Disabled people’s protest ‘will send vital message to government’


Disabled people and their organisations are hoping to send a critical message to the government with a major protest against its programme of spending cuts and welfare reforms.

The day of action on Wednesday 11 May will feature a rally at Methodist Central Hall, near the Houses of Parliament, and a lobby of MPs, while there is also likely to be a march.

The action is being led by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), with backing from other disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) including the National Centre for Independent Living, the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Disabled People Against Cuts.

But the protest is also being backed by members of the Disability Charities Consortium –such as Mencap, Mind and Scope – and is believed to be the first time DPOs and non-user-led charities have come together for such an action.

Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, said it was “absolutely critical” that large numbers of disabled people attended “to show that disabled people across the board are being affected”.

She said the cuts and reforms would breach the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and could also breach the new Equality Act.

Newman said there was an urgent need for “meaningful dialogue” with the government, and added: “All of the public sector cuts and the proposed benefits changes, welfare reforms and changes to education affect disabled people disproportionately. That is the bit that the government don’t get. This is about disabled people’s lives.”

She said the decision to work closely with the big disability charities was “not something we do lightly”, but that there had been a better relationship since they began working together on monitoring implementation of the UN convention.

While there were still major differences between them, she said, the impact of the government’s polices was “so extensive” that “for this particular period of time we are putting those points of disagreement to one side”.

Alice Maynard, chair of Scope and herself a leading disabled campaigner, said it was “very important” that large numbers of disabled people attended the protest, although she warned that cuts to care packages would have an impact on many people’s capacity to attend.

She said: “We are hoping there will be a big turnout and that the government will realise there is a strength of feeling about this and it is not a bunch of ‘whinging scroungers’.”

She also welcomed the better relationship between DPOs and the big charities. “We have been edging closer towards something that allows us to work together for some time. I think that has got to be helpful.”

But she warned that the big charities would have to be “mindful of their place” and “recognise where we come from” and ensure they do not “squash” disabled people and their organisations.

23 February 2011