Her are some of my favourite Tweets which show why we must #VoteLabour in the EU elections tomorrow.
“The EU? They are only bureaucrats. Why should I vote for them?” A question (statement?) that we are used to hearing again and again.
It is not true. The EU has a big impact in the lives of persons with disabilities. It has several initiatives that have directly improved, or that have led EU countries to improve, the lives of persons with disabilities.
The next elections for the European Parliament will take place 23-26 May (depending on the country). Here are ten reasons on why you should go and vote (if you are not one of the 800,000 citizens currently unable to vote due to discriminatory laws):
1. Because the EU fights for accessibility
EU institutions have been working hard to assure that both the physical and virtual world are more accessible for persons with disabilities. Public transport and public websites, among others, have become more accessible (for example, it obliges airports to provide assistance to persons with disabilities. It also obliges EU countries to make all new train stations accessible). The EU also recently agreed on a law that will make many products and services more accessible to us!
These laws, some of which then need to be put by EU counties into their national laws, have not only improved accessibility throughout the EU but also inspired some countries to go the extra mile.
Important to know: The laws the EU passes are “minimum standards”. This means that (unlike some people think) an EU law cannot reduce the rights you already have. For example, the EU obliges countries to make all new and refurbished train stations accessible, but of course Member States can also do more than that and include old stations in the law.
2. Because the EU protects you at work
In 2000, the EU passed a law that prohibits discrimination at work. This means that we are protected against discrimination when we work or have work-related training. It also means that employers need to adapt the work place to employees with disabilities.
While the situation is far from perfect, it is because of this law that you can go to court or ask the support of an anti-discrimination institution if, for example, you were discriminated when applying for a job, when you are fired from your job or when your employer refuses to grant you the adaptions needed to do your work.
3. Because EU money supports the inclusion of persons with disabilities
EU money helped Selina find her dream job in Austria. EU money funded Nicolas participation in a project between France and Spain, on the right to vote for persons with disabilities. It supports Greek persons with disabilities in living independently. It builds hospitals in Portugal. It is used to renovate houses and make them more accessible. Many Europeans are unknowingly supported by EU funds. In fact, despite their complaints, even the richest countries rely on EU money to support persons with fewer opportunities and at risk of exclusion. .
4. Because you can use your parking card in all EU countries
If you have a disability, you might be entitled to the EU parking card. This parking card is recognised in all EU countries and allows you to park in reserved spots all throughout the EU. This means that if you decide to travel or live in another EU country, you don’t need to apply for a disability parking card time and time again! A true example of “bureaucrats” reducing bureaucracy.
You can get your parking card from the relevant authority in the country you live in.
5. Because you can live in another country and still receive (some) social security benefits.
If you are an EU citizen, you can move to another EU country and still be entitle some social security benefits. For example, you can move to another EU country and keep your original old age pension. For disability benefits, it’s more complicated: you are entitled to disability allowances on the same level as a national of that country, but you have to apply for them and pass a new disability assessment process.
This is because, while the EU coordinates social security systems, some EU countries are still not totally on board: for example, a few weeks ago they denied new rules that would provide a more integrated system! This is why you need to vote and to vote for politicians that care about freedom of movement for persons with disabilities!
The positive impact of this assurance can sadly be seen by the negative impact that losing it brings: EU citizens living in the UK are in a limbo, not sure if they can receive their contributions after Brexit.
6. Because you can go to the hospital in another EU country
If you have an accident or are ill when visiting another EU country, you can go to the hospital or doctor under the same conditions as a national from that country, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card. That way, you don’t have to cut your travel short due to unaffordable health costs.
Attention: the Card cannot be used for planned treatment abroad.
7. Because of the EU Disability Card
Right now, if you visit another EU country, your disability documents may not be recognized due to a number of practical reasons (different formats, languages, assessment of what constitutes disability). The EU Disability Card, a project that is ongoing in 8 EU countries, will avoid all this by creating a card in the same format everywhere. This means that you can have access to discounted cultural and leisure services: museum, sports facilities, transport, etc.
While the card only exists in 8 EU countries, you can convince the EU to extend it to all the countries. How? By voting in May!
8. Because you can volunteer and/or study abroad – and get support for it.
The well-known ERASMUS+ programme, provides financial support to students that want to spend a semester or year in another EU country. This programme considers the extra needs of persons with disabilities: we are entitled to financial support to cover extra costs, such as the need for personal assistance or accessible housing.
The European Solidarity Corps is a programme that financially supports volunteering opportunities in another EU country.
9. Because 800,000 people want to vote but can’t
If all the above reasons didn’t convince you, maybe this one will: 800,000 Europeans cannot vote due to discriminatory laws that exclude them because of their disability. We need your vote to help change this.
10. Because we can fight better together
Can things improve? Definitely!
The EU can, and should, have more accessibility legislation. It can, and should, channel more funding for persons with disabilities. It can, and should, approve laws that protect us from discrimination in all areas of our life. This is why we need you to go out and vote! By voting, you are telling politicians that you want a Europe that cares about us, and that they should do more to achieve it.
Who to vote for?
We will not say “vote for this or that party”. What you can do is check the candidates that signed a commitment to disability. You can contact them and let them know that you will vote for them (also) because of that. If your favourite candidate is not on the list, easy: contact them and tell them to sign the pledge.
How to vote?
You can check European Parliament’s guide on how to vote in your country. To see for your country, selected your countries main language in the button on the top right of the website.
A coalition of disabled people’s organisations has today written to the
Prime Minister urging her to meet with them to discuss the deteriorating
quality of life experienced by millions of disabled people in the UK.
The call comes exactly six months since the United Nations’ damning
report on the UK Government’s implementation of the Convention on the
Rights of Disabled People (CRDP).
The report, published last August, made a number of recommendations
but disability organisations which gave evidence to the UN say that the Government is not taking the urgent action required
The coalition has highlighted five areas of particular concern:
1. The failure to fully implement the 2010 Equality Act.
2. The lack of joined up working across the 4 nations of the UK.
3. The lack of resources to ensure disabled people are included in their communities.
4. The continuing gap in employment opportunities for disabled people.
5. The right of disabled people to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said:
“Six months on from the UN Disability Committee’s damning verdict on the UK Government’s failure to protect and progress Disabled people’s rights, things continue to get worse not better for Disabled people. The Government appears to be maintaining its position of blanket denial that there is anything wrong, dismissing our lived experience, the UN findings and failing to act on any of the recommendations put forward in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. This state of affairs cannot continue. Disabled people’s organisations from across the UK are calling on the Government to recognise the very serious concerns identified by the UN Disability Committee and to use the Concluding Observations as an opportunity to begin working with, not against Disabled people, so we can get our rights, inclusion and equality back on track.”
Welsh Government has responded to the UN’s Concluding Observations through continuing dialogue with disabled people and our organisations through the ongoing review of the Framework for Action on Independent Living. While we need to see progress towards completing and implementing the revised Framework, we are encouraged by Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment to tackling barriers to independent living.
However, as a devolved nation, it is not possible to entirely mitigate the impact of UK austerity policies so we join forces with our sister organisations across the UK in calling for urgent action from the Prime Minister in our quest to safeguard disabled people’s human rights in Wales.”
The Coalition members include:
Disability Wales, Disability Rights UK; Inclusion Scotland;; Disability Action Northern Ireland; Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance; Disabled People Against Cuts; Black Triangle; Alliance for Inclusive Education; British Deaf Association; People First (learning disability); National Mental Health System Service Users Network; UK Disabled People’s Council; Equal Lives; Inclusion London.
Rt. Hon Theresa May M.P.
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street,
London SW1A 2AA
28th February 2018
Dear Prime Minister
United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
We are a coalition of disabled people’s organisations, led and controlled by disabled people, who, following our participation in the UN’s examination of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) have come together to promote the Convention.
We are writing to draw your attention to the fact that the examination by the U.N. of the U.K.’s implementation of the CRPD was concluded in Geneva six months ago and that, to date, there appears to have been no response from HM Government. In its Concluding Observations, a number of areas for action were identified.
Among these, the UNCRPD committee particularly highlighted five significant areas of concern:
1. the many gaps in safeguards and rights for disabled people including unimplemented sections of the Equality Act 2010, the lack of resources to ensure the Equality Act is implemented, and the need to enshrine the CRPD into U.K. law as we leave the E.U.
