Protesters warn of bleak outlook on housing


Campaigners who protested this week over the government’s housing reforms have warned that the coalition’s “savage attacks” on housing benefits will cause increasing numbers of disabled people to become homeless.

A large group of disabled activists defied wintry conditions to stage the protest – organised by the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – in Trafalgar Square London.

They say that cuts to housing benefit, a shortage of accessible social housing and other coalition reforms will force many disabled people to leave their homes and move to cheaper areas, abandoning their support networks, with no guarantee that their needs will be met if they have to move to a different local authority area.

Linda Burnip, one of the protest organisers, said she believed many disabled people would be left homeless by the cuts, and forced into bed and breakfast accommodation.

She said: “Together with the changes to disability living allowance, to the Independent Living Fund, and having to pay more towards care, I just don’t see how disabled people are going to be able to make up the shortfall in rent.”

Stephen Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, which has supported DPAC, said the housing reforms and cuts were “of major concern to disabled people and their organisations”.

He said they would lead to many disabled people no longer being able to live independently and more of them becoming homeless.

And he said there was a danger that many people would not understand the “technical detail” of the reforms, even though they were likely to cause some “horrific situations”.

Sue Bott, another leading activist, who was at the protest as an individual, said she believed the reforms would “have an enormous impact on disabled people”, particularly those in private sector housing.

She said: “The government think disabled people are all occupying social housing very happily. They really don’t understand the issues at all.”

Another disabled protester, Belinda Washington, said she would probably be protected from the worst of the cuts as she had a council flat, but many other disabled people who had been forced into private sector housing “now have real problems”.

Fellow protester Adam Lotun said he feared disabled people would be forced into “ghettoes”, and added: “Having a roof over your head is a right. People are throwing their arms up in terror. Some people are saying, ‘I don’t know whether I am going to be living here next week.’”

Police who had heard about the protesters’ plans to use a donkey as part of a nativity scene had warned organisers that they would not be allowed to protest in Trafalgar Square for “health and safety reasons”.

The animal turned out to be a plastic donkey head on a short stick and police officers that were called to the protest allowed it to continue.

16 December 2010

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