Labour MP John McDonnell told a lobby of parliament in defence of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) that the recent protests against Atos and the DWP were the most successful anti-privatisation actions he could remember.
As well as shutting 25 Remploy factories and forcing tens of thousands of disabled people and seriously ill people off incapacity benefits by the use of the discredited Work Capability Assessments carried out by DWP contractor Atos, the Government have delivered a further kick in the teeth to disabled people.
The decision by former Minister for Disabled People, Maria “Factory Killer” Miller to shut the ILF to new applicants and to completely phase the fund out by 2015, condemns thousands of disabled people to a poorer quality of life and isolation.
It is proposed to devolve the ILF budget to local authorities, but this money will not be ring-fenced.
As John McDonnell pointed out, such is the intense pressure on local council budgets, as soon as the fund is devolved, that money will be used to reduce council tax.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) activists explained how 21,000 disabled people rely on the ILF to enjoy a life that would otherwise be denied them. Some horrendous stories were relayed about when access to this lifeline was cut about how it left people housebound and their families under immense pressure.
The attack on the ILF was yet another example of the nastiness of this Government. An average of £300 per week paid to 21,000 people will not have any effect on the deficit or the economy one way or another.
Yet the ConDems and particularly the Tory ministers that run the Department of Work and Pensions ( Chris Grayling and Maria Miller have been replaced by Mark Hoban and Esther McVey) will carry on destroying the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
McDonnell said that the protests against Atos and the DWP have really rattled the Government and a campaign to defend ILF should be built on the back of that success.
Campaigners then moved off for an impromptu protest outside the DWP, partly to send a message that disabled people will not be intimidated by the thuggery of the police which attacked people in wheelchairs at the recent Closing Atos protests there.