Thursday, 29 October 2015


Some things I've heard recently.

Dundee Polio Fellowship.
  • Attitudes towards people with disabilities have changed for the worse.
  • We face 'everyday' aggression
  • Accused of being benefit scroungers.
  • Late-life disability brings increased problems
  • Care in the Community - under-funded, under-staffed not enough time
Dundee Independent Advocacy Support.
  • Difficulties with Atos/Maximus
  • Medical assessments often carried out with inappropriately trained people - example of a physiotherapist assessing a person with learning difficulties.
  • DLA to PIP - delays and changes in criteria causing havoc.
  • 'Payment by results' is a sanction on service providers.
Dundee Access Group.
  • State of dropped kerbs
  • Misuse of disabled parking spaces by able-bodied people.
  • 'Accessible' toilets that are only partly accessible.
St Mary's Lunch Club, Lochee.
Though not specifically for people with disabilities, never-the-less had a high proportion of such persons present when I visited.  These were some comments:
  • "Listen!!!!" - that's the polite version.
  • Job Centre - you mean the Gestapo Centre.
  • They just talk through you, don't listen and lie all the time.
  • Mental health services are hopeless and take forever.
  • Turmoil with doctors
  • Temporary jobs muck up your CV.  They make it look like you can't keep a job.
  • MPs 10% pay rise is a scandal
  • When someone is sanctioned, what are they supposed to do?
Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society.
  • 'A' frames in the street.  City Council banned them but haven't enforced the ban.  What use is that?
  • As Christmas approaches shops pile more and more goods into the aisles.  We trip over them and wheelchairs can't get past them.  Is that not a matter for Health and Safety?
  • 60/65% of our clients are over 65.
  • Visually impaired children have a special unit at Craigiebarns Primary
  • Taxi drivers who get to know us are great.
  • Quality of life depends so much on the quality of other people's services to you.
Scottish Trades Union Congress.
  • "Information received following requests under Freedom of Information Act show that the needless policy of austerity pursued by the Government, and Ian Duncan Smith's department in particular, could be preventing disabled people securing employment."
  • In 2010 when the coalition government came to power, in the 781 Jobcentre Plus throughout the UK, persons with disabilities looking for work could rely on the support of 499 specialist Disability Employment Advisers.  Five years later that number has been decimated.
  • The information supplied by DWP shows that in May 2015 the number of Disability Employment Advisers had fallen to 297, a fall of 40%.  The on-going attacks on supported employment, the loss of Remploy jobs and other attacks on disability benefits such as the bedroom tax are proving this government plans to be one of the most heartless and uncaring we have seen.
  • 'Disabled people need support, not sanctions to get into work.'

A couple of ideas that have been floated.

  • Dundee, a decent city.  Can the Fairness Commission try to raise a culture of respect for vulnerable people; promote a Dundee where citizens do the right things?
  • A 'GOOD' Places Register.  Can the Commission, or perhaps the Council, set up something along the lines of the Trusted Trader scheme?

The Challenge of Physical Disability

In my presentation to the Fairness Commission on the challenges faced by people with physical disabilities I began by talking about some of the things we should treasure and protect.  First there is the National Health Service - a concept of Collective Generosity and practical goodness.  This concept of collective caring, of loving our neighbour, our fellow citizen and the stranger in our midst is our true national treasure.  We must protect this beating heart of practical goodness against the vultures who are forever circling, looking to health care as a moneyed carcass ripe for plundering.
Secondly I spoke of our Education System - a concept of expectation and a collective investment in potential.  My parents told me it was a big battle (I have limited mobility due to contracting polio, or infantile paralysis as it was called, as a baby) to get me into mainstream education.  Apparently they were told that I should go to a 'special' school where I would be 'more comfortable'.  "He doesn't need comfort," argued my mother, "he needs an education!"  At earlier meetings the Commission had heard of some of the difficulties of the attainment gaps in our schools, but we should acknowledge the great deal of extra support provided in Dundee's schools to pupils with both physical and mental disabilities.
Third 'treasure' on my list is our somewhat currently battered system of Social Security - the true expression of our all being in it together.  Whilst not wishing to stifle incentive, opportunity or responsibility, it would be dishonest to say other than there will always be those who will never be able to work or sustain independent living, and there are many, many, many others who for some periods in their lives will be shut out from paid work.  The vision of the safety net of social security is another expression of collective caring, of loving our neighbour, our fellow citizen and the stranger in our midst.  The other side of this coin was that those who were able to pay taxes would do so willingly.  Clement Attlee, who was Prime Minister at the time of the birth of the modern welfare state said, "Charity is a cold, gray, loveless thing.  If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money on a whim."  There is something of 'once upon a time' about that I'm afraid, but its a philosophy we would do well to recapture.
If anything undermines any sense of security that people with disabilities might have it is the introduction of the current Work Capability Test.  It was, we were told, a revolution.  People with disabilities were to be tested on what they could do, not on what they couldn't do.  Great!! Absolutely right.  But this proper concept with which nobody could disagree has been turned by the Government, through agents like Atos and Triage and JobCentre Plus into a tool of exclusion, a weapon for sanctions.  At the recent Tory Party conference, blatantly and dismissively Ian Duncan-Smith said, "Disabled people should stop relying on the State and work their way out of poverty." 
In preparation for my presentation I loitered around a few groups and agencies asking what they were saying and will post these shortly.


I had the opportunity to give a presentation to the Fairness Commission on Tuesday 27th October on the challenges that people with physical disabilities face in every day living.  I have no doubt that everything we face, people with mental or unseen disabilities face these challenges with knobs on.
But first I had a word or two to say about the task of the Fairness Commission as I see it.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said, "There is no greater injustice than to treat unequal cases equally."
The Fairness Commission is looking at a city which has huge divisions.  Many citizens, including most of us on the Commission are doing quite well, whilst many of our fellow citizens are struggling just to keep their heads above water; still others  are utterly dependent on meagre benefits and foodbanks.  Side by side in this city walk the secure and the insecure, the expectant and the depressed, the honoured and the dismissed.  Ours is a city of unequal cases and we have been appointed to try to make things at least a little bit different.  That is our task and we cannot be even-handed!  we are called to champion the cases of those whose urgencies are treated as of no account.