Saturday 14 May 2011

Call for Investigation of Maria Miller

Having previously mentioned Maria Miller's weasel words comparing the "higher rate" (without explanation of whether she meant Care or Mobility) DLA caseload for those whose main disabling condition is blindness to that for alcohol and drug abusers, courses of action to address this misleading of the public have been considered.

Prior to taking action, the case needed to be better quantified. As you would expect. the number of those with blindness as their main disabling condition outnumbers that for alcohol and drug abusers eligible for the Higher Rate of the Care component although not by much, perhaps because alcohol and drug abuse is often associated with underlying psychological problems and can often lead to severe physical problems. For the Higher Rate of the Mobility component, 7100 people with blindness as their main disabling condition are eligible against 9100 for alcohol and drug abusers. Overall, 12,500 disabled by alcohol and drug abuse claim the Higher Rate of DLA, against 12,200 disabled by blindness. Does this mean that Maria Miller was correct

At first glance, the claim appears to be a half-truth at best. The reasons that so few people with blindness as their disabling condition are eligible for the Higher Rate of the Mobility is that, at the date when the latest figures were collected, the visually impaired cannot qualify for the benefit due to their visual impairment. But recent changes to eligibility criteria make the claim entirely false.

The rules for eligibility to the Higher Rate of the Mobility component of DLA have changed since April 2011, meaning that many more severely visually impaired people are now eligible for DLA at this rate, so that Maria Miller's claim is no longer even half-truth. Over 20,000 people have been eligible for the Higher Rate of the Mobility component of DLA since last month.

This new exploration of the data is convincing evidence that Maria Miller lied, and that she meant to deceive the public. The lie was intended to set camps of disabled people against one another, and to use a tabloid perception of substance abuse for political gain. As such, The Broken of Britain has contacted the Cabinet Office to ask them to investigate a singularly malicious breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct by Ms. Miller. This action was considered the best option, given that Ministerial questions in Westminster can be shrugged off and that the outcome of other courses of action would not lead to a satisfactory outcome. You will be kept updated of any developments.

The #HardestHit - Day Of Action

 By MarkThree Media in conjunction with Scope.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Mobility Component and The Liberal Democrats

The Hardest Hit March yesterday was a relative success, but there were three issues that were either ignored or published too late.

The first was EDM 1791 tabked by Anass Sarwar MP:

That this House believes that it is the sign of a responsible society that it supports disabled people to lead an independent and fulfilling life; further believes that, while reform is needed, the Government’s current plans are causing unnecessary uncertainty and creating risks for disabled people up and down the country; further believes that the Government has failed to appreciate the cumulative impact of the changes it is proposing; further believes that ill-thought through reform of disability benefits could push thousands of disabled people into poverty; considers it irresponsible to time limit to one year the payment of contributory employment and support allowance which will affect people suffering from cancer and fluctuating conditions; calls on the Government to abandon plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from 80,000 people in residential care homes; further calls on the Government to retain automatic entitlement for people who have severe impairments, meaning that blind people, the mentally impaired and double amputees will not have to face the distress of applying for support that they genuinely need; expresses serious concern that 100,000 families with disabled children will see their support halved as a result of the decision to replace the disability element of child tax credit; and further believes that disabled people should have to wait only three months rather than six months before they can apply for the new personal independence payment.

This is an apparently well-meaning Early Day Motion, but is a bit weak on detail and demonstrates that it is not just the Government who need a refresher course in disability.You should ask your MP to sign this EDM, but ask them to support the stronger EDM? 1756 at the same time.

Another news story that became apparent was that the Liberal Democrats have broken yet another promise. More accurately, they voted with the Government on the Welfare Reform Bill Committee to remove the mobility component from claimants in residential care, despite a motion on opposing restrictions to mobility component at the Spring Conference. I have touched upon this story before, but had to wait for the Hansard records of the meeting to be published.

As these records show, the Liberal Democrat MPs Ian Swales and Jenny Willott actually left the room when this issue was put to vote, meaning that the amendment tabled to oppose the Government's plans was defeated. Liberal Democrat members should hold their MPs to account for this further betrayal. The records also show that the ridiculous Jenny Willott had stooped to the level of voting against one of her own amendments, presumably in order not to upset Government whips.

The final story is regarding Maria Miller's interview on BBC Breakfast yesterday. Having swallowed a copy of the Daily Mail with her breakfast cereal, Ms. Miller said: "Well, it can't be right that we have a benefits system where, under DLA, more people who are either alcoholics or drug addicts are in receipt of the higher rate of disability allowance than people who are blind".

