours, friends, colleagues; but society sees the impairment, not the person we happen to be. We are judged, discriminated against and called a drain to society. Well, we are not!
People can be born with an impairment, or at some point in their lives be struck down with a devastating illness, hit by a car, lose mobility, need to use a wheelchair to get around, have a breakdown, could lose a job and need to claim benefits to live. The social security system was put in place to protect those who needed the support, who may be too ill to work. If it happened to you, you would need the support every day to carry out the simplest of tasks. Life is unexpected, it’s cruel, and it’s tough, it can change in a flicker of an eyelash and it can happen to YOU!
Life is really hard as a disabled person every day. Trying to manage life with all the same worries as non-disabled people, money, keeping a job, family issues, health issues… How to get around using public transport. It’s bloody tough.
“The Independent living fund gave people with severe impairments the support needed to live life as we chose, so we could work, go shopping, feel part of society, a human being. A non disabled person is not used to thinking about how they would go to to the toilet, get in and out of the house, get to work, but we need to plan all those things in advance and ensure we have the support to do them.” – ILF receipent.
Our demand is to keep the ILF open, open it up to new claimants and open independent living to all disabled people so we can keep our independence and, with support, have a quality of life. And live.
All I ask of you is for your help. Help us save the Independent Living Fund from closing on 30 June 2015. As disabled people, we want rights. Rights to live as independently as possible, having a quality of life, despite what we face everyday with our various impairments and illnesses.
Why? Because we’re worth it! We are human beings, and we want to be treated as such, not as stock as the government and large swathes of society think we are. We are worth it! Help us keep the independent living fund open and help us with the fight for our rights so we can have a quality of life, living in society as best we can.
(C) paula peters 2014
You can help by joining the ‘Save The Independent Living Fund Postcard Campaign’.
It is said that you can get the measure of a man, not from his words, but from his actions. Iain Duncan Smith brought bodyguards to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee yesterday. (Monday)
Why did he need the muscle? Probably because he knew how his behaviour would be received. This is a man who is absolutely not going to accept criticism, in any form at all.
The man whose benefit reforms were mocked by Ed Balls last week as “In Deep Sh…ambles” batted away concerns about inaccurate statistics as somebody else’s fault and, when confronted with a whistleblower’s claim that jobseekers were being sanctioned indiscriminately, said he wanted to see the evidence.
That’s a bit much, coming from the man who is still withholding the mortality statistics of people going through the assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance. Where is that evidence?
Our evidence that he had a bodyguard comes from Paula Peters on Facebook, who attended the meeting. She wrote: “The police, and they were armed, hustled him into the room. He had a bodyguard in the room with him! What the hell for? We are entitled to watch proceedings and follow due process.”
Dame Anne Begg, chairing the meeting, pointed out that the UK Statistics Authority has received more complaints about the Department of Work and Pensions’ use of statistics than any other government department.
His response: “Yes, but I’ve had two letters. One was about two years ago, concerning something about the use of them on immigration, but they let that one sit – and the last one was where we had a discussion on the use of where I referred to those going back to work on the back of the benefit cap. They said that … I should not make the link. I believed it to be the case – that those people were going back to work due to the fact of reducing the cap; that’s my belief. They said it should not remain as a flat statistic, which we’ve accepted.”
So in that one respect, he admitted that he was wrong.
But he also said: “We have published, over the period that I have been there, over 500 statistical releases. We’ve also started the innovation of ‘ad hoc’ releases – which, actually, we were congratulated for by UKSA… We try and publish as regularly as possible… We try to sell a positive message, and I know there have been issues around negativity with regard to disability benefits.”
Pressed on the fact that Grant Shapps had claimed nearly 900,000 people shuffled off ESA because they weren’t willing to take the work capability assessment, the Secretary of State denied responsibility: “We didn’t actually – and have never – given them that idea about those figures. It was something that they put together and released themselves. I wasn’t even aware that they were going out with that comment at the time… I have had conversations with him and others about being careful to check with the department.”
Committee member Debbie Abrahams wanted to know about the claim by a whistleblower in Job Centre Plus, that JSA claimants were deliberately being set up to fail, contrary to the Civil Service code, with ploys including making appointments without telling the claimant, in order to create an easy opportunity for a sanction and thereby distorting statistics – not after they had been collected but in the collection itself.
She said the whistleblower had tried to raise the issue with managers at all levels, but had been rebuffed each time.
“Well, I’m not aware of that,” drawled Mr Duncan Smith, “and I have to say that I would like to see his evidence for that. With respect, he is making an allegation about some of the incredibly hard work that job advisors do. There’s always one or two people who have a different view about operating in an organisation. I happen to believe that, unless it is proved to the contrary, people in Job Centres do a very good job, work very hard, and they apply sanctions within the rules.”
Challenged on this by Dame Anne, he started to claim that sanctions are always issued because of failure to comply with the strictures imposed on claimants, provoking an interruption from Debbie Abrahams that caused his mask to slip momentarily. “I have listened a lot to what has been said – and moaning about this… You’ve had a fair crack at this.”
So there you have it. Statistical errors are nothing to do with Iain Duncan Smith. Sanctions are always applied fairly and never to distort the statistics.
And anyone who thinks otherwise is “moaning”.
Paula Peters, in her Facebook post, said that disability minister Mike Penning met people from organisations representing the disabled. She reported his words as follows:
“Our disabilities are our fault.
“Diabetes is a lifestyle choice.
“Everyone who claims benefits is frauding the system.
“Everyone who uses the access to work programme is frauding it.”
The public verdict on the meeting has been universally negative. Nicola Clubb (again on Facebook) summed it up well: “I have just watched an hour’s worth of IDS and the DWP evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee and they let him and his three cronies off the hook.
“They did not push him him to explain his use of dodgy stats, they just asked him about a couple of pieces of data released by people.”
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