Activists hope a new nonpartisan online campaign

first_imgActivists hope a new non-partisan online campaign – based on a successful US user-led movement – could finally enable disabled people to become a political force in the UK, and play a significant role in deciding June’s general election.The hope is that the #CripTheVoteUK campaign will allow the millions of disabled people in the UK to use their weight of numbers to affect the election’s outcome.The campaign will not support any particular political party, but will encourage disabled people to register to vote and use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to discuss discrimination, oppression and inequality and the policies and practices that most affect them.Its first major action will be a #CripTheVoteUK Twitter discussion on the Department for Work and Pensions and benefit cuts, on Sunday (30 April) from 7-8pm, hosted by the disabled political journalist Dr Frances Ryan.Other Twitter chats are likely to include independent living, inclusive education, and the threats to disabled people’s rights of a “hard Brexit”.#CripTheVote was launched by three US disabled activists who were frustrated at the failure of the 2016 presidential candidates to talk about disability issues.The trio – Gregg Beratan, Alice Wong and Andrew Pulrang – are now supporting the UK extension of their movement, after being approached by Canadian disabled activist Alex Haagaard, who had asked if they were planning any work around the snap UK election called by prime minister Theresa May earlier this month.They put Haagaard in touch with disabled activist Eleanor Lisney in the UK, and the two of them have recruited other experienced disability activists, including Rick Burgess and Dennis Queen, to organise and lead #CripTheVoteUK.Lisney said: “We want to make enough noise [so that politicians] realise that disabled people are a big proportion of the population and that they cannot disregard our voting power.“We are an important voice.”She said it was crucial that #CripTheVote and #CripTheVoteUK were both “intersectional”, acknowledging that disabled people also face discrimination because of other characteristics such as their race, sexuality and gender.Lisney said the attacks on disabled people’s rights were so serious that the new campaign could save lives.She added: “I think disabled people all over the world are realising what is happening globally, that we are taking a step backwards.”Haagaard said she had become involved after spending a year in the UK, and joining an online narcolepsy support group.She said: “Since returning [to Canada] I have continued to watch member after member struggle with cuts to their benefits, assertions that they’re fit to work despite doctors’ letters to the contrary, and draconian reassessment cycles that leave them in a constant state of stress (which in turn severely exacerbates many of their symptoms).“It’s been horrifying to witness this, and having participated in the discussions of the #CripTheVote movement during the US election cycle, it seemed clear to me that these sorts of conversations needed to be made a key issue of the next UK election.”She said she accepted that “the fact this is a snap election with a very compressed timeline puts us at a disadvantage as an awareness campaign”, but she said she hoped that social media could play “a major role in changing the mainstream conversation” on the election.She said: “It’s a big goal, but I hope #CripTheVoteUK can contribute to making disability rights in the UK a viral topic.”Burgess said he hoped the six weeks leading to the election would be just a “starting point” for what would be a long-term campaign, but the immediate priority was “getting people to make sure they are registered to vote and getting them enthused so they will vote”.He said it would “take effort” for the campaign to remain non-partisan, but he said: “I think we will be direct about facts and policy but we will not be saying ‘…and therefore we think ‘X party’ is really great.’“We have to be realistic about the position we are in and critical of policy, regardless of who it’s implemented by.“As happened in America, you don’t want to be partisan and aligned to a party, but you do need to talk about policies, principles and rights, because if you don’t, something like Trump could happen.”Burgess said he and others had started thinking about the idea of a more organised disabled people’s “voting block” following the successful WOW petition, which he helped organise and led to a House of Commons debate in 2014 on the impact of welfare cuts and reforms on disabled people.He said: “There are 13 million disabled people. If that was more organised and engaged we would be a serious electoral force that parties would have to listen to.“In the long-term, disabled people have to be more of an organised block of voters in the same way people talk about the grey lobby.“Politicians need to be a little bit afraid of offending us. At the moment, they don’t appear remotely worried about what they do.”Burgess said he hoped that #CripTheVoteUK would see disabled people taking on some of the influence currently wielded by the big disability charities.He said: “It is about fertilising and organising the grassroots. Power should come from the bottom, from the real people.“What disabled people want is not the same thing as what a corporate charity that represents disabled people may want.“If you look at disability rights history, often we have felt very betrayed by charities.”Beratan, who himself lived in the UK for 15 years, said #CripTheVote was “geared towards both engaging the disability community in discussing the policies and politics that will most impact our lives but also to use our collective power to amplify the community’s voice on these issues”.And he said that “shrewed” politicians would use #CripTheVoteUK to engage with disabled voters.He said he and his colleagues had been more than happy to advise on setting up #CripTheVoteUK but “have been clear that #CripTheVoteUK needs to develop into whatever the UK disability community needs it to be.“As we saw in the US, #CripTheVote took off because the disability community took ownership of it.”Although he did not want to speak for the UK organisers, he said it had been “very important” in the US to keep #CripTheVote “nonpartisan”.He said: “Most of the evidence out there shows that the disability community breaks all across the political spectrum, but as we’ve seen many times, with the issues that affect our community most, partisan allegiances fall away.“We do tend to make it clear though that nonpartisan does not mean non critical. We’ve always been highly critical of policies that harm disabled people.”And he said he saw a lot of similarities between the two communities.He said: “We’ve both been largely ignored by the mainstream political discourse, and are both more likely to be scapegoated than engaged with.“So ideally I’d love to see them force disability into the conversation in this election.”last_img read more