The real figures are:

DLA - 0-15 age group

Blindness - 5,300
Alcohol & Drug Abuse - 100

DLA - 16 - 64 age group

Blindness - 45,800
Alcohol & Drug Abuse - 20,900

DLA - over 65 age group

Blindness - 18,900
Alcohol & Drug Abuse - 2,000

The only reason that alcoholics and drug addicts are eligible for the higher rates is due to underlying behavioural problems or that the substance abuse has caused physical damage, and that up until last month blind people were not eligible for the higher rate of mobility. This may have been an honest mistake, but the Minister has seriously misled the public whether by design or not.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Welfare Reform Bill Committee Confirms Disabled People As The Hardest Hit

Public Vill Committees are formed in order to scrutinise proposed legislation, and should be the stage at which amendment are made to the Bill. The Welfare Reform Bill Committee has failed miserably at this task with the creation of PIP and abolition of DLA passing unamended, with absolutely no changes from the original proposals.
The result is the same as for the time-limiting of ESA discussed last week.

The Opposition did work very hard to make some well-considered amendments, and they deserve credit for that. Unfortunately, the Government maintained its staunch opposition to changing the Bill. Yet again, Maria Miller and Chris Grayling demonstrated their contempt for people with disabilities, and their fellow party members obeyed their ministers.

Much of the blame falls squarely on the shoulder of Jenny Willott MP and Ian Swales MP, who were absent during important votes, withdrew their own amendments, forgot their own regularly stated principles on the issue, and ignored the decisions of the Liberal Democrats' spring conference on mobility in care homes.

This is another disappointing development, but it is not the end of the road for this issue. The Bill must still pass through the Report stage of Parliamentary scrutiny before its Third Reading in the Commons, and will then have to pass through yet another five stages in the Lords. It does, however, intensify the urgency of our opposition. It is now vital that as much support as possible is gathered for EDM 1756 opposing the abolition of DLA in order to pressure the Government.

We Have A Dream Speech #hardesthit

We have a dream. This is our dream.

Three score years and six ago the welfare state was formed. A vision of Britain as Jerusalem for all, a beacon of hope in a country battered and bruised by the ravages of war. Principles so important that despite the crippling debt of the post war years, our grandfathers and grandmothers made sure their dream of a society caring for all was a priority. Despite two world wars and countless people disabled in the pursuit of justice it took another 25 years for disabled people to start our own road to freedom..  
Now is the time to remember the founding principles of the welfare state. Now is the time to rise up. Now is the time to remember ‘rights not charity’ Now is the time to make equality of opportunity apply to all people, now is the time to measure our worth in talent not gold. 

It is obvious that Britain has defaulted on it’s promissory note of welfare for all, a famous note signed by Lloyd George, Beveridge, Attlee and Bevan with their hopes and dreams of a better world, a fairer future for all. A beacon of hope carried forward some 25 years later by Lord Morris with his Chronically Sick And Disabled Persons Act , the first in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities. 

We refuse to accept a system bailed out by the taxpayer is so bankrupt it can no longer meet it’s obligations to the basic welfare of all people. 

We refuse to believe in a world which bankers choose to increase bonuses whilst disabled people choose between food and heat. 
We refuse to believe local authorities deem it right and proper to save money by leaving old ladies overnight in their own urine, we refuse to believe that removing respite care can be right. 
We refuse to believe that we should be blamed, targeted, made less human by those who sip from the cup of success.

It may now be a nightmare, but we too can dream. To dream is a right for all humans and the first step on the road to justice. Without our dreams we have no hope, and we all have hope. Our rights, our dignity, our existence can all be threatened, but the flame of our hope cannot be extinguished. The hope of a world in which all people are seen as human first, human, with fundamental rights; to eat, to drink, to live, to love, to be free, to dream. We can dream of a day when all children grow together, learn together, play together regardless of ability. We can dream of a day when those children become adults, accepting adults who see the world as equal, a world of ability not disability. We can dream of a world of people with the right to have their basic needs met in whatever form they arise.

