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Time for a fightback is here and now

People with disabilities have had enough of the callous policies Con-Dems have been imposing on them without consultation. Linda Burnip of Disabled People Against Cuts calls for trade union and Labour Party support to reverse the campaign of cuts and vilification

Today disabled people and campaigners will come together at noon in Parliament Square, London, to mark 10,000 cuts and counting.

Almost three years ago, disabled people marched at the Tory Party conference protesting against austerity cuts using the slogan "Cuts Kill."

It was obvious that the plans outlined by millionaire Osborne in the June 2010 spending review would not be good for disabled people, but even we did not envisage just how fast our welfare state would be destroyed by the Con-Dems, or how many disabled people would be pushed to suicide or death by their malicious cuts.

We could not have imagined three years later we would be getting daily emails from disabled people, some pregnant, who were actually starving and being left without food, money, heating or access to any hardship payments.

We knew - but couldn't have imagined the scale - that disabled people would have their benefits stopped for weeks, and in some cases months, without any means to support themselves.

What do you do when you are already living on the breadline with no savings and your only income is taken away? We never imagined we'd read about children, disabled and non-disabled being left without food.

It's hard to believe it's Britain we're talking about - yet this is what life has become for many living in the seventh richest nation in the world, in the 21st century.

We never imagined that we would go so far backwards that all the gains made for disabled people's rights over the last 30 years would effectively be swept away, with disabled people vilified as shirkers and scroungers.

10,000 Cuts And Counting is a single-issue protest against the now-discredited computerised work capability assessment (WCA), executed by Atos.

The system has pushed so many disabled people to suicide or death through fear and stress that the DWP has now stopped collecting any statistics on those people who died following the end of their claim.

But, between January 2011 and November 2011, some 10,600 claims ended and death was recorded within six weeks of the claim refusal.

DPAC and other campaigners are proud to have destroyed the Atos brand name, but there is no point in just replacing it with another corporate monster. The WCA must be scrapped in its entirety.

Why should any private firm rake in millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to provide a totally flawed service which could be undertaken by civil servants for a fraction of the cost - as has been the case until recently?

The WCA was put in place to cut the number of claimants by one million, either through miracle cures or death it seems.

One of the next major battles disabled people face is the scrapping of disability living allowance (DLA), which was put in place to meet the extra costs of being disabled.

This too has been designed with only one aim in mind - to cut costs and remove 20 per cent of disabled people from entitlement.

Many disabled people rely on this income to enable them to work, and they will no longer be able to if it is lost to them. Even more will be left trapped in their homes with no means to go out.

For anyone who thinks this doesn't matter to them, six out of seven disabled people have an acquired impairment through long-term illness or an accident.

Most of you will also get older so how older disabled people are treated should be of great concern to you - it is your future too.

Older disabled people are often treated worse than animals in Britain getting four 15 minutes "pop-in" care visits if they're lucky and remain imprisoned in their homes often left soaking wet the rest of the time.

And this is the fate awaiting younger disabled people from 2015, when - without any vote in Parliament - the Independent Living Fund will be closed, leaving local authorities to try to replace this funding out of their ever-shrinking budgets and with different eligibility criteria.

At the same time, the government claims it wants disabled people to work but it has decimated the Remploy factories throwing thousands of disabled workers onto the scrap heap of mass unemployment. Some organisations that purport to campaign for us supported the government in this.

At the last count only about 3 per cent of those made redundant had secured mainstream employment, but given the barriers faced by disabled people in gaining and keeping employment, this was a predictable outcome.

The bedroom tax - loudly condemned by the UN rapporteur Raquel Rolnik - has existed in the private rented sector since 2008, with Labour, which introduced it, singularly forgetting to mention that they also originally planned to roll it out to the social housing sector back in April 2010.

None of us should forget that most of these horrors now affecting both disabled and other people were in many cases introduced by Labour and it is time for all of us all to start telling it what it must do if they want to have a chance of being elected in 2015.

It is also way past time for the larger unions to stop pussy-footing around. Stop unconditionally supporting a neoliberal Labour Party and force them to act as an effective opposition and outline their real policies.

It is time for us to add industrial power to community activism if any vestiges of our welfare state are to be salvaged for our children.

Disabled people and others also face a further raft of cuts and attacks to the NHS - in particular to mental health services - as well as health and safety at work legislation, access to work funding, secure employment and not zero-hours contracts, accessible transport, accessible housing, a right to mainstream education and cuts to council tax benefit, all coupled with cuts to Citizens Advice Bureau services, legal aid cuts and lastly the introduction of the lobbying Bill, which regardless of its eventual outcome will not silence us in any way.

We are now many thousands, and we will be heard.


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