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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 May 2011

The Hardest Hit march and rally

Adrian Picton
 Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

I attended the disabled people's protest in central London on Wednesday 11 May as part of a group organised by the Royal National Institute of the Blind. At the rally at the end there were a couple of good disabled activists among the speakers.

Maria Miller, Tory minister for disabled people had chosen to attend prime minister's questions in preference to meeting the people she is supposed to represent and, as you can imagine, this didn't go down well with the crowd.

 Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

Photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Labour's shadow secretary for work and pensions, Liam Byrne, did speak. He made a point of stating his disapproval of the way the for-profit company Atos was assessing people as being fit for work, including, for example, people with cancer. This, of course, was breath-taking hypocrisy since Labour introduced the Work Capacity Assessment in October 2008.

I had an appointment with my MP, Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield. Also in attendance was a disabled woman with her husband. This woman had just had her care package cut from 58 hours to 19 hours a week by Derbyshire County Council. Toby acknowledged that this was having a significant effect upon her and her husband, who is her main carer. He arranged to meet them privately to discuss how to pursue this situation.

 Photo Paul Mattsson

Photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

I then talked about the changes to welfare benefits proposed in the government's Welfare Reform Bill, including the migration of people from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance. Toby agreed that the actions of Atos were unacceptable and that they were assessing many people inappropriately.

When I pointed out that it was the previous Labour government who brought in the test he claimed that if they were still in power they wouldn't be letting Atos get away with the kind of behaviour they are doing currently.

However, he did not see anything wrong with the system brought in by the last government and said he agreed with the concept of the Work Capacity Assessment.

I also talked about the proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance and the fact that this would mean many people would lose their benefit or have it reduced, even though the benefit doesn't even currently meet all the additional costs of disability.

 Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

Hardest Hit Protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

I then asked Toby how he intended to vote on the Welfare Reform Bill. He said he couldn't give an answer at present as he needed to consult with his front bench colleagues and that it was difficult as he agreed with some parts of the bill.

This only serves to highlight further that the difference between Labour and the Con-Dems is not significant.

Despite me and my friend, Liz, having to march without assistance, it was great to be part of what is believed to be the biggest ever march of disabled people - estimated, even by the police, at 8,000.

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In The Socialist 18 May 2011:

Socialist Party workplace news

Strike back at pensions robbery!

Fight all the cuts - come to the NSSN conference

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Battle for the NHS!

Derriford hospital announces huge cuts

Socialist Party editorial

Crisis deepens in the eurozone

Socialist Party news and analysis

The Hardest Hit march and rally

Teachers' strike stops job cuts

Iraq war: Labour's lie machine

Pay gap grows ever wider

News in brief

Socialist Party feature

Britain now facing crisis on all fronts

International socialist news and analysis

Northern Ireland: The 'no change' elections

Socialist Party workplace news

UCU at the crossroads on pensions

CWU conference: Support joint union action on 30 June

BA dispute: Mass meeting votes to put latest agreement to membership

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party youth and students

Con-Dems: Supporting Youth Enslavement

Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs regional conference

Socialist Party feature

Tory cuts hit children and young people

Teachers strike and parents picket at Shorefields

Campaigners put pressure on Lambeth council


The difference a union makes


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