We are asked “when will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as those rights, first enshrined in statue are under threat.  We can never be satisfied as long as disabled people are victim of unspeakable horrors. We can never be satisfied as long as we remember Fiona and Francecca Pilkington, driven to such desperation by disablist bullying that suicide seemed their safest place. We can never be satisfied as long as we remember Christine Lakinski, urinated over as she lay dying in a doorway. We can never be satisfied as long as we remember Colin Greenwood, kicked to death by teenagers he couldn’t see. We can never be satisfied while disabled people kill themselves for fear of the DWP. We must embrace our diversity, our differences, our talent and work together until we can dream the dreams of all.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue cannot gain access to the transport, to the workplaces, to the leisure spaces of our cities. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are segregated, denied appropriate aids and parents broken by the lack of support.

We make to you this promise. We will not cease from mental fight. Nor shall our pens sleep in our hands. Til we have built a new accessible Jerusalem. Til we have built a Jerusalem we can again be proud of, in England’s green and pleasant land.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

The Hardest Hit: More Than Market Failure

Mark Littlewood appeared on You & Yours today, discussing the impact of spending cuts on disabled people and whether disabled people are the hardest hit. It seemed odd that the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the UK’s original free market thinktank, should appear on this show, given the topic. The level of ignorance that this man showed was astounding, until you remember that it was a free-market, light-touch regulation approach to banking which caused the financial crisis. One of the suggestions he made on the show for a flexible, low-cost welfare system was devolving responsibility to local authorities. Such a move would probably cost more as each locality duplicated its own system, and it seems odd that an economist would make such a ludicrous suggestion. That is until you remember that the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs isn’t even an economist.

He expressed his horror that 10% of the working age population of the UK is deemed incapable of work. This is misdirection – lying – pure and simple. The actual figure is a couple of hundred thousand claimants fewer than he suggested. Some research shows that the figure is in line with other developed countries, however “preposterous” Mark may think it is. In developing countries impairments that are routinely treated by the NHS are quite deadly and often completely undiagnosed, so comparing the UK’s rate of incapacity with the world’s in general is spurious. Claiming that this is “surely, far too high” as Mark did, and asking “what sort of plague has hit the UK?”, is unhelpful and plumbs the depths of ignorance.

He then roundly patronized those severely disabled by “terrible afflictions” who are, apparently, “desperate and deserving”, but suggested that unless disabled people were complete and physical mental wrecks “it is their responsibility to overcome it”. Mark suggested that people must take responsibility for themselves by taking out insurance policies. This overlooks the fact that millions of people claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and other disability benefits right now. Many, if not most, of those people won’t be able to apply for insurance anymore. Private insurance may be an option for the future, although there are question marks regarding affordability for the lower deciles of the income distribution, but the discussion was concerning the disabled people of today and suggesting responsibility and insurance was an empty, straw man argument.

The conversation reached its nadir when Mark attempted to bluster his way through the interview by repeating that “there is no money left” and, as such, that disability benefits were unaffordable. There are many possible answers. First, this is an argument made by the Director of the IEA in the full knowledge that a spokesperson for the Disability Benefits Consortium would have no reply. Secondly, there is still money being spent – and the question is about why disability has been downgraded as a priority.

Thirdly, there is a lot of money left. The UK is one of the richest nations in the OECD, and the financial crisis has not changed that – it is only that the super-rich, including Mark with his six-figure salary, have moved this money where it does not benefit the nation at large. Fourthly, even if there were no money left, we should borrow sensibly – cutting public expenditure dramatically at this time will serve only to reverse economic growth, widening the fiscal deficit. Finally, Mark vehemently denied that disabled people were hardest hit by the cuts, The Centre for Welfare Reform has shown comprehensively that 25% of the cuts fall on the 3% of the population who are most severely disabled. £9bn of the total £89bn deficit cutting programme affects disabled people directly. Mark’s argument was so pathetic that it deserves no airing.

Mark was worried on air that he was coming across as “hard-hearted”. Have no fear Mark, you did nothing of the sort. You just came across as an idiot...

PIP Assessment Criteria Pulished

The draft Assessment Criteria for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been published here, along with some related documents and the draft regulations. This is worrying as the Welfare Reform Bill which will create PIP is not even law as yet, and DLA reform is being scrutinized by the Welfare Reform Bill Committee today. It is fair to say that this document jumps the gun a bit!

The draft assessment criteria seem slightly nonsensical - a slightly modified version of the descriptors for the flawed WCA eligibility test for ESA. The assessment is structured like a multiple-choice test, with a certain number of points needed for eligibility to a component of PIP. Sufficed to say, there are many reasons to be highly sceptical about the approach, not least because of the dubious quality of the questions.

The PIP Objective Assessment Development Group will be considering comments received by 6 June 2011 before they test the likely impact of the draft criteria during the summer. The Broken of Britain intends to read through this material and set out our reply, but we need your help. We would like you to scan the assessment criteria and tell us whether the test would account fairly for your particular disability.

You can write a paragraph here, or email with your arguments, and any other points that you want to make. If you want to send detailed comments of your own, send them to directly. Whether you send your own comments, or contribute to ours, please get involved.

Radio 4 - You & Yours

I will be appearing on today's Radio 4 You & Yours show between 12-1pm.

Does NHS waste up to £850 million per year on Benefit Scroungers?

by Chris K

No. But that could well be the headline from a recent redtop, the Mail or the Telegraph.

Tory Central Office, via the DWP, would have you believe that there are nearly a million perfectly healthy UK residents whose prime purpose in life is to sit back, living a life of ease on generous Incapacity Benefits. Some might endure annoyances like asthma or breathing difficulties, back problems and depression, but basically they're fit for 'some kind of work'.

The government is very keen to point out that the number of people claiming some form of disability allowance is unsustainable. What it is not keen to point out is that, with more and more multi-nationals now off-shoring, the countries' tax base is collapsing. This is why it is unsustainable. Income has changed not outgoings.

Here are some other unsustainable statistics that hardly get a mention:

14% of UK kids are asthmatic. The European average is 7%.

Over 5 million UK adults are asthmatic.

The NHS spends £850 million per year on treating asthma.

COPD causes about 25,000 deaths a year in the UK. The number of people that suffer from it runs into millions.

The NHS is worried that at least 1 in 4 of people (now alive) will die of some form of respiratory illness.

Air pollution in London breached annual legal limits by Wednesday 20 April 2011. This is despite commitments by both the UK Government and the London Mayor to bring it under control this year to avoid huge EU fines. Link

To my knowledge this has been happening for the last six years (breaking EU limits) but not normally until June or July. That is still, however, long before the hot weather turns to autumn. Consecutive governments have done nothing to reduce pollution.
Not even our 'greenest government ever.'

Also remember that although my experience is in London our climate is also yours.

I suffer from asthma and COPD and in the past have had ATOS declare me fit for 'some kind of work'. Well yes, that is indisputable; but what?

I receive air-text pollution warnings and normally I will receive approximately 50-60 warnings per annum, most of which will be low to moderate. I avoid going out, if possible, when it is moderate.

Today I received my 18th consecutive daily warning, virtually all of which are moderate or high. In total this year I have received 32.
From the moderate rating upwards my chest rattles, I wheeze and I spend a lot of time supine, reading or listening to the radio. I catnap a lot.
I also have a chest infection every winter sometimes pneumonia.
Trust me, this is not an enjoyable 'lifestyle choice'. It is frustrating, boring and the fact that the government is trying to convince people that I'm swinging the lead really tees me off.
And, guess what, this is only the beginning of May!

I am poor. I don't drink or smoke and I go out rarely.
Most of my clothes are second-hand. I have no personal transport. I do not claim DLA. I live alone.
All the money I spend goes straight back into the economy. That's virtually 100% of my income.

I have paid NI fairly consistently from 1969 – 1991, my back problems were caused by work and my lung problems were certainly exascerbated by it (asbestos). I started smoking when it was acceptable and the government was glad of the tax.

So, what is the point of this ego-centric bleat?

I want your sympathy of course. I want is for myself and at least 25% of the 900,000 supposed 'lead-swingers' that will have breathing difficulties.
Please, next time you see crass figures in the press, write in and complain. And, if you think I'm being self-centred, you're right, I am - but I'm writing about what I know, not what ATOS are paid to find.

Outside of this 25% there are still the other half million plus who have been refused disability benefits that might not look ill but certainly are to some extent or other.

Remember that, before people are checked out by ATOS, at least one doctor and, probably, a consultant have declared the claimant is too ill to work. ATOS assessors tend not even to be doctors. Mine, who was, mistook my eczema for scabies. Reassuring – still, only the best for ATOS.

Please also consider that pollution is reaching epidemic proportions in the UK and that the chances of you and family members suffering adverse health effects are rising exponentially.

If you need to blame someone for the unsustainability of disability allowances blame the tax dodgers not the sick. The polluters not the polluted.

The wealthy are taking more and more cash out of our economy by tax avoidance and investing it abroad where they make better returns. Please don't buy into their myth that the hardship that this causes is the fault of the 'undeserving poor'. It most definitely is not.

If a firm like Boots stops paying tax in this country, that is a revenue loss of £80 billion per annum. Why use Boots? Support a smaller chemist, keep the cash circulating in our country. The same with banks, support mutual societies. You may lose pennies now but you will be helping to secure all of our futures, not just the future of those with excess capital. They're actually doing quite nicely.

Monday 9 May 2011

More Protest Songs For #HardestHit

By Peace Artist Lainey

Que Sera, Sera

Is This The Way To Treat Disabled?

You Are My Benefit...

With huge thanks to Hossylass for the lyrics and sincere apologies for the singing, here's the first of the protest songs people might like to sing at The Hardest Hit March on wednesday...

"You Are My income
My only income.
You pay my heating
When skies are grey.
You'll never know, Dave,
How much I need it.
Please don't take my benefit away

The other night, Dave,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamt that I was fit and well.
When I awoke, Dave,
I was mistaken
And I was living a version of hell.

You are my benefit,
My only benefit.
You give me freedom
To go outside.
You'll never know, Dave,
How much I need that
Please don't take my freedom away.

I'll always need help
To eat and get washed
If my benefits the same would stay
But if you force me
To claim another
You'll regret it all some day;

You are my lifeline,
My only lifeline.
It puts my clothes on
When skies are grey
You'll never know, Dave,
How much I need that.
Please don't take my lifeline away.

You told the world, Dave
> You would protect me
> And nothing else could come between
> But now you've left me
> To die alone Dave
> You have shattered all of my dreams;

I need my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me unhappy
Make my skies grey.
You know we  know, Dave,
How much you lied Dave.
Please don't take my sunshine away"

The Broken of Britain - 6 Months On The Road To Justice

 Shorter version of this article originally posted by Left Foot Forward

October 2010 seems a distant memory now, the early spring sunshine having eclipsed the bone achingly cold winter so difficult for many to tolerate coupled with the most significant attack on the welfare state since it was formed. Six months is a long time - not just in politics but in the sheer volume of misery and despair heaped upon Britain's chronically sick and/or disabled people by the Coalition government.

Whilst Conservative MP's whooped and cheered to each announcement of cuts to disability benefits and services, disabled people shook and shivered. We watched in horror as proposal's to remove the Mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from care home residents were championed under the banner of removing double funding. A decision hypocritical in the extreme from a government determined to embrace the personalisation agenda of increasing individual's control of their own care. Were there any genuine concerns about double funding, the more sensible option would have been to ensure those few local authorities who actually provide transport funding to care homes ceased to do so.

Although the removal of the mobility component for state funded care home residents was one of the smaller cuts announced, it triggered a wave of fury from the disabled community never seen before. Understanding that this payment was to fund powerwheelchairs or adapted vehicles the lack of humanity and cruelty in such a decision seemed incomprehensible to us, particularly from the father of a profoundly disabled child. I made a video letter to David Cameron which rapidly went viral as it seemed to reflect the wider feeling of horror that the very most vulnerable in society had been targeted by his cuts, and an article was independantly written in the Guardian by Rhydian Fon James confirming that the Coalition's targetting of disabled people was the wrong fight.

From those humble beginnings The Broken of Britian was born. Like many of the cuts groups we evolved on twitter, extending our existing networks to decide upon a name and a purpose. Within a few days another video had been made, encouraging disabled people to come together for the forthcoming fight, a blog was started and a forum created for people to have a discussion space.

Our first task was to ask people to send us their stories of how they became to be sick, disabled and reliant on benefits. The tales were harrowing; we heard from parents who's children had been so severely injured in car crashes they couldn't tell their own story, ex servicemen still mentally ill years after the conflict they were involved in left our news screens, couple's who had avoided claiming benefits for as long as possible, until they had no choice but to claim and were refused support as they were deemed 'fit for work', people who had repeatedly attempted suicide as a direct result of being refused benefits and many more. The common theme amongst the personal histories we were sent was how many people had worked all their lives, had paid their taxes and National Insurance in the expectation the state would care for them in their time of need, and how bewildered and betrayed they all were to find that was not the case.

Slowly the media began to contact us and ask for our opinions on the allegedly compassionately conservative cuts.  More videos were made challenging the accuracy of the government's claims about benefit fraud. The stories continued to pour in from people as diverse as full time journalists to GP's explaining the problems with the system as they see it.  We were so overwhelmed with the number of people contacting us to tell their stories that we struggled to cope alongside managing our own health situations and some of us were seriously unwell as a consequence. Particular thanks are owed to Helly Copeland and Emma Crees for their support during the early days and to Rebelgrrlzine for her bravery in posting her own video story.

By December we were preparing our response to the government's Disability Living Allowance Consultation. Rhydian had recovered from a period of ill health that kept him bed bound into a seemingly unstoppable political powerhouse and proceeded to demolish the case for DLA reform before moving on to create a write in campaign for people to contact their own MP's and the Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller.  Rhydian also challenged the government about the abolition of the Independent Living Fund and submitted the first of our complaints to the PCC about the Daily Mail.

December also saw the first of our more media friendly social media sourced campaigns, our topical take on the traditional Christmas Carol The 12 Days of Cripmas, sung by the hugely talented Imana who's Broken of Britian member mum has Multiple Sclerosis.

Our social media and marketing expert Lisa J Ellwood was also on board by Christmas and wrote this piece, Disability Activism: A Just And Worthy Cause, espousing the philosophy of The Broken of Britain, using the words of Albus Dumbledore to make our point clear;

"it is our choices my friends, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. These are dark times and the moment is already upon us when we must choose between what is easy and what is right. We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided."

Christmas brought a much needed rest break for us all, but all too soon the New Year was upon us and we returned with a New Year's Message and our call for contributions to be included in the Broken of Britain submission for the Consultation on DLA reform, originally planned to close on February 14th. As Valentine's Day is traditionally associated with love and romance we planned a campaign called One Month Before Heartbreak to highlight the damage which would be done to the lives of sick and disabled people if these 'reforms' go ahead. Despite the government disgarding their own consultation by announcing the details of DLA reform before the consultation officially ended, One Month Before Heartbreak, run by Emma Crees was a huge success with  hundreds of contributions from individuals and publications such as Community Care magazine and Society Guardian also participating.

Also in January we had our first major political successes with the Welsh Assembley coming out in support of our concerns about DLA reform. This was closely followed by Daffyd Wigley's promise to be a champion for disability rights as he took up his seat in the House of Lords and Hywel Williams tabling of an Early Day Motion on the Disability Living Allowance Consultation.This was followed in February by the Scottish Parliament tabling a motion to condemn DLA reform.

January was a busy month for The Broken of Britain, we also called for the Cabinet Office to investigate Chris Grayling's potential transgression of the Ministerial Code for politicised press releases from the DWP and again called for the PCC to investigate the Daily Mail. At the close of the month we issued our final call for submissions to the DLA consultation.We produced an extensive but by no means exhaustive list of the cuts affecting sick people, disabled people and carers and finalised our petition against the flawed DLA reform consultation, signed by over 5000 people.

There was no let up in the frantic pace during February as we announced Project V asking people to send Valentine's cards to their own MP's and Maria Miller to remind them not to break our hearts and continued collecting MP's signatures for our EDM against the reform consultation. The Welfare Reform Bill was introduced on the 16th of February and Rhydian put together a prompt and damning analysis of it's impact upon disabled people. This was followed by the announcement from Professor Paul Gregg, the designer of Employment Support Allowance brought in by the previous New Labour government that the current Work Capability Assessment was not only"badly malfunctioning" but that "The current assessment is a complete mess" Strongly backed up by the Social Security Advisory Committee questioning the governments motives for reforming DLA. A few days later the first of the open letters backed by The Broken of Britain as well as MP's such as Jon Cruddas and John McDonnell was published in The Guardian.

In early March we started counting down to our national campaign launch, part of which included a debate in Westminster Hall prior to the second reading of the welfare reform bill. On the 7th of March we launched Left Out In The Cold using a stark image of a naked disabled woman on a snow covered beach lying just out of reach of her wheelchair, described by one PR professional as 'stopping them in their tracks'. As the sun came out and the snow melted moving towards spring, the woman, representing disabled people was left out in the cold, reaching for vital equipment.

Left Out In The Cold also featured an open letter published in the Guardian, signed by 100 MP's, members of the House Of Lords, doctors, academics, artists and disability rights campaigners as well as template letters for people to send to their MP's, articles and information about why we are opposing the Welfare Reform Bill.

Also in March, The Broken of Britian received an invitation to a meeting held at the House of Commons on the direction of welfare reform. As this meeting was to be held under Chatham House rules we did not accept the invitation until we had checked with all our members that they were happy for us to an attend a meeting we weren't publically allowed to discuss. The overwhelming response was that was what our members wanted us to do and so we went ahead. Although we couldn't discuss what was said at the meeting, you can be assured we made all the points you wanted us to as eloquently and knowledgably as we could. With one of us (no mention who) informing a senior politician they'd have to become a prostitute if DLA is removed. Fortunately no-one in the meeting asked that person 'how much?'!

We also used the meeting and travel situations to highlight the sheer ridiculousness of the proposed Personal Independence Payment's 'ability to mobilise' definitions and show the extent of time, effort, money and goodwill it took for us to be able to travel to London.

All the hard work and efforts of the many people involved in The Broken of Britain was highlighted by this article in the Guardian by Amelia Gentleman about how disabled people are coming together to use technological tools to find our protesting voice.

The efforts involved in all that campaigning and travelling meant the core Broken of Britain team were exhausted and unwell. As much as we battled on the realities of our own situations meant we had to slow down somewhat, but as TBoB is such a strong group effort, those who are involved just by retweeting links or posting blogs stepped up and kept the momentum going while we took some much needed rest.

Although Rhydian has the most support needs amongst our core group, he fortunately receives the most support which meant he was soon back in action asking people to submit their evidence about the migration from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance, whilst the rest of us without support provided by the local authority took far longer to recover and catch up.The government's whitewash response to the consultation on Disability Living Allowance whilst disappointing to us all, came as no real surprise and just strengthened all our determination to fight harder.

On the 4th of April we launched our #fitforwork campaign, a day or so accidentally early. Which is what happens when people have to take morphine strength medications first thing on a monday morning. The campaign was picked up by both local and national media and as of three hours ago is still going strong on twitter A few days later we formally launched it, including the #dwp45 hashtag to allow people some much needed humour. Some of us wrote the stories of our working lives to illustrate the difficulties faced by both disabled people and potential employers. We also issued our brief on the government's response to the DLA consultation and heard some heartening support from Margaret Curran (shadow minister for disabled people) and Kate Green MP. We continued to ask people to send in their evidence for the Work and Pensions Select Committee enquiry into ESA

Also in April, Rhydian investigated the impact of cutting care provision on human rights and I was visited by the Robin Hood Tax Tour.  The fabulous Sue Marsh appeared on BBC Radio London to talk about the constant media attacks demonising benefit claimants as scroungers and yet again The Broken of Britian had to complain to the PCC about the Daily Mail.

More support came from Hwyel Williams in the form of two EDM's against the abolition of DLA and the time limiting of ESA which we are currently urging people to email or write to their MP's asking them to sign. Even if your MP won't sign, it is still worth sending them the EDM's as it demonstrates the level of opposition to the WR Bill.

 It's been an absolutely exhausting six months for us all, and the pressure is still on if we intend to acheive our aims of reshaping welfare reform in an equitable, workable manner. We have gained skills, knowledge and experience, perhaps most importantly in the way disabled people can work together and what we need to enable us to do so. Using a small core group and a much larger group of volunteers able to give their time as and when it suits them, dropping in and out according to the dictates of their health conditions has demonstrated the potential possibilities for disabled people in employment. By using the tools available to us from our homes, and often from our beds we are able to do as much or as little as we can manage. We are learning to adapt to the very different needs of disabled people, chronically sick people and those with mental health issues, all of which require their own solutions to make working viable and seek alternatives to the traditional workplace roles. It is disappointing given this insight that none of those options are currently being explored by any of the main political parties, as something as basic as incentivising employers to employ disabled people to work on a part time, from home basis would be one of the simplest, cheapest and most welcomed actions to involve disabled people in the paid workforce.

The battles to come will make those we have already fought look easy. Some time ago we were asked how we have made the Broken of Britian such a successful force in such a short space of time. The answer is simple. As sick, disabled or mentally ill people we all recognise that we are not just fighting for financial benefits but for our continued existence. The road which starts with labelling us as financially unsustainable ends in our persecution. Dramatic though it may seem, history demonstrates this to us over and over again. When one group of humans is labelled as less worthy, less human than another, whether that be because of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, sexual preferences or disability the lessons are clear. No group of people are of innately less value than any other, and in circumstances where they are labelled as such, blood is always shed along the path to freedom.

We return to our founding principle. "Alone we whisper. Together we shout"

Details For The Hardest Hit

Details for the Hardest Hit – May 11th 2011

By carerwatch
The route goes from Victoria embankment, around Portcullis House, in front of the Houses of Parliament and finishes next to Dean Stanley street.
1. Jubilee Bridge
2. Westminster Bridge
3. Victoria Embankment
4. A308
5. Whitehall Place
6. Whitehall Court
7. Horse Guards Avenue
8. Richmond Terrace
9. Derby Gate
10. Bridge Street
11. Parliament Street/Whitehall
12. The Mall
13. Horse Guards Road
14. Downing Street
15. King Charles Street
16. Birdcage Walk
17. Victoria Street
18. Great Peter Street
19. Dean Stanley Street
20. Horseferry Road
21. Lord North Street
22. Gayfere Street
23. Dean Bradley Street
24. Great Smith Street
25. Great Smith Street

What support will be available on the day?

There will be a large team of 250 stewards to ensure the day runs smoothly as well as representatives from disabled people’s organisations and charities involved with the day.To ensure we know what levels of support we need to provide please register your details. Following registration you will receive regular updates and all the information you will need for the day.

Where should we meet on the day?

The march will begin at the Embankment by Horseguards Avenue. We will ask everyone to assemble at this point at 11.30am. The march will then begin at 12.30pm.

Can I still take part if I can’t get to London on May 11th?

Yes of course. You can write to your MP and meet with him locally. MPs usually hold surgeries and meet with constituents on the Friday or the Saturday. A template letter is available at You can also show your support for the campaign by sending a message along with a photo or short film of yourself about the importance of disability benefits to

What provision will there be for disabled people?

Accessible toilets will be available on the day.

Where will I be able to park?

There will be a drop off and pick off points for coaches and minibuses at Methodist Central Hall and on Victoria Embankment. Additional parking spaces will be arranged. Please check back to or for more details.

Will I be able to get additional support?

If you are member or a service user of a charity or organisation involved with the march please contact your representative in that organisation for additional support needs. They will be able to let you know if they can meet you at a train station, or cover any expenses. Email at for further information.

Will the march still go ahead if the weather’s bad?

Yes, but please check the weather forecast before you set off and bring with you the appropriate clothing.

How far do I need to walk, and how long will it take?

The march will take an hour. It will begin at the Embankment by Horseguards Avenue and take in Victoria Embankment , Bridge Street, Parliament Square, Millbank and finish in Dean Stanley Street. A map of the route will be available shortly.

Will there be drinks and refreshments available?

Please bring your own lunch and refreshments for the day.

Do I have to be there all day, or can I join in with different parts of the day?

The day is divided into three parts, the march in the morning, meeting with MPs in Westminster Hall and a rally in the afternoon at Methodist Central Hall. It is up to you which elements of the day you wish to attend. On your registration form please tell us which bits you will be attending.

Do I have to take part in the march, the rally and the lobby?

It is up to you, which part of the day you attend, but please let us know through the sign up form.There are limited spaces for the rally at Methodist Central Hall, and places will be allocated through the sign up form.

Do you have any promotional materials I can print off?

We have prepared a poster that can be downloaded as a PDF.
Hardest hit march poster (A4)
Hardest hit march poster (6 x A6)

If you have any problems using this sign up form, please contact for alternative methods of signing up.

The Hardest Hit protest march is being organised and/or supported by:

Action Duchenne
Action for Blind People
Action for M.E.
Age UK
Arthritis Care
Breast Cancer Care
Broken of Britain
Carer Watch
Carers Poverty Alliance
Carers UK
Changing Perspectives
Child Poverty Action Group
Citizens Advice
Clic Sargent
Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Deafblind UK
Disability Alliance
Disability Awareness in Action
Disability Wales
Elizabeth FitzRoy Support
Epilepsy Society
Every Disabled Child Matters
Guide Dogs
Haemophilia Society
Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts
Hampshire CIL
Inclusion Scotland
Leaning Disability Coalition
Leonard Cheshire Disability
Macmillan Cancer Support
Meningitis Research Foundation
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association
MS Society
Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
National AIDS Trust
National Autistic Society (NAS)
National Deaf Children’s Society
Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People
Parkinson’s UK
Public and Commercial Services Union
People First Ltd
Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR)
Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID)
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
RSI Action
Spinal Injuries Association
Sue Ryder
Terence Higgins Trust
The Union for Life
The Vassall Centre Trust
Transport for All
United Response
Where’s the benefit?

Remind Your MP to Sign EDM 1756

The Welfare Reform Bill Committee discusses DLA reform proposals tomorrow. Remember to email your MP today in order to remind them to sign EDM 1756 opposing DLA reform in order to pressure the Government.