Archive for June, 2013

DWP announces reconsideration of eligibility criteria for PIP

The We Are Spartacus network have released a press release about the announcement that the government will re-consult on the mobility criteria. If you’d like to share it or simply read it then it’s here:

Disability campaigners welcome today’s announcement that the Government will re-consult on the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance for working age disabled adults. Organisations and individuals have been campaigning vigorously on this issue since we were shocked to hear, in December last year, that the walking distance criteria for the mobility component, and therefore for assistance from the Motability scheme, had been tightened from 50 metres to 20 metres.

A disabled man, Steven Sumpter, issued  legal proceedings in March arguing that the consultation process on the new benefit was flawed because the Secretary of State did not consult on the proposal to introduce the new benchmark distance of 20 metres. This was only introduced after all the consultation stages had passed. Consultees were therefore denied the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to explain to the Secretary of State how such a restriction to the benefit will affect them and their independence.

For many years the distance of 50 metres has been accepted as an appropriate distance criteria to determine limited walking ability – including for eligibility for the blue badge, for guidance to achieve an accessible built environment, in relation to other benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and, through legal precedent and practice, for determining whether a claimant is ‘virtually unable to walk’ for the purposes of Disability Living Allowance.

Jane Young, an independent campaigner working with the We are Spartacus network, says:

“We are relieved that the DWP is to reconsider. Our concern in relation to the 20-metre distance is that disabled people with limited walking ability, who are dependent on their Motability car or other independent mobility solution funded by their allowance, would lose their eligibility and be unable to make essential journeys – to work, to visit their GP, to hospital appointments or to social activities. We fear many would effectively become isolated in their own homes, with all the implications of that for their mental and physical health.”

Whilst the Government’s announcement is extremely positive, we remain cautious. We need to make sure that the views of disabled people and their organisations are taken seriously and that the ultimate decision focuses on meeting the needs of disabled people rather than being narrowly focused on cutting the cost of the benefit. The ability of disabled people to participate in society depends on support for independent mobility; this should be the focus of this fresh consultation.

Language Check: Gaslighting

Trigger Warning; talk of mental abuse.

I’m writing this in a rush so please excuse the huge lack of polish. I’m doing it because I’m a bit upset about the way some people appear to be throwing around the phrase “gaslighting” inappropriately. When words like rape are used inappropriately (i.e. to describe things that are not in fact rape, but some other kind of violation) many in the feminist community call people out on it and I’m glad they do. I’d like to see the same with other terms associated with abuse. We all know (I hope) that it’s hurtful to suggest being raped is equivalent to someone posting something rude on some ones facebook page. I don’t think it’s too big a step to suggest that it’s also hurtful to suggest the experience of being acutely mentally tortured is equivalent to someone having gotten the wrong end of the stick and run with it.

For those who aren’t too sure I should probably explain that “Gaslighting” is the commonest way of describing a pre-meditated campaign of emotional & psychological abuse designed to cause psychological harm to the target. It’s frequently characterised by the systematic withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim which has the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.
The word gaslighting get’s it’s name from the 1938 play “Gas Light” and it’s later movie adaptations. All the plots follow a simillar thread, the new wife moves into a home with her stern, over bearing husband who is seen to be a flirt. The wife starts to develop anxiety issues. These are used to push her into social isolation. At which point she starts to loose things and she can’t account for how it’s happening and starts to worry she is going mad. These fears are confirmed when she starts complaining of the gas lights in the house randomly dimming/flickering and her husband assures her that it’s all in her head. In the end it’s discovered that the husband is the one behind the dimming gaslights, disappearing items and everything else and that it has been a pre-meditated campaign to psychologically assault and damage the wife.
Gaslighting is something that is premeditated. The abuser doing the gaslighting might not write down a detailed five year plan about it and most probably haven’t heard of term but still they will have made the choice to mentally torture someone, normally to increase the power they hold over them for one reason or another.
There are some things that share elements with gaslighting but on their own are not gaslighting and it’s important not to confuse the two things. The same way violation is a part of rape, but not all violations are rape, minimisation is part of gaslighting but not all minimisation is gaslighting. It’s important for those of us who have lived through the torture of actual gaslighting that the term is used correctly and not devalued/normalised through inappropriate use. I thought I’d make a quick list of things, that when used on their own or by accident, are not gaslighting;
  • Misunderstandings between people – it’s ludicrously common for two people to take part in a conversation and then both leave believing they have gotten two different things out of the talk. Person A thinks they have convinced someone to think about things the way they do, person B thinks they have shown person A how foolish their way of looking at things is. When either party talks about what happened, even though their versions of events aren’t the same, they are not gaslighting the other. It’s not nice to be misunderstood and then misrepresented as a result, but it’s not gaslighting.
  • Minimising – when someone suggests that things weren’t that bad. Minimising is a normal psychological defence mechanism we all employ at some point or another. It’s a form of denial, often tied in with the Just-World Fallacy, where people protect themselves by telling themselves and unhelpfully the victims of events that it “mustn’t have been that bad”. Minimising is horrible to experience and can make traumatic events that much harder to deal with but on it’s own it’s not gaslighting. 
  • Not being believed by someone – it happens all the time. People discount what we say for a multitude of reasons ranging from it seeming highly unlikely to them all the way through to them fearing the consequences of believing it. Again, it’s very unpleasant to not be believed by someone and to be told your experience means nothing to them. On it’s own it is not gaslighting though. 
  • Political Rhetoric – most political ideologies are loathsome to someone. As much as many of us lefties hate the neo-liberal agenda and feel that it is misrepresenting the vulnerable, right wing folk often feel the same persecution (rightly or wrongly) from the left. Phrases like “Birmingham Councils move to giving Asda vouchers instead of crisis loans is just another way they gaslight the city” is not helpful. It’s a poorly thought out, damaging policy designed to secure the votes of people who have never needed a crisis loan before but it’s not gaslighting. 
I can’t tell any of you how you should use language. You can use it anyway you want at the end of the day. I would just like you to think about how you use this word and to ask yourself if it’s appropriate or if you are actually trying to say something else.
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