Posts Tagged ‘Alcoholism’

Trump Passes Law Allowing Gene Testing by Bosses

March 14, 2017

This is another, very chilling step towards genuine Fascism by Trump, who’s surrounded himself with Fascists and White Supremacists. In this piece from the David Pakman Show, the host and his producer, Louis, reveal how Trump introduced legislation that would permit employers to demand their employees take genetic tests and hand over information about the DNA. This was slipped past Congress when the public had their attention on the colossal mess that is Trumpcare. This overturns previous legislation which prevented employers from demanding such information, not least under US privacy laws. The legislation permits US employers to do this if they are running ‘wellness’ programmes. Pakman states that this is all about employers having the ability to charge people more for their healthcare, if they find out they have certain genetic conditions.

This is exactly what the authors Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald wished to expose and counter in their book, Exploding the Gene Myth (Boston: Beacon Press 1997).

The book is subtitled ‘How Genetic Information Is Produced and Manipulated by Scientists, Physicians, Employers, Insurance Companies, Educators and Law Enforcers’. It’s about the way the above have tried to link illness and criminality to heredity since the 19th century, and how this has led to eugenics legislation in which the ‘genetically unfit’ were sterilised and institutionalised in order to prevent them breeding. Or else it was used as pretext to prevent the passage of welfare legislation. The argument here was that it would be a waste of resources supporting those, who were unable to work as their illness was down to their own faulty biological heredity, not the terrible working conditions and industrial hazards of the time.

Eugenics was a favourite topic amongst the European and American chattering classes from the late 19th century until it was discredited by the horrors of the Nazi regime during World War II. But Hubbard and Wald warned that it was coming back with the drive to find a genetic basis for illnesses like schizophrenia and other traits. The book has the following chapters

1. Of Genes and People
The Role of Genetics in Our Lives
Genes for Deafness, Genes for Being Raped
A Word about Scientists
Heredity and Environment
What Are Genes?

2. Genetic Labelling and Old Eugenics
The Birth of Eugenics
Genetic Labelling
Involuntary Sterilisation
Eugenic Immigration Policies.

3. The New Eugenics: Testing, Screening and Choice
Overt and Subtle Eugenics
Parenting, Disabilities and Selective Abortion
Genetic Screening
Fallacies of Genetic Prediction.

4. A Brief Look at Genetics
Heredity and Genes
The Beginning: Gregor Mendel, “Traits” and “Factors”
From Mendel to the Double Helix
Genes and Proteins
How Chromosomes and Genes Are Duplicated
X and Y: The Sex Chromosome
From DNA to RNA to Proteins
How Genes Function
Sequencing the Human Genome
RFLPs: Linking DNA with Traits

5. Genes in Context
Definitions of Health and Disease
Individualisation of Health and Illness
Genes as Blueprints
Geneticisation
Diagnostic Labeling

6. “Inherited Tendencies”: Chronic Conditions
Some Underlying Assumptions
Conditions that Run in Families
Diabetes
High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and Strokes
Cancer
Oncogenes and Anti-Oncogenes
Cancer Prevention and Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer
Cancer Prevention versus Cancer Therapy

7. “Inherited Tendencies”: Behaviours
Which Behaviours?
Homosexuality
Alcoholism
Problems of Linking Genes to Behaviour
Pitfalls of Behavioural Research: The XYY Fallacy

8. Manipulating Our Genes
Conventional Treatments for Inherited Conditions
Modifying DNA: Somatic Cell Manipulations
“Germ-Line Gene Therapy”: Changing Future Generations

9. Genes for Sale
Funds for Research, Profits for Biotechnology
Commercialisation and Conflicts of Interest
Owning the Genome
What to Do?

10. Genetic Discrimination:
Education, Employment and Insurance

Genetic Testing and the Schools
Genetic Discrimination in the Workplace
Measures in Counter Employment-Related Discrimination
Genetic Discrimination in Insurance

11. DNA-Based Identification Systems, Privacy, and Civil Liberties
DNA and the Criminal Justice System
Scientific Problems with DNA Profiles
Genetic Privacy and Civil Liberties
Employment- and Health-Related Issues
Controlling Genetic Information.

There is also a preface, in which they give their reasons and aims for writing the book, a conclusion and afterword, as well as an appendix on mitochondrial DNA, notes, glossary and a bibliography and list of other resources.

