Mencap’s chief executive Jan Tregelles explains the charity’s position.
If you want to know how Tories sleep at night, how they salve their consciences or make peace with their non-existent Gods, then just ask Mencap or one of the other charities happy to accommodate those destroying the lives of disabled people amongst their ranks.
The horrible, homophobic, new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Stephen Crabb is currently a trustee of Pembrokeshire Mencap despite the main UK branch of the charity campaigning against everything he stands for. The message this sends to Crabb is clear – don’t worry, it’s not that serious, don’t expect any real consequences from Mencap for slashing the already meagre incomes of those the charity claims to support. Sure Mencap will huff and puff, will write petitions and issue strong statements, but when it comes right down to it, when Mencap are actually tested as an organisation, they will choose sucking up to their local MP over actually fighting for people with learning disabilities. That is how Stephen Crabb sleeps at night. After all, if he’s on the board of the local Mencap then how can anyone say he doesn’t care about disabled people.
Of course it is not just Stephen Crabb’s conscience that is cleared. The PR value to the Conservative Party is plain to see. Tory MPs on the boards of charities helps maintain the party’s lie that they are not really attacking disabled people, they are just helping them, by making them a bit poorer to encourage them to strive. From a purely cynical campaigning angle what charities like Mencap are doing is not just helping Tories to get elected, but also to push their vile agenda that insists benefit cuts are good for you.
Over the last week thousands of people have expressed outrage at Mencap’s involvement with Stephen Crabb. Over 11,000 people have signed a petition demanding he resign from his post. Mencap’s facebook page has been bombarded by those disgusted at the charity’s behaviour. The response, as ever from the disability industry has been mealy-mouthed excuses and a refusal to act. The main branch of Mencap say they are powerless do anything, that this is a local branch of the organisation who they have no influence over. You’d think anyone can set up a branch of Mencap, use their name and logo for fundraising purposes, and that’s just fine. They must think we’re fucking idiots. They could have Crabb removed with a phone call. They don’t want to.
Instead they are calling on people to write to him, to wish him luck in his new job and ask if he would mind awfully being a champion of people with a learning disability. It’s important that he gets things right say Mencap, despite the fact he has been getting things wrong for the last six years. Crabb has voted for every cut to disability benefits that has been implemented, including the introduction of Personal Indeendence Payments designed to remove benefits from a fifth of disabled people. He voted for the Bedroom Tax, and the Benefit Cap, and more recently in favour of cutting the payments to many sick or disabled people by £30 a week. Give the chap just one more chance Mencap seem to be suggesting when they should be showing him the door.
It is vital to keep up the pressure and make sure that charities who harbour dirty little Tory secrets learn that there will be consequences for their betrayal. Disabled People Against Cuts have released a guide to which charities have Tory MPs on their boards. And these consequnces should reach to the very top, like Mencap’s chief executive Jan Tregelles who in 2013 gave a nauseating interview to The Guardian explaining how she’s worth every penny of her whopping £137,442 a year pay-cheque. If despite all this money she can’t cleanse Mencap of politicians who support policies that have driven disabled people to suicide then she should go herself.
And it is her huge salary that is part of the problem. Charity bosses like Tregalles are far closer socially, economically and politically to the likes of Stephen Crabb, then they are to those who depend on benefits. She will never understand the icy terror of seeing a brown enevlope from the DWP drop through her letter-box. Or personally experience the constant insecurity and life-sapping stress of living under a government that is happy to condemn people to economic destruction on little more than a whim. She’s not on the receiving end of the so-called help currently being inflicted on claimants in the form of endless assessments, benefits sanctions, workfare, forced training and quite possibly soon forced medical interventions. It is all abstract to her, not something lived directly. If she is angry at all about the current situation it is because she is being paid to be.
This is the reason for the disconnect that has repeatedly emerged between disability, homelessnes or anti-poverty charities and those they are funded to support. It is not just that they don’t feel our rage, they consider it their jobs to mitigate it. To channel it in safe directions, to explain to us how we just need to trust them and see the bigger picture. The bigger picture being that they are doing very well out of austerity and would really rather the plebs didn’t derail the gravy train. We should be grateful for all their hard work munching vol-au-vents at glitzy fundraising dinners on our behalf. Here have a vol-au-vent yourself. Just kidding. As if a service user gets to have a vol-au-vent.
Please sign and share the petition calling for Crabb to resign from his local Mencap branch.
Visit Pembrokeshire Mencap’s facebook page and let them know what you think of their trustee Stephen Crabb.
Or contact the national organisation on facebook or twitter @mencap_charity
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