On the eve of the Employment and Support Allowance cut’s return to the Commons for debate by MPs, Disabled campaigners and supporters will be protesting outside Parliament to demand that attacks on Disabled people’s rights through welfare reform stop now.
In March MPs controversially voted through a £29 per week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for Disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) from 1st April 2017. The proposal contained within the Welfare Reform and Work Act went through despite two rebellions in the House of Lords and a rebellion by backbench Conservative MPs. A public outcry following the vote saw a number of MPs being sacked as patrons of disability charities including then London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith (1).
Critics of the cut argue that there is no robust evidence to substantiate the government’s claim that reducing this out of work benefit will incentivise people in the WRAG into employment whilst research has shown how it is instead likely to move people further from employment. Currently there are 492,180 disabled people in the ESA WRAG. The largest group is those with “mental and behavioural disorders” (248,040) which includes people with mental health support needs, learning disabilities and autism.
Meanwhile a United Nations report published on Monday 7 November 2016 found reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of Disabled people’s rights by the UK government due to welfare reform (2). Although the government has rejected the findings claiming they are out of date, Disabled people have pointed out that things are now worse than when the inquiry was carried out and will continue to worsen through measures yet to come in such as the ESA cut.
As opposition to the government’s disability benefit cuts grows, figures from John Redwood to Ken Loach have called on Philip Hammond not to target Disabled people in next week’s budget (3).
The protest is being organised by Disabled People Against Cuts, the campaign group led by Disabled people responsible for actions such as the storming of Parliament over the closure of the Independent Living Fund in June 1015 and the occupation of Westminster Bridge in response to benefit deaths in September (3). The protest, supported by Ken Loach, the People’s Assembly, the Green party and Momentum will also be a memorial to remember DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly who tragically died last week and who put years’ of work into making the UN inquiry happen.
For more information or to speak to Disabled people and their families personally affected by welfare reform contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
- For more information about DPAC see: www.dpac.uk.net
Parliament protest: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33252828
Westminster Bridge: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37295118