Wheelchair Protest

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Perhaps what surprised me most about the ‘Hardest Hit‘ march on May 11 was how cheerful and friendly everyone was, despite the great deal of anger at the government cuts which hit the disabled hardest.  It isn’t just the cuts in public services, although those with disabilities are likely to depend more on these than the rest of the community, but a process of trying to decimate the number of people who can claim mobility and disability benefits that was started by the previous Labour government.

Most of us would agree that a policy of encouraging disabled people to work in ways that make use of their capabilities is a good idea, but the new policies while paying lip service to this actually fail to make any attempt to do so, and are just designed to get as many as possible off benefits, or at least onto lower scales of benefit.

Rather than proper and personalised assessments of people’s capability and attempts to find ways that people can be integrated into employment, successive governments have contracted a private company to carry out tests using a computer system that cannot properly take individuals into account. Those administering the tests often lack the essential skills to make a proper assessment and are allowed insufficient time to do so. The company, Atos,  has a financial incentive to carry out the tests on the cheap and to turn down benefit applicants.

Although the tests are unfair to all, they are particularly unfair to some classes of applicants, particularly those with intermittent problems – many of whom if they attend the test centre are by definition having a ‘good’ day rather than a typical one – and those with mental illnesses.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

As well as the disabled, there were many supported and carers taking part in the protest, which was one of the shortest marches I’ve ever photographed. It started a couple of hundred yards before Big Ben’s Clock Tower at one end of the Houses of Parliament and finished a couple of hundred yards after At Stephens tower at the other end, so a very large proportion of the pictures I took have these buildings in the background.

As always, the height of Big Ben is a problem – fine when people are holding placards above their heads – as above, but harder to use when people are sitting low down.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

More at Hardest Hit March Against Cuts.

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