Labour party members have been urged to support protest events being led by disabled people who are “fighting back” against the government cuts and reforms that will push them deeper into poverty and exclusion.
The call from the party conference platform came from Dave Allan, general secretary of Labour’s disabled members group and a member of the union Unite.
He praised the thousands of disabled activists who took part in the TUC’s anti-cuts protest in March, and the national Hardest Hit demonstration in Westminster in May, and called for party members to “support disabled people and carry on the fight-back” against welfare reforms, and cuts to benefits and services for disabled people.
A series of regional anti-cuts protests, organised by disabled people’s organisations and disability charities as part of the Hardest Hit campaign, will take place across the UK on Saturday 22 October.
During a short equalities debate, held on the final morning of the conference, Allan attacked the coalition’s “empty promises” to disabled people.
And he attacked cuts such as closing the Independent Living Fund to new claimants, reducing support that helps disabled people with their mortgage interest payments, and new restrictions to the Access to Work scheme.
Allan said planned cuts to spending on disability living allowance, and proposals to replace it with a new benefit – included in the government’s welfare reform bill – were “particularly pernicious”, and would lead to many disabled people losing their jobs.
He said the “real barriers” facing disabled people were in “access to decent and well-paid employment, transport, education, care and health and social services”, and that discrimination was “the main barrier for disabled people to find work”.
Earlier in the debate, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper briefly mentioned disabled people.
She pointed to the government’s decisions to block implementation of key parts of Labour’s Equality Act and to target disabled people for “hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts… not through helping them into work, but through Treasury-driven targets against the vital support they need to live their lives.”
The regional Hardest Hit protests on 22 October have been planned for nine English regions, as well as Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, and are being organised by the UK Disabled People’s Council and members of the Disability Benefits Consortium.
The English events will take place in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Nottingham.
The previous day, disabled people and other activists across the country will be lobbying their MPs at their weekly constituency surgeries.
The protests have been timed to coincide with the progress of the welfare reform bill through the House of Lords.
29 September 2011