Wednesday, 27 July 2011

People with disabilities in Cornwall fight back against the cuts

The cuts, job losses and privatisation coming from the Tory-led government affect all of us. The government is attacking all sections of the working class, much of the middle class and even the army and police, all at the same time. Therefore it makes sense for us to unite the resistance to those attacks. The 26 March demonstration organised by the TUC and the 30 June co-ordinated strikes are just the beginning of what will become a mass movement against cuts. There will be protests at the conferences of the Lib Dems in September and the Tories in October and the unions are moving towards a further strike in November.

The cuts affect us all. But they disproportionately affect women, people from black and ethnic minorities and most of all people with disabilities.

If the government proposals come to fruition, non-means tested benefits like Incapacity Benefit will be abolished from April 2012 and the Disability Living Allowance will be abolished from 2013. There is already a system of strict policing of all benefit claims by privatised medical services known as Atos Healthcare, who view all disabled people as potential criminals. People with disabilities have been further hit by cuts to support services from local authorities, cuts to housing provision and the privatisation of the NHS.

As a recent article by Iain Ferguson in the International Socialism Journal points out: "Of the £80 billion a year cut from public spending since last June, £18 billion directly affects welfare, the biggest cut since the 1920s". He goes on,

"there are the planned cuts in welfare benefits, again specifically targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable. The biggest losers here will be people with disabilities. Currently 2.6 million people claim incapacity benefit, 40 percent of them on account of mental health problems. The government intends to move 1.5 million of them onto the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA), paid at a much lower rate, via a test of their capacity to work. If after a year on ESA they have still not found work, despite the “assistance” provided by private agencies such as the hated Atos Healthcare to which the government has outsourced this task, they will be moved onto Jobseeker’s Allowance of £65 a week. The coalition’s claim that this cut is justified by the increase in the number of people wrongly claiming disability benefits is refuted by research published in January 2011 by Richard Berthoud, a leading authority on benefits and welfare. According to Berthoud, “The general assumption that these are people with trivial conditions is not supported by the evidence. It is people with more severely disadvantaging conditions that have been more affected by the trend”."
Too many people with disabilities, it seems, are living in fear of coalition government cuts which threaten their independence, care and benefits.

If this were not enough people with disabilities are subjected to daily attacks in the media. Government ministers try to smear disabled people claiming their rights as welfare cheats or drug addicts.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was formed by a group of disabled people after the mass protests against cuts in Birmingham on 3 October 2010. 3 October saw the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on people with disabilities. It was known as 'The Disabled Peoples’ Protest'. The DPAC co-founders are the original Disabled Peoples’ Protest organisers.
DPAC describes itself as being,

"for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality. It is for everyone that refuses to accept that any country can destroy the lives of people just because they are or become disabled or sick. It is for everyone against government austerity measures which target the poor while leaving the wealthy unscathed. It is for everyone who refuses to stay silent about the injustices delivered by wealthy politicians on ordinary people and their lives."
A new group is meeting tonight for the first time in Truro, Cornwall. Cornwall DPAC are meeting at the Railway Club, next to Truro Railway Station tonight (Wednesday 27 July) at 6:30pm. There literature states,
"this group is for disabled people, their families, friends and carers that are affected in any way whatsoever by the government’s austerity cuts. If you would like a chance to show support for the disabled community and discover how the cuts will affect some of the more vulnerable members of society, then please come and say hello, and help our voice to be heard."
This is a very welcome development. It is vital that we mobilise every constituency against the cuts and unite them in a mass movement against this nasty yet weak Tory-led coalition government. This task is as important, if not more so, in a place like Cornwall in which many people already feel isolated and neglected, than anywhere. Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance supports Cornwall Disabled People Against Cuts and the two groups will, no doubt, be working together and with the unions over the coming months and years.
 
For more information, contact: cantical@gmx.co.uk

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