Austerity testimony ‘shows the need to get the vote out’


newslatestA new user-led campaign and report aim to highlight the experiences of disabled people hit by the government’s welfare reforms, and encourage them to vote at next year’s general election.

From Cuts… To Resistance, a report by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), includes a string of testimonies from disabled people on the impact of welfare reform since 2010.

The report says disabled people have been hit nine times harder by the cuts than the average person in the UK, while disabled people with the highest support needs have been hit 19 times harder.

It was published on the same day that Inclusion London and The Alliance for Inclusive Education – two ROFA members – launched Operation Disabled Vote, which aims to encourage more Deaf and disabled people to register to vote for the 2015 general election.

The campaign will seek to persuade politicians to “prioritise the issues that are important to Deaf and disabled people”, by making their “voter power” felt.

The testimonies used in From Cuts… To Resistance are just some of the thousands of stories shared by disabled people with the user-led grassroots campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) since 2010.

The report, which includes photographs from demonstrations, cartoons and campaign art, also celebrates the victories won by disabled people since 2010.

The report says: “It is on us to make sure that no future government ever again thinks they can get away with trampling on the rights and interests of disabled people in the way we have seen since 2010.”

The testimonies include stories of disabled people affected by the government’s hated “fitness for work” test, including some whose deaths have been linked to the assessment, and others left starving after having their benefits cut.

Other testimonies detail people’s experiences with the “bedroom tax”, the new personal independence payment, benefit sanctions, segregated education, cuts to social care, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and the chaos within the Access to Work system.

The report also includes testimony from some of the disabled activists who have led resistance to the government’s cuts.

Andy Greene, from DPAC’s steering group, says in the report: “What’s been great is the way disabled people have constantly escalated our tactics.

“From demos outside buildings to blocking roads, to taking the fight to government members’ front doorsteps and then onto occupying their departments, to assembling a camp under the shadow of parliament. We’ve fought the battle on our terms every time.”

And Kevin Caulfield, chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts, says: “The last four years have seen disabled people’s lives turned upside down under the pretext of austerity.

“As our quality of life is rolled back towards the dark ages it is paramount that disabled people don’t waste their votes at the next election. Enough is enough! Get out and vote!”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, says in the report that the “scale and level of attack on disabled people since 2010 has been unprecedented”.

And Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives (formerly Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People), says: “This government is attempting to turn the clock back over 30 years.

“This is resulting in deaths, suicides, isolation, institutionalisation and unprecedented levels of poverty for many disabled people and their families.

“The impact of the changes introduced by the coalition government together with the cuts in local services are devastating.

“I believe they represent cruel and degrading treatment and I appeal to the United Nations to hold our government to account for violating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

27 November 2014