Friday, 20 January 2012

"A voice as never before"

Hello, everyone! Finally trying to get back into blogging, unfortunately my depression and anxiety have been getting very bad recently so I've spent most of my time trying to reduce the symptoms while I wait for CBT therapy. I know I've said this a few times after delays in posting but the past few days have been some of the lowest points I've been at for a while.

But I digress, this post was intended for important news. Lately we've had a lot of people speaking out against the Coalition's proposed welfare reforms which would seriously impair the quality of life of many claimants. Francesca Martinez was given the chance to speak on the BBC show 'This Week' to talk through some of the statistics and the effect the government's scroungers and liars rhetoric is having on disabled people living in the UK. The video can be found here, courtesy of LatentExistence, but here is a transcript I've typed up for anyone who can't get sound on their PC or anyone who wants to examine what was said in detail. I'm shattered and have college in a few hours, so I'll post my commentary on this tomorrow.

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Andrew Neil: Now when Boy George Obsborne first claimed with a straight face that the chunk of inherited wealth tucked safely in his bank account that we are quote 'all in this together' we were surprised that he pinched the phrase from the song and dance routine in High School Musical (and we can thank Wikipedia for that fact [?]), but we did doubt the government's committment to squeeze benefits until the PIPsqueaked. But with the introduction of Personal Indepedence Payments, so called PIPs, and the scrapping of the Disability Living Allowance, that's exactly what many people now fear. So we turn to actress and comedienne Francesca Martinez and asked her to put society's attitude towards disabled people in this week's spotlight.

[SPOTLIGHT]

Francesca Martinez: I've got cerebal palsy, but I call myself wobbly because that seems like a more positive name for the condition. Like, instead of 'schizophrenic' why don't we just say 'I'm building a magical world' [?]. And 'mentally retarded'? Hmm. 'Jeremy Clarkson'.

As a wobble person, I'm very worried about the planned benefit reforms, and disable people everywhere are feeling the fear. Thing is their benefits, which go towards basic health, will soon be taken away.

The government claim it's always about making the system work better for those in need, but they also claim that they have to cut their budget by 20%, revealing their true motive: taking half a million people off benefits.

All of this talk about us being a drain on society confirms the stereotype that we're simply a burden. And public attitudes are hardening, with disability hate crimes up 75%. And it's not a coincidence.

Anyone can become disabled and that's why we all need to fight these reforms. Because if the government continue to target the most vulnerable, to more people like me, we will take a stand (even if it is a wobbly one).

[Return to studio]

Andrew Neil: And Francesca Martinez joins us now, welcome to This Week!

Francesca Martinez: Thank you!

Andrew Neil: Uh, I'm interested that you say public attitudes are hardening towards disabled people because certainly in my lifetime I've seen a revolution in attitudes towards disabled people, um, a-and not just in what has been provided and new rights conferred that they should've had but they have a voice as never before too.

Francesca Martinez: Well, they're still largely invisible in the media, um, and also those hard-won rights that you're speaking about are much appreciated, but that's why we're here: because we're worried that our rights are being taken away by this government.

Neil: Do you think, Michael [Portillo] that, um, there-there's a hardening, that in tough times there's a crackdown on welfare that there's less sympathy?

Michael Portillo: No, no I haven't detected that change actually and I would've said the same as you, that I've seen a revolution in the attitude in a positive sense. But-but what I think there is a problem for the public is that there are many people claiming benefits who are not really disabled, but that's probably the government's view as well. I would've thought that disabled people would want to be very vigilant and they would want to be, you know, a-at least as concerned about that* as the government.

*[Jacqui Smith, interrupting]: Well...

Martinez: Well, I'd like to contest those points. The first point is disability hate crime is up by 75% which really backs up the notion that attitudes are hardening. Also, erm, fraudulent claims of disability benefits are 0.5% which is the smallest out of all the benefits* so really that-that puts your assertion that there are people claiming this who don't need it in, um, really puts that into the negative.

*[Portillo attempts to interrupt]

Portillo: Saying fraudulent claims is putting it very strongly, but what I hope Jacqui might agree with me is that both parties over a long period of time have found it rather convenient to disguise unemployment as disability, in other words people they think are long-term unemployed they kind of, you know, steer towards disability benefits because th-they're n-not in the unemployment count, so, you know, many politicians have been complicit in this. But what I'm saying is that a lot of people who are receiving disability benefits are not, as you and I would understand it, disabled.

Martinez: Well, um, again I-I really dispute that and even now with the benefits in place, nearly half of all disabled people live in poverty, one in four- er, four in then disabled children live in poverty. These are astounding figures for a first-world country, erm, and they certainly don't reflect your view that 'oh, disabled people have it easy', but I've been researching...

[Portillo, interrupting and shaking his head]: But-but-but that wasn't my view. [Smiles.]

Neil [looking at Matrinez]: But he didn't say that.

Martinez: W-Well you're certainly making the claim that there are lots of people out there who are claiming disability benefits who don't need them, uh, in my experience people use DLA to cover the most basic costs, you know, we're talking about getting around, feeding themselves, cleaning themselves, hiring care. You know, they're not in Marbeya [?] on the beach sunbathing.

Neil: Let me ask Jacqui, where are you on this?

Smith: Well in my experience the only way in which you overcome a discrimination against you is for those people who are discriminated against to have a voice and to speak up against it, and that I think is why progress has, and I agree, progress has been made on, ah, rights for disabled people. What has been very interesting about the campaign in the last couple of weeks is that the youth social media has enabled disabled people to bring their voices together and to campaign in a way that I certainly haven't seen for some time, and that I think impacted on the House of Lords, that's part of the reason why there have been four defeats inflicted on the government over the Welfare, um, Reform Bill, and it's only [emphasis] by people having the sort of voice that we're seeing -that-that change happens and...

[Martinez, interrupting]: And social media has allowed that to happen.

[Smith]: Exactly.

[Martinez]: Because many disabled people can't stage a public debate very easily.

[Neil]: So it's a huge asset?

[Martinez]: Yes! The people behind the Spartacus Report, erm, have done incredibly well, but I think it's a real sad indictment that people who are sick and who are carers are having to put so much time and energy into defending their basic human rights. And I'm picking up on what you said before*, just basically, you know, that this financial crisis we're in was caused by a very elite few at the top and once again the vulnerable in society are being made to pay for t-the greed of the top, so I think realy the government is morally disabled.

*[Neil]:  Just quickly, because we're almost at the end.

[Neil]: Alright, we're gonna leave it there, thank you for coming along tonight, Francesca.

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