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The Choir That Can Never Sing Together

December 15, 2017

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Ed Sheeran- Perfect- Andrea Bocelli Version

December 15, 2017

Ed Sheeran singing with a famous, blind opera singer? What happens? A Perfect song!!

Victory For Claimants As Government Drops MR Targets

December 14, 2017

In response to pressure from the Work and Pensions Select Committee the Department for Work and Pensions has announced that its target for upholding original PIP and ESA decisions at the first stage of appeal, known as Mandatory Reconsideration (MR), will be dropped.

On 28 November the Committee wrote to DWP with concerns about MRs, which had come up in the Committee’s current inquiry into the medical assessments carried out by ATOS, Maximus and Capita to inform DWP’s decisions on awards of  disability benefits PIP and ESA.

Pressure to turn out numbers 

The Committee had heard of “pressure to turn out numbers” in relation to both the original decision and at MR stage, and that MRs simply “rubber stamp” the original decision. The DWP revealed in an FOI request  in May 2017 that one of the performance indicators for MRCs was that 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld. The Committee queried how a target for upholding original decisions could be compatible with ensuring that questionable reports are thoroughly investigated, and erroneous decisions identified and corrected. MR should be an important extra safeguard, but instead appears to be creating another “hurdle” in a process that is already arduous and stressful for many claimants, as the Committee has heard directly in nearly 4,000 individual accounts submitted to it.

The Department’s response  “categorically state(s) that  there has never been a Mandatory Reconsideration target for upholding original decisions”, and that the 80% target, “an internal measurement only used to indicate areas” where there were problems with the original decisions being made, will be dropped.

Victory for PIP and ESA claimants

Commenting on the response, Rt Hon Frank Field MP Chair of the Committee, said

“It is great news that the target has been dropped and we congratulate the Department on this response. This is a great victory for the thousands of PIP and ESA claimants who have responded to our inquiry, and for anyone going through this process, who can now go to the first stage of appealing a benefits decision with more confidence that the reconsideration will be fair and impartial.”

Found Fit For Work- Because She Shook Assessor’s Hand

December 14, 2017

Do you shake hands? I do – with people I’m meeting for the first time, and often meeting up with people I already know really well. But the classic handshake is now not the single accepted greeting, and even with strangers you must awkwardly negotiate the possibility of the kiss on one or both cheeks, or bro shake with optional shoulder bump.

But I’ve been trained to think of the unhesitating handshake as simple good manners. The same, I suspect, is true of former pub landlady Bethen Thorpe from north London, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2014. She had to apply for disability benefit, filled in a 35-page application form, and then travelled to Chelmsford, Essex, for an assessment meeting. She was turned down because she shook the DWP assessor’s hand, which was taken as evidence of her fitness for work.

The handshake, that historic gesture of good faith, was turned against her. Since then, Thorpe has had the handshake-dismissal overturned on appeal. But what lessons are to be drawn? Only this. If you’re disabled and meeting your DWP assessor for the first time – or any time – just offer up your cheek for a delicate, feather-light kiss.

BBC Training And Showcase Opportunity For Disabled Actors Leads To All Participants Securing Auditions

December 14, 2017

A press release from the BBC:

The BBC’s pioneering new training programme for disabled actors has led to all 32 participants successfully securing BBC auditions.

The development programme, called ‘Class Act: a nationwide search and skill factory’, comes as part of the BBC’s ambition to support and raise the profile of disabled actors.

During an intensive three-day workshop the participants, who include experienced actors as well as up and coming talent, were tutored in audition and camera technique, acting and business skills, script and character work, as well as working with directors on their showreels.

The disabled actors also got the opportunity to build their contacts and showcase their talents to professionals across the industry, leading to them all being offered auditions by Julia Crampsie, Casting Executive at BBC Studios.

The BBC has set challenging new diversity targets for disabled people to ensure our content reflects the public we serve, and this training is part of the BBC’s commitment to improve disabled representation on screen to 8% by 2020.

