Disabled activists have held a “paupers’ picnic” in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament, to draw MPs’ attention to cuts they say are leaving many disabled people without enough money to feed themselves properly.
About 20 campaigners from the grassroots campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) took part in the protest in the central lobby, in which they shared bread and water to demonstrate the impact the cuts were having on disabled people.
The protesters also lobbied their own constituency MPs, on the last day before the Commons summer recess.
Adam Lotun, the DPAC member who organised the lobby and protest, said: “It is about the impact of the Welfare Reform Act and the number of people who are going to lose money from their benefits, which is why we are having a paupers’ picnic.
“Some people will lose so much money that that is all they will be able to afford. They will be living on bread and water.”
Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said they had chosen the last day before summer recess because they wanted the issue to be “the last thing on their minds” as MPs headed off on holiday.
He said: “It is not an exaggeration to say that disabled people are being left almost potless. They may be going away for the summer but we are not going anywhere.”
Another protester, Josie, from Hampshire, said: “The main reason I am here is that I think it is wholly unfair that disabled people are bearing the brunt of the cuts when it is a crisis that has been caused by bankers. It just seems so wrong. Disabled people are dying because of the cuts.”
She claims the higher rates of the care and mobility components of disability living allowance (DLA), and receives incapacity benefit (IB).
Like many disabled people, she fears that the assessment process to be introduced for the new personal independence payment (PIP) – which will replace DLA – will see her lose support.
She is also awaiting an assessment of her “fitness for work” – as part of the national IB reassessment programme – but despite her GP warning Jobcentre Plus that she was severely depressed and suicidal, she was still sent a letter warning that her benefits could be stopped if she didn’t attend her local jobcentre.
Another protester, Jean Eveleigh, from Manor Park, east London, said she had disabled friends who had tried to claim out-of-work disability benefits for the first time but had been found “fit for work”.
One of those friends has coeliac disease, and because she was found “fit for work” is now on jobseeker’s allowance and cannot afford the specialist food she needs.
Eveleigh’s friend and her partner eat nothing but beans on toast five days a week, and hope to have enough money left to buy a little meat at the weekend, but “if an unexpected bill comes in, they can’t afford to eat”.
Eveleigh said she was “terrified” that she and her own partner – who is her main carer – would “lose everything” when she had her fitness for work assessed, because she has a fluctuating condition.
She said she believed she should be entitled to PIP, when it replaced DLA, but added: “Hearing stories of what others have been through, I am still very worried. If I lose the DLA then we lose everything.”
A Commons spokeswoman said: “The lobby was facilitated in line with House regulations. A few individuals were politely asked to put their food away.”
18 July 2012