Up to 100 disabled people and supporters held a noisy protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday which ended in a spontaneous blockade of all four entrances into the building.
The protest was held after Minister for Murdering Disabled People Mike Penning said the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would still go ahead despite a court decision last year. The closure of the fund, which allows the most severely disabled people to lead independent lives, had been halted when the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully by not paying ‘due regard’ to the rights of disabled people under the Equality Act.
Campaigners had hoped that this would mean the end of this spiteful and nasty move which will lead to some disabled people having no choice but to live in institutions. Sadly Mike Penning announced last month that the Government intended to press ahead with the closure of the ILF, and this time do it legally.
Yesterday’s demonstration, which was called by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), began with songs and speeches outside the main entrance of the DWP after campaigners ignored the fenced off pen where the police presumably hoped the protest would be held. Many speakers demanded that Mike Penning, or one of his representatives, should come out of the building and face some of the people whose lives will be destroyed by closing the ILF. No-one came, and at one point the DWP even refused to accept a letter of protest showing how much the department really cares about ‘involving disabled people’ in decision making.
As anger grew at this cowardly snub, several disabled people made their way round to the side of the building where DWP officials had been sneaking in and out through a side-door. Bungling G4S security staff were unable to stop protesters blocking this entrance and when they found another way to let people in and out of the building a part of the crowd broke off and gathered outside that door as well.
Acting alongside a small police presence, security staff decided that no-one should leave the building through this exit either . As 5pm came and went, this meant hundreds of DWP employees had some much needed time to reflect on the harsh realities of their nine to five existence. Eventually police re-enforcements arrived and staff were let out of the front door accompanied by songs, shouts and occasional caustic barracking. Not one of the people leaving the building were prepared to admit that they worked for the Office for Disability Issues based inside, or even that they had met Mike Penning – who seems as unpopular at the DWP as he is everywhere else.
Some DWP staff whinged about not being able to go home on time, claiming current policies were nothing to do with them, they just carried them out on behalf of Penning and Iain Duncan Smith. As one protester pointed out however, a few minutes trapped in their office is nothing compared to the lifetime disabled people face being trapped in their homes, or even institutions, due to the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund.
For more on the campaign to save the Independent Living Fund, and to get involved visit Disabled People Against Cuts’ website or follow them on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid