Disabled and sick people, including actor and comedian Francesca Martinez, have launched a petition calling for an end to what they call the 'war on welfare' being waged by their own government.
The campaigners want an independent, cumulative impact assessment of the coalition's controversial Welfare Reform Act, which has attracted massive opposition from charities, experts, peers, community groups, disability organisations, churches and civic groups.
The activists include people with learning and mental health difficulties, their families and carers.
Equally important, the War on Welfare (#WOWpetition initiative on Twitter) is asking for a proper 'new deal' for disabled people.
"The welfare budget, and particularly benefits going to sick and disabled people, has been heavily and unfairly targeted for cuts," says War on Welfare.
"We are told no longer afford the current welfare state. In reality however, as a percentage of GDP, the welfare budget is now lower than it was at any time during the eighties. While at the same time the combined wealth of Britain's 1,000 richest people increased by almost five per cent to over £414 billion," adds the network of disabled people.
They explain: "In order to resist the government's cruel and failing welfare policies, sick and disabled people, together with their carers, families and friends, have combined using social media to produce the #WOWpetition. This calls for an end to the War on Welfare."
Spearheaded by actress and comedian Francesca Martinez the WOW petition aims to get 100,000 signatures to end this War On Welfare by the government.
"We will be calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment, an independent inquiry and if necessary, the repeal of the Welfare Reform Act of 2012," the campaign declares.
"We believe that every single person in the country has a reason to resist the War on Welfare. Some of us may be fortunate enough not to need the safety net our Welfare State provides, but this could all change for any one of us, tomorrow. It only takes an accident or a shock diagnosis to render us ill or disabled, and dependent on a system of benefits and services which is currently being dismantled.
"We owe it to ourselves to ensure a decent and dignified life for all who are sick and disabled, and to provide security for all our futures. The deaths of disabled people linked to the Welfare Reform Act and the Work Capability Assessment administered on behalf of the Government by the private corporation ATOS are reported in the press with alarming regularity. We believe that in any humane society the Government would want to know if one of their flagship policies was in any way responsible for a ‘slow genocide’ of the sick and disabled.
"We hope many thousands will join Francesca Martinez and the WOW campaign in resisting the deaths and unnecessary suffering being caused by signing up at WOWpetition.com," War on Welfare concludes.
Backing the WOW initiative, Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, said: "All the evidence is that the government's current policies and priorities on welfare are causing serious harm to the most vulnerable people in society. A proper, independent, cumulative impact assessment is urgently needed.
"In addition, disabled and sick people, people with learning and mental health difficulties, their families and carers, should be key stakeholders in making the policies that impact and shape their lives. It is not acceptable that they are merely consulted and then ignored, as has been happening.
He continued: "A proper 'new deal' for disabled and sick people is about ensuring that those in greatest need receive the best support and a properly generous share of public resources. It is also about who decides how those resources are used and who is involved in administering them.
"As the famous South African saying puts it, 'Nothing about us, without us, is for us.' That is the public policy principle adopted by the Poverty Truth Commission in Scotland, and it is the irreducible principle that should inform the way the Westminster and devolved governments should operate in all areas of policy-making -- not least those that impact people living with disabilities, sickness and mental health problems.
"It is vital that the War on Welfare campaign is being initiated and led by disabled people themselves, and that in addition to specifying the areas of welfare assessment that are needed, it is seeking to challenge the profoundly damaging anti-welfare ideology that is being pushed by government and sections of the media at present. It is to be hoped that charities, churches and faith groups, civic organisations, researchers, academics and advocacy and policy NGOs will get behind the WOW initiative, using their petition as an axis for change in 2013," concluded the Ekklesia co-director.
The WOW petition aims to get 100,000 signatures as soon as possible, and to trigger a parliamentary debate on welfare reform and its demands for an independent, committee-based inquiry.
* War on Welfare (WOW) website - www.WOWpetition.com
* Call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154
* The petition mirrored on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17653
* People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment (#realWCA) published - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17366
* Responsible Reform: Changes to Disability Living Allowance - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA
* Disability issues on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport