March for the Alternative (TUC) London 26th March 2011 -- & -- The Hardest Hit campaign & march in London on 11th May 2011.
Saturday 26th March 2011 - March for the Alternative:
"Government spending cuts will damage public services and put more than a million out of work. They will hit the vulnerable, damage communities and undermine much of what holds us together as a society."
Wednesday May 11th 2011 - Hardest Hit march
"On Wednesday May 11th thousands of disabled people, their families and supporters from all over the country will come together to protest with one voice outside the Houses of Parliament and make their feelings known about the impact of spending cuts on disabled people."
Click here for the Campaign website, oppourtunities to get involved in the campaign and what you can do to make your voice heard.
Disabled people unable to attend the TUC’s mass march and rally over government spending cuts will be able to take part instead in a “virtual” protest online.
Disabled campaigners will be at the front of the protest march on Saturday 26 March, which will start at London’s Victoria Embankment and end with a rally in Hyde Park.
But those unable to attend the March for the Alternative because of access issues, lack of support or impairment-related reasons will be able to back the fight against spending cuts by taking part in an online protest.
The campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is encouraging disabled people who will not be able to attend the protest to email a short message of support, their photograph and the first half of their postcode.
Each message will be added to an online map of the UK to show the scale of support across the country. Messages should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda Burnip, a founding member of DPAC, said: “I think this is a really important opportunity for us to show that disabled people are not just going to sit back and be attacked over and over again.
“It is really important to show people who may feel hopeless and that they can’t do anything that together we can do something.”
She said the protest would send the government the message that “we can fight back, we will fight back and we are stronger together”.
For disabled people who can take part in the London protest, there will be a shorter route for those not able to cover the whole route.
The TUC is also hoping to organise a “static demonstration point” near Hyde Park Corner for those unable to join the march. There will also be a wheelchair-accessible area for the rally in Hyde Park.
The user-led arts mental health charity CoolTan Arts and Disability LIB are organising a “history walk” at the same time as the TUC protest, which will give people with experience of mental distress and others uncomfortable with large crowds the chance to make their voices heard against the cuts.
Disabled people are already facing major barriers to equality. Guy Parckar, acting director of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability, warns that the situation is about to get even worse
Leonard Cheshire Disability published its Disability Poverty in the UK report in 2008 and it painted a very clear picture. Disabled people were twice as likely to live below the poverty line as non-disabled people, twice as likely to have no qualifications and far less likely to be in employment or to have savings. Disabled people were still facing massive barriers to equality.
Now, against the backdrop of a major economic downturn, an ever more difficult labour market and massive reductions in public expenditure, there are serious concerns that the already unacceptably high levels of disability poverty will get even worse.
Disabled people are more likely to be major users of public services than non-disabled people, so reductions in these services will necessarily have a disproportionate impact on them. When in work, disabled people are also more likely than non-disabled people to be employed within the public sector, which is facing significant cuts to its workforce.
But there are also a number of policy proposals that will have a direct impact on disabled people.
For example, the Welfare Reform Bill currently before parliament contains a number of key changes to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). In future DLA will be scrapped and replaced with a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The government has made clear that the change from DLA to PIP will result in massive savings from the predicted DLA budget. Such savings can only be achieved by either ensuring that in future fewer people get DLA, or that they get less.
When disabled people are already twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people and are already being affected by the current economic climate, this is a deeply concerning prospect.
The proposal to stop paying the mobility component of DLA to people who live in residential care has also caused much concern.
Stopping these payments would leave thousands of people without the resources to get out and about independently, and with just £22 a week to cover any personal expenses. Although the government has agreed to look again at this policy it is still on the table for the new PIP – people in residential care could be excluded from this new benefit.
While there are some positives within the Welfare Reform Bill, there are many other changes that could have a major impact. Proposed time limits for Employment and Support Allowance could penalise disabled people who are actively seeking work, but are struggling to find employment because of the additional barriers they face.
At the same time, local authorities are dealing with huge budgetary pressures, and we are already seeing crucial services such as social care (which was already stretched to breaking point) coming under intense pressure. There are real risks that more and more people will simply be forced out of the social care system – this could have a massive impact on disabled people, on the health service, which will have to pick up the pieces, and, of course, on unpaid carers who could face ever-increasing responsibilities.
When the Chancellor made his statement on the outcome of the Spending Review in October 2010 he said that those with the "broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden".
Although there has been some recognition of the need to protect disabled people from the impact of some cuts, there are real concerns that many changes could actually hit disabled people the hardest. It is the complete reverse of the Chancellor's statement about broad shoulders and great burdens.
Difficult economic conditions and changes to public services will always have a significant impact on disabled people. But when this is coupled with major policy changes that will specifically hit disabled people, there are major causes for concern.
This is why dozens of disability organisations and campaigners have come together to support a march through Westminster on 11 May called The Hardest Hit. The government must look again across all proposals, including cuts to expenditure, and make sure that disabled people are not disproportionately hit. The astonishing level of disability poverty in the UK is a national scandal – it cannot be allowed to get worse.
Thousands campaign to highlight disabled people ‘hardest hit’ by cuts agenda
Today’s Hardest Hit action against savage cuts to support has attracted thousands of disabled people, their families and representatives to a rally and lobby in Westminster. Campaigners are seeking closer Government scrutiny of plans that risk cutting essential support from benefits, care services and beyond. Disabled people are disproportionately affected by almost all public service cuts – and a third of UK disabled citizens already live in poverty.
In responding to the Hardest Hit rally, the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, has suggested there are more people with drug and alcohol problems receiving high rate DLA than Blind people. But DWP figures for November 2009 show that: 22,200 with ‘drug and alcohol abuse’ problems receive DLA but 69,000 Blind people (see: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-dla-recipients-2010.pdf for further data).
Disability Alliance Director of Policy, Neil Coyle, says:
“The inference that Government plans will only affect potential misuse of DLA ignores the facts. Even if all 22,200 people receiving DLA resulting from drug/alcohol misuse (even those with significant health problems) were cut from the system, the Government would still need to axe well over £2 billion from other DLA recipients to reach its target (of over £2.17 billion DLA cuts). Low rate DLA care payments are to be completely abolished under Government plans and the 650,000 disabled people receiving this support also need their concerns and anxiety addressed by the Minister who failed to attend the Hardest Hit rally sadly”.
“Instead of addressing the core concerns of today’s lobby – which is that disabled people are the hardest hit by the full cuts agenda – the Government reaction has stunned disabled people. The consequences of the national cuts will be avoidable deaths, destitution and additional demand for other government support, especially from the NHS, if DWP continues to fail to analyse proposals accurately. The misleading statistics from the Minister today are deeply offensive to the vast majority of disabled people who face losing very basic support.”
Government plans of particular concern to Hardest Hit:
- Over 400,000 disabled people to lose all out of work support through time-limiting Employment and Support Allowance to one year. Only 13% of disabled people supported by Pathways to Work entered work within a year – leaving nine in ten disabled people at risk of losing all support.
- 80,000 disabled care home residents to lose mobility support. The Government has publically announced a ‘review’ of this policy but the Welfare Reform Bill will prevent disabled people living in care homes accessing support under Government changes and DWP have confirmed their will be no public or parliamentary scrutiny of the review.
- Abolition of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and introduction of ‘Personal Independence Payments’ (PIP) will affect over 750,000 disabled people. The Government pledged to cut 20% of expenditure – but the policy affects working age disabled people only, resulting in closer to 30% of the support for this group being cut to meet the unexplained DWP target. This will cause significant financial hardship for disabled people across the UK – especially the 650,000 disabled people receiving low rate DLA care payments (£19.55 per week) which will be abolished under the PIP.
- Government cuts to council funds are causing restricted access to basic care service support at local level. Over 80% of councils in England will only support disabled people with critical or substantial needs by the end of this financial year – and others are already doubling fees for essential support.
The Hardest Hit march: Anger at government no-show as more than 10,000 march
Disabled people have expressed their anger after no-one from either of the coalition parties was willing to speak to thousands of disabled people who had travelled from across the UK to attend this week’s Hardest Hit rally and march in London.
Organisers have now estimated that between 10,000 and 12,000 people – the majority of them disabled people – took part in Wednesday’s march to protest at the government’s cuts to disability benefits, its welfare reforms and cuts to services for disabled people.
Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, declined to speak at the rally, while the Liberal Democrat backbench MP Jenny Willott pulled out of speaking the day before the event.
The march – organised by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) and members of the Disability Benefits Consortium – took place as the coalition government marked its first anniversary.
Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, told angry protesters that Miller had said she could not speak at the rally because she had to attend prime minister’s questions in the Commons.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said later that Miller was “not able to accept the invite because of other things that were already in her diary”, while a Liberal Democrat spokesman said Willott had pulled out “due to a variety of circumstances”.
Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, told the rally that he believed it was “more important to be here listening to you than sitting over there in the House of Commons listening to the prime minister”.
He praised protesters’ “courage, passion and determination” to “tell people in power the consequences of their actions”.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, told the rally: “I don’t consider Maria Miller to be minister for disabled people, I consider her to be a minister against disabled people.”
He proposed a motion of no confidence in Miller and the government, drawing a huge roar of approval, followed by near silence when he asked for dissenting voices.
Harrison told the rally that the coalition had “unleashed” an “all-out assault on our rights”.
He said disabled people in Norfolk were losing vital services they rely on for their independence, while people with sight impairments who had moved out of institutions to live independently in the community were having to move back into institutions because of the spending cuts.
He said: “We have come a long way for disabled people with direct action inside and outside the law. We have hard-won rights. We are not going to let them take them away.”
Kirsten Hearn, chair of Inclusion London, said the cuts to disability benefits and services, job losses, rising inflation and high unemployment meant disabled people “just don’t stand a chance”.
She also pointed to the failed work capability assessment, inaccessible workplaces, cuts to Access to Work, and the closure of the Independent Living Fund, as well as threats to equality legislation.
She added: “They say we are all in this together, but some of us are more in it than others.”
Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP, said that those who had attended the rally were also representing the many thousands of disabled people who had not been able to travel to the protest.
She said the cause of the budget deficit was “nothing whatsoever to do with the benefits you receive to make your lives both productive and worthwhile”.
Gerry Hart, a 16-year-old member of Darlington Association on Disability’s Young Leaders group, attacked the coalition’s “blatant lies” and added: “I for one will not stand by while this coalition destroys the welfare of the people it is supposed to be caring for.”
After the event, Newman said the non-appearance of anyone from the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats to speak at the rally – or even to send a message of support or an apology – was “shoddy” and “made people think the government does not have any regard for what disabled people are saying”.
She said “masses and masses” of disabled people had lobbied MPs after the march, which passed in front of the Houses of Parliament.
When asked for a reaction to the rally and march, a DWP spokeswoman said: “We are reforming welfare to make sure that the billions we spend on benefits goes to those who need it and that for the first time disabled people get proper help and support to live independent lives and work in the mainstream jobs that they want.”
She said the current system was “not fit for purpose and is failing disabled people”.
The day after the rally, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services released a new survey of its members – completed by 98 per cent of them – showing that English local authorities were planning to cut spending on adult social care by nearly £1 billion this year, with nearly a quarter of the cuts coming through “service reductions”.
Please note this article was provided by John Pring of Disability News Service.