There were a series of scandals regarding the enforced genetic testing of employees in the ’80s and ’90s, one of which was compulsory genetic testing of a set of recruits in the US army. They also make it very clear that the insurance companies wanted to introduce it as a way of charging those with ‘faulty’ genes higher premiums.

And from that, it’s a very short step to eugenics and then the mass slaughter of the congenitally disabled under the Third Reich’s Aktion T4.

The forcible genetic testing of US recruits is mentioned in one of the books that came out on the X-Files, as an example of how the paranoid fantasies of the show nevertheless had a factual basis in this instance. To be fair to the Christian Right in the America, they are very hostile to sterilisation and eugenics. However, it’ll be interesting to see if they oppose this noxious piece of legislation. In much of the rhetoric of the religious right, such legislation is linked to oppressive, totalitarian states, like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It’ll be interesting to see if they oppose it when it’s introduced by an ostensibly democratic government (yeah, I know, it ain’t really), dominated by big business and which is bitterly hostile to any kind of Socialism.

I don’t think you’ll see a word against it. As Pakman explains, when it came to voting, all the Republicans voted for it, all the Democrats against. And I doubt the right-wing Conspiracy fringe will oppose it either. Alex Jones on Infowars has been pumping out pro-Trump propaganda since the Orange Nazi’s election campaign. He wants Americans to believe that Trump is somehow ‘anti-globalist’, despite the fact that he’s stuffed his cabinet full of globalists and monopoly capitalists.

This is truly terrifying, as it does bring us once step closer to the genetic dystopia of the film Gattaca.

And it’s yet more proof of the Nazism at the core of Trump’s administration.

Panorama on the Rise of Food Banks

March 5, 2014

Monday’s edition of the BBC’s investigative documentary programme, Panorama, covered the massive expansion in food banks across the UK. Filmed in Bristol and Derby, the programme’s host, Darragh McIntyre, spoke to the organisers of the food banks, including a community of Anglican nuns in Bristol, the Sisters of the Church, who provide food to over 2,28 people, the unemployed and destitute forced to use them, and Tory spokesmen defending the government’s policies, including Edwina Currie. The people filmed using food banks including a young couple living in a homeless hostel. The young woman had been referred to the food bank by the staff at her hospital, as there were complications with her pregnancy and they feared that she was not eating enough. The reported stated that many of those being fed by the nuns had drug and alcohol problems. Another Bristolian using the food banks was Steve Hudson, who, although he was unemployed, was not yet on benefit. The man had gone without food for days on end, and there was literally nothing in his fridge except a bit of ketchup and a tin of kidney beans. He had to walk the four hours to the Jobcentre because he had no money for the bus fare to get there. The programme later returned to Hudson. By this time he had got a job, but it hadn’t worked out and he was back on the dole. He was again forced to use food banks as most of his dole money went to paying off the utility and debts. They also spoke to the head of the East Bristol Food Bank, Andy Irwin, which was run in partnership with the Trussell Trust. Three years ago the Trussell Trust had only 50 food banks across the UK. Now they have more than 300. The programme state that the food banks in Bristol feed about 8,000 people. The Trust claims that they supply food to hundreds of thousands of people across Britain, and that since 2012 demand has tripled.

Food Banks Created Through Poverty, Not Scrounging

The programme also reported the Tories claim that the existence of the food banks was responsible for the increasing numbers of people using them. They showed a clip of Ian Duncan Smith in parliament, reading out a statement from a member of staff at the Oxford Food Bank, stating that although food banks do a good job, the people using them were often those, who had asked members of the various welfare agencies, such as their social workers, to refer them. This claim was rebutted by Chris Mould, the chairman of the Trussell Trust, who stated that it was ridiculous as it suggested that the 18,000 members of the various agencies, that had signed referrals for the food banks, were somehow in collusion to rip the system off.

Anglican Bishops Condemn Rise of Food Banks and Government Policy

The programme also talked to one of the 27 Anglican bishops, who had written a letter roundly condemning the rise of poverty and hunger in Britain. This was after they had interviewed David Burrowes MP, the chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, who claimed that the bishops were exaggerating the problem. He stated that although they had the right to address their concerns, they did it in the wrong way and so had been used as ‘pawns in a wider political agenda’. This was rebutted by the bishop of Manchester, David Walker, who said that it was ridiculous that they were being used as part of anyone’s agenda. He quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that there comes a time when, having fished enough people out of the river, you go up river to see why they’re falling in. And this, said the good bishop, inevitably draws you into politics.

Founder of Bristol Food Bank and Prof Elizabeth Dowler also State Food Banks due to Poverty

They also spoke to Mark Wing, an evangelical Christian, who runs the Matthew Tree in Bristol. This is the seventh food bank he’d opened in the city. When he was asked if Bristol needed seven food banks, he replied that it absolutely was. Wing aims not only to feed people, but also to reform their lives, and so those using the food bank are expected to show their bank accounts. They also interviewed Professor Elizabeth Dowler, the author of the government’s report Household Food Security in the UK. She too rebutted the claims that the explosion in the number of food banks was due to the number of people using them. She stated that it was simply because there were many more people in need. She pointed to the rise in food prices coupled with wages remaining the same or falling as a reason for the increasing numbers of people forced to use them.

Derbyshire County Council Funding Food Banks, Criticised by Edwina Currie

The programme mentioned the government’s view that the best way out of poverty was through work, and their statement that unemployment was falling. However, the programme pointed out that official figures show that 9.8 million people were living in relative poverty, that is, they had an income below 60 per cent of the British average. They also spoke to Julie Hirst, the Public Health Specialist on Derbyshire County Council. Previously the council had been concerned about healthy eating. Now they were worried about ‘food poverty’ – that people were not eating at all. As a result the county was investing £126,000 pound for its public health budget into food banks. They then invited one of the critics of food banks, Edwina Currie, to one run by a church pastor, Christian Thorpe, who church feeds 60 people a week. Currie was polite, but made her disapproval of the whole affair very clear. Shown the stores of food at the bank, she immediately picked at some of the items, asking whether they should really be giving food like it to the hungry. She objected to food banks, because they weren’t teaching people to live within their means, plan for a rainy day and not get into debt. Pastor Thorpe stated that they were indeed working with other agencies to teach people responsibility. Currie then stated that she felt food banks were ‘a bit of a trap’, and said that there wasn’t a need for food banks. She said that there should be more help for people with problems, but said that she didn’t believe there was food poverty. It was all due to people making the wrong choices. People, according to Currie, were not making the right, responsible choice because they knew they could get free food. Back in Bristol, Andy Irwin rebutted Currie’s remarks. 23 per cent of the people they saw, the largest single group of users, were people who had problems with their benefit, such as it being stopped. This was confirmed by the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. The government, however, denied that there was any link between their reforms and the increasing numbers of people forced to look for free food. They repeated the line that their reforms were encouraging the unemployed to find work.

People Forced to Use Food Banks Through Sanctions

The programme also spoke to Ian Hoswell, a man who had been sanctioned by the Jobcentre and had his benefit stopped for three months after he missed three interviews. McIntyre reported that for breaking the rules, you could have your benefit stopped for the minimum of a month to the maximum of three years. He also reported that the DWP had said that the conditions were made clear to claimants, and that they could apply for hardship payments and loans. Hoswell had applied for a hardship loan, but as you don’t get this for a fortnight, he had been forced to sell his CDs in order to eat. He was forced to go to the Matthew Tree for food because the £46 odd hardship payment left very little left over after he had paid his bills and also bought cigarettes. An increasing number of people are in Hoswell’s position. The programme cited government statistics that last year 875,000 people were sanctioned. They interviewed the founder of the Matthew Tree, Mark Goodway, who said that the people they saw were those who had no money. He felt that, while it could be debated whether the sanctioned claimants should have the money, they shouldn’t be starved while this was done. Back in London, Burrowes admitted that he realised that people went to food banks because they had no money, and that for many it was because they had been sanctioned, but the government was working to supply local authorities with funds for hardship payments.

McIntyre reported the ‘shocking statistic’ that in 11 months, over 133,000 sanctions had been overturned on appeal. This was almost 400 every day. It can, however, take weeks to overturn the DWP’s decision, during which time the sanctioned claimants were left with little or no money. He spoke to Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University, who has investigated and strongly criticised the immense number of people sanctioned by the government. He stated that there would be many more sanctions overturned if more people appealed. He also stated that part of the problem was the bureaucratic procedure, which people had to negotiate to overturn their sanctions, during which time they had little or no money. He stated baldly that people who started poor, would be driven into complete destitution. He talked to Susan Harkins, a woman with a partner and two young children. They had been forced onto benefit after her husband became to ill to do his job, and she lost hers. They were wrongly sanctioned, and placed on a low income of about £63 a week due to a clerical error. She stated that this meant that she and her husband had gone for days at a time in order to feed their children. They eventually managed to get the sanctioned overturned, but by that time they had been on an extremely low income for three months. She stated that her in opinion, such sanctions were simply a way for the government to save money.

Government Sanction Targets

In support of this statement, McIntyre showed the wall chart showing savings from sanctions, that was on display at a Jobcentre in Grantham last year. According to this, one three-month sanction would save £932. They spoke to Charles Law, of the Public and Commercial Services Union. Law stated that the government tells their members that there wasn’t a target, but then expects them to do the same as a cluster of other job centres over a week or month. He stated what was obvious: this was a target.

Needless to say, this was denied by the government, who said that the wall chart was only an isolated incident, which did not reflect policy, and that there were no targets for sanctions. Most of the decisions were correct, and the appeals process was an important part of the systems safeguards.

Part-Time Workers also Using Food Banks

McIntyre also reported that it wasn’t just the unemployed, who were forced to use food banks. He spoke to another Bristolian, Lisa Hall, who lived in one of the city’s suburbs. She worked in McDonalds, and had been forced to go to a food bank after going for days without food. Although she took home £900 a month, she was left with only a tenner a week after paying bills and debts. Her children had left home, and so with two empty bedrooms she had been hit by the government’s ‘bedroom tax’. They asked her the obvious question: why didn’t she move. She replied strongly that she didn’t want to, and explained at length that it was her home. She had managed to get another job, delivering pizzas, that kept her working sometimes till four in the morning. This meant she was earning enough not to need the food bank.

Food Banks funded by One Third of All Councils

McIntyre reported the government’s statement that food banks were not part of the welfare system. The lines were, however, increasingly blurred. In IDS’ own constituency of Chingford in London, the two councils which comprised it were spending £70,000 a year on food banks. The film-makers had contacted every council in the country, and 140 of them – a third – had confirmed that they were funding food banks. In the last two years, £2.9 million had been devoted to combating food poverty in the UK.

The Government’s Statement on Food Banks, but No Interview Given

The Trussell Trust’s Chris Mould stated that the concerns that food banks were becoming a part of the welfare state were valid, and that they should be tackled by politicians. Elizabeth Dowler of Warwick University declared that they were ‘an inadequate plaster over a gaping wound’ and the fact that they were being presented as a solution was ‘deeply immoral’. McIntyre said that they had tried to get someone from the cabinet to talk about their investigation into food banks, and had been shunted from pillar to post. The Department for Work and Pensions referred them to the Cabinet Office, and the Cabinet Office referred them back to the DWP. They were then referred back to the Prime Minister’s own press team at 10 Downing Street. They were not, however, given an interview. The government simply issued a statement that local authorities were now responsible for giving emergency help, and that they were being given additional funding to pay for it. It was giving help to families with the cost of living, and that thanks to its reforms three million households would be better off.

Do We Want People to Have to Survive on Food Hand-Outs?

The programme ended with Bishop David Walker saying that a clear statement from the government was needed whether or not food banks were part of the system, and if they were, how they could be improved. They reported some good news with the people they had interviewed using the food banks. Steve Hudson had now found work at a bar in Bristol’s city centre, while Lisa now had a full time job with B&Q. McIntyre ended with the statement that there was no doubt food banks are here to stay, and that they have helped very many people. He then asked the question, ‘Do we want to live in a society where people survive on food hand outs?’

Here’s the video

It can also be seen on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKVPwdNVb4s. The video is on a channel by someone called Theworkprogramme, who has posted a number of other documentaries and excerpts also tackling poverty in contemporary Britain.

It was a very, very good documentary, and did show the immense hardship experience by people due to the government’s welfare reforms. For that reason, I expect that it has already attracted the ire of the Tory faithful, who believe that the Beeb is composed entirely of liberals, Leftists and Commies dedicated to destroying British values. I do have some criticisms, however.

Firstly, I don’t trust the government statistics showing that unemployment is falling. Mike’s devoted a lot of time on his blog, as have a number of other Left-wingers on theirs, showing that these figures are the result of manipulation and falsification. The government’s figures only deal with those, who have been unemployed for under a year and are on a particular type of benefit. Those, who have been unemployed for longer and placed on the Work Programme are not counted as unemployed.

Then there’s the government’s statement that hardship payments are available for those, who have been sanctioned. This is another falsehood. While it may have been true when the documentary was made, the hardship payments are now being withdrawn. See Johnny Void’s pieces on this. Moreover, they were another benefit, about which claimants were not told by the Jobcentre staff.

As for help being available for families, this is being cut all the time. Mike and the other blogger have also extensively demolished the government’s claims that their reforms will make three million people better off. The fact that no-one from the government wanted to be interviewed seems to demonstrate that the government knows this is a lie, and really don’t want to have to face any intensive questioning on this issue.

As for the question of whether we want a society where people have to survive on food hand-outs, my guess is that the government does. The unemployed in several American states are given food stamps, rather than a welfare cheque, and it seems to me that food banks are being used in the same way here. It’s a way of punishing and humiliating the poor for their own poverty, exactly as it was intended to be.

As you might expect, I was also resoundingly unimpressed by Edwina Currie. She clearly was there simply to parrot the government’s line that poverty was all due to people’s own wrong choices. This is the attitude of the American Conservatives towards the grinding poverty that exists in the land of the free. One of the contributors to Lobster in one of its articles mentioned how it never ceases to amaze him about the way American deluded themselves about the cause of poverty there. He had been in a commercial conference in one of the American cities. During the conference, there was a report on the local news that 50,000 local citizens were homeless. When he asked one of the American attending the conference about how that could possibly occur, he was blandly told that they had all chosen to be homeless. Her comments also showed the strong influence of social Darwinism and 19th century notions of the deserving and undeserving poor, as well as a doctrinaire adherence to the party line that there was no link between the government’s reforms and poverty. It was also evident from the outset that she was not going to give the food bank a fair hearing by the way she picked around some of the articles and pointedly asked whether the bank should be giving such foods – like biscuits – to the poor and starving.

But then, my impression is that for all her Oxbridge education, Edwina has never been the sharpest knife in the kitchen cabinet. I’ve mentioned before how she looked bewildered when she was booed on Clive Anderson’s show on Channel 4 after making sharp comments about pensioners This was along the lines of ‘that’ll teach them to wrap up’, after he had asked her about her remark when in government telling them to wrap up warm when Major’s administration cut the cold weather payment for the elderly. She also made the mistake of locking horns with Ian Hislop a decade or so ago on Have I Got News For You. She was talking about how she had one a court case against someone for libel. She turned on the editor of Lord Gnome’s much-sued organ, and said, ‘Aren’t you glad I didn’t sue you?’ To this Hislop replied, ‘Aren’t you glad, my dear.’ I will give her some credit, however. Unlike IDS, Cameron, McVey or anyone else from the government, she did actually turn up and speak on camera. The others just seem to have hidden in the cabinet office and issued a press release in the hope it would all go away.

Unfortunately, it won’t. The poverty and starvation the government is wilfully creating is here to stay, and as long as it does, it should be criticised and challenged, along with the government, whose punitive cruelty creates it.

The Types of People Sleeping Rough according to Labour 1998 Report

February 22, 2014

This is a response to Mike’s blog piece reporting the eviction of two of his friends in the Welsh town in which he lives, which I’ve already reblogged from Vox Political. 16 years ago in 1998 New Labour attempted to tackle the problem of homelessness and other social problems through their Social Exclusion Unit. This produced a report identifying the types of people forced to sleep rough. In his foreword, Blair stated that

It is a source of shame for all of us, that there are still about 2,000 people out on the streets around England every night and 10,000 sleep rough over the course of a year.

That number has almost certainly increased since then. One of the homeless charities, according to Private Eye, has said that this Christmas (2013), about 60,000 children would be homeless due to government cuts. These would not be sleeping rough, but housed in Bed and Breakfast after their families were evicted from their homes. Even if these children still have some kind of roof over their head, this is still very definitely not unacceptable. If the situation was shameful in the last years of the 1990s, the government’s attitudes seems positively shameless in the way they have massively exacerbated the problem.

The report gave the following information

Chapter 1: Who Sleeps Rough?

