Sick Bastards

The UK’s first memorial to the one million disabled people who were persecuted, sterilised or killed by Nazi Germany has been unveiled. Survivors, celebrities and disability groups were at the event, where a rose and plaque were dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust’s disabled victims. Plans for a permanent sculpture were also revealed at the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire.

Artist Alison Lapper said it had been “an amazing day”. Ms Lapper, who was the model for Marc Quinn’s statue that occupied Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth, added: “It is so important that these people have finally been put on the map. “It has been an excellent day, I hope it has opened people’s hearts and minds.”

The centre’s Stephen Smith said there had been “little recognition” of the persecution the disabled suffered. Up to 270,000 disabled people died in the Holocaust. Six major killing centres for the disabled were set up around Germany. Mr Smith said: “While discrimination against those with disability is outlawed in our society, we must work together to counter the prejudice that remains.”

Yeah we should shouldn’t we…

The draconian measures laid out in the Welfare Reform Act 2007 are now being implemented in Britain by the Labour government of Prime Minster Gordon Brown. The Act represents a wide-ranging attack on millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people who rely on Incapacity Benefit (IB). Recipients of the benefit are deemed unable to work due to poor physical or mental health.

The main aim is to force people into work under threat of poverty. The government has stated it intends to cut the number of Incapacity Benefit claimants by 20,000 each year.

Since the measures were first mooted in 2006, a campaign based on demonising Incapacity Benefit claimants has swung into operation. This has been fuelled by incessant media scare stories about Incapacity Benefit “scroungers”, “spongers” and “cheats” who claim the benefit “fraudulently” instead of working.

Features of the reform are familiar from other policy areas. First, a demonisation of a needy or vulnerable group, followed by a rebranding: so claimants become not even “clients” but “customers” (as in the just published “Commissioning Strategy” document); incapacity benefit becomes employment and support allowance; sick notes are redrafted for doctors to certify, not what patients can’t but what they can do. Next come “partnerships”, on an unchallenged assumption that the public sector has failed. The new system is farmed out to for-profit or non-profit-making agencies paid by results. This entails targets, and where targets are set, sanctions follow, for any who “fail to recover”

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