disability

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Twenty-Seven Cardigans and Still Not Enough: A Torturous Style Journey

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 6:45pm in

Penny Pepper reflects on her relationship with fashion – and how punk took her into disability activism and feminism

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As with many of us, my mother was the first big influence on how I looked and dressed.

A true 60s dolly bird, her dark hair was piled into a pristine beehive and she made her own mini-dresses. The Avon lady called regularly and I remember an obsession with my mum’s pale pink lipsticks, her perfume, and the thing called a ‘pan stick’ (it was fat and beige and rolled out like a glue stick, a form of foundation that you rubbed on your face). Playing with the pan stick created a lot of mess. But mum would never tell me off that much and would instead showed me how to use it.

I was a well-dressed child, reflecting my mum’s tastes. Square-toed patent leather shoes, a box handbag, and pretty miniskirts were all mine. I treasure the photos I have (especially as my dad was a keen photographer who left quite a legacy).

Adolescence brought its usual damnation of self-awareness and self-hatred. Other voices came into the picture. I realised fully I was disabled! It was a grim awakening as to what that label meant and how others saw it. There was very little space in this worldview to be ‘trendy’ and ‘attractive’. What for? We weren’t in the market for marriage and children and it was best we didn’t have hopes for that…

I lost my way and let others dress me. In any kind of institution this usually equates to clothes that are convenient for others to assist you into, rather than what you might choose. A disabled teenager with choices? Not likely. My mum tried but had very little money and, by this time, there were new siblings too.

I still see this in disabled people now, particularly if they are in a traditional care scenario or in the grip of well-meaning parents. As an equalities trainer in a past life, I would always ask younger disabled people about their choices and why they wore what they wore – not to be prescriptive, but to encourage concepts of choice and control. Much of my life as an activist and storyteller explores this idea that, if no one is used to choices, how can they then make them, wisely or otherwise? 

In my teenage years, I hated myself and other disabled people because we were all drab and dirty and dull. I didn’t want to associate with any and went through the usual angst with the added bonus of absorbing all those negative stereotypes coming through the mainstream (at a time when the mainstream was very vanilla).

My brother Ant, two years younger than me, and I shared lots of things. And an important mutual and passionate epiphany began with our immersion into punk. 

It’s hard to over-estimate the effect and the awakening that punk in its fullest expression gave me. Many deride it as being only about fashion – the influence of Westwood and McLaren; the by-numbers nature of the Sex Pistols. But those of us from that generation know it was a kaleidoscopic rush; an eruption of absolute change. As a woman, I knew I would never be the same. As a disabled person, I learned to find a place I was comfortable in. 

My beginnings as a poet began in the punk era while barriers and discrimination kept me in my bedroom. Meanwhile, Ant travelled to London’s famous Finsbury Park Rainbow venue to see endless punk bands.

Punk radicalised my approach to style. Although now fully cognisant and having choice as to what to wear, I was still prone to the odd fashion faux pas – such as frilly blouses and long hobble skirts. There was also the time I used superglue for my Mohican. Mum was not impressed, especially as I never went anywhere to show it off. Shortly afterwards, when a charity group supplied me with a mobility scooter, I adopted a short red crop and happily raided charity shops with my mum for suitable alternative clothing – mostly black.

My punk beginnings took me into activism – disability and feminism in particular – which developed my views in terms of fashion and appearance. 

I began the journey of evolving my own style, allowing different influences when they suited me and, more importantly, made a statement. At times it felt there was a clash with my feminism because I wanted to escape the asexual categorising I had lived through come puberty. I wanted to wear ripped fishnets and ridiculous shoes. My sexual expression needed to be visual to tackle such ingrained beliefs from the mainstream.

But it was important I took my own route – as did many disabled women – to discover worth beyond following any standardised flaunting of the female form. I realised I was unique, as much as I was ‘normal’, within the vast array of difference that makes the human body.

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with all kinds of looks and, to some extent, became infamous as a peacock – making what some may see as too much effort. I’ve done hippy punk, Numanoid punk, the kaftan years (best forgotten), the brief office suit phase – and many more than I can remember. I’ve also modelled clothes, most recently bespoke underwear last year.

These days, my punk beginnings are echoed in my undercut and blunt 50s-style fringe, a love of tartan, and outrageously impractical shoes. Not forgetting lots and lots of colour. 

And there’s always room for another vintage-style cardigan.

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Britain’s Blind Farmers Are Teaching Others How to Grow

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

“All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be a farmer,” says Mike Duxbury, who lost his sight at the age of six through infantile glaucoma. Having grown up on the family farm, he was determined not to let the loss of his sight stop him chasing the only career he ever wanted.

In the late 1980s, Duxbury applied to every agricultural college in the country before being accepted by just one: Warwickshire College of Agriculture. He qualified as an animal nutritionist and graduated in 1990 with a degree in agricultural business management.

blind farmerMike Duxbury and his partner Ness Shillito started Inclusive Farm on the premise that people with disabilities should be able to participate in whatever industry they choose. Credit: Alexander Turner

“Even back then, prejudice was very high, but I learned at college to do the things I wanted to do. They gave me every opportunity; they never put up a barrier.”

Today, Duxbury and his partner Ness Shillito have established one of the UK’s first working farms dedicated to training people with disabilities for a career in agriculture.

Credit: Alexander Turner

With 10 pigs, 10 sheep, four goats and 50 egg-laying birds, Inclusive Farm aims to give students the full range of skills expected on any British farm.

With 10 pigs, 10 sheep, four goats and 50 egg-laying birds, Inclusive Farm near Flitwick in Bedfordshire aims to give students the full range of skills expected on any British farm. It is now guiding disabled students from Milton Keynes College towards animal care qualifications.

“We are a working farm, and what students see and what students do is part of that working farm,” Duxbury says. “They learn that animals need to be kept clean, fed and watered. I don’t do anything with the students that a working farm wouldn’t do on a daily basis.”

The farm has been adapted for people with a wide range of physical needs so that by a combination of touch, sound and texture, Duxbury can move around without assistance. Credit: Alexander Turner

For almost a decade after qualifying, Duxbury worked as a livestock specialist and a stud person for national farming companies. He then switched careers to work in telecoms. The money was good but the work was only a “means to an end,” so he kept on farming when he could.

