Freedom News

DPAC return to the streets

CW: Suicide statistics discussed

On Monday, March 4th, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) returned to the streets. This followed a meeting held on February 19th to declare a united resistance of disability groups against the latest round of brutal welfare cuts.

The proposed reforms include tightening benefit sanctions of claimants and the eventual scrapping of the present Work Capability Assessment. An initial report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that by tampering with the already meagre health related benefits given to around three million UK adults, the government can bring in a spending cut of around 900 million.

“We have a proud history of resistance, and we’re now back on the streets fighting back. The austerity and welfare reforms that have been imposed since 2010 have had a devastating effect on disabled people in society. A 2020 report by Health Equity in England, which UCL commissioned, found that the combination of austerity and reforms has caused the deaths of over 150,000 elderly and disabled people. We will not be intimidated by this government or any of their new anti-protest laws.”

~ Paula Peters of DPAC

The immediate effect of this policy will be that people previously judged unable to work will lose around £390 each month. It would also mean work capability for disabled people with a vast range of complex issues being decided by unqualified Job Centre work coaches with as little as three weeks of training.

The protest, which was called two days before the budget, began at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with speeches and then moved a few yards to Victoria Street, which was then blocked with wheelchairs, strollers and activists with banners for around an hour.

Equally disturbing is the increased suicide rate among disabled people since the austerity measures were introduced following the 2008 banking crisis. Independent academic research, commissioned for Channel 4, found that between 2010 and 2013, the WCA disability reassessment process had caused 590 suicides. A separate survey by the Citizen Research Network found that 13% of thousands of disabled people they polled had attempted suicide after interacting with the DWP. Thirty two percent said the system had caused them to actively plan ending their lives. Sixty one percent reported suicidal thoughts, and ninety three percent said that interacting with the present system had made their mental health worse. So, it is hardly surprising that DPAC and others are prepared to risk arrest by bringing a main route into Westminster to a standstill.

When the police arrived, in considerable numbers, they immediately imposed a Section 14 notice on the protest, which was largely ignored by those in attendance. Eventually, after several drawn-out arguments, the demonstrators left the road at a time of their own choosing. As always, the police seemed acutely aware of the terrible optics associated with going in heavy on people who are disabled and elderly.

Paula added: “The police action was completely over the top. They should be across the road in parliament arresting people in there for the tax evasion, fraud and incompetence that has robbed this country of billions while disabled people suffer the most.”

Images: Guy Smallman

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