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Friday, April 20, 2012

An Open Letter To Sick And Disabled People In The U.K.

Yesterday, I posted my letter to Minister Chris Grayling ( and I have been profoundly moved by your e-mails and tweets of gratitude and thanks. 

 Although I reside across the pond in Canada, I've been following the crisis for Britain's sick and disabled with keen interest since the first "Hardest Hit" march last May and am striving to build a Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) complaint against the United Kingdom with the United Nations.  I'm disabled myself (born with cerebral palsy), and have been reporting to the UN's CRPD Secretariat for several months, as it is critical that they be fully informed about the crushing austerity measures, the welfare reforms, and the means-testing (i.e. Atos)—all of which has resulted in a calamity of deaths and suicides of sick and disabled people due to destitution and withdrawn disability benefits.  
I followed the Welfare Reform Bill debates via BBC Democracy Live, read verbatim Parliamentary Hansard transcripts, and watched with horror as the Tory Government defeated all of the House of Lords amendments through the heavy-handed use of "financial privilege."  In early March, I wrote to the Queen and appealed to her not to give the Welfare Reform Bill her royal assent—a last ditch effort which, of course, ended in failure on March 8th when that legislation officially was signed into law.

I supported the Spartacus Report campaign on Twitter from the outset, often getting up very early in the morning to "tweet" because Britain is five hours ahead of Montreal, Canada where I reside.  (I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the outstanding efforts of disability activists and campaigners in the U.K., many of whom are fighting the government in spite of their own severe ill health, particularly Sue Marsh, who has been hospitalized several times recently.  (Her battle against the government's austerity measures and reforms has taken a very high cost on her health.)  I want to thank both her and Kaliya Franklin for taking me under their wing. 

I've railed against The Sun's and Daily Mail's "benefit cheats" campaign, which has been endorsed by the government.  It has done incalculable harm to the reputation of genuine sick and disabled people, who have been vilified as "scroungers" and verbally and physically attacked in public as a direct consequence.  Reports from the government and the police indicate that disability hate crime is rising.  (Months ago, I wrote to Maria Miller, Minister for the Disabled, asking her to send cease and desist letters to the offending newspapers publishing "benefit cheat" stories, but she never bothered to respond.  And I am not hopeful either that Minister Chris Grayling will reply to my latest missive.)  

I've read numerous articles and reports pertaining to the Welfare Reform Bill, including two Joint Committee on Human Rights reports to the government—as well as a plethora of news articles on the plight of the long-term sick and disabled.  There is no doubt in my mind that Britain is violating United Nations, CRPD, and European human rights treaties.  

I consulted with a Canadian law professor who specializes in human rights legislation who's physically disabled himself, and he queried a solicitor in Britain. They both believe that a judicial review of the Welfare Reform bill is sorely needed—but that's an expensive proposition since the plaintiff might be ordered to pay the court costs of the defendant (i.e. the government) as well as his own.  

I have asked Paul Farmer, CEO of the health charity Mind, who recently resigned from the oversight work capability assessment (WCA) panel, to verify if a judicial review is required before a court injunction can be sought to slow, or even halt, the assessments by Atos until they are deemed fit for purpose.  His response, just two days ago, was that he would consult with his team and get back to me with an answer.

I would like to encourage sick and disabled people in Britain to e-mail me at with stories of their plight.  I may share your letters and documents with officials of the United Nations, but will seek your permission to do so in advance.  There is an encouraging development that I would like to bring to your attention:

Again, I want to thank you for your kind support.

In solidarity,

Samuel Miller.

Samuel Miller
Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard
(Montreal, Canada)


  1. Any small bit of encouraging news, any snippet of hope is what is keeping many of us going at this time. It is heartwarming to hear that there are people concerned about us and what is happening to us in other countries that we may not even be aware of. I add my thanks and support to you for your interest and support in us and our plight. Your letter to Chris Grayling was excellent and hugely uplifting for me as I chanced upon it at the very time I was once again being harassed by DWP and feared for my future. Thank you doesn't feel nearly enough as I have said all along about our brave activists but it is from the heart.

  2. Help in the fight is appreciated wherever it comes from. My own case is with Grayling for the second time but I don't expect anything of note to come back from it. His last reponse to my plight was nothing but rhetoric about helping us all into work.
    Something must be done and if we do manage to get the means to fight we could achieve amazing things.

    Well done.

  3. Thank you so much for the interest you have been taking in how disabled people are faring here in the UK. For many of us it has been non stop campaigning since early last year, often on an individual basis as we have had no idea where other campaigners were until Sue Marsh got going. I was on the Hardest Hit march, which had an almost biblical quality to it, with even people in recumbent chairs there to make a point. I think from that day on we were aware of what difficulties we are in - the absence of the Minister from the days events spoke volumes. Since then things have deteriorated further, and the passing of the Health and Social Care bill on top of the Welfare reform bill has put even further pressure on some of the most fragile people in our land. Before becoming disabled myself I worked as a freelance community artist with a bunch of amazing people in Walsall, an area with huge social divides. The people I worked with were part of a council service, and had an enlightened and very active programme of empowering and bringing disabled people out of the day centres and into public view and over about fifteen years that is what they have done with a lot of success. I fear that all that hard work will now be undone as services, financial support, care packages, transport, and healthcare provision become severely limited. There is also the fear element; as cuts have got deeper there has been a tendency in the press to scapegoat minority groups one after the other, the disabled have been very unfairly targeted with an increase in hate crime against them. All of this is making people fearful to leave their homes, but also sometimes unable to. I would like to thank you for taking an interest in us, it is heartening to know that there are people outside of the UK who are voicing this calamity. So far only 8% of planned cuts have been implemented, and when all the changes are implemented too there will be more casualties. Your actions may help slow this process a little. Welfare Reform has been pushed through so fast and I have asked many people about how this could be queried legally, and nobody really had any clear answers. I too believe it calls for a judicial review, especially as I think reform of this nature should have been a cross-party process, as it is affecting core aspects of the way our country is run. Please keep up the amazing work you are doing. We need witnesses to this, and you are one of them. My thanks again.

  4. Pat's Petition thanks you so much for your support. We have shared this article on our Face Book Page.

    We are currently supporting the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee for Human Rights in their demand for an Impact Statement on the Welfare reforms under a UN protocol on Independent Living for people with disability.

    We need 100,000 signatures (sorry UK residents only) for our petition to the UK Parliament to get a pause for reflection before any more harm is done.

    Please share and get every one to sign Pat's Petition at -
    Share button on petition

    See Pat's Petition on FaceBook