Friday, 4 November 2011

The future of disability rights is in our hands, so what are you going to do about it?

 With thanks to Imogen May the author of this post;

This isn’t going to be a long blog post, winter is setting in and many of The Broken of Britain are struggling as a result. We may be used to dealing with the consequences of the colder climate, but I don’t think any of us were expecting to be shut out in the cold by the Government.

I’ve followed politics since I was in my teens and I’ve always been involved in Grass Roots activism with disability organizations. I’ve felt anxious before, I’ve worPost Optionsried about my friends with fluctuating impairments or mental health impairments, but I’ve genuinely never been terrified.

The truth is, most disabled people honestly don’t realise the true impact of the cuts this Government is planning to make. Currently, information on specific subjects like Housing Benefit or Disability Living Allowance is filtering down through social media sites like Twitter with a handful of people doing their best to bring the stark truth to our attention. But realistically, reaching a few hundred or even a few thousand people online just isn’t going to cut the mustard!

I feel specifically let down by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network (DAN), who seem to have been in hiatus for what feels like years. With small demos taking place every few years, it’s about time they lived up to their name! What we need from DAN right now, isn’t just plans for direct actions, but we need that network. We are a community that has constantly had to fight for our rights and that is only going to become more necessary as the coalition slash our entitlement to benefits and make huge cuts to services. We need a network so that disabled people can reach out to one another, actually inform people of what’s to come as well as support them the best we can once this Welfare Reform Bill is passed. 

I was incredibly disappointed that DAN didn’t make use of the recent Hardest Hit marches in October. It would have been the perfect place to not only show they’re still active, but to introduce disabled people who perhaps felt no need to be political previously, into the world of activism. We are in urgent need of absolutely every single angry disabled person to add their voice so that we may actually be heard.

The Government is planning to cut, from 3.5 million disabled people, a total of £9.2 billion by 2015. And that’s just us, the total amount from the Welfare Reform Bill over that same period is something more like £20 billion.
When this bill is finally passed, I want to be able to say that we did everything we possibly could to stop money being taken from the some of the poorest people in our, so-called, Big Society.

The perceived problem with doing something ‘big’ in order to be noticed is the mixed ability within the disability community. Not all of us are able to attend marches or demos, not all of us have the energy to write a blog post and some of us simply don’t have access to the information needed to know where to start. However, I wouldn’t agree that this is a problem at all, in fact I believe that this is the perfect way for us all to take on a role we are capable of managing. We need all the activists, all the bloggers, all the people who can write the most persuasive letters, all the people who can Tweet info right into the smallest corners of the UK and everyone in-between.  I believe that our problem at the moment is that there doesn’t seem to be one group of people attempting to co-ordinate a multi pronged attack. I’m not talking about leaders, or people making decisions without the backing of our community, but people who are willing to spend time contacting people, informing them, giving ideas of where to direct letters or interacting with other grass root organisations to ensure we’re all on the same page.

I know other bloggers and Tweeters who’ve spoken recently about similar things without much response, but we can’t give up! If you want disability rights to be a reality, if you don’t believe the benefit reform threatens your quality of life, if you know your vital care will be slashed, if you’re anyone else who knows that this is vitally important, if you actually want to be part of something powerful and amazing, then you need to be part of this. The ball is in your court now, the future of disability rights is in our hands, so what are you going to do about it?

For more information, e mail & follow Imogen__May on Twitter.


DavidG said...

A couple of people sitting next to me at the DPAC conference last weekend mentioned they were connected to DAN, in one case going back a couple of decades - could be DAN members are working within other groups given the scale of the issue we're now facing.

DavidG said...

Picking up on getting everyone working together and putting that together with what was said by various people I was talking to at the DPAC conference last weekend, there seemed to be two valid but slightly contradictory thoughts that go together with what is said here. The first, and the reason for the conference in DPAC's case, was putting a national organisation in place, not necessarily so much because things need to be run centrally, but because there are some opportunities for campaigning that need an organisation able to engage at the national level with other organisations. The second being the local activists who are out there doing their thing on the ground, and who mostly want the national level to stay in the background, enabling them rather than controlling them. One of the speakers also talked about engaging with existing DPOs, mostly to access their facilities, but also because they're already in touch with the people who a) need to know what's happening to them, b) can potentially be our next recruits and c) they're likely already engaged with local politicians and media.

We have a bunch of groups working at this, BoB, DPAC, Hardest Hit, WTB, I've probably missed someone, all with slightly different focuses and talents and a certain degree of overlap. I don't believe that's inherently a problem, I fit better blogging at WTB and tweeting than I would trying to do organise people somewhere else, other people are better in tighter groups, or contributing in other ways. Maybe we don't all agree exactly on every item of dogma, but the more important thing is getting the message out, we can leave our differences to resolve when things aren't so critical. We can leave the groups separate as well, but it certainly won't hurt if they're all talking to each other to at least some degree.

Equally we should be communicating with the charities who are also involved in campaigning. I'm well aware many of us (me included) have problems with some of the charities, both because of their attitudes towards disability and disabled people, and because of their compromised independence now they're so dependent on government contracts, but that doesn't mean we can't use them (and I mean use in its manipulative sense) or keep our contacts at arms length by going via Disability Alliance or some other grouping.