Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A National Disgrace

Last night was a rare moment when something on television really shook me. It was a profound moment.

Just flicking through the TV channels after the news, I caught the start of 'Tormented Lives', a programme about the bullying of disabled people.

Disability Campaigner Rosa Monckton followed up a previous documentary by highlighting the bullying, abuse and violence disabled people face for nothing other than being vulnerable. It was truly gruesome and shocking that anyone could do such things.

There was Christopher, a man in his forties who suffered from hydrocephalus. He was extremely bright, had a wicked sense of humour and possessed a string of IT qualifications. He had suffered such daily bullying and violence, including being deliberately scolded on his legs, he had been forced to live in sheltered accommodation amongst Elderly people. No-one would give him a job and he lived a very lonely life.

Asher had two sons, one with cerebral palsy and his older brother, suffering greatly from the responsibility of helping his Mother. He was depressed, worried and anxious when all he should have been worrying about was his homework. The specially adapted house they lived in had been subject to criminal damage, as was the family car. Getting the Police and Local Authority to help had resulted in an escalation of the problems.

In Cockermouth, Kelly, who had some learning difficulties, was abused systematically by local youths. Her Mother was so concerned about who would look after she couldn't, that she had considered taking her with her when this day came.

It was terrible and most people would quite happily take the offenders aside to give them a swift physical lesson.

However, there is a deeper truth which should shock us even more: as a society we have been mistreating disabled people for decades, and continue to do so today.

People with disabilities are sidelined and discriminated against in almost all aspects of life. Access to jobs is seriously restricted. A disabled person often doesn't have the freedom to use public transport, as it often does not meet the criteria of the Disability Discrimination Act, passed back in 1995. A train is out of the question unless you book your journey in advance. Of course, it would far too easy to ensure trains and train platforms are the same level. Society still treats people with disabilities as second class citizens.

As a society we need to reappraise how we view disabled people. We need to ditch the patronising approach that has been the way for time immemorial. We need to open our eyes and see everyone for the the person they really are, look at what people can do and not what they can't.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Travellers - The Last Prejudice?

Thankfully signs like these are part of a past history that seems unbelievable now. Did we really think it was acceptable to discriminate so blatantly? Over decades of social change and legislation we undoubtedly become more tolerant and open. One can argue that such prejudiced views still exist, but they are less obvious now.

The future closure of a local waste site on the border of Wakefield and caused such an hysterical reaction, that the only conclusion I can come to is that the such prejudice against Travellers is alive and well.

The site is currently a council tip belonging to Wakefield Council. It was due to close in 2012, and it was revealed in an answer to a question tabled by a Councillor, that it was proposed to turn it into a Travellers site.

Councillors from the wards in both Wakefield and Kirklees which are adjacent to the site. Very quickly a petition began. Feeling were running high. Formal objections were raised. Here are some examples:

"To put this briefly, why should the many people who regularly pay their way (sometimes struggling to do so) be overridden by people – such as travellers. When the travellers are in an area there is a fear of crime and sites are trashed and rubbish is left. On a personal note, there will be a slightly higher safety issue when dog-walking during early morning and evening."
"We strongly oppose the planned travellers/gypsy site at owl lane, shawcross. We live in close proximity to the proposed site and we do not want the noise, nuisance and constant doorstep selling, harassment and in the past we have been victim of theft from passing travellers"
"I would like to make my protest against turning owl lane tip into a camp site for travellers, its bad enough on Sundays when they have the car boot sales cars are parked all along owl lane and sometimes come up into the village, if you do let travellers live here we will have traffic jams seven days a week, anyway let them buy a proper home like me and pay taxes like everybody else."
A public meeting was held in Ossett Town Hall and nearly 700 residents turned up. Dewsbury South MP Simon Reevell stated he had never seen such anger at a public meeting. He launched a petition against the proposed change. Simon Reevell, and a number of Local Councillors have received what is clearly 'good' publicity for bringing such a controversial issue into the headlines.

Wakefield Council has since stated that the proposal has been dropped and the site will will remain as a waste tip beyond 2012.

It is so sad that negative stereotypes about Travellers remain strong and largely uncontested by politicians. While politicians obviously need to listen to their Constituents, they also need to challenge incorrect and nasty stereotypes and defend minorities, when the frankly the selfish and ignorant views of the majority threaten them.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: If you care about the NHS, you must read this....

Anyone thinking about how the Coalition's plans for the NHS reform could pan out, read this post from a warm and wonderful person, who knows the NHS better than most people..

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: If you care about the NHS, you must read this....: " It's easy, as a Labour supporter to lose sight of..."

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

In Praise of Iain Duncan Smith

Yesterday, at The Conservative Party Conference, Iain Duncan Smith made an impassioned speech about reforming the Benefits system in Britain.

As a left-wing working class man, my support and praise for anything Conservative is few and far between. However, in the case of IDS, I am prepared to make an exception.

After a disastrous time a Conservative Party Leader, he retired to the backbenches and formed The Centre for Social Justice. This organisation has worked for years to look at the root causes of poverty, and news ways of tackling it.

No-one can doubt that the Tax and Benefit systems work against each other to lock people in poverty. Escaping the trap has been impossible for too many people for too long.

As the recently announced Child Benefit Cut for earners over £44,000 shows, much of the Coalition's policies are being created on the hoof, often badly. The reforms planned for years by Iain, however, are clearly the best thought out and most supported policies across Parliament of all of the Coalitions ideas.

So credit where credit is due, Iain. Thank you for the tireless work you have committed to the most poor people in the country. 

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Phoney War

So here we are, two conferences down and one to go.

Nick Clegg managed to get those at conference to bear with the Coalition for a while longer, and relegated any real dissent to the grumblings of some bloggers and local Councillors under the cosh with May's elections looming.

Labour went to Manchester awaiting the outcome of the David vs Ed show. Ed won by a nose, the David will he won't he story took the blemish off a modest but good start by Ed.

David Cameron now feels Labour breathing down his neck at the Polls. However, he seems relaxed that his Liberal Democrat human shield is working nicely, absorbing the flak aimed at the Coalition.

The battle for the next election hasn't even begun. Two major events are yet to be played out that will decide the next 4 years:

1) The Comprehensive Spending Review - The country will learn the scale of the pain that is coming. If the cuts don't hurt as much as expected, the economy avoids a double dip recession and returns to growth pre 2015 then it will be a Conservative majority next election.

2) The AV Referendum - The Liberal Democrats gave up so much for the gamble they could win a referendum on the Holy Grail for them. Lose, which is a distinct possibility, and they have given it all way for nothing. How this would impact on the Coalition is unknown, but it won't be pretty. Life outside the is looking bleak, judging by recent polls, but life inside will just as bad. May's Local Elections look like giving Nick more than a bloody nose, more like GBH.

So the CSR will determine the external environment and the AV Referendum will determine the inner environment for the Coalition.

It's fascinating, and it hasn't began yet...