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Responsible Reform, David Cameron's Tourette's comment, Stephen Hawking at 70

Emma Emma | 14:18 UK time, Tuesday, 10 January 2012

About 300 people marched in Norwich in protest at government spending cuts

So many disability news stories have been grabbing the headlines this week, that we've opted to bring you an early news update in addition to the weekly roundup.

Responsible Reform report, code name Spartacus

This report has been put together by a group of sick and disabled people, as part of a campaign to slow the Welfare Reform bill's progress through the House of Lords.

It analyses 500 group responses to the government's official consultation on plans to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments. These unpublished responses were obtained through a series of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

Blogger and campaigner Sue Marsh leads the online group behind the report. She summarises its findings for The Guardian:
"Overall, we found that of those who responded to the government's consultation, 74% opposed the plans. On individual issues, the opposition was stronger: 98% objected to making people wait longer before they could access financial support; 92% opposed scrapping the lowest rate of support for disabled people; and 99% objected to DLA no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits."

The Daily Telegraph reports on the response of London Mayor Boris Johnson's office, such as its concerns that the reasons for changing the DLA may be solely financial.
"While some reform may be necessary and some proposals are positive in terms of simplifying the benefit and reducing bureaucracy, the Mayor is concerned that if the focus of this reform is solely efficiency-driven government, may fail to ensure that the needs of disabled people are adequately met and many will suffer additional hardship and isolation."

The report accuses the government of breaching its own code of practise, by making the DLA consultation period two weeks too short. It also questions how much the views of disabled people were taken into account throughout the consultation process.

The Responsible Reform report, code named Spartacus, was the number one trending topic on Twitter for a time on Monday under the hashtag #spartacusreport. John Prescott, Stephen Fry and crime writer Val McDermid were among the public figures supporting the campaign to pause the Welfare Reform bill, pending further consultation with disabled people.

David Cameron's Tourette's comment

In an interview for the Sunday Telegraph about his "vision for a fair Britain", David Cameron described Ed Balls' heckling during Prime Minister's Questions as being "like having someone with Tourette's permanently sitting opposite you".
It caused quite a stir among disabled readers, and the prime minister later apologised.

Nicky Clarke, a disability campaigner whose teenaged daughter has Tourette's syndrome, told the BBC 5 live Breakfast show,
"comments like this compound the myths and the stereotypes surrounding people with Tourette's in Britain".

Jessica Tomm, who also has Tourette's, blogged about her reaction:
"What do you mean David? Is there something wrong with having someone with Tourette's sitting opposite you? Are you drawing on the old stereotype that anyone with Tourette's is incoherent and swears a lot? Or perhaps you mean that if Ed Balls had Tourette's what he had to say would be irrelevant?"

Apologising during an appearance on BBC One's Andrew Marr show, Mr Cameron said, "I was speaking off the cuff and if I offended anyone, I am very sorry,".

Stephen Hawking turns 70

The world's favourite theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking has turned 70. Diagnosed with motor neuron disease at 21 and given just two years to live, he has since baffled the medical profession and maintains a jet-set lifestyle, despite needing 24-hour nursing care and communicating at six words a minute.

Professor Hawking was unable to attend the official celebrations due to ill health, but a recording of his particularly positive birthday message was played out to the audience. In it, he urged us all to:
"be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at ... don't give up".

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