Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice saying 'I will try again tomorrow'
Tuesday, 2 June 2015
An Unfond Farewell to Disability Activism
Almost five years ago I had to give up the career that I loved. It was a devastating and life changing time. It provoked a period of deep depression for the first time in my life, something which my illness and resulting significant impairments and disability had failed to do.
After picking myself up from this I observed that the government was threatening serious cuts to the very support which had enabled me to embark on my career in the first place. I hated the idea that current young disabled people would be denied the opportunities I had enjoyed and so I became more involved in disability activism. It gave me a sense of purpose and I felt I was doing something worthwhile which would help others.
This took off in a big way in January 2012 when I researched and wrote what became known as the Spartacus Report. While others helped and others were in charge of the superb campaign, I was the main author. This report clearly showed for the first time, with the government's own data, that they were lying about both the need and disabled people's support for reform to DLA. This report was on the whole met with great support by disabled people, bringing many people together on social media. It was used to try to influence voting on the welfare reform act and eventually provoked much media interest after surprise government defeats in the House of Lords.
After a long period of recovery I continued campaigning on the issues I cared most about, ie the enabling benefits like DLA, DSA and social care. While I would have liked to campaign about everything my health no longer permitted it and my involvement has got less and less each year as my illness worsens. I tried to prevent a cap on community social care being implemented in Worcestershire, was very involved in fighting the creation and evolution of PIP, particularly the 20 metre rule, and recently helped combat plans to water down DSA. Among all this I helped and supported fellow disabled people and called out politicians whenever I caught them lying in the press, for instance about disability benefits being exempt from benefit uprating and freeze.
Today though all this comes to an abrupt end. I discover I am not wanted. Why? I am a "Sparty", and a "traitor". Why again? Sue Marsh, who was the most prominent "member" of Spartacus decided in January to go and work for Maximus, the company taking over the controversial WCA "fit for work"assessments from the infamous ATOS. Apparently this makes me a traitor too and makes all my previous work invalid, no matter that I have not worked with Sue for a couple of years (not that it should matter anyway).
How did I discover this? Just before the election, fed up of the infighting between disabled groups and people, I wrote a post calling for for union. Some decided to do just that and create a "union" or similar organisation. I eagerly wanted to help, health permitting, along with others who had been involved with various reports for Spartacus in the past. Sadly things rapidly descended into conspiracy theories, with "Sparties" trying to take over and get their "leader" (huh?!) in power. Long discussions were also had over which disabled people should NOT be allowed to join. So much for unity.
What was said was nasty. I no longer feel welcome and don't think I ever will again. I fail to understand how anyone can have an issue with the work I have done (other than fundamental differences of opinion). I fail to understand how work which was hailed as good at the time becomes bad simply because someone I worked with 3 years ago has done something they disapprove of. I fail to understand how that makes me guilty and unwelcome.
I have been attacked in the past before. Ironically it has been for not doing more about ESA and the WCA and on the other for not caring about inclusion, when in fact most of my campaigning surrounds "enabling" support. People have always jumped to conclusions and made assumptions. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Disability activism has always been made harder by "fellow" disabled people than by the people we are supposed to be "fighting".
So now I am stopping. I don't have the physical strength to put up with this. I feel like I did when I lost my career all over again. I thought I had found something which helped replace that but it has been snatched away from me. I didn't think I would feel this bad again. And the sad thing is that some people reading this are probably rejoicing. How will we ever unite when this is the case? I wish all you disability campaigners luck but I don't hold out much hope.