Friday, 19 August 2011



Disabled people query whether telling him to jump off a cliff would have the same level of obedience...

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been caught using an accessible toilet, just minutes after telling a live television audience that parents must teach their children “right from wrong”.

Duncan Smith – responsible for a series of sweeping welfare reforms that will see savage cuts to spending on disability benefits – had been one of the guests in a live debate on the riots that had swept across England.

At the end of Saturday’s debate, hosted by Channel 4, the Conservative cabinet minister told the audience that the one thing the riots had shown him was the need for “communities where people take responsibility for their actions for bringing up their children, for teaching them right from wrong”.

Minutes later, the Work and Pensions Secretary – who is not disabled – was caught coming out of an accessible toilet on the ground floor of the building.

Sean McGovern, a wheelchair-user and chair of Lambeth Pan-Disability Forum, who had been in the front row of the audience and spoke during the debate, had been waiting in some discomfort to use the accessible toilet, and challenged Duncan Smith.

When McGovern reminded him of the words he had used in the debate, Duncan Smith replied that “someone told me I could use it”.

McGovern told Disability News Service: “He had been sitting there pontificating, telling us what we should be doing as a society, only then to walk away and flout the ‘rules and regulations’ because he can, because he is who he is.”

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman said: “He wouldn’t have been jumping the queue. He would have been using facilities he was directed to use by the event’s organisers.”

But she refused to say whether this response had come from Duncan Smith, or even whether she had contacted him to pass on the request for a comment.

Disabled activist Kaliya Franklin, co-founder of The Broken of Britain, who published McGovern’s account of the incident on her blog, said: “Recognising when the needs of others take priority over our own is a fundamental part of knowing right from wrong and taking responsibility for our own actions.

“As minister for DWP, IDS is expected to have a greater understanding and sensitivity to the needs of disabled people, especially as the many ‘reforms’ to disability benefits and services are predicated on a claim that accessible facilities are now readily available wherever needed.
“Given the minister’s commendable desire for everyone to be held responsible for their personal behaviour through community service, sick and disabled people will expect the punishment to fit ‘the crime’.

“Apologising and committing to inspecting the standard of accessible facilities, cleaning them himself where needed, would show strong leadership and set an example to the rest of the country that ministers are not exempt from the standards they themselves set for others and demonstrate that we really are ‘all in it together’.”

Channel 4 has so far failed to comment.

News provided by John Pring at

Thursday, 18 August 2011

From Passive To Active Campaigner - By Lisa Elwood

Originally posted at the Creative Crip

@BendyGirl has asked: “Disabled tweeps. What was the defining event which made you become an activist or campaigner?”
Following is my answer. 
The defining event which made me become an activist or campaigner was becoming disabled  2 years ago & having to face the realities of needing help & not getting it.
Twitter was invaluable in connecting me with people like The Broken of Britain Co-Founder & Director Kaliya Franklin aka @BendyGirl of the Benefit Scrounging Scum Blog who have lived this life for far longer, many from birth. The things that I was fighting for personally were the same things that other disabled people were fighting for. The things already in place were there no thanks to the past efforts of campaigners and activists.
I had already had bitter experience and lessons learned about the arduous fight for assistance in the aftermath of my marriage breaking down eight years ago, losing the investment banking job that I had at the time shortly afterwards and becoming homeless off the back of both. It was one thing to have to deal with all of that whilst able-bodied. It is quite another to have to deal with the “you’re breathing, you’re fit for work” attitude by governments past and especially present as someone who is most definitely not fit for anything approximating my old life because of my physical and mental health concerns.
What I managed to achieve helping with The Broken of Britain campaign gave me a reason for staying alive and went some way towards finding the tiniest bit of the “old me” who managed to be useful and productive in spite of any disadvantages. On the surface I’ve always given people the impression that I’m very confident; that I’m a woman who knows exactly what she wants and exactly how to achieve it. Nothing could be further from the truth, and especially since I’ve become disabled.
As I said before, what I’ve had to endure in the workplace absolutely destroyed me. It is fair to say that I am quite far from being able to just “get over it”. It is those experiences which,my disabilities aside, sounded the death-knell for as far as working for other people and outside the home are concerned. But try telling that to the coalition government and opposition, the jobsworth drones at the Job Centre or private profiteers of unemployed and disabled misery A4E and ATOS. It’s a textbook exercise in futility. Even self-employment is like trying to scale Mt. Everest on rollerblades. Everything, and I do mean absolutelyEVERYTHING, is a battle when you are disabled.
I was, and still am, acutely aware that I am particularly lucky to be a very strong person in many respects: I am not afraid to be open, direct and searingly honest; qualities that have worked against me as much as they have for me. So, as with other things I’ve been involved with, disability campaigning enables me to give a voice to the unheard. Whatever I do to help myself also benefits other people and vice-versa. We really “are all in it together” at the grass roots level.
As Kaliya always says, “alone we whisper, together we shout”.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

No Men Of Honour

At The Broken of Britain we regularly receive emails from sick and disabled people in utter despair at the damage the cuts to benefits are causing to their lives. It's both the most difficult and most rewarding part of what we do. Although we are used to the fear and distress people are being put through, it's impossible for us to remain emotionally detached, and some cases are particularly hard to comprehend. Today is just one such example. A young woman with a life limiting, painful and severely disabling genetic condition is facing the prospect of losing her home due to the changes in the way local housing allowance is calculated. In her own words, she writes to the Prime Minister and Chancellor to remind them of their many, many promises to always protect the most vulnerable.

"And I want to say to British people clearly and frankly this; if you are elderly, if you are frail, if you are poor, if you are needy, a Conservative government will always look after you"
David Cameron 4.5.2010

"I have never felt lower. Because of changes to housing benefit, I've been reduced to a worrying mess. I face the possibility of being moved out of my flat that has an extra room for when I need a carer because the local housing allowance is dropping so much.

I'm entitled to a two-bedroom rate of housing benefit, but it's dropping so much, it will be lower than the one-bedroom rate I'm currently on. 

I'm too severely disabled to work. I cannot walk far, my condition is extremely painful, and I face unpredictable fluctuations in my disability where one day I may be unable to swallow properly, be able to get onto my feet, or even see properly. It is difficult enough to look after myself on a day to day basis, yet you are making it harder.
I receive DLA, Income Support and even Severe Disablement Allowance. Yet despite being acknowledged as one of the most deserving recipients of housing benefit, the office who deal with my benefit do not understand why I am to be one of the worst off, with no exception.

This morning I listed ten items to sell on eBay. These were presents I received last Christmas and on my last birthday. The items I am selling are two well made winter jumpers, some DVDs of films I enjoy, and three handbags (from high-street stores).
I don't have anything of big value I can sell, and although I love the clothes and watching the DVDs I am selling, I have nothing else nice that anyone else would want. I am looking around for other things to sell, as times are hard enough without the impending drop in housing benefit. 

You and George Osborne said you would not leave the infirm without help. Well, you've let me down, and many others too. You have gone back on your word, and you are no man of honour."

Monday, 15 August 2011

Personal Responsibility: The IDS Way - "Someone Told Me I Could"

A lovely 'you-couldn't make-it-up' incident presented itself to me tonight. Earlier on this evening I took part in Channel 4's 'Street Riots: The Live Debate' over in a studio in Endell Street, Covent Garden. It's nice being picked up by a chauffeur driven car; deposited into the heart of the West End; and, by-passing queues to be admitted into the green room for free nosh and drinks.

But, I deviate.

Anyway, back on track. Eventually we're herded into the studio and the warm-up guy does his warm-up stuff, and we gingerly laugh at his not-so-funny patter. Krishan Guru-Murthy, a lot smaller in real life (wears Cuban heels), then gives the SP of the show and introduces us to Iain Duncan-Smith,Hilary Benn MP, Adrian Mills an Ealing restaurateur (his restaurant was ransacked and looted), Paul Gladstone Reid a composer, pianist, singer-songwriter and producer, and a rather taciturn policeman who referred to all explanations and views contrary to his as 'excuses'.

The debate went fairly well. Duncan-Smith and the businessman holding the old law-and-order line; people-have-to-take-personal-responsibility-for-their-own-actions was intimated several times by Duncan-Smith in relation to cutting benefits and evicting, even, parents of children convicted of looting.

The Tory line when confronted with problems is always to fall back on the old chestnut of family values and personal responsibility. And Duncan-Smith ensured that nobody, whether they agreed with him or not, left the studio without his message messing around with more pleasant thoughts, such as those ice cold bottles of Peroni waiting for me when I get home.

The show ended and the floor manager wanted us, wheelchair users, to wait until the studio was cleared. No way Pedro! I'd sat for an-hour-and-a-half in a lot of pain, and I needed to pee, quite quickly. So, I got out first, or so I thought, and headed for the lift to take me to the ground floor and the adapted toilet.

Up we went. Out of the lift, throw a right. Bob's your uncle, there's the 'special' loo waiting to accept yours truly.

A young geezer all skinny jeans, Loake's brogues and Ralph Lauren cardy looked at me as I reached for the door."Sorry sir, there's someone in there. He won't be a minute" instructs this trendy clothes horse, probably a TV researcher. "Ok mate" I say; relief, hopefully, a minute or two away.

Three minutes later the door to the disabled toilet, the one with the big sign announcing in pictogram the universal symbol of disability, and out strolls Iain Duncan-Smith!

Oh glory! Hallelujah! My peeing need seemed to vanish from my mind as I mentally uncrossed my legs and said to Duncan-Smith: "This is an adapted toilet, see the sign?" Which he acknowledged uncomfortably. "Why are you abusing this facility? I've had to wait in extreme pain and discomfort because you think you're above the rules that everyone else accepts!"

Duncan-Smith, is somewhat trapped, because I've placed my wheelchair between him and the door, and my PA is standing by my legs, so the trapped rat can't vault over me and do a runner.

Then I have him on the ropes, just waiting to deliver my coup de grace down drop his gloves his guard is gone as he splutters out "I'm sorry, but somebody told me I could use it".

And, in true Sun headline grabbing thought...GOTCHA! 

"So, if someone told you to pick up that TV because it was going begging. You'd pick up the TV?" I asked. "What's happened to your sense of personal responsibility for your own actions?" I pressed. "Are you exempt from the rules and regulations you spent the past hour telling us we must adhere to because that's how we maintain an orderly society?" I finished pushing my way into the loo.

Duncan-Smith, thinking he could do a runner took full advantage of the cessation in my harangue and just as he thought he'd escaped the loony wheely, I looked into the bowl and spotted he hadn't flushed the loo.

"Oy!" I shouted, arresting IDS's flight: "Do you know it's customary to flush the khazy after use?"

I can still picture his look, a mixture of abject contempt and 'beam-me-up-Scotty', as he drew an embarrassed grin across his Chevy while abruptly turning a corner to the safety of the street.