Disabled activists pause because of illness, but campaign goes on

By staff writers
10 Jan 2012

Sick and disabled people behind the 'Responsible Reform' report exposing the governments sham consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have had to pause because of illness.

The #spartacusreport co-author Sue Marsh was taken to hospital with a chest infection by her husband Dave this afternoon, and in a moving video message on The Broken of Britain website, co-ordinator and contributor Kaliya Franklin explained that they had "reached their limits" and had to stop for a while to avoid serious health repercussions.

Karen McAndrew, who wrote the Ekklesia report 'Betraying Disabled People and Welfare' in May 2011, explained: "Our families begged us to stop for the sake of our health, but we knew that if we did not do [this], the truth would not be heard. It has been a desperate last ditch effort to save an allowance that allows us to have a even small semblance of normal life. It has taken a huge toll on our health."

However, the activists have urged that the campaign to stop the government's plans to cut billions of pounds worth of support for disabled and sick people needed to go on, with the active backing of individuals, charities and public figures.

Tens of thousands of people, including politicians and policy makers, read the 'Responsible Reform' report yesterday, its day of publication.

An easy-read version has now been made available by United Response here: http://bit.ly/xy0elw

Work is continuing today with lobbying of MPs and peers. Major charities, including Scope and Mind, are backing calls for a six month pause from the government on welfare reform, after evidence of their failure to consult properly, to listen to disabled and sick people, and to establish a proper evidential base.

Ms Marsh and Ms Franklin wrote on their websites today: "Politicians are supporting us. Lords are supporting us. We must give them every chance to hear our evidence and act on it."

They continued: "The report raises some very serious issues and it is those issues we must explain. Today, we ask anyone who read and was shocked by the #spartacusreport to wear this twibbonhttp://twibbon.com/join/spartacusreport and stand with the sick and disabled people of the UK have fought so very hard for this one chance to be heard.

"We only have a few more days. Lords return tomorrow and the issues we have raised for so long will face votes. If we work together, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter how frightened, we can say we did all we could to make our arguments eloquently, reasonably and most importantly - based on evidence. Evidence that has been painfully lacking in this debate so far."

Among the new report's conclusions are that:

* Only seven per cent of organisations that took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP
* There was overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government's proposals for DLA reform
* The government has consistently used inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants
* The report shows that nearly all of the recent increase in working-age claimants of DLA has been associated with mental health conditions and learning difficulties. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of working-age DLA claimants - excluding those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties remained remarkably stable
* 98 per cent of those who responded opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months
* 90 per cent opposed plans for a new assessment, which disabled people fear will be far too similar to the much-criticised work capability assessment used to test eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)
* Respondents to the consultation repeatedly warned that the government's plans could breach the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

'Responsible Reform' report coordinator Kaliya Franklin (Bendy Girl) has Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes her joints to dislocate continually and her body to go 'floppy'. For the last few months she has been unable to talk because her vocal chords have collapsed.

Co-author Sue Marsh has a rare form of Crohn's Disease. On her blog ('Diary of a Benefit Scrounger'): "I was diagnosed 21 years ago and have had many operations to remove strictures (narrowings in my bowel that grow like tumours) I suffer daily pain, often vomiting, malnourished and weak. I take mega-strong medications every day including chemo-style immuno-suppressants, opiates and anti-sickness injections. Sometimes I am fed into my central vein by tube, other times I can enjoy a nice meal out. I have children that I often can't look after and a husband who often looks after me. Our lives are disrupted daily by the misery of a chronic condition."

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* The full report, 'Responsible Reform' is being made available online at Ekklesia and elsewhere. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA An easy-read version has been made available by United Response: http://bit.ly/xy0elw

* Please wear the Spartacus twibbon: http://twibbon.com/join/spartacusreport

* The Guardian article by Sue Marsh, 'Disabled people listened to on welfare plans? It's a goverernment sham' -
http://tinyurl.com/7skv7rc

* The Broken of Britain: http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/

* Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com

* Press release here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16008

* Show your support by tweeting with the hashtag #spartacusreport and use that tag to follow what is going on

* DLA coverage from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/disabilitylivingallowance

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