2. the lack of joined up working between the four nations of the U.K. and the need for a fully resourced action plan to implement the CRPD across the U.K.
3. our right to independent living and to be included in the community.
4. our right to employment and
5. our right to an adequate standard of living and social protection.
Further the U.N. committee recognised that the U.K. has previously been seen as a leader on disability rights by many countries around the world and therefore has a ‘special obligation’ to set world leading standards on the treatment of disabled people and their inclusion in society. Sadly, the committee concluded that the UK’s leading position has been lost.
We note that during the two-day hearing in Geneva, 23 and 24th August, the U.K. Government delegation gave a commitment to continuing the dialogue on how disabled people’s rights can be realised in the U.K. and specifically how engagement might be improved. In the spirit of Article 4.3 of the Convention, general obligations involvement of disabled people and their representative organisations we are willing, and indeed expect, to work with you on progressing disabled people’s rights across the whole spectrum covered by the Convention from access through to being included in the community and being able to realise our ambitions and potential.
We should therefore like to request a meeting with you and your officials to discuss:
1. How government is implementing the UNCRPD committee’s concluding observations and
2. How Government plans to work with organisations led by disabled people monitoring and implementing the Convention.
We trust that the Government will embrace the need to be more proactive in promoting and implementing disabled people’s rights and inclusion in society. We look forward to hearing from you further and working with government on an action plan to complete the implementation of the rights of disabled people detailed in the CRPD which was ratified by the U.K. in 2009. Our expectation is that the U.K. will once again be seen as a leader in implementing the human rights of disabled people by all countries across the world.
Kamran Mallick – CEO Disability Rights UK
Dr Sally Witcher OBE – CEO Inclusion Scotland
Rhian Davies – CEO Disability Wales
Patrick Malone – Disability Action Northern Ireland
Eleanor Lisney – Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance
Dr Terry Riley – British Deaf Association
Tracey Lazard – CEO Inclusion London
Linda Burnip – Disabled People Against Cuts
John McArdle – Black Triangle
Tara Flood – CEO Alliance for Inclusive Education
Anne Novis – UK Disabled People’s Council
Mark Harrison – CEO Equal Lives
Dorothy Gould – National mental health system Survivor Users Network
Andrew Lee – CEO People First learning disability
It’s difficult if not impossible to adequately define the outcomes of Brexit for anyone living in the UK let alone for disabled people. The result where a small minority of the electorate voted to leave the EU has so far caused massive political turmoil but no concrete proposals as the new unelected Prime Minister, Teresa May, thrashes around wildly clutching at straws.
What is certain is that the promise of an extra £350 million a week for our National Health Service has not and will not be forthcoming. In fact this promise promoted widely by the Leave campaigners in the Tory Party and a reason why many UK citizens were conned into voting to leave turns out to have been an outright lie.
Many of the more deluded disabled people who also voted to leave did so simply because they wanted to punish David Cameron the then Tory Prime Minister who was stupid enough to call a referendum in the first place. Having resigned first as Prime Minister and then a little later as a Member of Parliament I’m sure the multi-millionaire Cameron is indeed ‘suffering’. What is certain that disabled people will.
As soon as the outcome of the referendum was known Cameron together with a whole host of Leave politicians turned their backs on guiding the UK through the Brexit process – no doubt so they don’t get blamed for the ensuing disaster.
The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not want to leave the EU and in the case of Northern Ireland the Good Friday agreement and peace process means that there must be a parliamentary vote if Northern Ireland is to leave the EU. There is also a legal challenge to seek a parliamentary vote on Brexit as the outcome of the referendum is advisory only. So chaos reigns as the UK population dangle precipitously in limbo.
As well as months spent focussed on the referendum campaign, the immediate aftermath was an election for a new Tory Party Leader and a second internal party election to try to remove the previously democratically elected Labour Party leader. During these many months of political bat and ball and trips around the country by various politicians the rights of disabled people have largely been forgotten especially by the media. Serious campaigning has been put back months as the political focus has been firmly placed elsewhere.
