Sunday, 22 May 2011

Brighton Disabled People Against Cuts campaign group launched

[Thousands of disabled people took to the streets of London to protest on the Hardest Hit demonstration against the government's cuts earlier this month. Photograph - Sarah Lee]

“It’s the mark of a civilised society to support people when they are in need, whether they are ill, disabled or unemployed. Welfare is there to provide a decent existence. Coming from the South Wales valleys and working in a DHSS office I saw the importance of the social security system before my eyes every day.” Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS.

The Con-Dem government's systematic assault on the post-war social consensus and its attempts to dismantle the welfare state is facing a growing army of resistance.

Following the public launch of the PCS trade union guide Welfare - An Alternative Vision at its conference in Brighton last week, disabled people from across Brighton and beyond gathered to launch Brighton Disabled People Against Cuts to unite all those locally facing damaging cuts to support services and benefits that enable people with disabilities of all kinds to lead active lives.

Over 20 people listened to national campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts speaker Linda Burnip and activists from the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition, who offered solidarity and support for the group.

With £18 billion cuts to welfare services and benefits, it is society's most vulnerable and lowest paid that are hardest hit. In fact, 75 per cent of disabled women and 70 per cent of disabled men are already at the bottom end of Britain’s income distribution scale living in poverty, as highlighted in the PCS booklet.

The Con-Dem assault on disabilities goes far beyond any falsely portrayed economic necessity. Alternatives provided by the PSC's research demonstrate how £120 billion can be collected in taxes that are avoided by the rich each year, or how a reversal of the £25 billion corporation tax cut would cover the amount being slashed from welfare.

Instead, the government's attack stems from an ideology of profit and big business that puts the needs of a few above the welfare of many, assisted by the victimisation in the capitalist press of those who most depend on our right to social security.

"The demonisation of those on benefits has become commonplace since the period of mass unemployment in the 1980s. But no area of welfare has been subjected to such vitriol recently as disability benefits. Phrases such as ‘swinging the lead’, ‘on the sick’, and ‘dependency culture’ dominate popular media coverage." Welfare - An Alternative Vision booklet by the PCS.

The reality, however, is filled with stories of depression and suicide for those affected by cuts, and these will only continue to spread unless we can unite to use our strength in numbers, to offer the hope of working together, to defend our hard won rights and begin again to improve the lives of all working class people.

The attacks on disabled people's conditions and quality of life affect not just those immediately harmed by the cuts, but all workers and their communities who rely on the support that the welfare state provides when the contradictions of capitalism inevitably fail to provide the basic necessities for our existence.

Many ideas and issues were raised at the inaugural meeting, including suggestions on using the visible power of physical impairment as a protest tool, but how both visible and non-visible disabilities should not be separated to divide us.

Plans for an initial protest against private welfare provider ATOS were raised, along with linking up with the Brighton Benefits Campaign and the umbrella anti-cuts group Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition to help organise a July Brighton Demonstration & Rally Against Benefit Cuts. Material to publicise the group and to explain how the cuts are affecting disabled people were organised.

A donation of £50 to begin campaigning was offered by Tony Greenstein on behalf of Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre along with funds and assistance from BSCC. If anyone knows of any suitable meeting room that is free and accessible for wheelchair users, please get in touch as soon as possible.

The ConDem cuts are not inevitable, and if everyone affected joins together and unites the cuts can be stopped and defeated for good.

Join the Facebook group here and invite people you know to join.