BFAWU: Fighting the Condem attack on disabled people
Disabled people in this country have not experienced an attack like we are facing now since before we started battling our way out of the institutions in the early 1970s. Despite cuts to benefits and support services and a rise in hostility to disabled people, all combining to push us out of society, we are not letting this happen without a fight.
Disabled people and the poorest members of society are being hit harder by the cuts than anyone else. We are far from “all in it together” as the Prime Minister would have us believe. Research from The Centre for Welfare Reform reported in “A Fair Society? How the Cuts are targeting disabled people” shows that the most severely disabled people are being hit nineteen times harder than the average person in the UK.
By 2018 disabled people will have lost more than £28.3 billion in benefits and entitlements with some disabled people being hit by six or more cuts at a time including the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, changes to Employment and Support Allowance and the bedroom tax.
It’s not as if disabled people have loads of money to lose: before the Condems came to power disabled people were already twice as likely as anyone else to live in poverty.
Now things are much worse with people being left with no income at all, forced to survive off foodbanks. Like Stephanie Bottrill earlier this year, the disabled grandmother hit by the bedroom tax, some are tragically taking their own lives unable to see how they can carry on.
The government and the right wing media like to present benefit claimants as scroungers in order to get away with making the poor pay for a financial crisis we did not cause but the reality is very different. Over the last two years 93% of new claims for housing benefit have been from people in work. With wages getting lower in real terms while the cost of living goes up and up, many people need benefits to top up low wages. At the same time, government cuts to disability benefits are forcing disabled people out of employment because they are losing the support that means they can work.
On top of this disabled people are losing access to the law to protect themselves: from 1st April this year legal aid could no longer be used for welfare appeals while current plans to transform legal aid will stop disabled people from being able to take legal challenges against government.
The good news is that disabled people are not just letting this happen. We are fighting back. In October 2010 a disabled people led campaign called ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’ was set up to oppose the Condem attacks.
Since then we have fought back every way we can, from street protests to taking to the law courts to raising awareness about the impact of the cuts to giving individual disabled people hope and support. We held a week of action last year to coincide with the Paralympic Games and highlight the reality of disabled people’s day to day lives under the Condems, ending with a protest of more than 700 people outside Atos’ headquarters in Euston and an occupation by disabled activists of the Department for Work and Pensions building.
We also recognise the importance of uniting with other groups affected by the cuts, especially workers. The attacks on benefits are a way of attacking workers’ rights. We must stand together in solidarity and unity to protect our communities and fight for the kind of society we want.
DPAC will be holding another week of action this year from 28th August until 4th September.