Saturday, 22 October 2011

Maria Miller not fulfilling role as Minister for Disabled People.

What should a Minister for Disabled People do?

- Work for disabled people's equality in society.

- Educate government ministers about disabled people's needs and rights.

- Understand the needs of disabled people.

- Speak out against the misrepresentation of disabled people in the media.

- Listen to disabled people.

- Be accountable to disabled people.

What does our current Minister for Disabled People do?

The Minister for Disabled People heads the Office for for Disability Issues, which describes their role "The Office for Disability Issues (ODI) leads the government’s vision of achieving equality for disabled people".

Maria Miller is also responsible for " specific responsibilities within the Department for Work and Pensions which include Disability Living Allowance reform, reviewing the Independent Living Fund and specialist disability employment programmes."

As far as I've seen, our minister does the following:

- Allows newspapers to run inaccurate stories about "benefit scroungers" unchecked.

- Allows her colleagues to go on national radio and talk about Disability Living Allowance as though it were an out of work benefit, further reinforcing public misunderstanding of benefits.

- Is in charge of massive reform of Disability Living Allowance without adequately consulting with disabled people. The DWP consultation for the DLA reforms took place between the 6th of December to the 18th of February. That is 8 weeks for people to read and digest a 45 page document, and construct a response. Considering many disabled people may need support to access and understand this document, I don't think 8 weeks is a reasonable amount of time for such an important consultation.

- Responds to disabled people's letters about their concerns with form-letters that don't answer questions raised.

- Continues to allow a private company (ATOS) to be paid by the government to carry out assessments for benefit eligibility that have been shown to be inaccurate and unfair. ATOS assessors have found people to be "fit for work", who have died days after their assessments, and around 40% of people found "fit for work" have that decision overturned on appeal.

I believe Maria Miller is falling short of her duties in her role as Minister for Disabled People, and as such should be removed from her role in the cabinet. I would like to post an e-petition asking for her to be removed from her role, but we only have 1000 characters to do this. I need help wording the e-petition - please could you post in the comments so we can get a well worded petition together?

Edit 25/10/11

The Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Anne McGuire is critical of the smearing of people claiming sickness + disability benefits:

EDIT 12/01/2012

The Responsible Reform report proves without doubt that the Minister for Disabled People DOES NOT listen to disabled people, and DOES NOT work with disabled people's organisations.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ricky Gervais, and the shifting of language

I want to ramble about the whole Gervais "mong" issue that's been flitting about Twitter today, just to get it off my chest as much as anything. I suspect I'm not going to change anyone's mind - if you think using the term "mong" as synonymous with "idiot" is perfectly acceptable, then fine. I disagree, quite strongly, but similarly my mind is unlikely to be changed on this issue.

I was called "Mong", and "spaz" when I was at school - and I used those terms, too. Then I was reminded by a friend that these terms came from the terms mongoloid - the old term for Down's Syndrome, and Spastic. Once I'd been reminded that these terms had their roots in terms for Disabled people, and they weren't that far removed from those roots, I couldn't, in all good conscience, use them. I had to use other words instead, which there are plenty of.

Language does change over time. "Blimey" is now just an expression of surprise, it doesn't get used to mean literally "blind me". But if a significant proportion of people to whom a term refers states that that term is offensive to them, then I don't think that term has detached itself from its old meaning, and to continue to use it means taking responsibility for knowing it will be interpreted in its multiple senses.

I also question Gervais' intention with the term "mong". Considering he has posted photographs of himself pulling faces which could be seen as mimicking some with learning disabilities, labelled with things like "Who's a clever little mong then?" I think he knows very well what he's doing, and he's perpetuating the old line that learning disabilities = stupid = funny.

(text for photo reads "Hope you all noticed that I've learned to cut and paste stuff now. Who's a clever little mong then?") Link to original

What I'd like to know is, would he make comments (jokes?) about being a "mong" to someone with Down's Syndrome? If not, then I don't think his conscience is clear, and he knows full well the impact of language like his.