A wave of anger swept through London last week when 5,000 disabled people marched on parliament against the cuts.
The Hardest Hit demonstration was against plans to snatch the vital disability living allowance (DLA) from tens of thousands of people.
People were also angry at the re-testing of those claiming incapacity benefits, the removal of the mobility allowance for people in residential care and cuts to support services.
The most popular chant targeted the minister for disabled people—“Maria Miller you will pay, do not cut our DLA”.
Beverley and Keith came to the march from their care home in Crewe, Cheshire.
“The government wants to take away our mobility allowance. That will leave us stuck at home all day, every day,” Keith told Socialist Worker.
Beverley added, “I would not have been able to come here today without the allowance I get.”
Keith spoke about the trauma of being questioned about his benefits—“It’s degrading. I’ve had cerebral palsy for 22 years. We don’t deserve this.”
Matt, from Sheffield Hallam University, and Robyn, from Leeds, are both members of the NUS Disabled Students’ Committee.
Robyn told Socialist Worker, “The government wants to create an impression that we claim for the sake of it.
“But it is really difficult for disabled students to study at a further or higher education level because there just isn’t the help we need.”
Matt agreed: “Only 15 percent of young people with disabilities carry on studying after leaving school.
“People with disabilities are now literally at risk of losing their lives because of poverty. More are contemplating suicide. It’s wrong.”
Rodrick Cobley from the London Autistic Rights Movement said there was a debate in the movement among non-charitable organisations about attending the march.
“Some people said that the march was called by charities that are dependent on the government and local councils, and therefore were more open to compromises,” he explained.
“But we decided to take part and engage with the thousands who are here and want to fight. We want radical resistance involving ordinary people.”
Mark Harrison, the chief executive of the Coalition of Disabled People, spoke at the pre-march rally.
He called for a vote of no confidence in Maria Miller. A huge cheer went up from the crowd. When he asked for votes against there was silence. “Unanimous,” he said.
Gerry, a student supported by the Education Maintenance Allowance and a learning statement, told the crowd, “This is a crisis caused by the banks and tax avoidance. This is the fault of the capitalist system.”
The Tories may have hoped their disability benefit cuts would pass unopposed because disabled people might find it harder to resist.
They were wrong.
Facing abuse in the street
A survey by disabled charity Scope shows some of the reasons why disabled people are angry.
Around 37 percent of those surveyed said that they faced an increase of abuse on the street as the Tories whip up a panic about so-called “scroungers”.
Many said they had been wrongly reported for benefit fraud.
Some two thirds said they fear discrimination when applying for work and more than half feared they would be discriminated against at work.
Week of action over Atos
The demonstration in London took place as activists across Britain embarked on a week of action against Atos Origin—the private firm contracted to re-test every single disability benefit claimant.
In Chichester hundreds protested outside the County Hall—organised by the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign.
In Cambridge protesters occupied the building housing Atos healthcare offices. The occupation started in the late afternoon on Thursday. Protesters hung banners from the roof of the building.
On Friday activists gathered in Birmingham city centre to highlight the government’s attacks on disability benefits.
In Manchester, around 50 anti-cuts activists, including trade unionists, marched down to the Atos building to block the entrance, demanding to be addressed by management.
Campaigners from Medway Against the Cuts protested outside a medical testing centre in Chatham on Friday of last week, chanting “Atos shouldn’t gain from disabled people’s pain” and “Atos don’t give a toss about benefits loss”.
Other protests against Atos took place in Liverpool, Newcastle, Truro, Nottingham, Leeds, Hastings, Cardiff, York, Plymouth, Bristol, Brighton, Glasgow and Edinburgh.