Campaign 2010 Meeting Notes - 24th July 2010

Anti Benefits Cuts Campaign 2010 - Mental Health Survivors in the UK campaigning against cuts to Welfare Benefits
markR
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Campaign 2010 Meeting Notes - 24th July 2010

Postby markR » Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:08 am

at Pogo’s Cafe
76 Clarence Rd E5 8HB
Saturday 24th July 2010 4.00pm,

About 25 people were there


A Campaign against the welfare benefits cuts was introduced. These upcoming cuts were potentially pretty serious. The mood was very much in favour of some kind of protest. Some background of what the Government were doing included: Incapacity Benefit – employment support allowance was under threat for many. And the plan was to take a proportion – 360,000 people – off Disability Living Allowance by 2013. So there were targets driven by perceived financial pressures.

Also the Government have gone away to think about Further Cuts! There will be cuts on top of what has already been announced. This much they have said.

At the same time, we did not want to be alarmist and stress people out about the threats of cuts which for some, may not happen.

So the idea had been raised of some organized protest among mental health survivors to show the Government the strength of feeling. The suggestion was that the timing of whatever was planned coincided with the Autumn Budget (Spending Review). This follows the “Review” of Government spending taking place now, where everything (apart from some Health and Foreign Aid) is on the table i.e. nothing is safe.

Already there were the printed 6000 stickers – 3 flavours – Back to Work? No Chance! Hands off our Benefits! Stop the Suicides Hands off our Benefits! and Bankers – Hands off our Benefits!. That cost £105. People took away stickers to put up.

So there was the idea of a public protest and we went round and people suggested their ideas. Rather than discuss the ins and outs of psychiatry this meeting should concentrate on what we could plan, such as putting placards together, going to No 10 to peacefully protest, and doing a website. One person said he was involved with Talk 2 Croydon where local people could come together. He suggested a forum. One would be put up on the mad pride site.


One idea was that we could get a petition together and demonstrate (as we were handing it in). And we could contact our local groups. But that was thought be a bit tame for us – we were more about burning effigies etc. Other organisations are better placed with far more resources to do that.

One person didn’t think a petition alone was going to work. People at the meeting realised that it was difficult to get any strong presence in the media because we were up against thousands of other interests campaigning for their causes. We need to be unique.
So the suggestion was for a MEDICATION STRIKE. Or the threat of one. A mass refusal to take medication. Something that was going to make the Government sit up and listen.

There was a suggestion that all the Select Committees to do with Benefit Cuts were watched and their proceedings reported back to the group.

Someone thought the Government were trying to get people off Incapacity Benefit and on to Jobseeker’s allowance. Others thought at the moment you could not trust the Government to maintain any benefit that mental health survivors were on.

It was thought that the Government wanted to take some survivors off all benefits altogether. There was some surprise at this – that the Government would go that far. If they did it would be back to cardboard boxes everywhere on the streets.

So it was proposed that a small group was formed to take the Campaign forward. And that it focussed both on radical action and mainstream action. And that we have a one-day strike where every survivor refuses to co-operate with the system. That was generally accepted.

It was thought the medication strike idea would be very eye-catching to the media. W have to look at where our strength is – and one is that they are scared of nutters on the streets.

Would doctors join in with the campaign as they have done before? But then times have changed and the economy is much weaker now. There was much doubt whether professionals would help us this time around.

A doubt was expressed about the medication strike, in that it could be counterproductive. If we could come off medication wouldn’t that prove we were scroungers and fit to work? Or if the threat was that we all turned into psychopaths then that would generate negative publicity.

But another person said that the message was – if you take our Benefits away, we’ll all be on the streets, we’ll be highly disorganized and we will have no access to medication. And this (with the medication strike) is what it will look like every day. The doubter was convinced by this.

It was suggested that an alternative to the medication strike, was a period of non-co-operation where people would not turn up to doctor’s appointments etc.

There was a suggestion that we could do a March simply to spread the word and gain support for a larger series of actions later.


It was agreed that we could do our Protest to coincide with the next Budget. That was to be in October – so that gives us three months to plan.

There was also the idea of getting sculptor friends to make an effigy of Ian Duncan Smith? People at Core Arts might help with that! And Cameron – we could hang them (the effigies not the people – necessarily.) Hanging, drawing and quartering them would get attention. We’d need a good sculpture.


About money – and we’d need a bit of money to spend on the campaign. It was thought there was some money at Mad Chicks and they could be asked if they’d support the campaign financially. (Also a contribution paypal thing could be put up which asked website visitors to make a small donation to the campaign).


It was said that a lot of people with mental health issues who are on benefits actually have to pay for their medication. People on Incapacity and DLA had to pay – it was only if they got Income Support as well that they didn’t have to pay.

One person agreed this paying for medication issue was very interesting. When benefits are amalgamated and cut, where does that leave people paying for medication? If they haven’t in the past, will they have to pay in the future? If they have been paying themselves, once the changes kick in, can they afford to pay any longer? (Medication costs can easily be £30 a month plus - £7.20 per item).

It was noted that another thing that had been effective when people were campaigning for women only psychiatric wards was getting cards printed up with address of the Health Secretary (then Frank Dobson) with a printed note and then getting people to send them off.

This campaign ought to be national it was thought; – we might link up with the National User Survivor Network which would amplify our voice.
Speakers Corner – was one possible venue.


There was some talk about London venues – we might need a venue for a larger rally later. Conway Hall, Red Lion Square was suggested but expensive (unless free). Tottenham Chances, High Road Tottenham (by Seven Sisters tube) was a good one. One suggested we all got down there about 4pm on August 21st for an impromptu meeting.


A list of ideas which had been put forward had been made. There was: – Medication Strike, a sit-in at a Benefits Office, Effigies, a March, and a Petition. She said we need to think in particular about: Awareness Raising, Press Releases and Contact points. She asked us to try and prioritise these.

There was also the idea of the Post Cards – Dear Millionaire Bigwig Politician---I am appalled by your proposals to cut Welfare Benefits. I demand this and this. Signed______.

Then we hand in the Petition at the same time that we’re on the March. And the effigies will be used at the March.

There were doubts that Cards and the Petition alone would be effective.

It was suggested that we find a bigger venue, because if say in two weeks we had a bigger group to plan the campaign, we’d need a bigger venue. But it was thought that the nitty gritty of campaign planning would need a smaller group. A larger one would become unmanageable.

It was thought - best if everything culminated in one day of action.

It was suggested that a small steering committee for people to meet fairly regularly, take responsibility for specific actions.

So a Forum and Email List would be set up. The Forum would be done in about a week.

We summarized by saying we are all agreed that we will have smaller activities on the road to a single Day of Action. That will be radical and dramatic – because protests are ten a penny and most don’t see the light of day in the mainstream press. She thought the threat of unmedicated survivors was our main strength.
Unmedicated we might be uncontrollable, and if They can’t control us they’ve got a problem. (And uncontrolled – we are much more expensive to be dealt with).
So Disobedience combined with a March would seem to be potentially the most effective.

One wondered whether there was some way we could find out what the Cuts would actually be – what specifically are they going to do to us? Perhaps it needs people to take responsibility for researching Government plans and feeding back.

There was the sense that with DLA, people on lower rate (mobility and care) might be dropped out while others on higher and middle rate would drop down a level. And that you would need more points in future to receive it. Would that be new claimants or everyone? Everyone will be re-assessed.

So next we ought to be thinking of a date and a place where the effigies would get burned



Small group to meet. This wasn’t arranged but needs to be. Done
Email/contact list – Done
Forum to be put up – Done

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