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Thousands of disabled people protest against cuts
Thursday 12 May 2011
March in central London on first anniversary of the coalition government
On 11 May, approximately 5,000 disabled people and their families and supporters marched through central London to warn the government of the impact of the public spending cuts on disabled people.
The Hardest Hit march was organised by the UK Disabled People's Council and the Disability Benefits Consortium. It was supported by 40 organisations, including Mencap.
Protesters travelled from as far afield as Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the south west of England to take part in what is being hailed the biggest gathering of disabled people in the UK ever.
The demonstrators marched from Victoria Embankment to the Houses of Parliament, waving banners and brandishing placards, with slogans such as ‘Blame banks not disabled people' and ‘Don't leave me stranded'.
Carol from the Westminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities was among a group of campaigners concerned about the future of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). "The Disability Living Allowance is essential, and without it we simply wouldn't be able to afford the additional costs of disability."
Sally Bercow, Labour activist, writer and wife of Speaker John Bercow, was at the front of the march – her eldest son is autistic. She said: "It was a real privilege to be here and I very much hope that this coalition government will not go through with cuts that will impact on disabled people, their benefits and services."
At a rally before the march, speakers included Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne and Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the work and pensions select committee. Gerry Hart, from the Darlington Association on Disability, Mark Harrison, from the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, Kirsten Hearn, chair of Inclusion London, and Jane Asher also spoke.
Liam Byrne MP said: "There was a huge turnout. There's a real depth of people furious that government welfare reform plans are about to descend into chaos. People agree that the welfare bill needs to come down, but we should do that by getting people into jobs not by pushing them into poverty."
After the demonstration protesters met with their MPs to lobby them on cuts vital benefits and services. Some 2,000 people were hoping to meet an MP.
The night before the Hardest Hit march, a committee of MPs voted on whether to amend the Welfare Reform Bill, to make sure disabled people in residential care continue to get the mobility component of DLA. It was a close vote, but the proposal remains in the Bill.
Find out more about the Hardest Hit campaign
Read more about Mencap's campaign against the cuts
See a video from the march