Sunday, 5 October 2014

Standing up for the disabled and challenging stereotypes

This week I’ve been saddened to hear several blind people I know saying the benefit system needs reforming as too many don’t go out and work and would rather sit at home and sponge off the government. Here I’ll try and challenge these myths and stereotypes and hopefully we can stop others doing the government’s job for them for a change. Firstly I am blind myself having been for 10 years now and have worked whenever I can. I do a part time job for my dads company. It’s no great shakes but its work and I always attend punctually and so on. I don’t believe disabled people are anymore lazy than any other part of the population. I want to dispel the stereotypes of workshy s benefit scroungers that don’t want to do anything to help them if I can. I do receive Disability Living Allowance son to be phased out which I’m increasingly worried about with its replacement PIP Personal Independence payment being tighter and harder for people to claim I do worry for many disabled people out there today going through stressful unnecessary tests. I also claim working tax credits as my pay is so low it needs topping up just for me to get by. Just getting a job is not the magic dream the Tories like to think it is there are many who are on poverty wages and struggling to feed them every week despite having a job. We need to unite with those in and out of work as we all face the same enemy in the capitalist system itself using us for profit making. Challenging the myths and falsehoods put out by the government and our dear media which is set to divide and rule us. If people really wanted to help more people disabled or not into work then why were good jobs like the brave Remploy workers who lost their jobs a few years back at the hands of this Tory government and why do they not extend access to work to those looking for work too. Access to work which is funding and support to disabled people in work which can be made available to those needing “reasonable adjustments” to enable them to do the job. None of this is covered by the employer so there is no additional cost to employing a disabled person which is another myth we must smash. I know many blind and partially sighted people looking for work and am struggling not many wish to remain on benefits and laze about as the government and the media would have you believe. Putting it simply there is just not the jobs out there if you’re disabled or not let’s be frank. Even if a job was there there are so many ways around discrimination laws employers can try it is made even harder by the stereotypes of disabled put out there by the establishment that disabled people are not as hard workers as their non disabled counterparts which is completely rubbish. A recent statement from DPAC a group I’m closely aligned with Disabled People against Cuts writes about the cruel Work capability assessment which the last labour government brought in for anyone thinking labour are any better towards disabled people think again. “The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits. No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people. We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity. And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded? Why should they have to live in fear? We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work. We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments. The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful” We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on DWP rules “29 and 35″ which allows doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to ‘at risk’ patients. They didn’t improve slavery; they abolished it, because it was wrong. They didn’t amend Apartheid; they ended it because it was wrong The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished Signed Andy Greene, Disabled People against Cuts Annie Howard, Disabled People against Cuts Bob Ellard, Disabled People against Cuts Debbie Jolly, Disabled People against Cuts Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network Jane Bench, #New Approach Eleanor Firman, Disabled People against Cuts Ellen Clifford, Disabled People against Cuts Gail Ward, Disabled People against Cuts John James McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign Katy Marchant, Disabled People against Cuts Linda Burnip, Disabled People against Cuts Michelle Maher, WOWPetition Nick Dilworth, #NewApproach Pat Onions, Pats Petition Paula Peters, Disabled People against Cuts Rick Burgess, #New Approach Roger Lewis, Disabled People against Cuts Rosemary O’Neil, Carerwatch Roy Bard, Disabled People against Cuts Wayne Blackburn, #NewApproach Another good piece by the excellent Johnny void that runs an excellent blog you should all check out “The shocking story of Jobcentre abuse recently published on Disabled People against Cuts’ (DPAC) website will be all too familiar to many claimants. The post tells the story of a claimant who was called on their mobile phone by a Jobcentre advisor in the middle of a blood transfusion for a life threatening condition. Instead of simply offering to call back, the advisor then began demanding that they immediately attend the Jobcentre for a back to work assessment, despite the claimant having lost six pints of blood due to kidney failure. It is difficult to call for unity between claimants and low paid (and themselves