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How disabled, sick and carers came together to fight(1 Post)
WOWpetition was founded on twitter by a group of people interested and concerned with cuts to social security to the disabled and the WCA. Most of the people who joined the team were either sick, disabled or carer’s. Social media is a great tool for the disabled, it gives us a voice to share concerns and information, when mobility and sickness often stop us mobilising by other methods. The wording for the first petition came from ideas and interaction on twitter, asking people to put forward suggestions on their concerns and on the wording for the petition. Francesca Martinez was then approached and she kindly agreed to be the face of the petition and support the petition whenever she could.
We were delighted after a lot of hard work by all concerned to reach the 100 000 signatures. I am sure at one stage some Union leaders and groups thought we were stalking them, (Mark Serwotka PCS, I apologise). We worked around our illnesses and used our strengths, like Laura Stringhetti who is our fabulous IT expert. We were delighted that we won the debate, but we quickly realised the Government had no intention of assessing the multiple impact of cuts on the individual.
Penning claimed in the House of Commons that I IFS said it couldn’t be done, but IFS have since denied the comment. See John Pring’s article 11th July. We felt frustrated and devastated that a party could just refuse to assess impact cuts on the individual whilst inflicting further cuts, ignoring the petition and therefore the public’s concern. John McDonnell MP tried again to push the campaign in February 2015, and as Social Security Advisory Committee and EHRC also expressed the need for cumulative impact assessment disabled we were hopeful, but again it was ignored.
By this time the group was down to four, Ian Jones, Laura Stringhetti, Carol Ford and myself. We kept the social media accounts going to give information on press releases and policy changes. We went to talks and demonstrations with the WOWcampaign agenda to keep raising and highlighting the petition. After months of speculation before and after the general election when disabled people were left not knowing how or when more cuts would fall, we
waited like many to see what would happen. I can say for myself, I was left fearful of how I would survive on less funding, what would be cut? How I would live. With 300 000 more disabled people already pushed into absolute poverty further cuts to ESA, social care and ILF
was announced, we were angry that a Government wouldn’t assess impact multiple cuts and we decided to fight on, what choice did we have? With statistics of 1 in 3 losing their mobility cars, further cuts were threatening disabled from multiple directions. Cuts to access to work on the very first day on a new Tory party! The Tory party claimed disability activists were scaremongering, unfortunately it was even worse than we imagined.
We decided as a group to try and push again for impact assessment all cuts including social care in a new WOWpetition. Every day on WOWpetition twitter feeds we would receive stories of cuts, and messages of fear and confusion from people. We knew that John McDonnell, Ian Mearns, Graham Morris and Jeremy Corbyn would support us again thankfully. Natalie Bennett and the Green party have always been very supportive towards the campaign. That SNP and Plaid Cymru are now supporting the new campaign is fabulous, as we work to keep highlighting the fact that the Government are failing, in our view, in their duty of care to the disabled. How can you keep cutting with only impact assessments on each cut, not all the cuts together? It is estimated by Simon Duffy that the most severely disabled may be hit up to nineteen times, in whose humanity is that Ok?
When you are backed into a corner you come out fighting, like many other groups, we had to keep fighting or else the 100 000 people who signed it last time would be let down. We don’t pretend to represent all disabled people, but we feel the public has the right to know the true level of cuts. As a group we thought the political landscape had changed and the latest round of cuts to disabled was the last straw. Iain Duncan Smith new threat of changing WCA, putting twice as many though work programmes on ESA, and a million on ESA into non existing jobs. This is what we are fighting against.
We continue to fight as every day we hear or see stories of fear, the impact of sanctions, decisions by the DWP that are unbelievable, and cuts and more cuts. Francesca kindly agreed again to be the face of the campaign and help us. We keep fighting on like many other disability groups, charities and unions. Government’s regardless of which party, should not be able to abdicate their responsibility to the disabled of the UK, whilst impacting their lives on a daily basis. No one asks to be disabled or sick, it can and does happen to anyone. What cuts impact the disabled impact their families, children and their carer’s.
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