Speaking at the TUC’s annual disabled workers conference in London later today (Thursday) TUC Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak will urge unions and disability organisations to come together to campaign against government attacks on the welfare state.
Speaking at the event in Congress House he will say: “The past four years have been tough for disabled people in Britain. Cuts have devastated the NHS, social care and mental health services. Welfare reforms have shattered incomes and lifelines, and shameless propaganda about scroungers and spongers has fuelled prejudice, discrimination and hate.
“Sadly this torrent of right-wing vitriol has begun to strike a chord with the British public. As polling shows, attitudes towards the welfare state have really hardened.
“But behind the cuts and the benefit changes are real people.
“People like 24-year-old Amy Jones who has cerebral palsy. Paralysed in her left arm, Amy has deformities in her legs that make walking painful and incredibly tiring. Yet she’s just been told she may lose her Employment Support Allowance as an ATOS assessment said her condition was expected to improve.
“Or 28-year-old Kelly Marie Lennon who is blind and unable to walk or talk, and relies on a spare room as storage for her wheelchair and as a sensory haven. But her mother Dawn is now being asked to stump up £570 a year because of a bedroom tax that she simply cannot afford.
“It is a scandal that shames modern Britain and ministers should hang their heads in shame. The picture is grim – and for as long as austerity continues, it will continue to be grim for disabled people who need any kind of support.
“Rather than sit back and let the government get away with its attacks on disabled people, we must build alliances with the many organisations and groups who share our concerns at ministers’ heartless actions.
“The recent Transport for All campaign shows just what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. This has seen unions and Disabled People Against Cuts joining together to highlight accessibility problems on much of our transport system – and how ticket office closures will make matters worse.
“The challenge now is to make campaigns such as this the norm not the exception. And there’s no better place to start than by putting the issues facing disabled workers at the heart of our national march and rally in the autumn.
“Saturday 18 October is the day when hundreds of thousands of workers will take to the streets of London with a very simple message – that Britain needs a pay rise.
“The event will be as accessible as possible, and with issues such as the living wage of massive importance to disabled workers, I’m sure we’ll get a great turnout.
“Our challenge between now and the election is to make sure that what disabled people need becomes part of the battle of ideas when voters make their choice.
“We need disabled people to be actively involved in union campaigns for decent jobs in a new economy, for fair pay, good services and decent welfare, and for respect and a voice at work.”