In September 2021, disillusioned by a lack of diversity in farming, he set out to prove a point to the world: disabled people should be able to participate in whatever industry they choose. With the help of local friends, he and Shillito began transforming a rented acre of overgrown green field into a working farm with disability access.

Credit: Alexander Turner

The beauty of it is that people from different backgrounds, communities and with different aspirations can bring something new to farming and make it more modern, wider-thinking and more 21st-century.

The farm has been adapted for people with a wide range of physical needs, and Duxbury believes this would be possible across the industry. Each animal enclosure has a different frontage, with unique shapes cut into fencing so that by a combination of touch, sound and texture, Duxbury can move around the farm without assistance.

“From a tactile point of view, I’ve used different types of front. One will have a picket type front; one will have a post and rail; one a rail and a wire. They all help me at a glance. When I say ‘at a glance’, I mean I reach out my hands to touch. I know exactly where I am at any given point.”

Even not being able to see, Duxbury can navigate the farm on a customized golf buggy. Credit: Alexander Turner

Matting is strategically placed around the farm so that the feel of the ground can be used as a navigational prompt: “It means that, when I’m carrying buckets of feed and I’m with the goats, I’m not going to give them chicken feed.”

It is not known how many disabled people work in farming, but the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution — a national charity providing local support for farming communities across England and Wales — estimates that 21 percent of all farmers experience problems undertaking their usual activities.

Mark Thomas, of the Farming Community Network, says that many of the calls the charity receives are from farmers experiencing physical and mental health issues that can prevent them from carrying out their work. “We tend not to get calls from disabled people looking to get involved in farming, but we often do from people where a farm accident or physical illness has become an issue while working on the farm.”

At Inclusive Farm, electricity and running water have yet to be installed, but Duxbury and Shillito are already ushering their first intake of 14 students towards completion of their courses.

An estimated 21 percent of all farmers experience problems undertaking their usual activities. Credit: Alexander Turner

Duxbury says: “The beauty of it is that people from different backgrounds, communities and with different aspirations can bring something new to farming and make it more modern, wider-thinking and more 21st-century.” Beyond farming, his message to other industries is: “When you are recruiting or have people who become disabled or have issues, instead of just throwing them on the scrapheap or ignoring them, talk to people like ourselves.”

Dorset farmer Jyoti Fernandes, a policy coordinator for the Landworkers’ Alliance, was raised by a blind mother and says that Duxbury’s example has the potential to become a powerful force.

“It’s about peer support … somebody who is blind themselves showing that you can just get out there and do it, and you can have job opportunities doing whatever you feel you are capable of. People should be allowed equal access to jobs — any job that they can perform while being disabled.”

Duxbury hopes to eventually expand across more land so that the farm can grow, teach students a wider range of agricultural skills and bring more products to market.

blind farmer“The world is not like it used to be in terms of technology and attitude. There is plenty of room for people like myself to go and develop a career in whatever we choose to do.” Credit: Alexander Turner

“We’re trying to give people hope and a chance to stop thinking about limitations and start looking at what they really can do,” says Duxbury. “We can cater for pretty well every disability.”

“When I was at school, a lot of adults wanted to make decisions for us because we were that ‘poor disabled person’ who couldn’t make a decision for themselves. But we can.”

“The world is not like it used to be in terms of technology and attitude. There is plenty of room for people like myself to go and develop a career in whatever we choose to do.”

A version of this story appeared in The Guardian

The post Britain’s Blind Farmers Are Teaching Others How to Grow appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

How the Human Rights Act Helps Disabled People Live the Lives they Want

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 9:17pm in

Saba Salman reports on concerns that the Government's new Bill of Rights will leave vulnerable people without the support and opportunities they require to lead fulfilling lives

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Without the Human Rights Act, Jack Marshall could not have argued for the right support that ultimately helped him fulfil his university dream.

Marshall, who has physical and learning disabilities, has just graduated from Staffordshire University with a law degree. The 24-year-old says his achievements are down to his – and his mother’s – tenacity in challenging the decisions of public authorities about his support, often relying on human rights legislation to do that. 

“When we were looking for secondary schools, we found a specialist school but the council – as my local education authority – said there was another one that was nearer,” says Marshall, a self-advocate with charity Learning Disability England. But he knew the specialist school would be more suited to his special educational needs and help him meet his higher education ambitions.

"My arguments to the council were based on human rights,” he adds.

The Human Rights Act 1998 is a vital tool that people and their families can use to make the health, care and education systems support them better. It requires judges and public bodies to interpret other laws in ways that respect human rights.

But the Act is at risk of being weakened under the Government's plans to replace it with the Bill of Rights, which is due for its second reading in the House of Commons this month.

The Government says the Bill of Rights would reduce the “burdens on public authorities”, enabling public services to do their jobs “without the constant threat of having to defend against expensive human rights claims”.

But campaigners like Marshall worry that the new law will weaken the onus on public bodies to act and that this will damage people’s ability to argue that human rights protections must be upheld.   

While the overhaul has hit the headlines and prompted warnings from United Nations experts on rights being undermined, the impact on autistic and learning disabled people is being overlooked.

For Gary Bourlet, co-founder of Learning Disability England, "so much of what we rely on to challenge decisions about inadequate support is grounded in human rights".

"Some people are telling us that everything now feels so complex and interlinked with the Bill of Rights, that they worry they're at risk of losing some of their rights without quite realising they were under threat,” he says.

Marshall’s experience shows how the Human Rights Act has helped people secure everyday support, but his example is not the only one. 

The British Institute of Human Rights has highlighted how a parent used the Human Rights Act to challenge mental health hospitals over the treatment of her autistic son. The teenager was held in institutions between the ages of 14 and 18, handcuffed, transported in a cage and locked in a seclusion cell.

The parent successfully argued for his discharge using sections of the Human Rights Act relating to the need to protect people from inhuman and degrading treatment and respecting people’s private and family life. She challenged the decision to hold her son under the Mental Health Act, because it was not compatible with upholding his human rights. The young man now lives in his own home with a bespoke package of care and goes to a local college.

For others, like Finn Humphrey, a 19-year-old from West Sussex, the value of the Human Rights Act has only just emerged.

Humphrey has profound and multiple disabilities, uses a wheelchair and is tube-fed. Since he left his special school in July, his leisure and educational activities have ground to a halt. A carer, paid for by social care funding, supports him for two weeks a month, helping with his essential needs.

Humphrey’s support has been decimated by a combination of funding cuts, low staffing levels caused by the Coronavirus and his age (the move from child to adult social services is notorious for leaving people with gaps in support).

His mother Rowena says she struggles to find any activities for Finn now he’s left school. "His education, health and care plan [setting out a young person’s special educational support needs] is meant to last until he’s 25, but all the residential colleges I applied to refused to take him this year because they say they can’t meet his complex needs," she says. "One has said no for next year too. He's waiting for an assessment at another for 2023.

“Finn’s generally happy, if occupied. He has a gentle nature, likes being out in the fresh air as much as possible and enjoys being active. He’s nosy and inquisitive. He’s used to being busy but that’s all stopped. I haven’t used the Human Rights Act yet but I can see how it could be valuable in arguing for Finn to be able to be more active in his community and carry on in education.”

As the Government plans to blunt human rights, a recent parliamentary report shows that it should be doing the exact opposite.

A report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights has warned that people who use care services need stronger human rights protections. Autistic people and people with learning disabilities are a significant focus of the report.

It includes a survey of some 350 people, 88% of whom said they had had their human rights, or those of a close friend or relative, undermined within a care setting in England in the past five years. Examples include restrictions on care home visits remaining in place despite being introduced on a temporary basis during the pandemic. Others said care treatment was wrongfully withheld through 'Do Not Resuscitate' notices. 

“Some of the provisions of that Bill will impact on the ability of vulnerable care users to have their human rights respected,” the report states. “The Government should consider very carefully the impact of its Bill of Rights proposals on those in care settings and the Department of Health and Social Care should publish such analysis.”

The Bill of Rights comes as disabled people and families are still reeling from the harm to their rights and visibility after the Coronavirus pandemic, as Byline Times has previously reported.

The virus was the leading cause of death for people with a learning disability in 2021. Having borne the brunt of the crisis, this population is now likely to be hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, given the extra living costs paid by disabled people (an extra £583 a month, according to charity Scope).  

“It just feels that disabled people have got a rubbish hand,” says Jack Marshall. He warns of what might happen if people's legal rights to challenge decisions is removed.

“The worst possible outcome of the new Bill of Rights is that we aren’t protected under law, and organisations and local authorities think they can boss us about," he adds. "We won’t be able to go to our schools or be able to access activities or get the benefits we need.”

Saba Salman is the editor of ‘Made Possible: Stories of Success by People with Learning Disabilities – In their Own Words’. She is chair of the charity Sibs, which supports the siblings of disabled children and adults. Her sister Raana has a learning disability

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How a Cost of Living Crisis Fuels a Healthcare Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/08/2022 - 9:23pm in

Mental and physical health are all at risk when energy costs go up again, reports Sian Norris

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Even as temperatures soar in the summer’s second heatwave, thoughts are turning to the dangers of the coming winter.

The cost of living crisis, which is already affecting millions of households in the UK, is set to worsen. It's now predicted that, in January 2023, energy bills will hit £4,200 a year for the average home. This equates to monthly bills rising to £341, up from today’s average of £164 a month. 

It’s a bill rise that means even wealthier households will start to feel the pinch. But, as in every aspect of this crisis, the poorest will be hit hardest.

Take, for example, a single parent living outside London and subject to a benefit cap of £20,000. That parent could soon see energy bills taking up a fifth of their income – double the rate currently used to measure fuel poverty. 

As this newspaper has reported, heat-related deaths are becoming of increasing concern. But the threat to life and wellbeing from cold weather has not gone away, and it is the most vulnerable that will feel the worst effects of having to choose between fuel and food. 

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Children and Young People 

Children growing up in poverty already face challenges around equal access to school equipment and facilities, adequate housing that provides enough space for them to complete their school work, and access to healthy and nutritious food. 

At the same time, children growing up in deprived areas are more likely than their wealthier peers to experience mental ill-health, and to self-harm

Such issues are exacerbated by the cold. 

Although published in 2011, the Marmot Review team’s report into the health impacts of cold homes and fuel poverty reveals a great deal about the current crisis. It found that more than one in four teenagers living in cold houses are at risk of experiencing multiple mental health problems – meaning they show four or more negative mental health symptoms. This compares to one in 20 adolescents who have always lived in warm housing.

The research also found that 10% of young people growing up in cold homes felt unhappy in their family, compared to 2% of their peers living in warm housing. 

A more recent study, published in 2016, raised similar concerns. The researchers concluded that children living in cold homes are at increased risk of slower cognitive development, and higher risk of mental health problems, as well as low self-esteem, confidence and educational attainment. 

Data from April this year found that 2.5 million children are already living in households in fuel poverty – a number that is set to rise as energy prices continue to go up while wages and welfare fail to keep pace with inflation. 

But it’s not just mental health that is impacted. The Marmot Review found that children living in cold homes were twice as likely to suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma than their warmer peers. Temperatures below 16°C appear to impair respiratory functions. Cold homes lead to damp and mould growth, which causes a range of illnesses in children. 

The research also revealed how children living in cold homes gained weight, which can have an impact on health outcomes later in life. 

Older People

The cold can lead to long-term physical and mental health impacts for children. For older people, living in cold housing can cause premature death. 

According to a report from the charity Age UK published last year, around 1.4 million older people are living in fuel poverty – or one in 10 older households. Last year, more than 25,000 older people told the charity they were concerned about how they would afford their energy bills, a number set to increase as costs rise. 

Two years previously, in 2019, 8,500 people died in England and Wales due to cold homes, the majority of whom were older.

According to the Marmot Review, there was a “strong association” between excess winter deaths and lower indoor temperatures, with residents of the 25% coldest homes having around 20% greater risk than those in the warmest. 

More people die in the winter, not least because of flu viruses and other respiratory illnesses, with an estimated 63,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in winter 2020/2021. This was a significant increase on the previous year although the driving force behind the rise was Coronavirus deaths rather than the cold specifically.

The cold also has an impact on cardiovascular disease: deaths from cardiovascular disease are around one-fifth higher in winter months than the average for the rest of the year.

Because older people are more likely to be living with at least one health condition, such as cardiovascular disease, they are significantly more at risk of experiencing illness and death in cold conditions. As with children, they are more likely to struggle with respiratory diseases as a result of cold homes.

Chronic health conditions such as arthritis, or serious diagnoses such as cancer, are also harder to cope with in the cold.

Disabled People

The impact on disabled people of the cost of living crisis has often been ignored and yet has the potential to be “catastrophic”, according to the charity Sense.

Four million people with disabilities are living in poverty. 

According to research published by the Welsh Parliament, disabled people will be disproportionately impacted by the cost of living crisis and rising energy costs.

Being disabled is simply more expensive – households have to spend more on essential goods and services like heating, insurance, specialist equipment, accessible transport, specialist food and therapies. 

Even before the cost of living crisis, the charity Scope estimated that the extra costs faced by disabled people add up to £583 per month.

Research published by Leonard Cheshire in April this year revealed that 600,000 disabled people in the UK have £10 or less per week to pay for food and other essentials, while one in four working-age disabled people are struggling to pay for essentials like food and heating.

There are various ways rising costs of energy will have an impact on disabled people. Some live with conditions that make it difficult to regulate their temperature, meaning greater reliance on heating. People who need to power specialist equipment such as electric wheelchairs risk becoming confined to their homes as the energy costs mean it is a choice between electricity and heating. This will impact both their physical and mental wellbeing.

Then there’s the need to power life-saving equipment – dialysis machines and ventilators. Struggling to meet energy costs could cause very real harm. 

Despite the clear and pressing need for urgent help to prevent the cost of living crisis becoming a public health crisis, neither of the Conservative leadership contenders have really grappled with the problem – focusing instead on arguments over tax cuts which will do little to improve the lives of those not working or on the lowest incomes.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Class War – One of Disabled People’s Many Battles

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/08/2022 - 6:00pm in

Penny Pepper explains why class continues to be so oppressive for working-class disabled people

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As the dire Conservative leadership race unravels at turgid speed, class is at the front of my thoughts. 

While not as wealthy as the obscenely well-off Rishi Sunak and his wife’s £730 million pot of gold, Truss’ net worth has been cited as £8.4 million. They are clearly not politicians for the common people and I find it repulsive – obscene – that one of them will be our next Prime Minister based on the votes of 160,000 Tory members.

Working-class me was forced to go to a special needs school. It was this which first exposed me to the realisation of class difference and the inevitable buttress of wealth. I lived on post-war council estates in leafy towns across the Chilterns, always a hinterland away from the quaint centres.

I would sit next to my friend Dee on the special school bus. Occasional visits to her house opened my eyes – it was huge, with a fluffy carpet throughout, and a downstairs toilet indoors. They had dinner, not tea. Mayonnaise, not salad cream. In these Tory heartlands, we always seemed to be an afterthought – an inconvenience for the Middle England mindset. 

My family, with me the disabled child, endured greater challenges and poverty – the two are inexorably linked. To be disabled and working-class ups discrimination in a particular way, which has scarcely changed since those days. And with the oppressive ideological shift from Thatcherism onwards, it’s got worse.

Historically, disabled people from monied backgrounds were cushioned, and this led to a level of validation particularly if they were also educated. 

Maria Theresia von Paradis was an 18th Century blind Austrian composer and daughter of a court councillor to Empress Maria Theresia. Known to Mozart and other luminaries of the time, Paradis was unburdened by concerns of daily survival. 

More recently there was the late Stephen Hawking. Though openly a socialist, he was never likely to fall through a social services safety net with his comfortable middle-class background. Hawking’s class and affluence sustained freedoms most disabled people can only dream of.

Private resources provide supplementation to the scant provision provided by government and also mean disabled people can avoid the humiliation of having to jump through assessment hoops and the need for charity. This is at the heart of the ‘social model of disability’, which I have written about before in this column, whereby barriers are dismantled at a personal and societal level when opportunities are made available for this to happen.

By my teenage years, class differences were confrontational and my definition as ‘disabled’ magnified them. To be poor, disabled and from a working-class background meant no fulfilling future was expected, let alone predicted. There was nothing to look forward to – we couldn’t work and wouldn’t find any. 

This meant I was often the ‘charity case’ with wealthy, upper-class, well-intentioned social workers sourcing pots of money. These would primarily be for clothes and occasionally special needs equipment – never what I dreamed of, such as books and an electric typewriter. Why would I need culture and literature after all?

The lack of expectation permeates throughout the working-class disabled. We are groomed to expect very little and so we don’t. This links to the concept of ‘anticipatory justice’, explored by Dr Alice Baderin, who observes: “I talk to my black child about the risk he will be racially discriminated against, but with the fear that this necessary warning will lead him to feel alienated or demotivated.” 

I went on to a further education college, the only visibly disabled person there. My favourite (middle-class) English teacher had to fight to get me there. It was a love-hate experience. I didn’t flourish and felt the weight of conditioned uselessness. But I did meet many younger people from across the classes and I was at least seen as smart – this set me on my way to believing it myself.

Some middle-class disabled kids experience what one friend has called ‘the gilded cage’. Parents from wealthier backgrounds may overreact to disability – buying the best car, the swankiest equipment, and almost enjoying the extended ‘childhood’ of their offspring. This leaves the disabled adult in a conflicting grip of infantilisation – of steadfast support at the cost of freedom of choice and control. 

Other disabled people are shut away, guilt mollified that they are in the best place money can buy – and don’t need thinking about.

In his memoir Sectioned, John O’Donoghue has written that “diagnoses seem to be class-based with psychiatrists very middle-class white men. I was on a ward that ostensibly admitted patients from a largely working-class catchment area. Those from middle-class areas were on different wards”.

I have received comments from friends that include the reality that disabled people are seen as there to make money for others – like private care companies – and benefit shareholders and investors. We are kept from making a secure income, but only have worth when we contribute to capitalist production. Disabled people are the undeserving poor and become deserving when they somehow create a means to be part of this.

I may now live in the marginal space of class fluidity which often comes with a creative career, but like many disabled people, I know class still oppresses. It’s something we experience every day.

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Lost in the Criminal Justice System: What is Happening to People with Learning Disabilities in Prison?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/08/2022 - 8:05pm in

Guy Taylor investigates the lack of resources devoted to identifying those with learning disabilities and autism in the process of justice

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John was sentenced to four years in prison in 2019 for an arson offence. He has severe learning disabilities and the verbal and non-verbal functioning of a five to nine-and-a-half-year-old. On top of this, he suffers from dyslexia, ADHD and autism.

