Making The Disabled Heard Beyond Party Politics

The hashtag generation demands that it be heard, and when you question what it is demanding expect your points not to matter. For the message of the hashtag, the emotions and passion are the thing.

My points on #CameronMustGo are very clear. It is one thing to point out the impact of coalition policies especially on the disabled – as indeed I have recounting my experience looking after my brother full time.

My concern though is not holding the other parties to the same standard. We should be demanding to know what impact, changes and guarantees they all will have regarding how local government and the state will help the disabled and those that care for them.

I have been a party activist in the past. Yet the things I cared about were ditched as they passed through the door of Ten Downing Street. Labour in 1997 promised no tuition fees. Then promptly did a U-Turn having deliberately targeted the young student vote.

Then in 2010, with a commitment on tuition fees during the election, the Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Conservatives. Lib Dem activists came to their HQ during negotiations, from far and wide to press they hold the line on … electoral reform. Despite all their parliamentary candidates signing not to raise tuition fees, the policy was shoved in the bin. Years later the leader Nick Clegg apologised for having made such a promise in the first place.

A policy means nothing unless you are prepared to hold a party to account to honour it. That there is a consequence regarding your support if they do not follow through. Otherwise, you are voting for them come hell or high water. Begging to be lied to. To be let down, again and again.

I value people who show loyalty to principles more than to a political party that abandons them.

It is one thing saying the system will be more caring, dignified and empowering under us. Stuff your kind words. I have heard too many in my time while fighting for the things I know my brother needed, which we had to fight tooth and nail for. I do not want sympathetic faces and platitudes from those that want my vote; money talks. Will cuts in public services for the disabled be reversed? Will local governments be stopped from taking money away from disabled benefits? Will full time family carers be given more than £105 per week to survive on each week (64 pence an hour)?

Let me address some feedback from Twitter. No I am not suppressing your right to free speech. Go say what you want, have an opinion. I am allowed one too. Yes the Conservatives have made life a lot harder, I noticed that.

Use that anger to point out the harm and hurt government policy is doing. But please hold the political party you want to win to a commitment to improve the lives of disabled people and their full time care givers. Be prepared to show that anger if they fail to live up to it. Make sure they show real policies, real figures, actual sums, not just rhetoric to gain your support. Do not let them take your vote for granted.

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Blog post: “We Need To Talk About Ivan” by Alex Andreou

Ivan was the disabled son of the Prime Minister; he passed away before the 2010 election year at the age of six. Many on the hashtag are saying that Ivan has been used as a PR prop to improve the image of Cameron, to make a false claim to a commitment to the NHS, and to suppress debating government policy on the disabled.

A snap shot:

Try not wearing a party activist hat for a second and those glasses that make you see everything your opponent does as cold, callous and calculating. For too long disabled people were kept out of the limelight, even airbrushed from the memories of people’s families. I remember those times growing up – when daring to go to a restaurant you would be asked to leave, people getting up moving tables when you had only just arrived. The callous remarks.

Seeing a Prime Minister with his disabled son, releasing photos and not hiding Ivan away, is for me something empowering. Not being ashamed, but loving and caring. Acknowledging that he is still a part of him. A family member that will not be air brushed from their life.

It is in stark contrast to the catty comments being made.

The blog post “We Need To Talk About Ivan” linked to in one of the tweets above has proved quite popular on the hashtag. It had this to say about the photos that various publications printed:

Something highly unnatural about the poses, about the way Ivan is turned towards the camera, as is his father… Something about the different shots – the protagonists are wearing the same outfits, are similarly framed, but some are indoors and some outdoors. Everything had the feel of a “photo opportunity” – not a family portrait.

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“Protagonists”, supporting the head of a cerebral palsy disabled child who cannot naturally pose and is unaware of their surroundings. They are wearing completely different shirts too for heaven’s sake! However, do not let that those obvious incorrect details stop you on mass sharing a blog post that vigorously says what you feel.

No mention that the series of photos were part of journalists visiting the Cameron’s home in 2009, with the first photo coming from this Guardian article. That article mentions Cameron commenting in a previous interview:

“I’m sure it’s a significant influence in my life. And significant impact in terms of just bringing you into contact with a whole world – not just the NHS but also social services, community nurses, social workers, special schools, therapists, speech and language, hydrotherapy, statementing. You know you become quite an expert in some of these things.”

That experience, the ambulance journies, the sleepless nights I can relate to. The time consuming paperwork as well, something in a PMQ he alludes too. Back to how the Ivan blog post covered that in 2012:

In last week’s PMQs Cameron was asked by Dame Joan Ruddock about cutting the benefits to one of her constituents – a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. In his response he denied that the benefits available to disabled children were being cut (a distinct untruth with regard to new claimants as explained in this factcheck) and continued: “As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form.”

No reference to the girl about whom the question was; no offer to look into her case; no attempt to answer the question. Only an out-of-context reference to Cameron’s dead child, offered as irrefutable proof that his reforms must be right and implied rebuke for daring to question them.

Handily they included a link to Hansard. See how the PMQ actually went by contrast to the retelling by the blogger:

Q4. [98317] Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): The Prime Minister is proud of his welfare reforms. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Can he look me in the eye and tell me he is proud of the decision to remove all disability benefits from a 10-year-old child who can hardly walk and who cannot toilet herself because she has cerebral palsy? Is he truly proud?

The Prime Minister: This Government are not cutting the money that is going into disability benefits. We are replacing disability living allowance with the personal independence payment. As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form. We are going to have a proper medical test so that people who are disabled and need that help get it more quickly.

The reference is in context, in how long it takes filling in forms and time taken to claim disability living allowance compared to the new personal independence payments (but is it quicker?). The child still qualifies for benefits based on their disability. No mention is made of the confrontational “can he look me in the eye” and inaccurate phrasing of the question posed. I am not surprised he dismissed it as he did, especially as the MP made no request for him to look at the case.

It actually sums up my concern with Labour. They will use the issue for political point scoring but do not have a clue as to the actual impact or how to change the system brought in by the Conservatives. I genuinely fear it will be a more sympathetic voice, but no new money and same old problems with the current system more or less still in place.

By all means convince me otherwise – which is kind of my point – to vote for you rather than against someone else.
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A general election is coming in May next year. Rather than calling on any party leader to resign now, campaign for the policies that we need the next government to have to help the most vulnerable of society. Do not just be tribalist activists running alongside party apparatchiks, and inflammatory political commentators. Reach out to others not just by condemnation, but with the problems that disabled people and their carers face.

Mention the problems, demand solutions. For the sake of the disabled make sure the next government follows through better than this collation has.

Be prepared to not only make your vote count in 2015, but beyond if they dare not deliver.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog

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