On a plus point the fascist party UKIP which very much led the Brexit campaign on an anti-immigration stance have also fallen into disarray and appear on the verge of oblivion. There have already been several elections for a new leader with none of them being successful in finding someone who stayed more than a couple of weeks. As the old British saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”
What is certain for the UK is that Brexit has led to a massive increase in race-related hate crime and there is no doubt those who perpetrate these crimes feel their actions are vindicated by the vote to leave. Xenophobia is rampant in parts of the country fuelled by some of the media as well as the Brexit campaign rhetoric. Disability hate crime has been rising year on year since 2010 in part thanks once again to the media-fuelled ‘useless eater’ and scrounger propaganda. For disabled people as well as those perceived to not be British hatred and abuse is only likely to increase in the post-Brexit frenzy that currently pervades the country.
Since Brexit as well the value of the pound has slumped which has already led to an increase in price for even essential daily items including for some the #Marmitegate tragedy where the price of Marmite has already risen in some cases by 12.5 % in shops.
Price increases for food and other essential items is likely to pose a particular problems for disabled people and others in receipt of UK Social Security payments as there is an austerity-led freeze on the amount of benefits which will be paid until at least 2020. The UK already has some of the lowest rates for out-of-work benefit payments in the EU so starting from a very low base rate the value of payments will fall even further as exchange rates fall.
On top of this fall in the value of the pound and freeze on increases in social security payments early in November an austerity-led cap on the total overall amount of benefit payments per household will result in massive reductions of £3,000 less per annum being paid to claimants. Many of those affected by this drastic cut will be disabled although other disabled people will be exempt from this cut.
From next April 2017 disabled people who make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance and who are found not to be fit for work but able to undertake Work Related Activity which involved forcibly being made to jump though inappropriate and unacceptable hoops to continue being entitled to payments will also see their weekly income cut drastically by one-third. All of these changes will as already said be taking place at the same time the value of the pound falls against other currencies. Needless to say fuel prices are also continuing to rise and the number of UK residents on low incomes who have to choose between eating and heating because they can’t afford both continues to rise.
As disabled people and others wait for the mythical 35 million a day that we’re apparently saving by leaving the EU to be redeployed to help fund our National Health Service as promised we find our Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt putting in place plans to drastically reduce both the number of hospitals – down from 9 to 5 in London – and health service funding elsewhere in the UK through the implementation of Sustainability and Transformation Plans. This is very definitely not what Brexit promised for our health service. Hunt has also further undermined our NHS by stating that we want British only doctors in the near future in spite of the fact that around one-third of doctors currently are from other EU countries.
For disabled people who need personal assistance to live and take part in society Brexit is also bad news. Many people employ care workers/personal assistants from EU countries and now not only does the fall in the value of the pound affect the exchange value of wages paid but on a longer term basis no-one, neither the employers or the employees, have any idea about a future right to work here when the UK leaves the EU. It could of course be years before any more is known.
Workers rights generally are very much an unknown quantity at the moment as well. Teresa May has said the Conservatives want to protect those in place yet many people are on insecure zero hours contracts with no legal protections. The introduction of fees for Employment Tribunal hearings has also negatively affected worker’s rights to challenge unfair dismissals. All of these issues regarding employment rights continue to disproportionately affect disabled workers and the fear that once EU constraints on our employment laws are removed is causing major concerns for those disabled people who are in work.
For disabled people not in work the ending of Workfare and Work Choice schemes funded by the European Social Fund can really only be seen as positive. Neither of these schemes worked well in finding disabled people suitable or sustainable employment opportunities.
Workfare schemes in particular have been likened to unpaid slave labour which they were since claimants were forced to work for no pay under threat of having their benefits removed if they did not. Having said that there were a number of locally EU funded schemes to help disabled and other people into work which have worked well and for which there will now be no further EU funding available.
In other areas of life shared by disabled and non-disabled people the loss of European funding from the Social Fund, from the Common Agricultural Policy and from Regional Development grants will nevertheless be grossly detrimental to the overall standards of living and is likely to have a further negative trickle down impact on food prices. The idea that these funding streams will be replaced by our own government’s spending is laughable given their ongoing austerity agenda and determination to replace Trident nuclear weapons.