harassed) Jobcentre staff when claimants face open abuse like this. But every job has its share of contemptible bastards and part time Jobcentre staff themselves will soon be facing this brutal regime when Universal Credit is introduced. We will all be benefit scroungers then and this unites Jobcentre staff and claimants with a common cause. This is an opportunity to amplify and escalate the fight against Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged social security reforms and it should be taken by those in and out of work alike. The treatment doled out to the above claimant reveals a dangerous time-bomb at the heart of welfare reform. Without excusing at all the behaviour reported by DPAC, there is really no reason why Jobcentre staff would have any understanding of complex health problems. Jobcentre staff are not health care professionals. Neither are they social workers, mental health specialists, probation officers, substance misuse counsellors or housing officers. Yet Jobcentre staff have been granted unprecedented powers over the lives of so called ‘vulnerable people’. With a stroke of a pen, Jobcentre decision makers can sentence claimants to four weeks unpaid work, or stop vital benefits, whatever their circumstances. In fact there is no reason why Jobcentre staff would ever even know that someone has a drug problem, a mental health condition, a serious health problem or is street homeless. And if they do know, they aren’t trained to deal with it. The situation is even worse on the privatised Work Programme where the ‘black box’ style of provision means welfare to work companies can mandate claimants to almost any activity they see fit with no scrutiny whatsoever. As Jobcentre staff themselves could well testify, even before the huge re-assessment of people on sickness and disability benefits, then many of the small number of long term unemployed people often face complex problems in their lives. It may surprise people to know that if someone hasn’t had job for twenty years, it is usually not because they are lazy. Jobcentres have always dealt with large of numbers unemployed people who were sleeping on the streets, had diagnosed, or undiagnosed mental health conditions, serious problems with drugs or alcohol or a range of factors that meant full time work was a long way away*. Now those people have been joined by hundreds of thousands of claimants formerly on sickness and disability benefits and everyone of whom has been signed off work by their own GP. If a GP can order someone to bed rest only to be over-ridden by a DWP clerk or welfare to work advisor ordering them back to workfare, then what chance do social workers, mental health nurses or probation officers have. From December 3rd last year the DWP gave powers to Work Programme companies and Jobcentres to mandate sick or disabled claimants to workfare for an unspecified period. Workfare sharks like the inaptly named The Conservation Volunteers (@TCVtweets) have said they will provide their own assessment of a claimants ability to carry out the very physical workfare programmes they run**. A conservation charity worker can now force someone to work unpaid even against the advice of the claimant’s doctor. The potential consequences of this are horrific and not just for claimants. With no CRB checks, risk or health and safety assessments on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme – or any interaction with other agencies – then the possible dangers are endless. An alcoholic could be sent to work in a licenced premises for example. Or someone with a history of violence in stressful situations could be sent on workfare to work in a stressful situation. This is something workfare using charity shop managers might like to consider before being tempted by the lure of free labour. It is only a matter of time before this situation leads to a tragedy. And when it does, it will quite likely be a Jobcentre worker who faces the blame. This should be a pressing matter for the PCS Union whose members cannot be expected to have a specialist understanding of the vast array of problems that claimants face. And they should be supported by social workers, probation officers, mental health teams and other social care professionals. As Universal Credit is introduced and benefit conditionality vastly expanded then care plans, child protection measures, resettlement and treatment programmes will be torn up as vulnerable people are subject to the nasty and ever changing whims of ministers at the DWP. *Homelessness, substance misuse and mental health charities also know this incidentally. They have just chosen to remain silent as the magical belief has flourished that if only someone got a job in Tesco then all their other problems would disappear. Some people will sadly never make it in this cruelly competitive capitalist world where people are solely judged by how much they profit they can generate for the rich. ** TCV have changed their statement and there is now no reference to them saying they assess a claimant’s health before they begin a period of workfare. Presumably they now leave it to poverty pimps like A4e to decide. They have said they will not use people on sickness benefits as workfare staff – if they are fibbing and anyone knows of anyone on ESA forced to work at TCV then contact Boycott Workfare: Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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