In prison, he struggled to cope. His behaviour was described as “bizarre and concerning” and other prisoners took advantage of him, giving him the psychoactive drug Spice on multiple occasions. 

“I was absolutely astonished by this case,” Andrew Sperling, a lawyer who assisted with John’s parole, said. “The impact of a prison sentence on somebody like him is so awful, not just that he would struggle to manage, but he gets preyed on by other people.”

No formal assessments had taken place up to that point. Throughout his entire time in prison, none of his conditions appeared to be acknowledged or acted upon.

Sperling commissioned a range of psychological assessments for John, which concluded that he should leave prison and be placed in a learning disability unit for the remainder of his sentence. By this point, he was already eligible for parole and nearing the end of his four-year sentence.

“I think he should have had a hospital order," Sperling told Byline Times. "As soon as I was able to get someone in to see him, they were like, ‘he’s not going to be able to cope in prison, he needs to be in a learning disability unit.’”

John’s trial would have been extraordinarily confusing. Given little additional support, he would have struggled to understand even the most basic concepts articulated by his solicitor or the judge, and would have had difficulty communicating effectively. His autism would have made the uncertainty of a long, drawn-out court case hard to manage.

“I was amazed at what could have happened at the trial, when I met the guy… he wasn’t able to grasp really, really basic concepts… if he was as bad when I saw him as he was at the time of trial, I can’t believe he was convicted,” Sperling said.

In 2008, Lord Bradley was commissioned by the Government to investigate the experience of people with mental health problems and learning disabilities in the criminal justice system. The Bradley Report was released in 2009 and raised concerns about psychological assessment and screening. Ministers committed to publishing an action plan six months later.

The previous year, the Prison Reform Trust had concluded their landmark study entitled ‘No One Knows’, which exposed issues surrounding the treatment and identification of inmates with learning disabilities and difficulties. Criminologists at the time called for mandatory screening to stop people slipping through the net.

Yet, nearly a decade-and-a-half after these issues were raised in Parliament, stories like John’s are repeated across the prison system.

Invisible People

Using data acquired through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, Byline Times mapped the number of inmates recognised as having a learning disability, learning difficulty or autism, and compared these figures to those estimated in academic studies. This exclusive analysis suggests that thousands of prisoners could be lost in the system.

Academic studies have estimated that 7% of prisoners have a learning disability, with a quarter having a borderline learning disability or learning difficulty. Nearly one in 20 (4.4%) are estimated to have autism.

Responding to Byline Times’ requests, NHS England, which provides prison healthcare in England, disclosed that 17 prisons currently recognise none as having a learning disability out of thousands, while a further 10 recognise only one. 13 prisons recognise 0 inmates as having a learning difficulty of any kind, with a further 8 recognising only one. This would include conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD.

Byline Times also requested data from NHS trusts, covering 39 individual prisons. Not one recognised 7% of inmates as having a learning disability, and most fell well below. Some conflated learning difficulties and disabilities in their data, yet still did not meet the 7% figure. Only one recognised more than 4.4% of its inmates as autistic.

To acquire this data, most trusts and NHS England used a flag in an inmate’s health record, which indicate signs of a learning disability or difficulty. This means that the numbers uncovered by this investigation do not always equate to a formal diagnosis.

Total figures provided by NHS England for 2021 reveal 2,257 inmates as having a learning disability. Using the 7% figure, this would leave more than 3,000 inmates lost in the system. NHS England could not provide overall figures for those with learning difficulties or autism.

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Byline Times heard numerous other stories like John’s.

One man was initially sentenced to a minimum term of two years for a robbery offence. He was first diagnosed with autism seven years after his minimum term ended and moved to a hospital unit. Before diagnosis, he moved prisons 23 times and repeatedly self-segregated, as he “could not cope on normal location”.

A further five years passed until he was assessed by a forensic psychologist, who concluded that he had an additional personality disorder. Like John, his case had already been referred to the Parole Board by this point.

They recommended that he could be released if a plan was developed. However, his case was adjourned several times due to delays in assessments, as well as the “inadequacy” of release plans.

His family, the victims of his initial crime, told their lawyer they were unhappy about how long he has been incarcerated. From a two-year minimum term, he had now been held in prisons and hospitals for nearly two decades.

Court Delays

Criminal lawyers who spoke to Byline Times described the difficulties and delays in accessing psychological assessment and reports for clients with complex conditions, increasing the likelihood of cases being missed.

Many said that the situation had worsened in the last 10 years, with one describing the pace of assessment as “so slow, negligently slow in some cases”.

This can be particularly problematic with lawyers who do not have an expertise in handling these cases. They are less likely to put in the significant extra effort to get an assessment at trial, or to acquire additional support for a defendant. They may miss the signs entirely.

Graeme Hydari, who has won awards for his work with defendants with learning disabilities and autism, said: “I’ve taken over cases from other firms where nothing had been done – no assessments, no applications for intermediaries, in cases where all of that should have been done.” Intermediaries are used to help defendants communicate effectively in court.

He said that he knew of firms who turn away people with complex needs, unless it’s a really serious case, or a big case as they might decide it’s more trouble than it’s worth”.

Another barrister, who preferred anonymity, said that “a lot of people don’t even look at learning disabilities or learning difficulties at all”.

A common issue raised was cuts to legal aid, which lawyers say have resulted in a smaller pool of experts available for trials. Increasing workloads, caused by these cuts and the ongoing backlog of cases, have also added to the likelihood of conditions being missed.

“The system is now much more geared towards getting people through quickly," the barrister added.

Alex Preston, of Ollier’s solicitors, described the difficulties in accessing psychological assessment for autistic clients: “Quite often I’ll ring up a psychologist and they’ll say I need three or four months to do a report. That can be very difficult, because courts are reluctant to adjourn for that length of time – particularly magistrates courts. So often the pressure is just to crack on and deal with things without.”

Forensic psychologists echoed this sentiment for learning disabilities and autism.

Dr Ruth Tully, of Tully Forensic Psychology said that “access to formal assessment and diagnosis can involve a long wait and may not be accessible in time for the court proceedings" and that "expert assessment often relies on public funding applications being made, which are not always successful. Even with increased awareness of these conditions in the present day, I still see cases where the need for diagnostic assessment is clear, yes this has not been done.”

"Although I can't go into detail about any specific case, my team members are often involved in cases where diagnosis of autism or learning disabilities is made late into someone's prison sentence,” she added.

