Policy for the disabled, Terrorist acts and others

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The Independent Online

Government policy prevents disabled people from working

Government policy prevents disabled people from working

Sir: I am a disabled man, a wheelchair user, aged 26. I live in a residential home, as there is a lack of accessible accommodation in the community. I was recently headhunted for two jobs as an accessible web designer. I design and write websites that meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. This skill should be in much demand due to the current disability legislation.

Unfortunately I am prevented from taking up these job opportunities by the methods of funding for people in residential homes. The home's fees of £930 per week are paid in part by money taken from my benefits and in part from Social Services. I cannot afford to work as all money over £20 that I earn (up to the £930 per week!) will be taken off me to help pay for my fees.

Whilst I would be happy to pay towards the cost of the home in terms of accommodation, food, bills etc, I shouldn't have to pay for personal care, which takes up the majority of the £930 fee. A sliding scale, whereby a percentage of my earnings are taken to pay for the home's fees - but not all of the earnings bar £20 - would make more sense to me.

The Government's stated policy is to encourage and enable people to return to work. This is good for the disabled person - with more self-esteem and purpose in their life, and more disposable income. It is good for society, which benefits from disabled people's skills. And it is good for the Government, which has to pay out less to support the disabled person, in addition to receiving more taxes from their employment.

It is a shame, given the Government's policy, that disabled people in residential homes are prevented from working by the Government's own funding arrangements.

Wetherby, West Yorkshire

The strategic planning behind terrorist acts

Sir: Deborah Orr writes (7 September) "Terrorism is by definition randomly brutal" and "There is no political motivation behind these attacks." On the contrary, there's nothing random and everything political here. This attack sends the same message that every bomb planted by the Provisional IRA sent - "We can attack you wherever and whenever we want and there's nothing you can do to stop us until and unless you give us what we want." In the case of the Provos, what they wanted was a political settlement in Northern Ireland, which up to a point they've got.

The message of the slaughter in Beslan is the same, except that the goal is Chechen independence. To believe that the thinking behind such attacks is anything other than cold and ruthless realpolitik is to misinterpret what's going on here and to underestimate the strategic intelligence at work.

Hayes, Middlesex

Sir: Finding solutions to problems is always hindered if they are discussed using loose language. "Terrorism" is loose language, loose to the point of uselessness.

I'm 80. In 1946 I was in "Palestine" being bombed by Israeli "terrorists". They won. Their leader, Menachem Begin became Prime Minister, and in due course won the Nobel Peace Prize. He in turn had a terrorist problem, Arab terrorists. As prime minister, this ex-terrorist had taxpayers' money to buy aeroplanes, put nicely uniformed pilots in them and drop respectable bombs on houses where he thought terrorists might meet.

State violence and non-state violence are morally indistinguishable. The difference is only in the method of delivery of the explosives. The death and despair are the same. Terrorism is just the warfare of the poor.

Bush, Blair, Sharon, Putin, are all intelligent enough to become leaders, yet all too stupid to see that every time you bomb a terrorist hideout, often on bad intelligence, you are likely to kill a child or a granny, and that every time you do that you will create more new terrorists than you kill, and at that you will lose. This of course also applies to the terrorists.

Britain could stand proud in all this. In Northern Ireland we used (mainly) proper process of law, not helicopter gunships, to deal with the violence dealers and we worked to remove the base causes of tension. What a pity Tony Blair is not talking from that book internationally.


Sir: Terrorism is the structured use of terror to achieve political aims. Michelle Moshelian (Letters, 6 September) should ask herself who employs terror as a tool of political policy before jumping to conclusions. Neither the Palestinians nor the Chechens have got very far by negotiation. No more did the Jewish settlers in Palestine. The first rule of politics is to negotiate from a position of strength.

Right and wrong have very little to do with it. That strength can accrue from meaningless and immoral acts of violence is inevitable in a world which depends on the threat of violence to maintain the balance of power.

Stenton, East Lothian

Sir: Your cartoon titled "Back to School" states that "Legitimate Grievance + Repression = Terrorism" and implies that leaders who do not "get it" are dunces (6 September). This insults both the victims of atrocities in Beslan and elsewhere, and the overwhelming majority of unfairly repressed people worldwide who do not resort to terrorism. Whatever Mr Putin, Bush and Blair have done that you disagree with, this must never be used to justify or explain actions such as this. Evil terrorists are responsible - nobody else.

London SW9

Sir: In your cartoon, I believe the formula to be "mathematically" incorrect. I think it should be rewritten as: [Legitimate Grievance - Constructive Dialogue] + Repression = Terrorism.

Gurnard, Isle of Wight

Farm subsidies

Sir: We welcome the NFU's call on its members to reconnect with consumers ("Stop the whinging", 31 August). The expensive and cumbersome Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is out of sync with what the majority of Britons want. It costs consumers and taxpayers billions, it doesn't benefit smaller farmers, and it also hurts poor farmers in developing countries who cannot compete with the subsidised sugar, milk and wheat that Europe dumps on to world markets.

Next year Europe's agricultural policies are set to change; however we believe that much of its most harmful aspects will continue. While payments will no longer be directly linked to how much is grown there is no evidence that the incentive for overproduction will be removed. Most payments will be allocated according to how much farmers used to grow or how much land they have - a ridiculous fudge that will enable continued surpluses and dumping. Only around 10 per cent of subsidies will be linked directly to environmental benefits.

In our eyes, reform of Europe's agricultural policies has only just started.

We hope that under the leadership of Peter Mandelson, Europe will finally wake up to the harm its policies are causing to millions of poor farmers and finally stop dumping what we don't have the appetite for on the developing world.

Head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair Campaign

Pension contributions

Sir: I read with interest your article "Effect on wages is making pension 'compulsion' less popular, says ABI" (31 August). According to the ABI's survey, around three-quarters of respondents supported some kind of compulsion to save for retirement. Yet, only a quarter said they were willing to contribute more from their own pay packet, with the onus being on employers to provide the extra money.

While it is hardly surprising that employees do not want to see a reduction in their net pay, enforcing compulsion on employers is likely to drive wages down anyway. Such a move could make some employees worse off as they would be forced to save too much. It is nonsensical to have an adequate pension if the quid-pro-quo means falling below the poverty line before retirement.

Compulsion would remove employees' freedom to make decisions about their earnings, and for low earners with families to support, a pension may not be the best place to keep their money. While there is a need to encourage retirement saving, forcing employers to make pension contributions is not the answer.

The Government should focus on reforming state retirement provision for the lower paid and stop means- testing acting as a barrier to voluntary top-ups.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting
London EC3

Common courtesy

Sir: Instead of positive and uplifting, I found Alexander Armstrong's story of an urban breakdown ("Unfriendly cities? Just listen to my tale", 6 September) depressing, and this was purely down to the surprise the author felt at his fellow Londoners' reactions. Surely, it is only natural that man should help a fellow man in trouble, and if it has come to the point that small acts of what used to be called "common courtesy" have to be applauded in a national newspaper, then that is a sad reflection on modern society.

I spent last weekend in Ireland and found that the local population were warm and helpful without one having to be stranded on a busy highway to spark them into action. I encountered situations which, having lived in three of Britain's largest cities, made me tense and ready for confrontation, only to find that the pleasant people with whom I dealt put me at ease and were efficient and polite in the extreme.

It is time that we, in this country, look to other nations' example in the way that strangers interact and show each other more respect. We should not praise those that behave civilly to others but criticise those that don't.


Sir: I would like to congratulate you on printing the article by Alexander Armstrong.

How very refreshing it was, and an unmitigated pleasure to read. So used am I to endless reports of man's inhumanity to man, both on the small and large scale, that I almost wondered if this tale of a motorist's five-hour breakdown on a London road, could possibly be a spoof to add a ray of light to our day.

I am glad The Independent has included this short article to remind us that humanity is not all bad.

Chelmsford, Essex

US election

Sir: Like Matthew Hoffman ("I might vote Republican for the first time", 7 September), I hold both US and UK citizenship. But unlike him, I don't feel indifferent to who will win the election. I don't think I have many illusions about the choices available to Kerry in Iraq - but I don't think he's against women, I don't think he's against the poor, I don't think he wants to keep executing prisoners, I don't think he's eager to extend government surveillance of private citizens and I don't think he's positively straining at the leash to destroy Alaska. I don't fantasize that he'll usher in some new model nation - but I do hope he'll stop the rot. And right now, that's good enough for me.

Farrington Gurney, Somerset

Sir: Regardless of what Matthew Hoffman thinks of John Kerry, how can an intelligent man even consider casting a vote to retain the most venal, cynical and dangerous administration in America's history? Isn't abstinence from the ballot box a more palatable option?

London SW12

Dead batteries

Sir: Michael Matthews' letter about batteries (31 August) prompts me to write from France, where I live. All supermarkets here have a special receptacle for old batteries that are (presumably) disposed of safely. Everyone seems to use it. When I was last in England, I phoned the local council to ask why they did not make arrangements for the safe disposal of old batteries. In reply I was told that it was certainly a good idea but the council had not got round to it.

Le Tignet, France

Weighty units

Sir: Alan Tucker (letter, 7 September) is correct to state that the unit of mass is the kilogram. However, because weight is a force, the correct unit of weight is the newton. As it is difficult to visualise amounts of force, it is common to state a weight in units of kilogram-weight (or pound-weight in the imperial system), equivalent to the gravitational force exerted between the Earth and a mass of one kilogram. The suffix "-weight" is usually omitted, so that "kilogram" is normally used for both weight and mass. The numbers are the same, while the physical concepts are not.


Aircraft award

Sir: I am very grateful for Peter Popham's more than generous article about my FanWing aircraft invention (European News, 6 September). I would like to point out, however, that although he wrote that I will be honoured at the World Technology Award next month, I have been nominated for the award and that is as far as it goes! I have been given no information that has not been given to all nominees.

Director, FanWing Limited
Rome, Italy

Wise move

Sir: I see no reason to change "British Isles" as a geographical term (Letters, 7 September) but, if it must be altered to suit the Irish, why not have "Islands of the Wise" - using the initials of the four countries which make up the islands?

Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire