April 11, 2011
TUC protest: Disabled people send powerful messages to government
Disabled people who took part in the huge TUC protest march and rally in London have sent a series of powerful messages to the government about the impact of the cuts on their lives.
They told Disability News Service during Saturday’s event why they had joined the hundreds of thousands of other protesters who took part in the March for the Alternative.
Linda Burnip, a founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, which played a big role in supporting disabled people to take part, said:
“I am hoping to send a really powerful message to all politicians, including Ed Miliband [the Labour leader], that we are not going to be messed around with.”
Stuart Bracking, a member of the Unison union, said he was demonstrating to protect services and to protest about cuts to disability benefits.
“I have been on demonstrations over the last 20 years and the visibility of disabled people is much higher on this demonstration than it has been over the last 20 years.”
Doug Paulley, who lives in a residential home, said he believed disabled people were being “unfairly punished” for “something that wasn’t our fault”.
He said the proposal to stop paying the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) to people in residential care was “really sick”.
And he appealed to the government to “stop making up stuff about disabled people and tax the bankers, not the people who can afford it least”.
Deborah Sowerby said she felt as if she was “among friends” on the protest, and added:
“There has not been enough of this coming together. There are a lot of us and we are not going anywhere and that is why we are here today.”
Adrian Whyatt, from the London Autistic Rights Movement, said:
“We need to try and get them to see these cuts are not working.”
He said disabled people were being “targeted” by the government, and pointed to the mobility component decision, and problems with the notorious work capability assessment.
Sian Vasey, director of Ealing Centre for Independent Living, said she was worried about cuts to social services, and added:
“If they dismantle everything they are only going to have to rebuild it again.”
Marian O’Brien, coordinator of Ealing User Involvement Service, said her message to the government was to not privatise services.
“We want to keep our welfare state. The ‘big society’ will not happen because they are cutting back on funding. They are dismantling the welfare state bit by bit.”
Anne Pridmore, chair of Being the Boss, which supports disabled people who employ personal assistants, said she believed the cuts had put disabled people’s rights back 20 years, while the government’s reforms were about “trying to get big businesses rich”.
“I am so angry. In three years’ time it looks like I will end up in an old people’s home. Without support, people will not be able to get up in the morning. If disabled people have not got the support packages they will not be able to go to work anymore.”
Her colleague Jan Turner said:
“I am here because of the service cuts, because of all of the money they are spending on the census and the Afghan war and the Gaddafi war and all the tax evasion.
“I think they are doing unnecessary cuts to people who are vulnerable. I am doing it for other people who can’t protest.”
Sheila Blair, also from Being the Boss, said:
“I volunteer with a lot of organisations. What I don’t want is for a lot of organisations like the ones I volunteer for to get to a position where they have no staff and everything is done by volunteers in the name of the ‘big society’, which is a lot of shit. I just get very angry about it all.”
Frank Lerner, a retired head teacher, said:
“Everything I have ever worked for in my life is being destroyed. I just think that this government is out to destroy the infrastructure of our society for their own easy ends.
“The cuts are nothing to do with what is needed, they are to do with what they want to achieve. It is dogma rather than necessity.”
Raymond Johnson, from People First (Self Advocacy), said he believed the banks should be forced to make cuts rather than disabled people.
“Obviously there are lots of people here against the stupid cutbacks. Saying ‘we are all in this together’, I don’t think so. There are a hell of a lot of people here.”
Sandy Marks said she was protesting “because I can and because when they have finished with us I will not be able to”.
Sarah Fisher, from Knutsford, Cheshire, said:
“The banks got us into this mess but it is the ones who are least able to cope with cuts who are going to be paying for it. There is no fairness in what is happening.”
“I am hoping that this will help. I think if nothing else it will give a wake-up call to the government in that not everybody is behind this ‘we are all in this together’.”
Lisa Egan, co-founder of the Where’s the Benefit? blog, said she was there
“to protest against the cuts, because I need the welfare state and the NHS in order not to die”.
Louise Hickman, from Hackney, said she had joined the protest because of the “vulnerability of support for disabled people in further education”.
Olcay Lee said: “We are here to stop the cuts if we can.”
Her husband, Andrew, director of People First (Self Advocacy), said:
“Disabled people didn’t actively put us in this mess.
“We are very concerned that cutting services for disabled people, there is no logic to where the cuts are actually being made.
“Yes, we need to get the country into a better shape but disabled people need the right support. Without the right support there will be more money [needed] to clear up the mess.”
Andrew Hart said he was at the protest as a disabled trade union member, the trustee of a voluntary organisation that was suffering from the cuts, and the father of a son with autism, who was facing the loss of education maintenance allowance (EMA) as he prepared to start sixth form college.
Riven Vincent, from Bristol, the disabled mother who caused a media storm after saying she had asked her council to take her disabled child into care because of a lack of respite, called on the government to rethink its DLA reforms, and its plans to remove the mobility component from those in residential care.
“I am marching because of the cuts that will affect disabled people, including my daughter Celyn (Williams).
“I have met David Cameron and he promised none of his cuts would affect disabled people and he has lied.”
Dean Thomas, from Nottingham, said he was on the march “because I can be here. For other people who can’t be here. The cutbacks are focused on the most vulnerable people in society. They are completely wrong.”
John, who asked not to give his surname, said he had joined the march because services were under threat.
He was scornful of David Cameron’s “big society”, and said:
“The expectation that there will be all these volunteers to do the jobs is a bit false. There are already volunteers in society. How many more are there going to be?”
Margie Hill, from Knowsley, Merseyside, a member of the Unison union who works in local government, said she believed the government wanted to target disabled people, and was going to “try to pick them off, get rid of them” and “scupper our benefits”, while any new jobs would go to non-disabled people.
Catherine Callaghan, also from Knowsley, has been made redundant from her job with Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership, which she said had cut more than 40 per cent of its workforce.
She had worked there with disabled young people, and said the loss of EMA meant young people would be “dropping out in their droves from education, hanging round the streets and there will not be people like us to interact with them to get them back on track”.
Jonathan Bartley, who is not disabled but cornered David Cameron in front of TV cameras before last year’s general election about his battle to secure a mainstream school place for his disabled son, Samuel, said his wife had lost her job at Sure Start.
“Clearly it is affecting our family, our whole community, and it is very important that the government understands that this is not what the country voted for.
“What seems to be happening is the poorest and the most vulnerable are paying the price for the financial crisis they didn’t get us into.”
John Pring is the editor/founder of Disability News Service.
March 30, 2011
The weekend of the TUC march I stayed with my friend Marisha who I met a couple of years ago when we occupied a social services office in Birmingham with other DANners. Seeing her again was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. We were also able to celebrate the sad demise of the charity that had been supposed to support her to live independently, the one some of you may know said the reason that her flat was damp was due to her breathing in it.
She was very disappointed not to be able to join the march as she has a broken leg but helped with the work for the virtual protest we had as well.
On the morning of the march I met some other DPAC supporters and a photographer who had arranged to spend the day following me around and we went to Savoy Street with our DPAC banner and some placards that we gave out to others. It was good to join up with people from other disability campaigns and to see people I hadn’t seen for ages.
We were then shepherded away by a steward with about 20-30 wheelchair users all trying to push our way through a large crowd of people to move to the front of the march.
When we did eventually arrive at the front of the march another steward tried to stop Mikael and I joining the disabled people’s section as we didn’t ‘look’ disabled. As I was wearing my DPAC teeshirt this seemed a bit peculiar but….However we did join them together with Jan and Sedley who had our banner and also don’t ‘look’ disabled either.
All went well for a while until we were suddenly swamped by people from UNISON who started to overtake us and then in Downing Street where we had to move into a much narrower column of people I lost almost everyone I was with, including the photographer, plus the banner.
We had arranged, or so I thought, for people from London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) to march with us and provide support if anyone needed it during the march but that didn’t work out either as not ‘looking’ disabled they weren’t allowed into Savoy Street to meet up with us.
Anyhow Mikael and I continued on the march and met up with Terri from Manchester for a while. It was good to see her again too.
We eventually arrived at Hyde Park but had no idea where the static protest or the space set aside for disabled people was. There were no signs and no stewards to ask, however I eventually got a text from Eleanor and we headed towards where she was.
On the way we gave out lots of leaflets about DPAC to anyone who ‘looked’ even vaguely impaired. It would have been good to be able to identify those with invisible impairments too but obviously even for us that’s difficult.
I was very disappointed with Ed Milliband’s speech which didn’t even mention disabled people. Perhaps since it was his party, the Labour party, which began many of the attacks against disabled people he wanted to avoid the issues.
Around 3 pm I headed back to the centre to find some cheaper food than that on offer at Hyde Park and afterwards went to Trafalgar Square. This started to fill up about 5.30ish and I met women I knew from Winvisible and Single Mothers Self-Defence who were there with lots of other women from Global Women Strike.
As I’d lost all my placards by then I borrowed one from them which read “ Tahrir Square, WC2, City of Westminster” It seemed hugely popular and Christine and I who had the same placard were being photographed every few minutes by people passing by.
Everyone in Trafalgar Square was having a peaceful good time and enjoying themselves at that stage of the evening. There was drumming and dancing, some speeches and students and younger people sitting around Nelson’s column singing and chanting. Us women did some chanting too my favourite being “Cuts Kill, Kill the Cuts, Eton Scum here we cum”
A little later someone used their loud speaker system to announce that the media had been sent away and legal observers arrested and 800 people kettled in Picadilly Circus. The police were also lining up at that time to kettle Trafalgar Square and we saw a number of young people being stopped and searched for no apparent reason. After distributing some bust cards to some young people who didn’t have one we decided to leave as were cold (read freezing for that) and tired by then and didn’t want to be kettled for hours.
By the time I arrived back at Marisha’s there seemed to be a full-scale battle going on in Trafalgar Square so I’m glad we left when we did.
Do I think the day was worthwhile? Short of half a million people rushing into the House of Commons and taking it over I’m not sure the government care much about our views and dissent, but it was a great feeling to see so many disabled and non-disabled people united and fighting for their futures against the cuts.
For me it is very, very important that it is us who put forward our views “ Nothing about us without us” and that we campaign for ourselves as disabled people with both visible and invisible impairments. It is important that we throw off the paternalism of being spoken for by the disability charities and work with other disabled people in unions and DPOs to organise for ourselves.
So the fight we started at the Tory Party Conference continued on March 26th but for us I don’t think it will end with the downfall of the coalition government it is the system that exploits us all that must change.
( pictures of the day by Mikael Barnard)
December 15, 2010
Hope you like it. Its not definitive – if I have time I will try to improve on it.
Thank you to Captain Ska for letting us use “Liar Liar” and photographers for the photos: Alison Wilde, Lynn Harrison, Debbie Jolly, Mikael Barnard and others. Thank you everyone for being there.
November 23, 2010
Letter signed at the House of Commons:
We believe current Government proposals are not fair or just. Cuts to Housing Benefit, replacing future secure and assured tenancies with time limited short hold tenancies and up to 80% of market rents, are an unfair and ill-conceived threat to tenants and would be a disaster for communities.
These measures will create more evictions, homelessness and fear, but will not curb high rents. They do nothing to create secure, affordable homes for rent desperately needed for all those who are priced out by the housing market. They will create exclusion zones driving out the low-paid, the sick and the poor, and their families.
We call on Councillors, MPs, tenant and trade union organisations, housing, disability and poverty campaigners and all who want sustainable, mixed communities across the UK to join in a campaign around these Action points:
• Defend security of tenure for existing and future tenants
• Resist and campaign against the cuts in housing benefit: we call on Councillors and other landlords not to implement cuts in HB where this is under local control, and not to evict tenants who get behind with their rent as a result of the new cuts in housing benefit
• Oppose raising rents up to 80% of market levels
• Shortage of housing is a result of underinvestment and failure to build – it is not caused by existing tenants of whatever race or religion
• We need regulation to control private sector rents
• We are committed to campaign instead for a programme of investment in new and improved council and other house building at genuinely-affordable rents.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join us.
Austin Mitchell MP, Chair Council Housing Group of MPs
Eileen Short, Chair Defend Council Housing
Dot Gibson, General Secretary National Pensioners Alliance
Ken Livingstone former Mayor of London
Councillor Phil Waker Barking & Dagenham Council lead member for Housing
Paul Brandon, Chair Right to Work Campaign
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Richard Downes, Brent CHIEF
November 23, 2010
DPAC members, Debbie Jolly, Eleanor Lisney and Linda Burnip, will be attending the Coalition of Resistance Conference . Linda Burnip will be speaking.
Saturday November 27
Bidborough St, London WC1H 9AU
- Unemployed/Student Rate £3
- Standard Rate £5
- Representative £10
10:00 – 10:30 REGISTRATION
10:30 – 11:45 OPENING PLENARY
Mark Serwotka PCS, Andrew Murray, Jean Lambert MEP, Bob Crow RMT, Christian Mahieux (Solidaires unions, France), Clare Solomon NUS, Heather Wakefield UNISON, People’s Charter, John McDonnell MP, Lindsey German CoR.
12:00 – 13:15 ORGANISING AGAINST THE CUTS LOCALLY
Range of speakers from anti-cuts and other organisations from around the country
ANALYSING THE CRISIS
James Meadway, Stathis Kouvelakis, Derek Wall, Hilary Wainwright
MOBILISING THE UNIONS
Alan Whittaker President UCU, Rebecca Allen PCS, George Binette UNISON
WHAT SHOULD POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES DO?
Liz Davis, Samir Jeraj (Green Party), Billy Bragg, Laurie Penny
YOUTH, STUDENTS AND EDUCATION
Speakers from recent school and student protests, Alex Kenny NUT, Jean-Baptiste Tondu (NPA student , France)
RESPONSES TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Chris Baugh PCS, Jonathan Neale CACC, Peter Robinson
13:15 – 14:00 LUNCH
14:00 – 15:15 DEFENDING THE WELFARE STATE
Colin Leys KONP, Chris Nineham CoR, Dr Jacky Davis, DCH
ALTERNATIVES TO THE CRISIS
Ozlem Onaran, Richard Brenner, John Hilary (War on Want)
STATES OF INEQUALITY
Zita Holbourne, Terry Conway, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Katherine Connelly, Linda Burnip
COR: HOW AND WHY
Paul Mackney, Andrew Burgin, Lindsey German
DEFENDING BENEFITS AND PENSIONS
George Thompson PCS, Colin Hampton (Chesterfield UWC), Pip Tindall (BBC), Pensioners’ Convention
15:30 – 17:00 VOTING, ELECTIONS AND CLOSING PLENARY
Dot Gibson (Pensioner campaigner), Lee Jasper (BARAC), Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Jeremy Corbyn MP, John Rees (CoR), Kate Hudson (CND), Chris Bambery (RTW), Lowkey, Tony Benn. Chairing by Paul Mackney and Romayne Phoenix
There will be elections for a National Steering Committee – nominations will be taken at the conference from individuals,organisations and anti-cuts groups that support Tony Benn’s statement. There will a vote on a campaigning plan for the forthcoming period. The plan of action will be amendable at the conference and will include suggestions from the sessions. This is a founding conference and we are proposing that the incoming steering committee prepare a resolution based conference to take place within 9 months.
October 27, 2010
Thank you for your support on October 3rd and 20th to help us fight against cuts to care funding and benefits. We are now trying to apply for some funding to help make our campaigns as strong and effective as possible and it would help with that if anyone who hasn’t already joined up to our facebook and/or blog could do so and please add a link from your own organisations.