An Alternative Path

Professor Glynis Murphy, a criminologist at the University of Kent and former forensic psychologist, has pushed for the Government to offer mandatory screening and assessment for defendants and prisoners, participating in the original ‘No One Knows’ project in 2008.

As a result of her experience as a forensic psychologist, Prof Murphy often receives requests from families to assess relatives on trial or in prison.

One case was brought to her from a mother whose son, referred to as ‘T’, had been arrested. Prof Murphy offered to assess him for the family before the trial ended and he was diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis was used to argue for mitigation and, since then, his life has completely turned around.

Despite criminologists like Prof Murphy repeatedly calling for mandatory screening of inmates, routine measures have not been adopted in prisons, or across the Criminal Justice System.

This has been raised numerous times since 2008. A joint inspection report in 2015 called for the introduction of a screening tool across the prison estate, stating, “we were alarmed that there were extremely poor systems for identifying prisoners with learning disabilities; in one prison we were even told that they could not identify a single prisoner who had a learning disability”.

Murphy told Byline Times that a change in Government in 2010, and the subsequent beginning of austerity, prevented her policy suggestions, and those of her colleagues, from being implemented.

“What we wanted, and it was just before a change in Government, was for it to be made mandatory for all prisons to screen prisoners for learning disabilities,” she told Byline Times.

“But, of course, the Government changed, prisons didn’t bring any routine measures in and there was a lot of argument about which measures they should use... I don’t know that any of them are doing it routinely.

“It was just before the austerity cuts under Cameron came in, and one of the issues is that screening does take resources, but I suspect a bigger part of the problem was motivation.”

Prof Murphy described T’s family’s relief at the diagnosis. “They were phenomenally grateful, because it made a big difference and he’s now on a suspended sentence and has managed to get himself a job,” she said.

Her own emotion about his change in circumstance was obvious: “He now has a job, a great job, his employer knows he has autism and they’ve been really fantastic to him, they’ve just been great.” T wrote her letter in which he thanked her as "I now understand who I am".

His future now looks optimistic. However, the future of others currently lost somewhere in the criminal justice system remains decidedly less positive.

A spokesperson from NHS England told Byline Times that the Government’s "new all-age autism strategy" focuses on people with a learning disability and autism and sets expectations for all healthcare services, including those operating within the criminal justice system. 

"We are committed to supporting this plan and have robust care pathways in place to meet the needs of prisoners including, implementing the NHS’s national learning disability improvement standards within our commissioned services," they said. "We are working with all healthcare providers and prison staff to increase awareness of personalised care and continue to support the wellbeing of prisoners.” 

The Ministry of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

The names of all prisoners and defendants have been changed.

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Questions from DN Readers and/or for DN Readers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 10:33pm in

In lieu of a guest post today, I’m sharing a few questions from from Daily Nous readers. Perhaps you can help with answers…

Four of them were emailed in, and one I saw on Twitter this morning and thought would be worth asking. Answers and discussion welcome. (Questions are numbered to make it easy to indicate which question you’re responding to.)

  1. A friend of mine has a physical condition which makes it impossible for her to attend actual classes. She has been trying to find an online graduate program in philosophy. I was wondering if you have a list of such programs or, if not, would you be able to ask your weblog readers if they know of such programs?
  2. I’d love to see some a post on Daily Nous offering or soliciting philosophers’ perspectives on cannabis use. There’s a ton of buzz about the use of psychedelics or casual drinking, but not much discussion on how philosopher’s use cannibas for medicinal, creative, or spiritual purposes—anywhere. I think seeing discussion of it on this platform would help break some of the stigma that is still associated with cannabis use.
  3. In your appearance on an episode of Hotel Bar Sessions, you and one of the hosts, Leigh Johnson, disagree over the extent to which philosophers have to be online in order to succeed in the profession. I think this is a subject worth getting input on from a broader range of philosophers. Would you consider a post asking about it at Daily Nous?
  4. Fellow academic philosophers, do you leverage your education and training in philosophy to supplement your income as a faculty member? If so, how? What do you do? [asked by Moti Mizrahi on Twitter; shared with permission]
  5. I’ve found in my teaching that sharing clips of or borrowing/adapting jokes from comedians can help in getting students interested in and understanding certain philosophical ideas, and I’d like to increase my store of material. Could you ask DN readers to share clips of comedians doing particularly philosophical bits? [Please include a line about what you take the philosophical content to be.]

Barriers, Ignorance… And More Barriers: The Every Day Experiences of Disabled People

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 6:00pm in

Society and politicians need to wake-up to the fact that disability is a normal part of the human condition that can impact us all, says Penny Pepper

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I wonder sometimes whether the day come when I will forget I live in a disabling society? It is unlikely.

Personal experience and the endless statistics tell me otherwise, including how hate crime towards disabled people has escalated under the Conservatives. Outright bigotry is easy to notice, sometimes it wears the smiling face of religion and charity.

Our hidden history is another factor – one of abuse, eugenics and murder. Aktion T4 was the enforced euthanasia of disabled people – ‘useless eaters’ – by the Nazis. The Winterbourne View scandal saw disabled residents pinned down, slapped and taunted. Jimmy Savile preyed on the vulnerable and disabled – I met him as a child in hospital and managed to flee.

These realities must not be dismissed as disabled people expressing ingratitude or asking for ‘too much’. Equality is not a privilege. 

Disabled activists and academics fight on to connect the understanding of disability to the root causes of all discrimination. You can provide a wheelchair user ramped access into a venue, but that doesn't stop that person from being considered second-class, annoying, needy, repulsive – and too costly. Pointless, in fact.

The repellent fall-out from such horrific histories continues to haunt disabled people. Abuse remains chronic and largely unreported because it is not taken as seriously as it is with other marginalised minority groups.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a case in point of when I have personally noticed discrimination and bigotry. For instance, a personal assistant of mine recently arrived for work and then tested positive – but I’m confronted with staffing emergencies that often lead me to make decisions to employ unvaccinated workers. I’ve written before about the care industry catastrophe; there are simply not enough people wanting to do the job.

For 26 years, I’ve run my own ‘care scheme’ within the embrace of the independent living movement using direct payments. I know my stuff. So, what do I do when the 15 in my emergency bank aren’t available? There is no social services safety net – the idea is laughable – and it’s plain we know more than they do about the reality of employing care workers. I scrape through – my Polish PA travelled over. Lessons are learned, but solutions stay challenging.

