Archive for the ‘ local council ’ Category

*waves* I’m Still Here!

I haven’t posted in ages and I’m really sorry about that.

It’s been a pretty hectic summer for me and I’ve had some health issues that have just eaten all my spare spoons I’d normally use for blogging. I’m hoping that now things are settling down that I can get back to normal!

As you may or may not know I’m pretty passionate about doing what I can to try to improve other peoples experience of Birmingham City Councils (BCC) Adults & Communities division (adult social care). I had quite a few issues with them, the DWP, Atos and the NHS wheelchair service when I first became physically disabled which is one of the main reasons I became a disability rights campaigner. I wanted to do my part to ensure that others in the same boat had a better experience than I did.

Now many of the issues surrounding adult social care aren’t things that that are within adults & communities remit to deal with. Social services cannot force Osborne to free up extra funding for them in his budget, nor do they have the last word on how much the local councillors decide to devote to the department. They can’t ignore national initiatives they are compelled to take part in nor can they interfere in the NHS. What they can do is work with the resources they have to commission appropriate services and to try to force up the quality of third party contractors where possible. They can also look at their own services and make sure they are appropriate, upholding citizens rights and of a good quality.

I’ve joined a Citizen-led Quality Board which works alongside BCC Adults & Communities to look at the why’s, what’s, when’s and how’s of their commissioning process to point out problems, encourage good practice and share citizens ideas and concerns.

I’m going to endeavour to write up a few posts about various areas we are covering in an effort to both share information and to look at our performance. Until then, look after yourself & I hope you have a great October x

The Real Impact of PIP on Social Care

I’ve just finished reading about how PIP (Personal Independence Payments) will impact on social care services and it was really shocking. Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform writes;

“The replacement of DLA with PIP will damage local communities by reducing the incomes of people in poverty, reducing charging income for social care and increasing the numbers entitled to social care. An average area will lose £7.5 million, but could add further costs of up to £11.25 million.”

Local councils spend a lot on social care for children and adults, in fact over 50% of their budgets are spent on it. Sadly, because it is where the most money is spent by already cash-strapped councils it is an area that is being hit hard by cuts. By 2015 local government is having it’s budgets cut by around 40%, with an average of 33% of that falling on social care.

Currently getting social care from your local council, can be like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. The level of disability that you must reach high that many in genuine need are turned away for not being “disabled enough” or they are turned away because the receive benefits like DLA which the council believes they can use to pay for care themselves. Those that do meet the standard often only receive about 8 hours of paid care a week with extra costs for much needed care being met by the disabled person or their families. This money, when not coming from personal wealth, comes the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – which is being scrapped – and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – which is now being replaced by PIP. With council social care budgets being reduced by 33% many more disabled people in need of care will no longer be able to access care via social services which will leave them reliant on other sources of funding.

With the ILF gone, and there being a very high incidence of poverty associated with disability I hope you can see why access to the money from DLA, now becoming PIP is already and will be even more crucial when it comes to purchasing much needed social care. The kicker is that the government are planning to use the transition to PIP to cut the numbers currently receiving DLA by between 20-28%. They believe that figure is representative of those who are receiving DLA fraudulently (by which I mean people who’s conditions have improved but who haven’t told the DWP about it) or are simply not disabled enough to need the extra income. This figure seems to have been pulled out of the air. Regardless of the flawed ideology behind the changes the end result will be less money from DLA/PIP for disabled people to spend on care which means they will have to rely on the local council. Dr Simon Duffy explains;

“The government intends to reduce spending on DLA by PIP [1]. This changes will be phased in by 2018, by which time it will cut the incomes of disabled people by £1.5 billion [2]. This means that an average local authority, with a population of 300,000, will lose income that has been targeted at disabled adults of over £7.5 million. This will be a further blow to local economies. In addition it will inevitably have a further knock-on effect for the social care system.”