Nine MPs on a Commons committee are refusing to ex

first_imgNine MPs on a Commons committee are refusing to explain why they failed to ask the minister for disabled people about shocking figures that suggest attempted suicides among people claiming out-of-work disability benefits doubled between 2007 and 2014.The work and pensions select committee was passed the figures by Disability News Service (DNS) a few days before Sarah Newton gave evidence last month.But despite being promised that the figures had “informed the briefing” prepared for the MPs on the committee ahead of the minister’s evidence session – and Labour MP Neil Coyle telling DNS that he was “sure it will be raised” – no effort was made to ask Newton about them.And this week, none of the nine committee members who attended the session – Labour’s Frank Field, who chairs the committee, Coyle (pictured), Ruth George and Stephen McCabe, Tory MPs Heidi Allen, Andrew Bowie, Alex Burghart and Chris Green, and SNP’s Chris Stephens – would explain why they failed to ask the minister about the figures.Instead, they hid behind the committee’s media officer, who accused DNS of trying to “circumvent” her by asking the MPs individually why they failed to raise the issue with Newton.Last month, the media officer had told DNS that the figures had “informed the briefing” handed to the MPs before the evidence session, but that the committee “does not discuss those decisions outside the committee”.She insisted this week that, because she had already told DNS that Field would not comment on the refusal to raise the figures with the minister, this meant that she had “fully answered” questions on the figures.When DNS pointed out that it was a fundamental democratic principle to be able to hold MPs to account for their work, she said that all the MPs “have been advised to refer you to me but this is, again, the final response”.She later said in a statement: “Committees deliberate in private. Revealing the committee’s private deliberations has been considered a contempt of parliament.”DNS has pointed out that it has been asking MPs to explain their failure to ask questions in an open, public session, and not to release their “private deliberations”.The committee’s media officer had failed by noon today (Thursday) to provide any examples of where revealing a committee’s private deliberations has been considered a contempt of parliament.The new analysis of NHS statistics, prepared by the independent social research institute NatCen and published by Disability News Service (DNS) for the first time last month, showed that in 2007 – a year before the introduction of the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) – 21 per cent of incapacity benefit (IB) claimants told researchers they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.The following year, IB began to be replaced by employment and support allowance (ESA), with eligibility tested by the WCA, under the New Labour government.But by 2014, following six years of the WCA – and four years of social security reforms under the new coalition government, and austerity-related cuts to disability benefits and services – more than 43 per cent of claimants were saying they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.Over the same period, the proportion of adults questioned for the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) who were not claiming IB (in 2007) or ESA (in 2014) and had attempted to take their own lives remained statistically stable (6.0 per cent in 2007 against 6.7 per cent in 2014).Although the figures do not prove that the rate of attempted suicides doubled in that period – for example, the group of IB claimants could have had less severe impairments than those on ESA – and there is no proof that the introduction of the WCA caused the increase, they have alarmed many disabled activists and researchers.Sally McManus, who leads research on the survey for NatCen, on behalf of NHS Digital, has also shown that the proportion of IB/ESA claimants who have ever deliberately self-harmed also rose sharply from 2007 to 2014, as did the proportion of claimants who had had suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives.In 2007, the proportion of IB claimants who said they had self-harmed was 14 per cent, and this rose to 34 per cent of ESA claimants in 2014.And in 2007, the proportion of IB claimants who said they had had suicidal thoughts was 39 per cent, which rose to 66 per cent of ESA claimants in 2014.Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected]last_img read more

PD calls for Lobbyist Register to curb influence on Maltese politics

first_img <a href=’http://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/ck.php?n=ab2c8853&amp;cb={random}’ target=’_blank’><img src=’https://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=97&amp;cb={random}&amp;n=ab2c8853&amp;ct0={clickurl_enc}’ border=’0′ alt=” /></a> Partit Demokratika is calling on the authorities to create a Lobbyist Register that curbs political influence that does not benefit the public.PD explains that the current political climate has the Labour government and Nationalist party in cahoots with big business and organisations which receive financial benefits through taxpayer’s money. Ultimately, they this has had a detrimental impact on the public good.For this reason, PD’s interim leader Godfrey Farrugia says that the party is calling for, ‘the establishment of a Lobbyist Register and crystal clear legal amendments and reforms in party financing law, as well as whistleblower and Public Standards acts,’In order for this to happen they demand that the Commissioner for Non-Governmental Organisations to be more vocal in asking the Commissioner for Public Standards to draft a bill which creates the Lobby Register.This they point out, is particularly important when addressing organisations like the Malta Developer’s Association. They state that, ‘In a mature European democracy, the MDA would be defined as a lobbyist organisation and not an NGO.’WhatsApp SharePrintlast_img read more

Three new flight routes as of next October

first_img SharePrint <a href=’http://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/ck.php?n=ab2c8853&amp;cb={random}’ target=’_blank’><img src=’https://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=97&amp;cb={random}&amp;n=ab2c8853&amp;ct0={clickurl_enc}’ border=’0′ alt=” /></a> Malta International Airport (MIA) has announced that three new routes are to be introduced this October.In a press release, Minister for Transport Ian Borg stated that three new routes are being launched this October, amidst the extension of 17 routes from summer into the upcoming winter season. Referring to the  analyses published last week by Airports Council International (ACI) in its Airport Industry Connectivity Report 2019, Borg highlighted that MIA’s connectivity doubled between 2009 and 2019, putting it in the lead in a group of 26 airports in the European Union.MIA also announced an increase of 5.9% in its mid-year traffic results, amounting to over 3.2 million passengers. The 5.9% was explained to have been compared to the same stretch over last year. Record passenger numbers were registered every month in 2019 so far, but with a 10.5% increase in traffic, April was the fastest-growing month for this period. This was followed by June, which registered an upturn of 8.8%.WhatsApplast_img read more