1.6 The information we have tells us that:

* There are very few rough sleepers aged under 18;
* around 25 per cent are between 18 and 25;
* six per cent are over 60; and
* around 90 per cent are male.

1.9 The single most common reason given for the first episode of rough sleeping is relationship breakdown, either with parents or partner:
* research by Centrepoint with homeless young people across the country found that 86 per cent had been forced to leave home rather than choosing to…
1.10 Older homeless people also identify family crisis as key with the main factor being widowhood and marital breakdown, as well as eviction, redundancy and mental illness…
1.11 A disproportionate number of rough sleepers have experience of some kind of institutional life.
1.12 Between a quarter and a third of rough sleepers have been looked after by local authorities as children.
1.13 Unlike other young people leaving home, many care leavers lack any sort of on-going parental support which can act as a back up when a first attempt at independent living goes wrong …
1.14 Around half of rough sleepers have been in prison or a remand centre … Those who have been in prison typically experience serious problems obtaining both housing and jobs, frequently exacerbated by the problems of relationship breakdown, drugs etc ….
1.16 Repeated studies have found that between a quarter and one fifth of all rough sleepers have been in the services …
1.17 Some 30-50 per cent of rough sleepers suffer from mental health problems. The great majority (88 per cent) of those with mental health problems became ill before they became homeless.
1.18 Research does not support the widespread belief that the closure of long-term psychiatric hospitals has resulted in former patients sleeping rough…
1.19 As many as 50 per cent of rough sleepers have a serious alcohol problem and some 20 per cent misuse drugs…
1.20 Rough sleepers are disproportionately likely to have missed school…
1.21 Generally, single people will only get assistance under the homelessness legislation if they are unintentionally homeless and in priority need…
1.22 Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing…

From Rough Sleeping Report by the Social Exclusion Unit, CM4008, July 1998, pp. 1, 4-6, 16, in Margaret Jone and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 189-91.

Mike’s friends have not been institutionalised, nor, as far as I know, do they have mental health or drug problems. They are ‘strivers’, similar to those made homeless according to paragraph 1.22: Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing….

And with the bedroom tax and caps on Housing Benefit now in place, there are going to be many more of them. All so the Tories’ friends in the housing sector can get richer.

Roll-Call of the Poor and Disabled, Killed by the Government’s Policies

November 28, 2013

A day or so ago I reblogged the video Still Oaks had made on the people, who tragically committed suicide due to the government’s welfare policies. Many were disabled people, who had been declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS, when they clearly were anything but. Others were simply unemployed, who found it impossible to live on the meagre income supplied by the DWP. There’s a list of the people mentioned in the video posted by Still Oaks and Annanna, who helped Still Oaks make the video, over on the web forum DWP Examinations. The forum’s subtitled ‘Free Speech for the Disabled’, and is clearly intended to allow the disabled themselves to discuss and criticise the DWP and its policies. The people included in Still Oaks’ video are:

1/ John Walker

2/ Linda Wootton

3/ Elenore Tatton

4/ Brian McArdle

5/ David Groves

6/ Stephen Hill

7/ Nicholas Peter Barker

8/ Mark and Helen Mullins

9/Richard Sanderson

10/Martin Rust

11/Craig Monk

12/Colin Traynor

13/Elaine Christian

14/Christelle pardo,Kayjah Pardo

15/Mark Scott

16/Cecilia Burns

17/Chris Cann

18/Peter Hodgson

19/ Paul Willcoxson

20/Stephanie Bottrill

21/Larry Newman

22/Child EG

23/Paul Turner

24/Christopher Charles Harness

25/Sandra Louise Moon

26/Paul Reekie

27/Leanne Chambers

28/Vicky Harrison

29/Stephen Cawthra

30/George from Chesterfield

31/Wayne Grew

32/Kevin Bennett

32/Iain Hodge

33/David Elwyn Hugh Harris

34/ Elaine Lowe

35/ Lee Robinson

36/ Ian Carress

37/ Edward Jacques

38/ Charles Barden

The list is part of a wider discussion, ‘Death by Government’. Other posts by Annanna in this thread give some details on these poor souls. It’s a depressing mixture of people from all walks of life and types of disability. Some of them were obviously extremely talented academically. Christelle Pardo, who killed herself and her baby, Kayja, was a philosophy graduate. Others were manual workers, whose talents clearly lay with their hands, such as a farm labourer. Several of them had psychological problems, such as a young man who suffered from schizophrenia, epilepsy and alcoholism. This man’s alcoholism is not necessarily an indication that he was somehow responsible for his own poverty. It looks from here like self-medication. This is the term psychiatrists and mental health experts use to describe drug and alcohol use by the mentally ill to try and alleviate their condition. In our society, one of the ways people try to cheer themselves up when their down is to go for a pint or two. So it is with those suffering from depression or anxiety. It’s not hard to see how that can lead to dependence on this socially accepted drug, which in turn will exacerbate the sufferer’s condition. The important point here is that in these cases, alcoholism can be a consequence or a symptom of the disease, not a result of moral weakness of the part of the victim. Other victims included severely disabled people, for whom there should have been no question of them being able to work, such as a triple amputee.

I’ve come across a few severely disabled people, who nevertheless possessed the talent and strength of character to hold down often extremely well-paid and responsible jobs despite their appalling physical condition. One young lad I met a few years ago had a disease that left him almost totally paralysed. Nevertheless, he was a computer whizzkid, and his expertise allowed him to earn the kind of money some of us only dream about. And he wasn’t the only one. A young woman in a wheelchair told me over twenty years ago about one of her friends, who was also paralysed from the neck down. This man, was also a computer genius, working on them with the kind of stick attachment, which you see Stephen Hawking using to work his wheelchair and speech synthesiser. It’s one of the positive advantages of information technology that it has allowed disable people like these two to have a career of their own. The problem is the DWP seems to assume that if a few, very talented people can do it, then others in a similar position should. If they can’t, then it must be their own fault, somehow.

It should be self-evident that severely disabled people need considerable support and care. When I met the lad I mentioned above, it was in a meeting of one of the clubs in Cheltenham at the time. I think they were holding their AGM. He was taken in by his nurse, who then went to the bar to sit quietly drinking coffee once the lad had been wheeled to the table to talk about rules of procedure and the financial status of the club. Or whatever. Stephen Hawking is one of the foremost examples of a man, who has made spectacular achievements despite his terrible condition. Helping him do this, however, have been a supportive family, nursing care, and the type of advanced motorised wheelchairs and voice synthesis technology that many people can only dream about. All too many other disabled people simply don’t have that level of social, medical and technological support.

There is also the question of how much support or care an employer is prepared to spend adapting their premises to the needs of their disabled employees. Now I have to say I really have little knowledge of the equalities legislation in this area. I understand that businesses, or at least public organisations, like museums and libraries, are required to make their premises wheelchair-accessible. I’m also pretty sure that they cannot legally discriminate against a disabled applicant when it comes to jobs. I am also aware that there have been some very good employers out there, who have adapted their workplaces to accommodate their workers, who suffered from particular physical ailments. One lady I used to work with had a severe back condition, and so she sat in an orthopaedic chair at work. Others may not be so fortunate to have such caring employers. And in a crowded labour market, an employer can always find some other reason not to take someone on, regardless of whether or not they’re disabled.

My point here is that there should be no question that severely disabled people like the triple-amputee are not able to work. This does not mean that they should not be given the resources they may require to work, or that their talents should not be cultivated and neglected. It also doesn’t mean that they should be discriminated against either. It just means being realistic about the immense impact severe disability has on someone’s ability to work. IDS and his wretched crew, however, have decided that as exceptionally talented people like Stephen Hawking have succeeded in having a career, so people with less support and more modest intellectual gifts should do also. There’s a parallel here to the Stakhanovite system through which Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Stakhanov was a miner, who was given state of the art tools and support. His output was then measured by the bureaucrats, who then made it the standard for other miners, regardless of their ability, and the tools and other resources available to them. Stakhanov and his team smashed production records, and the USSR industrialised extremely quickly. The human cost, however, was immense. Cameron’s and IDS’ policies towards the disabled similarly makes the exceptional the norm, and, like Stalin, punishes those, who can’t keep up.

Still Oaks and Annanna’s thread, ‘Death by Government’, is at http://dwpexamination.org/forum/the-governmants-agenda/death-by-government/. It’s grim, moving reading. Like Still Oak’s video, it puts the people forward from behind the statistics, so you can see, who IDS’ policies have killed.