Friday, 25 March 2011

Turning Around 38 Degrees and Going Home

Just over two weeks ago, 38 Degrees published the results of their poll on what they should campaign for next.

They can claim some considerable credit for preventing the privatisation of forests and for raising awareness on library closures. 38 Degrees has considerable influence to mobilise people in public opposition, an opposition currently missing in Parliament. They were for many, the single greatest hope for punching much of the disability-denying parts of the Welfare Reform Bill into the dust, which wouldn't be difficult once it was publicised because the justification for reform of disability benefits is so delicate it might as well be made of talcum powder.

The most popular proposed campaign just a short while earlier was that of stopping the cuts to Disability Living Allowance. Then, 38 Degrees decided to open up the poll to a much wider number of people. Now, the direction of the poll was not being decided by those most informed of a wide number of progressive issues, but vested interests and campaigners for other things. This meant that DLA stopped being the top issue, the one that needs addressing most urgently as the danger is so near and affecting those with the least means to be heard in the media and national discourse. Once it has been done, it can not be undone and the government are trying their damn hardest to get it out the door before non-disabled campaigners realise what's happening and come to our rescue.

I've had a delayed reaction to this because I've had a mountain of stuff. I've had the National Autistic Society lobby in London and all the arrangements that needed to be made for that, to find someone to support me, to actually get there and then to write about it when I came back. I've tried contacting A4e because it's nearly a month since I had to cancel my last appointment with them and they said I would be getting another one but have had no word. If the Jobcentre had not told me about my time on Flexible New Deal and with A4e was coming to an end, I never would have known because A4e conveniently never told me anything. My mother, who is also my de facto carer has a greater than 50% chance of losing her job this year because of the cuts and we're having to consider selling the house and making other arrangements for me to live somewhere else. If I lose DLA, there's no chance she could keep herself and me when we're both just on Jobseekers Allowance. If she loses her job, she loses it just three years from retirement.

With all this it's taken me until now to get it out: I am furious with 38 Degrees. I'm furious with middle-class latte liberals who can just go for a walk or to a library when ever they want and were happy to put these priorities, these things which they had plenty of time to campaign for and could have done so when ever they wanted before actual people for whom to enjoy such things can take a day's planning in advance to go a mere mile or two. It shows in the results what most them feel about it: the proposal to oppose DLA cuts has a huge number of 'a little' votes regarding how important it is, almost equal with AV support. If you take the 'a lot' votes and the 'a little' votes and combine them, DLA is the biggest issue. All the ignorant placard waving pricks who've deliberately kept themselves ignorant about the issue but who have milked the plight of the disabled for their own agendas relentlessly have had to throw us a bone, so voted en masse for 'a little'. Thanks.

When you're protesting something and are prompted to speak at length about cuts in general, you will never fail to link disability in; no one wants to be seen to ignoring or even picking on cripples so when you want to bash the Coalition, you'll always make a platitude about the disabled. But when you're actually called on to do something, we're the issue that is of 'a little' importance.

The campaign on forests had actually had it's major victory, yet it was submitted again and was included in this poll and came out top. In fact the problem with opening the poll up is that the clear winners are things which are already getting massive publicity. Those with the least but need the most publicity are those collecting the 'a little' votes.

Look at the proposed campaigns that are up now; DLA is nowhere to be seen but at least the broken record on forests is gone even though some of the other populist but not life-and-death matters have been submitted again and we can expect again for them to soak up a load of the votes.

Complaints have been made about how this has been handled, but 38 Degrees have said nothing concrete. Until they do, I withdraw what ever goodwill and moral support I had for them and everyone reliant on DLA should too; they've shown us nothing in return.

Case File #3 finds the relationship between disability campaigners, carers and disabled people and the wider protest movement on Coalition cuts is not one of mutual respect and reciprocation. After ten months it has shown no signs of changing. We are used to attack the Coalition and occasionally co-opted as arguments in other campaigns, such as how library cuts and forest enclosure might affect us. But when our direct priorities come up and we need help because we are least able to help ourselves, they just don't want to know and sound empty platitudes at us. 

Something has got to give and until we see the help we've been hoping for, all campaigns focused on helping the disabled should actively distance themselves from the larger anti-cuts movement. If their actions reflect their opinions, then their opinion is that we don't need help in this. That means we don't need them at all. I want the same rights as trees.


  1. Arec

    Looking at 38%'s webpage it seems that they merged the general campaign to save DLA with one to protect children in receipt of this benefit - and lost several thousand votes in the process.

    There are thousands of people willing to campaign on behalf of the disabled and their carers - it must be possible to get more info into the mainstream and to forge an effective campaign.

  2. Normally on CiF I'd be active in threads arguing against Right-wing posts that annoy me, either with factually inaccurate or dubious claims in them that I can quickly research and bring back the goods.

    Now, at least when posts can bother to be on topic I'm finding them all annoying because I feel the solidarity is a sham. I explained my view to Autism campaigners on Facebook and it appears I'm not the only one with this sentiment. Disabled people, campaigners, carers and charities have been in denial all this time, unwilling to say out loud that the anti-cuts movement might nothing more than a marriage of(their) convenience.

    Hoping Bella and Jess consider giving me space above the line to voice this because since the fudged poll on 38 Degrees I've been having a really hard think on disability-specific cuts and their places among all cuts and I honestly can't see that the wider anti-cuts movement have done anything for us. We've been on our own the entire way.

  3. Arec

    Listening to the latest remarks from Ed miliband I think that many benefit recipients are without a champion. Ed's concern sounds as though it is only for the 'squeezed middle '.

    How ever - you have to remain determined - continue to campaign for disabled people. The various disability charities and support groups have to be pressurised - some are buying into the BS as a way of boosting incomes and profiles. There is a danger they will move away from the core concerns of their members and those they claim to represent.

    you are articulate Arec - you can collect and disseminate information in an easy to understand form.

    It is true that many are opposed to the cuts in general but among them there are those who understand that disabled people and their carers are particularly vulnerable. Many pensioners are disabled - they like all of have families and friends.

    we need to refine the message and the targeting to make sure people fully understand the impact these cuts will have on their lives.

    It has been my experience that some people do not understand the changes - or their implications - until they smack them fully in the face.

  4. I have been emailing 38 degrees about this for weeks.

    David Babbs actually said in the comments section "...I understand your concern, but there's good news there too - over 90% of 38 Degrees members think we should campaign on it either a lot or a little. So whilst it won't be priority number 1, we will definitely be getting involved..."

    However, nothing has happened yet.

    They asked for anyone involved in Disability Organisations etc to get in touch - but so far, nothing has come out publicly about what, if anything is happening.

    They say they only have 3 staff and are incredibly busy. I understand that, but they haven't acted on offers of help.

    I will continue to ask questions.

  5. 38 degrees

    I hope the ghosts of disabled people dying because of welfare reform will haunt you.

  6. Something more going on here with 38 degrees and it campaigning against soft targets. When government levels its big guns at the disabled 38 degrees runs off to the forest to campaign over that or the NHS that are both going no where, but the disabled, real people, not buildings, or instutions, are going somewhere, and that is out of this world and many more out of their minds with worry.