As I mentioned earlier, many are told they can’t have social care because they get DLA. If only 5% of those who will be loosing DLA when it becomes PIP become eligible for social care then there will be a additional cost of £1.1m. If 25% become eligible then there will be an extra £5.6m cost and if 50% become eligible there will be an additional £11.25m cost. This means that councils could be loosing between £8.6m – £18.75m at a time when council budgets social care budgets are already stretched to breaking point.

Realistically, without getting extra funding from central government to make up the deficit, councils will have to respond by raising the bar regarding eligibility criteria. This will make it far harder for many disabled people to access much needed care. Without access to social care disabled peoples independence is sorely curtailed. For many of us social care means we can go to work, take part in everyday activities and live in our own homes. Taking that away will be devastating to the lives of many.

I believe that the government would have a far harder time justifying these cuts had they done a cumulative impact assessment first. A cumulative impact assessment is when they look at knock on costs (both financial and ethical) as well as savings of the total impact of all the cuts to disability related benefits and services. We are trying to put pressure on the government to produce a cumulative impact assessment via a e-petition, you can sign it by clicking this link.

[1] Kennedy S (2012) Personal Independence Payment: an introduction. London, House of Commons Library.
[2] DWP (2012) Personal Independence Payment – Reassessment and Impacts. London, DWP
Notes on PIP’s Impact on Social Care by Simon Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform

Birmingham City Council Public Question Time

This Tuesday, June 12th, saw the first Birmingham City Council (BCC) ‘Public Question Time‘ launched. The  initiative was forwarded by Sir Albert Bore, the new Labour head of the BCC. 

I was intrigued by the idea so I forwarded a question about disability and the effects of the cuts. To my great surprise it actually was one of the 7 selected, so this Tuesday I took myself down to the BCC chambers to ask it. 

On arrival I was taken up to the chambers which are not really designed for wheelchairs but they found me somewhere to park and had a non-fixed microphone available. The room was beautiful, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling like I didn’t really belong in a different world as all of the rather well heeled councillors entered the opulent hall. In a time of austerity this kind of old world grandeur seemed a bit too ostentatious for my tastes. I also couldn’t help but reflect on what a huge pity it was that one of the more beautiful rooms in Birmingham City Centre was generally off limits to the general public. Just one more display of the divide between many in the ‘political class’ and the rest of us.

The meeting started with a Christian prayer, something I didn’t think was really necessary and I felt rather uncomfortable abstaining but that’s the way it goes. The Lord Mayor quickly explained the format, we would have 1 minute to ask our question and a relevant member of the council would have 2 minutes to reply, then it would be onto the next.

The questions began and I soon realised the councillors sat in front of myself and another disabled questioner were Conservative & Liberal Democrats. I was shocked when they decided to talk amongst themselves as members of the public, potentially their constituents, voiced their questions and concerns. I assumed they would stop, but they didn’t. Laughing, passing notes and showing complete contempt for not only the Labour councillors responding to questions, but the questioners and any people in the hall trying to listen to the meeting. One question about human rights violating council contractors seemed to really rile them up. The gentleman sat next to me lent forwards to ask them to stop being so rude but they decided not to listen. Eventually I asked my question;

“The previous administration slashed services to disabled adults.As an example; I was left trapped in my house because budgeting restraints wouldn’t pay for a simple wheelchair ramp. I was told that because I could step out of my door – even though I’m virtually unable to walk nor could I carry either of my chairs with me – my needs were not high enough. I simply do not think this state of affairs is good enough at all.  

“To make it worse, in February the council is quoted as having said “We have sought to identify the things that people value the most” when discussing it’s consultation on a new £62m of cuts. It transpired that the vulnerable were not deemed as valued so the brunt of that £62m fell on Adults & Communities, the people who provide much needed help, support & equipment for disabled adults. 

“I believe it is a council’s duty to protect the vulnerable and promote independence over dependence, will this council work to undo the damage done by the previous administration?” 

I didn’t hear the majority of the reply because of the rudeness of ConDem councillors showing a complete lack of respect for the person replying and for myself. The gist seemed to be that the council was upset that they were not receiving their fair share of financial support from Westminster, I believe a comparison with Woking was made to illustrate a large discrepancy. The implication was that with more funding they would be able to do more for the disabled. They reiterated that they would make sure they provided appropriate care for those who were deemed in need of it, but there was no mention of the fact that they choose who is in need and the unfair way BCC has historically redefined disability so that only those who are critically at risk are able to receive direct payments. They also didn’t touch on the issue that left me trapped in my own home, the fact BCC won’t pay for wheelchair ramps for those without NHS electric wheelchairs. The only people in this area that can receive NHS electric wheelchairs are those that can’t walk a step without support. As I can manage a few metres, even though it causes severe pain to do so, I can’t have one. It does not mean that I don’t need a wheelchair ramp.

I left the meeting feeling pretty disgruntled to say the least. Not because I didn’t get the reply I wanted, I expected that but because of the way certain members of the council treated the question time. I can’t believe that humans with any empathy or care about the people they represent would treat constituents raising valid concerns in that manner. I believe one of those councillors will be my local councillor when we move, I will be sure to take myself down to one of her meetings to ask her why she treated me in that manner.

If you want to watch the council meeting you can watch it by following this link to 

Birmingham Access Guide Launch – DisabledGo

Today I attended a launch event announcing the arrival of a access guide for Birmingham created by the organisation DisabledGo in conjunction with Birmingham City Council and sponsored by Marks & Spencers.

It began with a member of the council explaining Birmingham’s commitment to “addressing inequalities”. He then went on to talk about how this new IT support service would be a big step forwards in addressing a lot of the existing inequalities. I don’t quite agree with that, but I’ll explain that side of things later. Next up was a lady from DisabledGo who explained about the principles of the access service.

  • It covers 700 venues across Birmingham including mixture of independent businesses and larger chains
  • It covers theatres, cinemas, restaurants, shops, health care providers, education providers, travel, accommodation, banks, professional companies and more
  • These were chosen from the most popular recommendations put forwards by community steering groups at initial consultations
  • Disabled surveyors with various impairments visited each venue using a standard set of questions produced in consolation with disabled people & disabled peoples organisations
  • Users will be able to grow the database by suggesting new places to add as well as commenting on out-dated/ incorrect entries
  • There will also be steering groups twice annually to help direct and grow the guide
  • It is the 90th Access Guide launched by DisabledGo
  • It was match funded, Marks & Spencer provided £40,000 and the council are matching it over 5 years to ensure longevity of the service
  • The service will recruit more local volunteers to act as surveyors as it grows in size
  • The service will be made available to those without internet access through training of front line council and tourist information staff. It will also be possible to get hard copies of the guide.

The guide itself is pretty good. The website; is  available in a range of colour contrast options, variable text sizes and has pro-reader settings.

You can search via post code if you are a local looking for services in specific parts of the city or, if you’re coming to visit then you can choose by area (for Birmingham you’d choose the Midlands, then choose Birmingham City Council from the list of councils covered).

It’s by no means exhaustive, Birmingham has a lot more than 700 businesses, venues, medical providers etc. but it is a good start. Having had a quick look there are a couple of local pubs and restaurants I’ve been avoiding because they appear inaccessible which actually have level access hidden round the back which is rather handy. I still get pretty grumpy about using places that make disabled people use the back entrance or having to ask staff to move bins so we can get in via a odd fire-escape, but having the option of access is better than none. I understand that it’s a step forward and that pre-1990’s civic-planning and architecture was pretty much always built without access for disabled people in mind yet still, segregated entrances will never sit well with me. Anyhow, I digress. 

There were some problematic aspects with regards to the launch, which can be problematic with any initative helping a community as diverse as those who are disabled;

  • I was pretty much the only person not attending as part of a organisation/charity. There were very few individuals. That is an issue because an awful lot of disabled people don’t have contact with the select group of organisations attending. 
  • It was mentioned repetitively that DisabledGo wanted to work with organisations representing disabled people, which means that the views of charities/organisations like RNIB, RNID, Cerebral Palsy Midlands, Spokz People etc… and the often limited range of disabilities they represent will have a larger sway over the direction of content.I would rather see the content driven by all potential users. Even those that don’t attend day centres and are not in frequent contact with charity representatives.
  • There was little there covering access from a specific Mental Health standpoint from what I saw & heard. Though, much of the guide could be very useful to people with Mental Health issues, especially in the anxiety clusters.
  • They give a mark to companies that say their staff have received disability awareness training, but there is no scale for how through this training is nor whether it is kept up to date. From personal experience working with some major UK supermarket chains diversity training is often a 15 min talk given by someone with very little knowledge about the field covering the bear minimum. As a disabled person I find that this ‘training’ more often than not doesn’t seem to stay with staff or stop them acting in a less than ideal manner which makes that certification rather pointless in my opinion.
  • The closing message by one of the project directors spoke about how this project wasn’t intended as an ‘ DDA/equalities act audit’ and how the council was using this to put ‘nice’ pressure on businesses by explaing that their is £18bn to be made from disabled customers in the UK every year and giving them a gentle nudge towards becoming more accessible in small ways. he was very keen to emphasise that they didn’t want to ‘force’ businesses to become accessible because that might create bad feeling. There was also mention that we shouldn’t be ‘too mean’ to business that don’t live up to access requirements. I, personally, feel much more radically about these things. If a business is not DDA/Equalities Act compliant I feel they should be told they are breaking the law and that they need to deal with the breach asap. Businesses will always have an excuse not to part with money in the short term for staff training/ colour defined steps/ wheelchair ramps/ hearing loops and so on and so forth. I don’t think a business’s owner’s right to feel comfortable exceeds disabled peoples rights to basic choice, access & independence. If we don’t start enforcing the equalities act the only people who will suffer are the already oppressed and disadvantaged.

All in all I though the product they were launching is a very useful tool and will become more so over time if plenty of people buy into it. I for one plan to take advantage of it. Still, there were issues with how it’s being rolled out and in my mind it is being used by the council to cover some rather counter-productive attitudes to disability and access.

May 3rd Local Elections

This is a bit late but then again I’m kind of unwell right now so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. My blog, my rules.

I stood as a candidate for the Green Party for the first time ever this year in the Lozells & East Handsworth ward. It’s a very safe Labour seat so I wasn’t expecting to win, but I feel it’s important that the party is there and available so people can have some element of choice. I came third, beating the Liberal Democrats and coming in 125 votes behind the Tories – Labour won by a massive margin but I’m just happy to have taken part. I’m also really happy to see how well the Green Party has done in the West Midlands. A year ago we had 3 councillors on 3 councils. Now we have 12 councillors on 7 councils! We’ve gained in Nuneaton, Dudley, Chelmsley Wood and Worcester. I’m so proud to be a part of it.

My local ward, a old Tory safe zone, is now controlled by Labour as is the city of Birmingham. We’ve been struggling under the weight of a nasty ConDem coalition for 8 years and they’ve finally been booted out. I’m not getting too enthusiastic about things changing under Labour but I am hoping things won’t continue to get worse.

The ConDems have destroyed social care in Birmingham and it desperately needs salvaging. After one wave of huge cuts which was followed up by the decision to only award support to those assessed as having ‘super critical‘ needs they got hit by legal action and it looked like things would get a bit better. Then in February this year they announced a further £62m in cuts, £30m from adults & communities (which deals with all disabled people over 18) and £22.5m from children, young people & families. The latter cuts coming only a few short years after the tragic death of Khyra Ishaq because, in part, of the poor state of children’s social services in the city. Why these cuts? When the deputy leader, Lib Dem Paul Tisley, was asked why they had cut these areas and not others he explained they had “…sought to identify the things that people value the most.” Implying that supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable was not high on their list of priorities. This is one of many reasons I am extremely glad these people are no longer in power.