On-screen portrayal of disability is increasing with more disabled performers represented across the BBC’s output and platforms. Recent examples include BBC Three’s ‘A Brief History of Tim’, BBC One drama ‘Silent Witness’ and sitcom ‘Ability’ on BBC Radio 4.

Below is a transcript of interviews with actors who attended BBC Class Act and guest speaker Ruth Madeley, star of the BBC’s Bafta award-winning ‘Don’t Take My Baby’.

Ruth Madeley, a guest speaker at BBC Class Act who has spina bifida, said:

“I think worrying about it being a tick-box exercise is something that every disabled actor does fear. Having that fear that I’ve only been picked for a role because I’m in a wheelchair or I have a disability. Another big challenge is you think you’ll be typecast as only being able to play the disabled roles. These people here have all proven that’s not the case, they’re able to play anything and everything – they are actors and that’s what they do. I think that’s a massive challenge that’s hopefully been knocked on the head a bit with things like this. The fact that this three-day workshop has been put on is an incredible opportunity for people to be in front of directors and casting people that they never would be able to sit and have a conversation with, and ask questions to, without a situation like this – this is key for them. This isn’t an easy industry to be in, but when you feel the progress and you get where you’re going there’s nothing better. The best thing about it is being able to change people’s perceptions for me and make that change, make people challenge everything they ever thought about disability, and I’m excited to keep doing that.”

Jessi Parrott, a BBC Class Act participant who has cerebral palsy, said:

“I realised at an early age that acting made people look at me because they weren’t looking at my chair, they were looking at the character that I was playing, so that’s how I first got into it. Then I realised that actually my chair could give a different and interesting spin on the character, so acting helped me realise that my chair wasn’t something to hide away from. A really inspiring element of this course is that for once our disability isn’t the first thing people notice about us and we can just be here on the basis of our acting ability and our skill, so that’s been a real novel feeling. The arts are meant to reflect society as it is and so we need people like us to be on stage and on screen. Because the arts have been so impactful for me in understanding that I’m a valuable human being, I want to hopefully give that back to other people like me. When you have a disability people can feel even more isolated. So to know that there is that sense of community and to be in a room where everyone just accepts you as you are, rather than making your difference the most important thing about you, has just been really refreshing and validating.”

Mark Beer, a BBC Class Act participant who has second degree cerebral palsy, said:

“Everybody is in the same boat – everybody has some sort of physical or sensory disability and they desperately want to get their stories heard, their abilities seen and to be out there within the media. To see so many people with obvious disabilities that are very visible, and some invisible, with loads and loads of talent is terribly exciting. And what’s inspiring is that all of us have come on this journey together and there is strength in numbers and strength in finding a voice. And we’ve all done that now. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve learnt a lot. The casting directors, the directors, the producers have these tapes and the knowledge that there are talented disabled actors and actresses out there, so it’s time for them to use them now.”

Bill Blackwood, a BBC Class Act participant who has multiple sclerosis, said:

“I wanted to come on Class Act because it’s one of those opportunities that come along once in a lifetime and one of those things you’ve got to grasp with both hands. The workshop itself, I’ve had Q&A sessions which have been fantastic with some wonderful people. There’s also that practical base to it where we’ve been working on pieces individually, some have had monologues and some have had duologues, to develop those from a script on a piece of paper to something that is potentially broadcastable.”

Interview quotes: Credit: BBC Class Act.

16 Bloggers Debunk Common Misconceptions About Life With A Disability

December 13, 2017

One is our very own editor. Some friends of the site are also featured.

Sue Austin Tries To Create Flying Wheelchair

December 13, 2017

In 2012 Sue Austin was commissioned to perform an underwater ballet in her specially adapted wheelchair for a London Cultural Olympiad.

Ms Austin, who uses a wheelchair, now wants to see if she can create a flying wheelchair.

The BBC Travel Show met her to find out how her flight training was going.