Disabled protesters were fighting to the bitter end as the government closed the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on Tuesday of this week.
Members of Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) protested outside Downing Street for the second time in a week as Socialist Worker went to press.
They got into parliament on Wednesday of last week, almost interrupting prime minister’s questions.
Mick Harris, secretary of Norfolk Dpac, was one of them. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s an indictment of the government’s brutality that disabled people have no choice but to do this.
“The ILF helps the most severely disabled people. Without it people could be stuck sat in incontinency pads unable to leave the house.
“Once, disabled people were put away in big institutions. But they could become just as isolated without ILF—made prisoners in their homes.”
Dpac campaigning and legal challenges managed to delay the closure of the fund for two years.
Mick said, “The government says council funding will have to make up for the ILF—but nothing has been ringfenced, and councils are already making cuts to social care.”
He explained, “We went into parliament for a lobby, to petition our MPs against the closure. But we were kept waiting for ages and felt like we’d been fobbed off. So we decided to try and say hello to Dave Snooty and his pals in the debating chamber.”
Millions were cheered as the direct action was broadcast on TV.
Mick said, “This protest went all over the world. People were surprised to see us there. And if we hadn’t taken that action the media wouldn’t have been interested.”
He was shocked at the police violence. “People think the ‘British bobbies’ are wonderful, but the police brutality was bang out of order.
“They tried to pick people up by their wheelchairs and drag them away. One young female carer was dragged by the throat.”
The Tories’ onslaught is just beginning with next week’s budget set to include £12 billion welfare cuts.
But even Tory axeman Iain Duncan Smith is nervous about where such a sum will come from.
Determined protests will only add to his worries.
Mick said, “There will be more resistance. Disabled people don’t want to do this. We have enough hassle trying to overcome the adversities we face in our daily lives.
“But we are desperate and can’t do anything else.”
Use of food banks soars - but minister 'welcomes' them
Hated work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith tried to laugh off criticism for driving people into food poverty last week. He said, “I welcome food banks.”
Food banks, trade unions and academic studies have identified the main causes of increased food bank use.
These are benefit sanctions and delays that leave claimants with no income at all for weeks, as well as the bedroom tax.
But Duncan Smith said, “I don’t accept the single cause of that is to do with the welfare reforms, quite the contrary.”
There are at least 1,500 food banks in Britain. A parliamentary inquiry last year found “demand for emergency food assistance is increasing, and sometimes increasing dramatically”. The Tories have pledged that they would freeze child benefit for two years.
A new report by the TUC shows that Tory changes already reduced child benefit for a family of two children by £309.40 a year. The freeze would increase this to £470.60.
Protests are set for budget day across Britain, and campaigners have called a day of action on Saturday 25 July.
Protest over therapy sanctions threat
Around 100 people marched on Streatham job centre in south London on Friday of last week.
It was the first day of a test scheme bringing in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) therapists.
Local mental health services have now been moved into the same building.
Unemployed people could be forced to choose between therapy or a “sanction” that cuts off their benefits.
Nicola Saunders from the Alliance of Counsellors and Psychotherapists told Socialist Worker, “This is another policy aimed at reducing the welfare budget, just like workfare and testing if disabled people are ‘fit for work’.”