Disabled people lead London blockade in Welfare Reform Bill protest

By staff writers
29 Jan 2012

Disabled people chained wheelchairs together and led hundreds of others in forming barricades across Oxford Street on Saturday 28 January 2012.

The direct action at the junction with Oxford Street, one of central London's biggest thoroughfares, was a protest against the coalition's Welfare Reform Bill, which in its present form will preside over massive cuts hitting the most vulnerable in society.

The WRB will see over half a million people lose their entitlements. It goes back to the House of Lords one final time on 31 January. Then on 1 February it goes to the House of Commons, where the government has pledged to ignore six defeats in the Lords and the overwhelming opposition of charities, medical professionals, experts and claimants themselves in order to force the legislation through.

Disabled people say that they will continue fighting, and will do everything possible to expose and shame the politicians trampling on their dignity and rights - including minister Iain Duncan Smith, who they say has been "hiding behind a cloak of Christianity and social justice rhetoric, but has exposed his true colours in this debate."

Lisa Egan, aged 32, told the Sunday Mirror: “The government is cutting the disability living allowance bill by 20 per cent despite the fact that only 0.5 per cent of claims are fraudulent. That means one in five genuinely disabled people is going to be losing benefits they need to pay for wheelchairs and care.”

Rosemary Willis of Disabled People Against Cuts, who played a major role in the direct action, said: "Maria Miller, so-called minister for disabled people, has repeatedly stated that we are 'financially unsustainable' and we want to ask this government exactly what they mean by that. We will not let this government push through these changes which have already led to disabled people taking their own lives."

Adam Lotun, also of DPAC, added "All the assessments are unfit for purpose", referring both to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which has proved disaster, and the vague and unpiloted assessment process for Personal Independence Payments.

Josie McDermot of UK Uncut, who helped with the protests on Saturday, described the Welfare Reform Bill as "cruel and unnecessary. This demonstration and action is an essential way to persuade the government to scrap their plans".

Shadow Secretary Liam Byrne has joined campaigners in ­pointing out that cancer suffers in ­chemotherapy and others in severe circumstances will be forced to look for work under the government's plans to arbitrarily limit benefit ­payments to £26,000 a year per household.

The campaign to seek a legislative pause and major change in the Wefare Reform Bill, so that proper evidence, alternatives and involvement from people at the sharp end can be taken on board, has been lead by disabled and sick people through the Spartacus Report campaign, which has forced the mainstream media and politicians to pay attention to a vital issue they were largely overlooking.

* UK Uncut - http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

* Spartacus Report (#spartacusreport) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport

* Pat's Petition (Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families): http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

* 38 Degrees action in disability and welfare cuts - http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/speakout/cuts-to-support-email-mp

* Church Action on Poverty lobby of MPs: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/its-time-to-close-the-gap/wrbaction/

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.