Author Topic: Yet another Tory makes offensive remarks about disabled people  (Read 6313 times)

NeuralgicNeurotic

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http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/cheshire-west-chester-council-deputy-7025284

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Deputy council leader in ‘special needs’ storm

Deputy council leader Les Ford has apologised for offending parents of special needs children by calling their loved ones ‘a burden’.

Parents, Mencap and the National Autistic Society have complained about Cllr Ford’s remarks during meetings where Cheshire West and Chester Council decided to bill parents of special educational needs (SEN) children £880 a year towards the £5,200 school transport costs.

Pupils up to four-years-old or between 16 and 19 years or with medical needs are eligible for the charge from September, which is reduced to £660 for the first year only. Low income families pay half.

Cllr Ford (Con, Helsby), who has since apologised for any offence, told the April executive meeting: “We have a burden, as everybody does, when you have a person like this in one’s family.”

Parents were also offended by the phrase ‘the state of that child’, when he told the March executive meeting: “Every parent has a duty to get their children to school, irrespective of the state of that child, whether it be SEN, autism or whatever.”

Explaining why he used the term ‘burden’, Cllr Ford told The Chronicle : “It’s our burden, not theirs, because we have to pay for these people.

“I was trying to be as careful as I could but obviously I didn’t quite succeed in their terms. They are very sensitive about it and I understand why.

“I am making no reflection whatever on their children. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s all to do with money, isn’t it?”

The deputy leader added: “They have misinterpreted what’s been said. I had my officers listen to the tape recording and they didn’t think there was anything untoward but at the same time there’s no reason not to say sorry.

“Why would I want to offend anybody? I would have no intention of doing so.

“My nephew is in the same boat. He is looked after permanently by Wandsworth Borough Council.

“He needs 24-hours-a-day care because my brother died some time ago so I know what it’s about.”


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Michelle Jones, from Saughall, whose 17-year-old autistic son attends Greenbank School in Northwich, said in her official complaint: “I am not taken to being emotional in public but this man has reduced me to tears at both meetings by his clear lack of compassion and understanding of our children, despite our efforts to educate him during our speeches.

“This is not what I expect from any councillor, let alone one that has a very important position on the council.

“It is made even worse by the very fact that this is a public meeting, broadcast live on the internet and now available for viewing on the council’s website.

“This is clear prejudice towards people with disability and it has clearly influenced his decisions on the 16-19 SEN transport issue, seeking to blame people with disabilities for the pressures that his budget is under.

“I do not consider my son to be a burden, he makes our family life more challenging but we have all learnt from him and his sense of humour.

“I am still very upset and shocked that a high profile figure can be allowed to get away with such blatant prejudice.”

Emma Shepherd, from the National Autistic Society, said: “We've been contacted by many local families affected by autism who have been offended by Cllr Les Ford’s descriptions of disabled people as a “burden”.

“People with disabilities, including autism, can and do make huge contributions to society.

“But they are too often let down by outdated and damaging attitudes and perceptions about what they can achieve.

“The mark of a good society is how it supports its most vulnerable members. Rather than stigmatising disabled people, we should be supporting them to reach their full potential.”

Stephen John, Mencap campaign officer for the North of England, was given an apology after emailing Cllr Ford “with reference to a number of complaints”.

He said: “On April 2 at another meeting broadcast over the internet, you referred to disabled children, on more than one occasion, as a burden.

“This derogatory and misinformed language is certainly not a reflection of the love, affection and happiness that disabled children bring to their families.

“It is particularly worrying if you, in a position of trust and influence, have such a view of disabled people and I would certainly hope that it was a poor choice of words rather than the misguided view it portrays.”

Seriously, do the Tories have some sort of special training for utter prats?

Sorry ... silly question

Prabhakari

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“It’s our burden, not theirs, because we have to pay for these people.

I am one of 'these people'.
Perhaps we should not exist.

He is the one who is sick.

Be peace, and have pity for him if you can. Prabhakari.     >wheelchair<
Bless 'em all, bless 'em all,
The long and the short and the tall.

JLR2

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“It’s our burden, not theirs, because we have to pay for these people"

“It’s all to do with money, isn’t it?” Cllr Ford told The Chronicle.

Yes the current Home Secretary miss-spoke herself when she referred to the Tory Party as the 'Nasty Party' she, I believe, meant to say 'We are the Nazi Party'.

Sunny Clouds

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I'm going to stick my neck out here.

Unless I'm mistaken, these remarks were made in council meetings about budgets.  In this sort of context, it is all about money and when it comes to burdens, I think he probably would also describe a lot of other heavy demands on expenditure as a burden.

It's an ugly word and as a general attitude in society I think it's something we have to fight, but from a pure financial perspective when you're drawing up budgets and determining how much to spend on what and whom, extra costs on any budget, be they sen travel costs or anything else that increases the money needed out of a limited budget, such things are a burden. 

It's like me looking after Dad who has dementia.  It's a reality that he's a burden.  He has falls day and night, he needs all sorts of stuff doing for him, he can't shop for himself, he can't trim his own toenails, he not only can't change a lightbulb, he can't tell a caregiver where the fuse box is.  And who do you think's there at 3 in the morning when he's had another expletive fall?  Don't tell me that's not a burden. 

He's a human being and he's entitled to dignity and he's entitled to  help, but like it or not, he's a burden.  He's a full time burden.

I have an SMI.  There are times when I need a lot of help.  I'm not doing paid work.  I take up NHS resources and have a council tax exemption etc.  I'm a burden.

I think that denying that some of us are a burden is sanitising things in a way that doesn't actually help us.

Now most of you reading this will know me well enough by now to know that I've got strong views on the use of language and the need to be considerate, but looking at the matter from a budgetary perspective rather than a human perspective, when you're deciding what to spend money on and what the extra costs of something are, maybe it helps to use a different word from burden, but you still have to use some word for it, because financially some of us are a burden.

I have no liking for the Tory party, but on this count, he's right when he says it's all to do with money.  When you're sitting in council  meetings deciding how much transport you can afford to provide in times of massive cutbacks, then yes, it is all to do with money.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

Fiz

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Sunny, I have to say I agree with you. I think when he talked about burden, he was talking solely about the financial burden. And the care for and provision of transport, health care, education for each and everyone of us is a burden but does not lessen our value as people.

JLR2

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Sunny perhaps had this guy made a qualification in respect of his use of the term burden, how he meant it pretty much as you have suggested, folk would not have reacted as I myself reacted.

What you were saying in your post there really is worth a thread of its own. My own father, down in Glasgow, is not 82/84 (I'm hopeless when it comes to remembering birthdays beyond my own >lol< ) and in a purely selfish way I am lucky in that I live so far away. My brothers and sisters look after my Dad who whilst not suffering any serious health problems is beginning to have problems with some areas of memory and has problems with his hearing, but for their being there I could not and would not want to be so far away and would return to living in Glasgow to care for him.

My friend in Berlin has her 92 year old Dad to look after visiting him twice a day and seeing to his injection that he needs, she also arranges all his hospital appointments. For her this means she is unable to visit me here in Scotland and a care home is not an option as her Dad will not agree to such a move or change in his life. Were it the case that I had to care for my Dad as she looks after her Dad we wouldn't be able to visit each other again until one of our fathers had passed away and in that sense particularly when feeling frustrated about the curtailing of our freedom of choice about what we would like to be able to do the idea of their being a burden is one I could understand.

stalwart

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Sunny, I agree.
The problem is when people take a word out of context and put a different meaning on it, English is a very expressive language but a word can have a host of meanings. ( In nautical terms a burden is how much a ship can carry.)   Remember the Oxford council official who banned the passion play because he thought it was about sex.   Or the councils who said asking for either a white or black coffee was racist.

We, as a community can be guilty  of this too, seeing an insult where none was intended because a word was used that was unintentional or was perceived (by us) as no longer acceptable.

I have been pulled up for using the word idiot-savant even though I was describing myself!

Saying this there are words that used to be used but are no longer acceptable.

JLR2

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"but a word can have a host of meanings"

I recently watched a dvd titled ''The Family'' with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones and were any example of the same word having different meanings depending on the context it is being used in wanted this movie has one. The word?  4 letters beginning with F ending with K. The movie for me was well worth the £3 I paid in a local Tesco store.

One word that has been mucked up by society trying to be so polite to one group that bugs me is the word 'gay'  as I grew up I understood it to mean happy, like how can anyone now dance the Gay Gordons?

KizzyKazaer

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...the councils who said asking for either a white or black coffee was racist.

Is this an urban legend or was somebody really, really that stupid...

Sunshine Meadows

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Sunny,

I think you are right about the use of the word burden especially when talking about how looking after a sick/disabled friend or relative affects a person, It weighs them down, becomes heavier over time etc. However when it comes to a Councillor using the phrase in a discussion about how much is going to be spent on paying for the transport of disabled people I do think he should have used the word cost. Given that relatives and representatives of the people needing help were going to hear what the Councillor said he needed to think more about 'the audience'. After all I dont think I have ever heard a library or street cleaning described as a burden to the 'public purse'.

JLR2

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...the councils who said asking for either a white or black coffee was racist.

Is this an urban legend or was somebody really, really that stupid...

How does asking for a black coffee with white milk sound?  I mean would that be seen as politically incorrect or would the person asking for this coffee have first explain to the idiot serving the coffee just exactly why the question was asked and how it was intended to bring about the realisation by any such T crossing I doting jobsworth that they are simply sad people.

"I don't think I have ever heard a library or street cleaning described as a burden to the 'public purse' "

To many governments, especially Tory led governments, anything without a profit margin is a burden.

Sunny Clouds

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Sunshine - yes, cost is a much better word.  Burden is a rather, er, weighted word, isn't it?

It's just that I have sat through so many meetings involving budgets where people say stuff that taken out of context sound awful but where people do actually have to quantify cost. 

It would be nice if on a wider level this news story promoted some useful discussion on vocabulary.

I think that cost is a very good word but I don't think it will always work, or maybe just not by itself.  Maybe 'extra cost' would work?

Like I say, I think the considerate use of language is very important and I don't want to be seen primarily as a burden but I just think it's entirely plausible that in this context the word wasn't meant to suggest that the costs incurred aren't justified or reasonable, merely that they make for difficulty balancing the budget.

I've sat through meetings where additional costs relating to disabled children are considered and indeed on Wednesday evening was sitting discussing how to balance the provision of a service between children with different levels of need and the budgetary impact of that mix.  Ghastly.  It was sort of 'ten of these plus thirty of those and the remainder - what did you say the new terms were, columns or bands? - would probably add up to our current budget but have we solved the issues relating to the new transport contractor yet and what about the ones from [name of neighbouring town]...'  In that context, it would be very, very easy to talk of the burden of too many children of a particular level or type of need without being derogatory.  Every single person in the room could care deeply and be totally committed to giving all the help that's needed and more to children but still use words like that.

It could be worse.  He could have been in a meeting that had gone on for a couple of hours too long, been dying for the loo, wishing he could have his supper and at his tether with working out how to balance the budget and said something like 'I've had enough of these bloody expensive kids' or 'can't we just tell the parents to educate them at home'. 

I do like the notion of playing with alternatives like cost and I'm inclined to send a couple of emails suggesting phrases like 'extra costs'.

Meanwhile I am grateful to a certain minute-taker and to the fact that certain meetings are private, for the fact that my clumsinesses and exasperated phrases in meetings about the impossible finding adequate resources for people that need them don't make the headlines.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

NeuralgicNeurotic

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As always, SunnyClouds, you raise a number of excellent points, but the Councillor's 'apology' wasn't delivered in circumstances of exasperation or of being under pressure. He had an opportunity to explain to the children and their parents why had used that particular phrasing, and instead succeeded only in  adding insult to injury. Saying 'we have to pay for these people' wasn't just insensitive and dismissive, it's inaccurate. He's not having to pay for people, he's allocating funds for a service, and that's an important distinction.

I think we all understand that when finite resources have to be prioritised, the surrounding language is often less than pleasant, but the man is an elected representative, and when speaking in public (which he was) has a duty to chose his words wisely.  I wasn't that shocked by the original remarks, pretty much for the reasons you outlined in the post above, but that wretched excuse for an apology was  unforgivable. 

NeuralgicNeurotic

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...the councils who said asking for either a white or black coffee was racist.

Is this an urban legend or was somebody really, really that stupid...

That incident was alleged to have taken place in a branch of Starbucks operating in a Glasgow library. It involved a employee of the company, not of the council.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/THE+GRIND+BOGGLES..+Shop+bans+%27racist%27+black+coffee.-a0122217507

KizzyKazaer

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 >tah< for clarifying that, NN - definitely a  >doh< story!

Seems that the Councillor being discussed was foolish enough to let slip his real feelings on the issue - what concerns me more than the language used is the assumption/belief behind it.  How many more think like him and just don't say it?