A few weeks ago I emailed Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts after she called for assistance with a report she is writing on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The aim is in particular to highlight the problems people are experiencing, but also the post code lottery in the very different ways different LAs are handling the closure from ring-fencing to cuts. Ellen also wanted to highlight problems with the administration of social care and personal budgets by local authorities.
I was happy to help and volunteered to share my personal experiences since the cruel closure of the ILF over 12 months ago. In our emails, I discussed my dismay at the way the world is going with the EU debacle, Teresa May leading the Conservatives and the Labour Party in self-destruct mode instead of giving their support to their democratically elected leader.
Apparently, my email triggered something in Ellen’s brain – the need for a Disabled people’s rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn. A rally was quickly organised for deaf and disabled people to support Corbyn. Ellen wanted me to get to London as the idea for the event came from my email, but sadly I was unable to make it due to the short notice. Nevertheless, I still wrote a message of support for Jeremy Corbyn, which I have printed below and may adapt slightly to send to the local right-wing newspaper.
I am not sure if the message was read out or not. I will ask Ellen and report back, but it is good to be contributing to the good fight in some small way.
I just wanted to add my support for Jeremy Corbyn from my base in north Wales. I am sorry I cannot be there this evening but I am their in spirit with the rest of my comrades. It is difficult to sum up how important this new brand of inclusive politics is to those of us who often feel abandoned and isolated on the edges of a cruel right-wing society.
I have been particularly hurt by the closure of the Independent Living Fund as I have a progressive disability that means my needs will increase over time. I am still stuck with the same limited hours of care that I was given six years ago with little hope of receiving an increase in the near future. This often means being left alone during the afternoon which can lead to numerous accidents through no fault of my own. I shouldn’t have to live like this and I am doing all I can to ensure that no one has to suffer such indignities and barriers to independent living.
This is our chance to make far-reaching changes in our society and the vast majority of the disabled community support Jeremy Corbyn to deliver this positive change, as you have supported us in our countless battles against the Tories. We will return that loyalty and support you until the end. You can count on that.
Finally, I would like to thank Mr John McDonnell and your good self for providing disabled activists such as myself with the hope. Hope that we can defeat the Tories, hope that we can build a fairer society and most of all the hope that one day we can achieve full equality under a new type of politics.
Nathan Lee Davies
I should be on cloud nine. Wales have reached the semi-finals off Euro 2016 and I have tickets to watch Stereophonics performing at the Racecourse. I didn’t think anything like this would happen in my lifetime, but why did it have to happen now when my thirst for celebration is so low?
A lot of things are going on at the moment. Obviously, I am still gutted about Brexit and the consequences that this will undoubtedly have on my life, the implosion of the Labour Party over the future of their democratically elected Leader is also a cause for concern, while the progression of my genetic disease is causing great concern.
To be honest, I would have sooner have seen the UK remain in the EU and Wales suffer humiliation in qualification. This is something that I am used to and I am at a loss to know what to do when Wales are playing so well. Oh, how I long for the days of shit Welsh football under Bobby Gould when at least I could move about easier on crutches and throw a pint glass at the TV when we lost 5-0 in some Eastern European country. I cant even hold a glass nowadays.
My crippled body does frustrate me, but I think that the worse thing about living with a disability is the loneliness that it brings. Everyone seems to be partnered up except me and all of my best friends live hundreds of miles away (maybe that’s why they are still my friends). On top of this my best mate in Wrexham has just put his house on the market and is planning a move to the Wirral.
Apologies for being so glum when everyone else is so happy, but that’s the way it is at the moment. After all, it was the Stereophonics who said:
“As long as we beat the English, we don’t care”
We didn’t and I do care, but I just don’t feel like celebrating at the moment…
I just got back from the gig. It was a satisfactory way to spend a Saturday. I thought the second support act, Pretty Vicious, were the outstanding performers of the day. I was a little disappointed in the Stereophonics as I feel they were better on the previous three occasions that I have seen them.
I was impressed with the massive stage erected in the Racecourse Ground and it was a good atmosphere, but I was again hindered by Ataxia, especially in terms of my hearing. I did not like having to watch couples canoodling and am uncomfortable with joining in with a compulsory mass celebration. Individualism is what I was missing.
I wish I could stop thinking and just relax, but then I wouldn’t be me.