Activists who took part in a mass march against the government’s spending plans have called on other disabled people to join the fight against the cuts.
The protest – whose disabled participants wore tee-shirts saying “Cuts Kill” – passed close to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham on Sunday.
It also marked the launch of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), a new disabled people’s organisation set up to campaign against the coalition government’s spending cuts.
Organisers estimated that as many as 150 disabled people took part, despite heavy rain, coming from as far as Scotland, Manchester and London.
Eleanor Lisney, one of the organisers of the disabled people’s protest, which was part of a larger march against the cuts, said: “I think it showed the strength of solidarity against the cuts.”
Many protesters were angry about proposed cuts to spending and new assessments for those on disability living allowance (DLA), she said.
She said many disabled people were openly discussing suicide because of their fear about possible cuts to their support and benefits.
She said: “People are considering suicide because they don’t have the right food, they are not going to be heated in the winter and will not be able to go out, so they feel suicidal. If we can’t have a life worth living, that is what a lot of people will feel.
“A lot of people are in fear that they might not be getting DLA after these reassessments. It’s not easy now, but it’s going to be even tougher.”
She added: “We have to keep fighting. If we don’t we might lose the progress we have made over the years.”
Sam Brackenbury, another disabled protester who took part in the march, also warned that disabled people were threatening to kill themselves because they were so worried about the cuts.
He said: “[The government] may not realise it but this is going to kill people. People don’t realise how difficult this is going to be.”
Brackenbury said the government had “no intention of backing off” and so it was vital for disabled people to contact their MPs to protest about the cuts.
He said: “It’s down to personal responsibility. We have to keep the pressure on.
“It’s about getting the community out there, realising that if you want to make a difference in your house it doesn’t start in the House of Commons, it starts in your own street.”
Another disabled protester, Pete Millington, said he and others had represented many other disabled people who were not able to attend the protest themselves, including many “living in fear of having their benefits cut” and “being pushed to look for work when there isn’t any work”.
He added: “We need to get that solidarity and we need to get the public with us.”
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, told Disability News Service after the march: “I do think it is important that disabled people do have a strong voice in the reform of the welfare system.”
But she added: “We have inherited a situation from Labour where the finances of this country are in a dire state but we have made it clear that the reforms that are required to put this country back on a financial footing will include important safeguards for vulnerable groups.”
Miller said she hoped the announcements made by the government during the conference around welfare reform would show how they would “benefit everybody”.
These included excluding people receiving DLA from the new benefits cap, and excluding DLA from the planned universal credit, which is set to replace a string of other benefits.
For more information about the march, visit: http://disabledpeopleprotest.wordpress.com
5 October 2010