Welfare reform activists join forces with health bill campaigners


Disabled people campaigning against the government’s welfare reforms have linked up with activists fighting its health and social care bill.

More than 100 activists from disabled people’s campaigning organisations such as Disabled People Against Cuts, Mad Pride and WinVisible met with groups such as Boycott Workfare, the Social Work Action Network and Taxpayers Against Poverty to discuss working together to fight implementation of the two bills.

The meeting, hosted by the Labour MP John McDonnell, who has been publicly supportive of the disabled people’s anti-cuts movement, was held in a House of Commons committee room less than a day after the welfare reform bill cleared its final parliamentary hurdle.

An emotional Lisa Egan, a disabled blogger and activist who is set to lose much of her support under the welfare reform bill, told the meeting: “I do not feel angry today, I am sad.

“I am heart-broken and I am crying in public, which is really embarrassing.”

Egan, who has brittle bone disease, described how receiving the mobility and care components of disability living allowance (DLA) was vital to allowing her to live independently

But she says that plans to replace working-age DLA with a new personal independence payment will slash her support, and see her lose her Motability vehicle.

She said: “I won’t receive the care component at all to pay for supervision to keep me safe.

“When I lose my DLA I do not know how I am going to be able to carry on. I am terrified and heart-broken that so many people could have spoken out about this.

“The big campaign organisations that didn’t do anything – they have let this happen to me and half a million other people in the same boat as me.”

Dave Skull, a member of Mad Pride, was scathing about the government’s incapacity benefit reforms and their potential impact on people with mental health conditions, and mocked the idea that stocking shelves or cleaning the streets could be “therapeutic”.

He said: “Are they trying to suggest that the idea of someone being forced back to work for a pittance in order to get their benefits is somehow going to be good for their self-esteem? I think that is a delusional belief.”

Claire Glasman, from the disabled women’s organisation WinVisible, said services and benefits for disabled people were being treated “as a privilege or luxury we have to pay for”, while “fewer and fewer of us are getting home care”.

McDonnell said the meeting had been held so activists could “share the information with each other so we have a clear understanding of what people are going through”.

He said: “We understand that by doing it we can cut through the prejudicial crap of what’s going on in the media, share our experiences and get that information out there.”

He said that demonstrations, strikes and direct action would provide “opportunities to resist” and that “when the call goes out for support, we have all got to be there”.

1 March 2012