Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) must work and campaign together to fight back against the government’s “brutal” spending cuts, activists have been told.
Many of London’s leading DPOs were at an event, organised by Inclusion London, which aimed to help them develop strategies for challenging the cuts.
Kirsten Hearn, chair of Inclusion London, said: “We need as DPOs to find ways to resist, fight back and protect our organisations, our services and our people from what is now happening to them.”
Kevin Caulfield, chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC), said there were “a lot of things we can do if we work together”, and appealed to fellow activists to “continue to shame our local elected officials who are implementing the cuts without any resistance”.
He said he wanted disabled people to realise that they can “do an enormous amount with very small resources and with very few people”.
Caulfield described how HAFCAC, a non-funded organisation run by a handful of activists, had consistently challenged Hammersmith and Fulham council since 2007 over its plans to start charging for essential support.
He said HAFCAC had refused to “nail our own coffin lids” by taking part in a consultation on the plans, forced the council to repeat this consultation, and then challenged its decisions through a judicial review for failing to have “due regard” to its public sector equality duties.
Although HAFCAC lost the case and the subsequent appeal, the legal action delayed implementation of the policy for two years. HAFCAC has also drummed up local support by holding social events, printing posters and tee-shirts and “generating publicity that the council doesn’t want”.
Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, pointed to the “huge surge” in activism by disabled campaigners, such as anti-cuts bloggers, with many activists working together to fight the cuts.
She said: “We are living in quite brutal times. We have a national government that has more or less declared war on disabled people, on the social model and on the idea of independent living as well.”
Theo Harris, chief executive of Kingston Centre for Independent Living, questioned whether DPOs like hers should “stop delivering services and just concentrate on campaigning” to “protect our services and rights”, even though user-led organisations were better at delivering services to disabled people because “we understand their needs and are better able to meet them”.
Jimmy Telesford, from Brent Association of Disabled People, said there was a need to find ways to improve support for black and minority ethnic refugee (BAMER) communities, such as providing joint funding for local DPOs and BAMER groups.
And judicial review expert Louise Whitfield, of solicitors Pierce Glynn, who has challenged many council funding cuts on behalf of voluntary organisations, delivered a briefing on how to use the law to defend DPOs and disabled people’s services.
7 April 2011