Birmingham also voted ‘No’ to having a elected Mayor. Whilst I’m happy we aren’t getting one (I feel it undermines the council and places a lot of power in one person) I’m disappointed in the lack of information given out to residents. I think democracy only works when people are able to make an informed choice and given the lack of information provided it was impossible for many to do that.

Regardless, I feel more positive going forwards. Cameron & Clegg have been given a kicking which will hopefully make them realise that the country won’t stand idly by whilst they treat us like fools.

Disability & Birmingham Christmas Market 2012

This morning I met with Steve Hollingworth to talk about access issues surrounding the annual Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham City Centre.

There are millions of disabled people in the UK, 1 in 5 Brits are covered by the Disability Disrcimination Act. Trying to keep in mind that I wasn’t the only person affected by these issues I got started. We talked a lot but in the end I would say we covered the following areas;

  1. Alternative routes around the market for people with disabilities which make the routes with stairs etc…  difficult.
  2. Internal routes in the market and challenges/ barriers to access.
  3. Issues of abuse stemming from the bars.
  4. Training of the security staff.

Alternative Routes

I was shown the plans for allowing step free access between Broad Street & New Street which avoids much of the Christmas Market. This involved using the underpass leading to Fletcher walk, then following the pavement along besides the Town Hall along Hill Street to New Street. I explained the issues with this route as I saw them;

  • Two steep ramps connect Broad St to Fletchers Walk (possibly more than 1:12) are very hard to navigate if you have mobility impairments, especially when the weather is icy. Manual wheelchairs slip backwards, attendants struggle to propel them, it’s very hard work for those dealing with exhaustion, balance issues and so on.
  • The alternative route joins to New Street at the top of Pinfold Street. Last year a florist has set up between the market stalls and a set of bollards & phone boxes at the top of Pinfold Street. The bollards & phone boxes were too close together to allow my wheelchair to pass through between the road and the stall so my only options were; to go through the market or to cross Pinfold Street. As Pinfold Street doesn’t have lowered curbs on either side of the road at the top end of the street, to get to a step free crossing point you have to travel down a fairly steep hill and then back up.
  • Visibility – it’s all good having a route suitable for those who need step free alternatives but if it’s not clear that it’s an alternative then it won’t get used.

The council are going to check the gradient of the ramps, if it is more than 1:12 then it isn’t suitable as a ramp for wheelchair users etc… I also asked them to ensure that if it was used they had a good gritting policy to make sure it wasn’t anymore hazardous than needs be. The florist will be back this year so they will hopefully try and ensure that they know they can’t ‘expand’ into the space required for wheelchair access. They will also look at removing bollards that block the way. Hopefully by the route being clear from obstructions it will aid visibility, as will making sure staff are trained to direct people.

Another alternative route was to go from Paradise Forums around the back of the Council Buildings and down Bennetts Hill to join onto New Street at the Tescos. There are a couple of issues with this route as well, examples are;

  • Issues with dropped curbs – Bennetts Hill has a couple that are quite high and also have ‘holes’ in front of them which easily catch casters, sticks and feet.
  • Issues with visibility of route.

They will check Bennetts Hill and surrounding streets for safe access (no dangerous curb issues). Once more, hopefully trained staff will be able to direct people to the appropriate route.

Internal Access Challenges

The largest issue last year was the crush of people trying to move, shop and browse in very confined spaces. As well as being stressful for those trying to use mobility aids or with aural & visual disabilities it was also very upsetting for many of those with mental health issues and learning difficulties. They have already decided to try and ensure the same doesn’t happen again by widening the thoroughfare around the outside of Victoria Square into a single ‘street’ of shops rather than the two they have had previously.

  • In the middle of the thorough fare there will be a set of steps. I drew attention to the risks these posed if the area was too crowed for people to be able to see them. They are a trip/fall hazard for people with visual impairments (as at the best of times they don’t have strong distinguishing features – like colours or textures) and people with mobility issues.
  • There are squeeze points where it gets very congested and practically gridlocked around Tesco, bar’s and in and out of the Paradise Forums. These create problems for many disabled people in the forms of stress, anxiety, standing related issues, continence (for those that don’t have the luxury of waiting 5mins in a queue to get to the nearest toilets) and other such things.
  • Last years market had barriers placed around the back of the shops meaning that once you were in the market you couldn’t just leave by cutting through the gaps between stalls. If you wanted to leave you had to get to an exit point which was often very difficult, especially if you were a disabled person. If you wanted to get help moving the barriers so you could ‘escape’ then it became a bit of a lottery. Some security staff were helpful, others far less so.
  • The ambient noise levels are also quite high so this makes life hard for those with hearing difficulties to participate as most stalls didn’t have hearing loops.

They are looking at placing some Christmas trees or similar on the steps so that the flow of people goes around them and disabled people are not accidentally forced over them.The squeeze points have been noted and they are looking at making extra room by removing stalls and using creative seating arrangements near the bar areas. Better/ consistent training for security staff should make it easier for disabled people to ‘escape’ the market once inside if they need to. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a resolution on the issues surrounding hearing problems, sorry.

Abuse Issues

I explained that a combination of alcohol + a rise in disability related hate crime + overcrowded stressful conditions seemed to play a key factor in the abuse I had received. Most of the insults were levied at me when the market was congested and I was either near a busy drinking area or in the line of sight of someone who appeared to have been at the mulled wine previously. I agreed that the plans to widen the thoroughfare to reduce congestion as well as plans to move the seating for various bars out of the main thoroughfare would hopefully ease this. Changing the attitudes that feed into the abuse was outside of the remit of our session 😉

Training of Security Staff

As mentioned before, there wasn’t really a continuity of standards in this area. Depending on which person you asked for assistance you could get a whole range of replies. Like many security staff the only disability training they seem to have really received was the diversity section of the SIA licence course and the common sense they have developed over the years. I suggested that they consider making sure they are all briefed with disability issues in mind so that they can fulfil their role and maximise the accessibility of the event.

I think it went fairly well and I’ve been promised they will be in contact to let me know the outcomes of our discussion so any next steps can be taken. Sorry if you’ve read this and feel disappointed that I missed something. I’m still pretty new to all this. Anyway, love to you all.

Rights Not Charity

“Rights not charity!” has become one of my favourite chants at protests, but I’m starting to realise many don’t quite get what it means (or what it means to me at any rate) so I thought I’d talk about it a little. sadly I’m on quite a lot of strong painkillers so it might be a bit jumbled – sorry in advance!

What is expressed by the phrase ‘rights not charity’ is the desire to have independent living and equality of opportunity as a human right rather than something that is provided by a benevolent philanthropists. Our government seems to be slowly trying to cut the amount of support* they are willing to give to sick & disabled people in the vague hope that charities will cover the gap. We can even see this in the way government incentivises donating to charity to escape being taxed.

To many onlookers that might seem like a good thing. They’ve seen TV shows where charities provide wheelchairs for veterans or holidays for kids with leukaemia so wouldn’t it be a good idea to let them do more? They are caring and loving after all. Well, I don’t think it would be a good thing and nor do many other disability campaigners. I shall endeavour to explain why now…

In a not very scientific experiment I’ve been asking family and friends to name some charities that deal with sickness and disability and most will said; British Heart Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Cancer Research, Headway, Scope, Whizz Kids, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Royal British Legion/ other military charities. Pretty much all the ones with charity shop presence. Thanks to some creative use of the bold button you may have noticed that pretty much all of those charities are set up to deal with a particular impairment or people meeting specific age or occupational criteria. In that list only Scope claims to deal with all disabled people regardless of age, past occupation or impairment. Unfortunately the service that they offer which covers those people is an advice line. Their community based services (like educational & employment services) to people living in certain geographical areas and/or people who have ‘complex care’ needs. This still counts many disabled people out. It’s also not like they can help fund equipment, PA’s, transport, retraining for those with disability but non-complex care needs or critical home improvements.

Charity is all well and good if you have certain conditions or meet specific criteria but you are stuffed if your need is as just great but you don’t. That’s because charity isn’t fair. When a charity dealing with a aspect of disability or (normally) a specific illness or impairment gets £1 million pounds it gets spent on it’s pet cause. When the section of a local authority that deals with disabled adults gets £1 million it gets spread over the all the service users they cover. Those who need extra help because they smoked or had problems with alcohol as well as those who have Parkinson’s or served in the military. For that reason I would rather see money to support the disabled going to LA’s rather than charities therefore I’d rather see big earners incentivised to pay taxes to help the vulnerable rather than to donate to charities.

I will use a personal story to try and illustrate this: When I first admitted to myself that I needed a wheelchair to get around I went to see my GP. She agreed with me and we filled in the application for one from the NHS. It was explained to me that the NHS will only give manual/attendant powered wheelchairs to those who can walk a couple of meters (even if it does cause severe pain etc… to do so). Whilst I was waiting for my chair lot’s of people asked me why I didn’t contact a charity to get one. The reason I didn’t was because there are no charities that provide wheelchairs for those over 18 who don’t have a specific disablement or have come from a specific background (like the police force or military. The NHS was my only option. The same happened when we needed adaptation to our home, it was only the council that could help me. It happened again when and when I needed help funding re-training, no charities could help my only option was the government (not that they would help either). I’m not saying this because I believe that because I don’t have access to charitable aid that no one should. I’m also  not for a moment trying to say charities don’t do some good work, they do. What I am trying to say is that they are not a good vehicle for providing for the needs of all sick, disabled and otherwise vulnerable people. 

Charities also very often help to peddle the idea that sick & disabled people are objects of pity. We’ve all seen the adverts with the sad disabled or sick person made happy by charitable donations. They propagate unhelpful stereotypes and damage the cause of disabled people trying hard not to be seen as pitiable and miserable. The image below shows a Damien Hurst sculpture called ‘Charity’ which shows the kind of image used by charities to highlight the ‘plight’ of disabled people. We want rights, happiness and as much independence as we can get. We do not want pity handouts going to a few whilst the many are ignored.

The harsh reality for many of us is that charities don’t help us. What would help us is seeing our rights to an independent life fully backed up by the law and a ombudsman so that the government couldn’t strip resources from us or use easily misinterpreted phrasing like ‘reasonable adaptions’ to stop us from accessing public services and living like others.

That is why I chant ‘Rights Not Charity’ and will continue to.

* removing 20% of DLA recipients (even though the fraud rate is 0.5%), removing the ILF, cutting social care budgets, making it harder to get Direct Payments, removing Legal Aid so that vulnerable people can’t challenge unjust welfare decisions, making it harder to get council housing or adaptations, the bedroom tax, the WCA, removing Contributions based ESA after a year and a whole host of other nasty initiatives.

Some Positive News Regarding the Christmas Market

Last December you may remember I had a rather rough time at Birmingham’s annual Frankfurt Christmas market.

I wrote to the people I have been informed are in charge of the market and I have heard back. The initial email I sent included some quotes of the abuse I received, so the council computer system quarantined it which caused a delay in replies.

I heard from Steve Hollingworth (Assistant Director of Sport & Events) first and shortly afterwards I received a letter from Cllr Paul Tilsley (Deputy Leader of the Council). Steve Hollingworth has offered to meet with me to discuss the issues surrounding disability, access and the annual market. You can read the letter from Cllr Tilsley here.

Hopefully I will be able to impress on him the importance of access and making reasonable adjustments.

Wish me luck!

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