…come join us!
To start with, Spartacus was nothing; just a name Sue Marsh and Kaliya Franklin used to launch the Responsible Reform report, which analysed all 523 organisations’ responses to the government’s first consultation on reform of Disability Living Allowance. Before working with others* (see footnote) to produce the report, Sue and Kaliya had been campaigning for 18 months against the portrayal by politicians and media of disabled and sick people as scroungers. They realised that if they didn’t fight, no-one would.
At first they felt as if they were lone voices, but slowly but surely people began to listen and respond – the proverbial snowball took shape, from press contacts to those who until that moment had felt alone and isolated with no voice. More and more people joined forces and responded to the call for help, especially those who gave almost more than they could to the mammoth task of researching and writing the report; others tweeted, emailed and blogged. The true impact could only be felt once the ‘Spartacus Report’ went live – the buzz in forums, on twitter and elsewhere was palpable.
The report’s authors* had done their best, primed as many contacts as possible and when the call went out to say simply ‘I am Spartacus – hear my story’ the snowball turned into an avalanche 3 million tweets – #spartacusreport trended all day – simply put, this was the biggest social media campaign ever.
People rallied like never before, many voices as one, with a clear aim: responsible welfare reform. People sent letters and briefings to the Lords and briefings for the media – and felt the buzz when Sue went on Newsnight. The Government was so worried about the report that Ministers wrote to the Lords to try to undermine it. The viewing figures for the Lords debate must have been massive that day – to get one amendment though was amazing but five was miraculous. The defeat could have been bigger if the government hadn’t been forced to make such big concessions.
In one amazing week a movement was born – it wasn’t planned or thought out because those two lone voices and others working so hard behind the scenes* simply never dared hope for this.
The emerging movement has led to the creation of this Spartacus hub – a website dedicated to informing and supporting people to make a difference and get involved. It’s not just for people who are sick and disabled but for anyone who, like us, believes that reform must be fair and responsible.
Political influence is key and Sue and Kaliya have achieved a great deal through careful working behind the scenes. Spartacus is concerned about all aspects of welfare reform that affect disabled and sick people but we currently have a particular focus on the proposals for Personal Independence Payment, which under the Welfare Reform Bill is set to replace Disability Living Allowance for working age adults from 2013.
Three simple principles guide Sue, Kaliya and the wider Spartacus movement:
- We strive for accuracy, as this helps us to maintain credibility and therefore influence
- We support rather than criticise other groups and charities
- We try to fill the gaps left by other groups and charities
This is where YOU come in – the next steps. Remember, alone we whisper, TOGETHER WE SHOUT. Some activities need careful coordination to have an effect; we have seen this time and time again. Other actions, though, can be undertaken by anyone as we follow Sue and Kaliya’s vision.
So what can YOU do?
- Talk to people who don’t know about the Welfare Reform Bill and what it means – there are links on the website to information that will help
- Can you get more people to sign Pat’s Petition? We seem to have stalled at about 30,000 signatures; we need to ask people who currently have no idea of the risks we face, so we can get to the 100,000 signatures we need for Parliament to take notice of us. Help us get there!
- Think about people you know who may be affected. Are you in a union, church or club, or do you know someone who is? Think about all the people you know or talk to who might help – maybe a social worker, doctor or anyone who could lend weight and another voice to ours, so it shouts even louder
- Could you put up a poster?
- Maybe you could post information in an online forum
- Tell us what you need to spread the word – template letters, leaflets, posters – or perhaps you’re brilliant at that and could make one for others to use
- Think about your skills – even if you don’t think you have anything to offer, just by taking part you can make a difference; each small action helps to build the bigger picture
- Spread the positives – it’s important that as well as campaigning for responsible reform we remind those who label us as scroungers that collectively, for example, we spend £80 billion pounds a year in the UK economy
There will be more resources coming but of course it takes time – if we need specific help we’ll put out an appeal –your skills and talent will be brilliant later on!
No matter what, the efforts of two women inspiring & joining forces with others could not have grown into this without hard work, faith in the process and a little bit of magic…
* Authors of Responsible Reform, the ‘Spartacus’ Report: Sarah Campbell; Anon; ME; Sue Marsh, Kaliya Franklin; Declan Gaffney; Anon; Mason Dixon, autistic; Leigh James; Sam Barnett-Cormack; Rhydian Fon-James; Dawn Willis; Anon