Equipped with my experienced PA, I set my work schedule. I do something I love, but it’s a road of multiple obstacles. Initially, it was general discrimination that cut across many of the tropes of marginalisation. You’re a (disabled) girl. You can’t be a writer or a wife. And you never went to university... On it goes. While angst-ridden teenagers may dream of being the next literary sensation, my added labels condemned me further.

The Government-run Access to Work scheme has been around since 1994 and, in principle, it’s a great idea. Through funds for equipment and/or support workers, it attempts to remove barriers and create equality in employment. But it persists as a truly Kafkaesque nightmare.

Much of the processing required remains paper-based – you have to print, sign and post a document in an actual envelope. At a time when online services remove so many barriers – and most other Government departments are digital by default – no one seems to know why this scheme is lagging behind.

As a speaker and spoken-word poet, I travel the country – and barriers begin the moment I leave home. 

It starts with broken pavements and the mysterious phenomena of non-paired dropped kerbs. I speed down the kerb – with its tactile paving for visually-impaired people – and then I’m stuck in the road. Not such a big deal at home in Hastings, but a nightmare in Westminster – a borough that wins the award for being one of the richest and the most scandalously lacking in access. 

The most recent time I had a meeting in Soho – a place I love with its roads of heavy history – I was late because of the lack of drop kerbs.

Complications then develop when I need the toilet. My usual approach is to use the nearest well-known coffee chain – mostly reliable for wheelchair access (though not in Soho).

Travelling can never be taken for granted. I work out where I’m legally allowed to park with my Blue Badge. They are not, like some people assume, an all-encompassing means of free parking anywhere. I seek out permitted spaces, but my success rate is as low as 30%. Why? Because every other disabled person is up against the same barrier of finding parking. And don't get me started on the massive fraudulent use of the badges…

On a recent appointment in Whitehall, I decided that the bus would be safer – as disabled bays for cars are rarities in that area. But the bus is a chore too. The wheelchair space may be taken, the ramp broken, the driver unhelpful – and that’s before the loud abuse and the refusal of other passengers to clear the space. As for Black Cabs, I haven’t the energy to extrapolate all the barriers with that option; often too tired to fight yet again for what should be basic rights in many areas. 

If work means staying over, finding a suitable hotel is another ordeal. 

It begins with an online search, which finds 300 hotels in the area. If you add the filter for 'wheelchair access', this can reduce the available options to as low as six. This is before you talk to uninterested hotel staff and ask for specifics that will ensure you have equality of service as one of their customers. I pay the same rate, after all. Then there'll always be the manager who’s utterly surprised when my PA doesn’t want to share a double-bed with me. This often forces disabled people to need a second room, resulting in double the costs.

While other disabled people will have many different stories to tell, education remains essential for society in general, and for our politicians in particular. The multiple barriers that endure are removable and not so difficult to moderate. Disability is part of the norm of human experience and, the more we all get used to this collectively, the better.

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Philosophers Create “Pledge to Organize Online-Accessible Philosophy Events” Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/04/2022 - 4:20am in

The Philosophers for Sustainability group has launched a campaign to get philosophers to pledge to “wherever possible to organize online-accessible research meetings.”

The pledge continues:

Such meetings may be organized either fully online or using a hybrid (online/in-person) model. In both cases, we will aim to make them accessible remotely by anyone who wishes to take part in them while fulfilling other requisite criteria, e.g. has had their paper accepted for a particular meeting, is a scholar in the relevant disciplines etc. We will offer such online accessibility to both presenters and participating audiences, from the start and for all academic presentations or aspects of the event. In doing so, we will take advantage of the accessibility features the online medium affords, such as closed captions, transcriptions etc. Finally, we will require no justifications or explanations of anyone who expresses their wish to take advantage of such online accessibility, nor will we charge unreasonable fees for their online participation.

The pledge is aimed at making academic philosophy “more sustainable, accessible, and inclusive, both globally and locally.” They elaborate:

Online accessibility makes it possible to include more fully a host of philosophy stakeholders whose participation is eminently desirable. Among them are low-income, disabled, neurodivergent, international, and migrant philosophers, caregivers, philosophers with dietary restrictions, and students and scholars with limited access to travel funds. Finally, online-accessible meetings make our practices of gathering to discuss academic ideas more sustainable by reducing expensive and environmentally harmful travel.

You can view the pledge and add your name to it here. Thanks to Filippo Contesi (Barcelona) for bringing it to my attention.

While I think making philosophy events accessible by making them at least partially online should be encouraged, ideally there would be a variety of philosophical events, including some that are not online at all, even if they could be.

Why think it’s valuable that there be some events that aren’t online at all? One might think it’s good if we can:

  • avoid the inhibitory gaze of the camera
  • minimize the prospects for potentially damaging contextless sharing via recordings
  • foster, through physical proximity, mutual attention, trust, and good will (see here)
  • encourage attendance at most sessions, and reap the benefits of that shared context in other sessions and discussions during the event
  • reduce the ways in which academic speech is monitored and directly mediated by corporations
  • arrange situations that make in-person accessibility more likely (having the option to offload accessibility to the internet may decrease conference organizers’ motivation to help resolve in-person accessibility issues for participants)

Additionally, because there is a value in in-person academic events, we may want to resist contributing to precedent-setting activity that hastens their elimination.

Let me briefly address a few possible objections:

“Not all in-person events have the advantages you’ve ascribed to them.” True. Big events (such as the Divisional Meetings of the American Philosophical Association) may not be any worse for becoming more accessible online. My argument is only that, for the types of meetings that would be better in some reasonable ways by not having an online option, it would be good if some of them did not have an online option.

“Some people, through no fault of their own, have neither the funding, time, or ability to attend in-person events. If events have an online option, these events will be more accessible to these people.” This is also true, and counts as a reason to have a lot of events be accessible via online means. But if I’m right about the goods of just-in-person events, we have reason to have some of those, too. My view is that it is good if we have both kinds of events.

“There’s nothing in principle impossible about there being events with substantial online components in which we get many of the goods of strictly in-person events.” True again. But I am not talking about what is in principle possible. I am talking about how things are likely to be, given my experiences and my understanding of people, and given how various events are likely to be organized. And online versions of these events are likely to be worse in some important ways. Yes, they will be better in some ways, too. So let’s endorse having a variety of types of events, from the completely in-person to the completely online.

“I don’t get anything extra out of attending conferences in person. The supposed value of entirely in-person events you’re talking about sounds like bullshit.” If this is what you think, then don’t go out of your way to attend entirely-in-person conferences. But do understand that people who are at least as smart and reasonable as you recognize the goods I’m talking about.

So what about the pledge? My hope is that a lot of people do sign it, so that it’s more likely that there will be many academic philosophy events that are more easily accessible to more people. Easy accessibility is good. But since it’s not the only thing that’s good, I won’t be signing the pledge, and I hope some other potential conference organizers refrain from doing so, too.

The ‘Big Power Off’ and the Importance of Fact-Checking

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/04/2022 - 9:11pm in

Katherine Denkinson explores the genesis of the protest against rising fuel costs and the media’s unwitting part in promoting untruths

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), a group of disabled activists from Sheffield, appeared in an article in the Star on 21 March explaining a protest it was organising in response to rising fuel costs.

Concerned and angry, the activists had planned the ‘Big Power Off’, which involved participants not using any gas or electricity on 1 April.

“The main reason we started this was because we could see the protests happening in the streets all over the country,” Jen, who runs the DPAC Twitter account, told Byline Times. “Yet so many of our members couldn’t get out to them to get their voices heard because we’re stuck in due to our disabilities and or caring responsibilities.”

Jen said the group hoped the protest would “show the Government, Ofgem and energy providers the strength of feeling that there is among the general public against the energy cost rises” and highlight the fact that “a lot of people are not going to make it to this winter”.

DPAC was not “trying to plunge the nation into chaos" but trying to get the energy suppliers’ attention, Jen added. 

Two weeks later, however, on 2 April, Karen Brady – whose Twitter bio describes her as an “author, writer, socialist, feminist and advocate for justice” – posted a tweet claiming that Spanish protestors had successfully forced the Government to roll-back energy prices by turning off the power in their homes for 10 minutes. Brady encouraged UK tweeters to do the same, using the hashtag ‘#PowerOff’.

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DPAC then contacted Brady, suggesting that she use their hashtag and pre-prepared campaign materials – focusing on a second action on 10 April.

The Big Power Off has since gained national newspaper coverage, with the original protestors seemingly being sidelined by many mainstream outlets who named and quoted Brady as the organiser. Brady’s rapid rise to popularity has led many Twitter users to question the validity of her claims.

This is a case in point of the dangers of journalists taking popular and ostensibly relevant Twitter accounts at face-value.

The Twitter Misinformation Sphere

The desperation for rolling news coverage and ‘content’ appears to have led many outlets to sacrifice fact-checking.

In 2013, the Mirror was taken to task over an article about former Arsenal player Nwankwo Kanu, which claimed that he had written-off £3 million owed to him by Portsmouth FC. BBC Sports reporter Oluwashina Okeleji called out the error, stating that the newspaper had taken their information from a fake account.

In 2020, a US radio host set up a fake Twitter account claiming that he was on a cruise ship quarantined for COVID, concocting an outlandish story which was promptly reported as fact by The New York Post

Last month, The Times published an article allegedly written by ‘Luba Dovzhenko’, a Ukrainian student who had supposedly returned to Ukraine to fight. A Twitter fact-checker and data scientist wasted no time in pointing out various anomalies within Dovzhenko’s social media accounts – including a fake profile picture (which had accompanied the article) and inconsistencies in its tweets. The Times’ Twitter account still links to the page, but clicking the link reveals that the article has since been removed. The Times has not commented publicly on the matter. 

Most recently, an ITV News report on the Big Power Off, neglected to name any of the organisers, but included one screenshot of a supporting tweet. Twitter users seeking to follow the account quickly discovered it to be a hub for COVID misinformation. Research shows that the account had been created in 2012 and posted precisely one tweet (promoting a non-existent blog) until 2021, when it became a steady stream of anti-vaccine vitriol.

The fuel protest has been shared and retweeted millions of times by various people and it is unclear why ITV News chose this account to be representative of those involved.

So who is Karen Brady? 

According to LinkedIn, she is a “founder and head hunter” who started her own employment agency (Lawden Executive Employment) in 1985, which apparently ran until 2000 and was “sold... for [$3 million] to a USA corporate”. 

Byline Times' investigation has revealed this to be only partially true. The original founder was Martyne Manning who started the company in 1985. Brady (then known as Kavanagh) owned and operated Lawden Executive Recruitment from 1990 to 1996 when it was seemingly forced into liquidation because it could not “by reason of its liabilities” continue doing business.

Following this, Brady ran the Laptop Lifestyles venture – an affiliate marketing scheme in which participants apparently make money by reposting and sharing videos from ‘get rich quick’ accounts. Her latest venture appears to be another employment agency and her early tweets reveal her to have been involved in a number of multi-level marketing schemes such as ‘Forever Living’. 

As an expat currently living in Spain, Brady’s claim that Spanish protestors convinced the Government to roll-back its energy prices carried a certain weight and has been reported by a number of outlets.

Unfortunately, the “silent collective action” Brady recommended appears never to have actually happened. In March, Madrid’s far-right Vox party organised a street protest which led to President Pedro Sanchez freezing costs and the city of Murcia held a 'lights off' protest which lasted for one minute as part of a symbolic event to highlight people’s growing concerns.

When Byline Times asked Brady for a link to local reporting of the alleged Spanish protest, she provided a screenshot of an article by EuroNews. Written on 10 April, it appears to have taken Brady’s assertions as fact because there are no links to the “silent collective action” which it mentions. Pressing Brady for a link to the actual event has thus far been met by silence. None of this newspaper's own searches have produced evidence of such an event in either the British or the Spanish press.

It is easy to look at this as a small deception to promote a greater good – but the implications are potentially more significant.

Not only has Brady’s story eclipsed reporting of already marginalised activists, but repetition of apparent falsehoods as fact damages the reputation of those reporting it – and the validity of the campaign.

A key feature of the current war in Ukraine is the war on information. The prevalence of misinformation is gradually eroding people’s trust in the mainstream media. Journalists regularly find themselves on the receiving end of abuse from trolls and truth is fast becoming harder to establish.

While it is not possible for the press to fact-check everything on Twitter, it is the duty of journalists to ensure that inaccuracies on social media do not seep onto their own platforms.

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