Tag Archives: Member of Parliament

Care, employment and families – big week for disability

It may be the last week before Christmas, but politicians are making time between mince pies and mulled wine to look at a couple of important disability issues.

Today MPs have their first opportunity to debate the Government’s plans for reforming local care – including capping care costs for elderly and an end the postcode lottery in care.

Councils say the crisis in social care sits behind big health issues such as pressure on A&E and GPs – if older and disabled people don’t get preventative, community care, they risk becoming isolated and slipping into crisis.

The Care and Support Alliance – representing 75 charities – is today saying that the bill is a real achievement but risks being undermined by a funding black hole which has forced councils to restrict who gets support.

The CSA has published new research from the LSE that reveals that if we had the 2008 care system today another half a million disabled and older people would get preventative, community support.

Sitting behind this is massive, historic under-funding. Government spending on social care would have had to rise by an additional £1.6 billion just to keep pace with demographic pressures. Instead councils have had to reduce their budgets by £2.6bn in the last three years alone, according to social services directors.

The story is on Sky News and in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Times.

Meanwhile Scope has been asking disabled people to talk about why social care is important to them and encouraging the public to show that it thinks the Government needs to act on care.

Then on Tuesday the Government is going to be talking about getting more disabled people into work.  This is a huge issue. And it’s great that the Government is committed to tackling it. BBC’s In Business programme last week, which previewed some of the announcement, is worth a listen.

We’ll also be looking out for news on Children and Families Bill tomorrow.

Families have told us that they really struggle to the support they need in their local area. This bill will mean that councils will have to publish a ‘Local Offer’ of services available in the local area. Local agencies like education and the health services will have to work together better to plan and commission services for disabled children.

These are positive moves but we have been pushing for stronger guarantees that families with disabled children and young people will be able to hold local agencies to account for the delivery and quality of services set out in the Local Offer. Without this, families will be left with the same battles they encounter now in trying to get support. We’ll be keeping a close on the crucial final stages of the bill.

Crafting our way to change

On Tuesday night, as rain was falling across London, there was a quiet revolution going on in a cafe near Kings Cross. Amid china teacups and origami cranes suspended from the ceiling, vintage furniture was gradually getting covered in paper, glue and sparkly pompoms.

The London cafe Drink Shop Do is used to being a hub of creative activity, with evenings that range from biscuit decorating to Lego building. But on Tuesday evening, craft was in the name of social care.

The Britain Cares campaign, which has already seen support from over 27,000 people, is calling on the Government to ensure that 100,000 disabled people receive essential social care support to live their lives. Under current Government plans, they’ll be denied it.

This is why a group of crafters, varying in experience, gathered to prove to politicians that not only are the current plans unjust, but that people in Britain really care about the issue. And they intend to prove it…with pompom-embellished socks. The 25+ crafters who met on Tuesday, marking the beginning of Britain Cares: Britain Crafts week, spent their evening adding ‘I care’ messages to socks, soaps, coasters and even tote bags.

Craftivists with 'I Care' tote bag made as part of Britain Cares: Britain Crafts

As you can see from the photos, their creativity was limitless – and this is exactly what is needed to catch the attention of MPs, with meaningful messages that people have spent time creating, calling on them to really think about the issue, and take action.

Using craft for activism may be increasingly popular, but it’s not new.

If you’re not familiar with crafty activism, or ‘craftivism’ here’s the lowdown:

What is it?

Betsy Greer coined the term ‘Craftivism’ as:

“A way at looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.”

The Craftivist Collective point out that craft + activism = craftivism, and they aim to show that ‘making people aware of the injustices and poverty in the world can be joyful as well as empowering and fulfilling.’

Why would I do it?

Craftivists say that as a campaigning method, it can be very satisfying. Making time to think about the issue is always refreshing, and craft encourages you to really consider your message.

It’s great that online activism has allowed us to campaign at the click of a button, but it can be overwhelming if you’re actually asked, ‘Why does this issue matter to you?’ Pause. In that frame of mind, when swiftly sending a pre-prepared email, it can be difficult to stop and really think about why what you’re doing matters. For me, craftivism is the self-initiated ‘pause’.

But isn’t this urgent?

Like many steps out of the ordinary, it can feel counter-intuitive:

‘Quick! There’s a crisis going on! We must shout loudly!’

Using craft doesn’t take away the urgency – it allows you to contemplate why the issue is so urgent and consider the most powerful and meaningful way to make change. It puts the power back in the hands of the campaigner – quite literally. Sometimes sitting and thinking about how we could create something that really gets across why we feel a certain way can be the most empowering way to use our voices.

Time is important

It doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Timing of action is always important. But actually, the time it takes to make something is part of the process.

Time is our most democratic and precious resource, and should be valued by those on the receiving end. By investing my time in something I really care about, I hope my MP will respect the action all the more, and feel that he is also valued as my representative.

I’m not sure my MP will really be convinced by craft

With all campaigning we have to ask what will have an impact. Scope already knows that delivering messages creatively can make an impression. As part of our Keep Us Close campaign, MPs received hundreds of wish stars and family memories, making them realise how significant the issue was.

Giving something as an ongoing reminder is personal and long-lasting. One MP told us, ‘The wish stars now have pride of place in my office in Westminster’.

Britain Crafts

So when an MP receives an ‘I care’ sock or soap this week, they’ll be reminded of the 4 in 10 disabled people who receive social care support that does not meet their basic needs like washing or dressing. And each time they have a cup of tea and replace their mug on a coaster made by one of their constituents, they will be reminded of how this issue is important to that constituent – and that they have asked them to take action on their behalf.

This weekend, could you make sure your MP knows how much you care about social care? By spending half an hour creating a message, you can enjoy the benefits of crafting, really thinking about the issue AND proving to your MP that you really care about social care – and that you’re not going to stop at an email.

Everyone’s getting involved. Even the cast of Downton Abbey!

Ema, who is disabled and struggling to live the life she wants to lead without social care, is making a pencil case for her MP with ‘I Care’ beading. In her film she talks more about living what she describes as ‘a half-life’. As Ema says, ‘social care is worth fighting for’ and if that means decorating hundreds of bars of soap, we’re up for the challenge.

Writing 'I Care' on a card with soap nearby

Thank you for playing a crucial role in our Legal Aid campaign

Last December, Scope called on supporters to join our campaign to Save Legal Aid for disabled people.

The absence of this advice would have an adverse impact on thousands of disabled people who use legal aid to challenge decisions when they are let down by the system. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which has been making its way through Parliament, plans to remove legal aid support for those appealing welfare benefits decisions.

Thousands of campaigners, keen to protect the provision of legal aid for disabled people when appealing welfare benefits decisions, took their seat in Scope’s virtual House of Lords. By March, over 2,000 campaigners had taken part in our campaign, telling the Government the adverse consequences this would have for disabled people and helping to pile the pressure on Ministers to revise their plans.

This led to a real breakthrough when Lords from across all parties expressed their discontent with the Bill and defeated the Government’s plans by 237 votes to 198. This was a great success and was the culmination of the efforts shown by all campaigners. Together, we made sure the Lords understood the significance of this issue and forced the Government to think again about its plans.

On 17 April, when the Bill returned to the House of Commons, MPs once again debated the impact of removing legal aid for welfare benefits cases. This time, the Government listened to concerns that legal aid advice is needed for appealing incorrect benefits decisions although they would restrict the help available to just a small number of very complex benefits appeals. Although we welcome the Government moving on this issue, Scope had concerns about how this promise would practically work and how many disabled people it would reach, so we asked the House of Lords to push the Government to go further.

Disappointingly, on 25 April, the House of Lords voted against our amendment which would have kept legal aid advice for disabled people appealing incorrect welfare benefits decisions.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has now moved on to the next stage and is soon to become law, without the crucial change that we were campaigning for.

Although we are disappointed with this outcome, Scope will be doing all that we can to press the Government to make sure that the concessions that they have made are workable in practice and help as many disabled people as possible.

The support of our campaigners was invaluable in forcing the Government to open up legal aid to a number of welfare benefits appeals, as well as putting them under considerable pressure to make more money available for the advice organisations who provide disabled people with much needed general advice.

The fight is not yet over, and everyone at Scope would like to thank you once again for playing a crucial role in this campaign.

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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2010-12