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Posted on 20 October 2011 at 17:40 GMT

 Hardest Hit protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London  in May 2011 against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson

Hardest Hit protest: Disabled people and their families protest in central London in May 2011 against government spending cuts, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Stop the Welfare Reform Bill - fight all cuts to benefits and services

When more than 5,000 disabled people, family carers and their supporters marched past parliament on The Hardest Hit demo on 11 May, they sent out a resounding message to the Tory/Liberal coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg: We are opposed to 'welfare reform' and all cuts to disability benefits and public services.

But those marching then and the thousands on this Saturday's Hardest Hit regional demonstrations also know the ugly truth of what the Tory/Liberal coalition's plans will mean if the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law as a central plank of their 81 billion cuts in welfare spending.

Sadly, the Labour opposition has indicated their continued support for the 'reform' of incapacity benefits and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) - ideas that originated under Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's governments.

And Labour leader Ed Miliband has made it clear that if he was prime minister many of the cuts in jobs and services we are experiencing would still be happening, only not as fast.

May 2011 Hardest Hit Demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson

May 2011 Hardest Hit Demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Attention has focussed on the proposal to replace DLA with Personal Independence Payments that will cut entitlement by at least 20%.

But Universal Credit (which on paper promises a simpler benefits system) will witness the introduction of compulsory workfare and caps on housing benefit and other payments.

It will also be accompanied by a much stricter sanctions regime with the loss of benefits for up to three years.

Given the numbers of disabled people being driven onto Jobseekers Allowance by failing the brutal Work Capability Assessment (WCA), most disabled people will now be exposed to pressure to look for work that does not exist.

The prospect of people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions being unable to cope with a tougher regime and losing benefits through sanctions is a very real one.

Combined with cuts in housing, social care and health services, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and huge increases in the cost of utility bills and essentials, the future for disabled people and their families looks bleak if the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.

May 2011 Hardest Hit Demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson

May 2011 Hardest Hit Demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Unfortunately, the charity directors and those activists running The Hardest Hit have failed to use the 11 May demo to launch a mass campaign of opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Instead they have adopted a limited programme that welcomes Universal Credit and accepts that Personal Independence Payments will be introduced, while calling for the additional costs of disability to be met and no-one to lose their 'independence'.

While they call for the proposal for a one year time limit for those on Employment and Support Allowance to be abolished, they only believe the WCA can be reformed rather than scrapped.

Plus they are taking at best an ambiguous position on the need to save the Remploy factories from closure.

Disabled people and family carers who are members of the Socialist Party call upon the United Kingdom Disabled People's Council and the charities running The Hardest Hit campaign to change direction.

A strategy of amending the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords might win some concessions, but this will do little to limit its devastating impact in the coming years. Instead we need to campaign to stop the Welfare Reform Bill becoming law.

The UKDPC and disability campaigners should immediately call general assemblies of disabled people, family carers and their supporters in every region as a first step to setting up democratic campaign groups in every town and city.

It is vital that a strong message is sent now to Cameron, Clegg and Miliband and the main political parties that the 'welfare reform' agenda will be opposed, whoever is in power.

And by linking with the public sector trade unions and developing anti-cuts movement, together we can defeat this government, reverse the cuts made so far, and demand decent benefits, pensions, jobs, homes and services for all.

But ultimately it is only by struggling for a socialist society based on meeting need rather than creating profit for a greedy minority that we can protect the 'safety net' that benefits and public services gives us.

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