Up to 10,000 disabled people, with friends and family, are joining the Hardest Hit march in London today, in protest against government cuts to benefits and services.
Campaigners, charities and carers are joining them - describing the impact of the coalition's policies towards the sick and the disabled as "flawed", "scandalous", "heartless" and "immoral".
The Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium and the UK Disabled People’s Council, brings together individuals and organisations "to send a clear message to the Government: stop these cuts."
The alliance, which is also organising online action and letters and messages to Members of Parliament, says: "Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are being hit hard by cuts to the benefits and services they need to live their lives."
The march will take about an hour. It will take in Victoria Embankment,Parliament Square and Millbank and finish in Dean Stanley Street.
Methodist Central Hall, which is near the end of the march route, will be available as a quiet space during the day.
Many are living in fear of huge cuts to essential benefits including Disability Living Allowance (cut by £2.17 billion) and Employment and Support Allowance (cut by £2 billion). The total cuts will mean an estimated £9 billion loss to families’ incomes over the next four years, on top of cuts to many local care and support services.
"These are life-threatening actions the government is taking, not administrative changes or 'inevitable' decisions," one demonstrator told Ekklesia. "There are choices to be made. Our message to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their millionaire colleagues is simple: you are making the wrong choices. Change now."
This affects people and families across the UK living with conditions like cancer, dementia, arthritis, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, sensory impairments, learning disabilities, mental health conditions and physical disabilities. Their everyday lives depend on support that is under threat.
In a video (http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/2011/05/we-have-dream-speech-hard...) released today, the group Broken of Britain say: "Despite the crippling debt of the post war years, our grandfathers and grandmothers made sure their dream of a society caring for all was a priority ... We refuse to accept a system bailed out by the taxpayer is so bankrupt it can no longer meet it's obligations to the basic welfare of all people.
BoB adds: "We refuse to believe in a world which bankers choose to increase bonuses whilst disabled people choose between food and heat. We refuse to believe local authorities deem it right and proper to save money by leaving old ladies overnight in their own urine, we refuse to believe that removing respite care can be right. We refuse to believe that we should be blamed, targeted, made less human by those who sip from the cup of success."
The beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia has also released a summary of some key recent research, 'Betraying disabled people and welfare', by Karen McAndrew, which maps out the contours of a revolution in Britain’s benefits and welfare system.
But Ekklesia says: "the evidence examined and evaluated indicates that, far from enabling and supporting sick and disabled people, the changes and cuts the UK government is making – disguised by a superficial rhetoric of compassion and empowerment, and eased by ungrounded prejudices stoked in sections of the media – are causing real harm and destroying the fabric of national care and genuine opportunity."
Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow commented: "Today's march and protests by disabled and sick people and their supporters put the voices and lives that really count at the heart of this debate.
"Our paper - and the work of many other researchers and NGOs - amounts to disturbing evidence that disabled people are being betrayed, the public misled, and the welfare system endangered," says Barrow. "The government needs to change its mind and its policies, those at the sharp end believe. This is a moral, political, social and economic issue of the highest order."
* Hardest Hit website: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/
* Broken of Britain: http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/
* Ekklesia research paper: 'Betraying disabled people and welfare' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14675