Posts Tagged ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’

British Gas & Independent Living – 2014

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

British Gas & Independent Living: Two protests on Monday 12th May 2014 in Westminster. the first about fuel poverty and climate change and the second over plans to end the Independent Living Fund which enabled many disabled people to continue to work and have an independent life.


Bin British Gas – QEII Centre, Westminster

British Gas & Independent Living

British Gas were holding their AGM in the QEII centre and a protest outside demanded they stop profiteering from high energy prices and end support for fracking.

British Gas & Independent Living

The protest was called by Fuel Poverty Action who say there were over 10,000 extra deaths last winter because people were unable to heat their homes, while Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013. While they raised gas prices by 10.4% and electricity by 8.4%.

British Gas & Independent Living

They also called for government and energy companies to end support for fracking which as well as threatening water supplies in the UK would also lead to more climate-wrecking carbon dioxide emissions.

British Gas & Independent Living

The campaigners called for greater investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

At the protest were representatives from fuel poverty, pensioner, climate, housing groups and renewable energy co-operatives. After a number of speeches including from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts, people came together too tear up British Gas energy bills.

A giant bill was torn up and Lambeth pensioner, Ellen Lebethe, brought out a poster-size Fuel Poverty Action ‘Energy Bill of Rights.’

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.

Inside the Centrica AGM, a member of Reclaim Shakespeare Company had stood up holding a can of beans and a skull to read a version of Hamlet’s iconic monologue, entitled “To Heat or Eat, that is the question”, and this was read out at the protest. Shortly after the actor came out from the building to tell us about what had happened inside.

The protest ended with people planting 100 small windmills made from folded British Gas bills in the grass outside the QEII centre.

More pictures at Bin British Gas.


Save Independent Living Fund – Dept of Work & Pensions

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was set up in 1988 under the Thatcher government to provided financial support to some of the most severely disabled people in the UK. Its main use was to enable them to have carers and personal assistants so they could live in their communities and for many to continue in useful employment.

The ILF was administered by a separately funded body and was highly cost-effective, providing support at much lower costs than residential care as well as enabling those receiving support to live independent lives Around 18,000 people were being assisted by the fund in 2014.

When the government announced it was scrapping the scheme in England in 2010 it was met with protests by disabled people and in 2013 was taken to court. The government won the case that its decision was lawful, but lost in the Court of Appeal.

A revised proposal was then made by the government to announce once again in March 2014 that ILF would close. A fresh legal challenge failed in December 2014 and the scheme ended in June 2015, with responsibility for supporting disabled people being passed to local authorities who were given funding roughly 12% less than the ILF – and which was not ring-fenced.

Police tried to persuade the protesters to keep to a small area well to one side of the Dept of Work & Pensions but they refused and protested in a larger space in front of the two main doors, which were both locked for the event.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE‘ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

A number of people told their ‘ILF stories‘ of how the fund had helped them and how they feared its closure would seriously limit their lives. DPAC tried to deliver a letter to Minister for the Disabled Mike Penning but were refused entry to the building and no one from the department was prepared to come and receive it.

One of the protesters who had travelled from Newcastle phoned her MP from here wheelchair outside the DWP, and Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside came down to support the protest. She failed to get DWP security to let the protesters deliver their letter but offered to deliver it for them. She was let in through a side entrance to do so then came out and spoke briefly giving her support to the protest.

More at Save Independent Living Fund.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


DPAC – Stop & Scrap Universal Credit – 2018

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

DPAC – Stop & Scrap Universal Credit: A couple of days ago the media were carrying news of a report by the Resolution Foundation on the working of the Universal Credit benefit first introduced in 2013. This found that seven in 10 (71%) families on UC were worse off in real terms now than they would have been under the previous benefits, and that out of work people with disabilities were those likely to have lost most.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

Six years ago, DPAC were already pointing this out and on Wednesday 18th April 2018 campaigners from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network), Black Triangle, Winvisible and others began a nationwide day of action against Universal Credit in London with a rally in Old Palace Yard and a protest inside Parliament.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

Security meant I was unable to cover their protest inside the Houses of Parliament but I met those who had been protesting inside when they came out to join those protesting outside and held a rally in Old Palace Yard.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

As that rally ended the campaigners marched into Parliament Square where they blocked the roadway for around half an hour before ending their protest.

DPAC - Stop & Scrap Universal Credit

DPAC and others say that Universal Credit has so many flaws it must be scrapped, calling it “an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it“.

Back in 2018 they pointed out it has been particularly disastrous for disabled people. The removal of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums means single disabled people lose around £2,000 per year and a disabled couple over £4,000.

There have been some changes in Universal Credit since 2018, but these have mainly been administrative and have not affected the basic unfairness towards the disabled. The Resolution Foundation report suggests that a single person with a long-term disability which prevents them from working would now be £2,800 per year worse off than under the old benefits system.

Their report suggests overall cost of Universal Credit in 2028 will be about £86bn a year, while under the previous system it would have been £100bn, a saving of £14bn, which is being made to the cost of those disabled and others out of work – the poorest groups in our society. In contrast those working and also claiming UC will be a little better off than under to previous benefits system.

As always police found dealing with disabled protesters difficult. It doesn’t look good to be harassing them in the way they would normally act to protesters, and they have a great problem in making arrests of people in wheel chairs or on mobility vehicles. Apparently the Met have only one vehicle which can safely carry either – and only in limited numbers, perahps one at a time.

More about the protet and more pictures on My London Diary at Stop & Scrap Universal Credit say DPAC.


As well as this protest there was also a large protest in Parliament Square by Kashmiris and Indians from many sections of the community including Tamils, Sikhs, Ravidass, Dalits, Muslims and others against the visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and smaller groups supporting him and his ultra-right Hindu supremacist policies.
Indians protest President Modi’s visit
Hindus support Modi
Save Girl, Educate Girl

And in late afternoon I went to join Environmental group Biofuelwatch holding their ‘Time to Twig’ Masked Ball Forest Flashmob outside the Marylebone hotel where the largest international biomass conference was taking place.
‘Time to Twig’ Masked Ball


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria – 2012

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria: On Saturday 28th January 2012 I photographed two major protests in London, with disabled protesters calling for the dropping of the Welfare Reform Bill and later several groups of protesters outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square arguing for various reasons against US or Western Intervention in Iran or Syria.


Disabled Welfare Reform Road Block – Oxford Circus

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, protested at Oxford Circus, chaining wheelchairs together & calling for the dropping of Welfare Reform Bill, urging savings cutting tax evasion by the rich rather than penalising the poor and disabled.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

I met with some of the protesters outside Holborn Station and others who had arrived by taxi at Great Portland Street. I’m not sure why they had chosen these two meeting points as they are both – like most Central London stations – without step-free access. London Underground has been painfully slow in providing disabled access.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

I went with them from Great Portland Street to Oxford Circus where they met up with others who had just begun to block the road, going in a line across the end of Regent Street when the lights changed to allow pedestrians to cross and passing a chain through their wheelchairs which they locked to posts on each side.

Disabled Welfare Reform & Syria - 2012

Others walked on the road with placards and banners to support them, but there were enough police in the area to enable them to stop the protesters blocking Oxford Street.

Selma James speaking

Among groups supporting DPAC’s protest were UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners and the women’s groups from the Crossroads Centre in north London who had brought their public address system.

Shortly after the street band Rhythms of Resistance turned up and added their sounds to the protest.

Police had quickly managed to divert traffic on streets to get around the protest and were having discussions about how to handle the protest. A FIT team had arrived to photograph everyone (press included) and TSG officers were standing nearby with bolt cutters. But arresting people in wheelchairs is difficult as police need to supply suitable safe transport.

Eventually the officer in charge read out a statement telling the protesters their presence on the road is breaking the law – as of course they knew. He and other officers then went to ask the protesters if they would move. They didn’t and some got out their own handcuffs to handcuff themselves to the chain.

Police kept smiling and talking to the protesters, waiting for them to leave rather than trying to move or arrest them. Eventually after about an hour and a half they did so, having decided they had made their point successfully and it was time to pack up. Probably too nature was beginning to call!

The protest attracted a great deal of coverage in the press for the campaign, while earlier efforts to get their arguments against the bill including earlier less active protests have received very little publicity.

More pictures at Disabled Welfare Reform Road Block.


No War Against Iran & Syria – US Embassy

Tony Benn started the speeches. Jeremy Corbyn waits to speak

I’d left a few minutes before the DPAC protest ended to walk to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square where Stop the War were holding a protest against sanctions and war on Iran and Syria.

When I arrived I found a very confusing situation with several groups of protesters and some noisy heckling with scuffles with the Stop the War stewards.

I think everyone there was against US or Western Intervention in Iran or Syria, but some noisy protests which came to a head while Abbas Eddalat of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran was speaking, from protesters representing the Free Iran ‘Green Movement’ who wanted to make a clear statement of their opposition to the current Iranian regime with its religious bigotry and persecution.

The stewards first tried to argue with them but soon became physical, pushing them roughly away from the protest. Supporters of the Iranian regime joined in along with supporters of Syrian President Asad.

Police seemed bewildered as they tried to sort out the various groups – and there were also some Kurds with a large Iraqi Kurdistan flag.

Eventually the Free Iran protesters were persuaded to hold their own separate protest a few yards away in front of the embassy, though some of them rejoined the Stop the War protest later. Another group, Hands Off the People of Iran were also present and handing out leaflets, against Stop the War which has favoured links with supporters of the regimes in both Syria and Iran.

Police briefly held one young man who was wearing the current Iraqi flag but then released him, with a police officer trying to prevent press taking pictures, saying “He has a right to privacy” – which clearly as I told the officer he has not under UK law when protesting on the public street.

Then there were ‘Anonymous’ in their ‘V for Vendetta’ masks protesting on the other side of the hedge around the gardens to the main protest, and later Stop the War stewards again sprung into action to stop the free expression of dissent when pro-Asad Syrians began their own protest.

Various speakers including Tony Benn, Lindsey German, John McDonnell and others made a clear case against any Western intervention at the main rally – and I give some of their arguments on My London Diary.

More at No War Against Iran & Syria.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis
London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Roma, Olympic Park and Mind – 2016

Tuesday, October 31st, 2023

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind: After a morning protest by Roma at the Czech Embassy in Kensington I took a walk around the Olympic Park in Stratford before joining the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) who were holding a Halloween Demo at the national office of Mind.


Roma protest Czech Murder – Czech embassy, Kensington

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Ladislav Balaz, Chair of the Roma Labour Group and Europe Roma Network and others had come to hand in a letter calling for the murder of a young Romani man by neo-Nazi skinheads in Žatec to be properly investigated.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

The man who had lived in the UK until a year ago was a second cousin of Balaz. He was set upon as he went to buy cigarettes at a pizzeria.

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

Most cases of murders of Roma in the Czech Republic are dismissed by police as accidents and they have already issued false stories about the victim, claiming he was mentally ill and attacked people. The Roma demand justice and equality for everyone in Czech Republic and the elimination of any double standards of justice. Several of the protesters made speeches in Czech as the letter was presented.

Roma protest Czech Murder


A Walk in the Olympic Park – Stratford

Roma, Olympic Park and Mind

I had several hours between the protest outside the Czech Embassy and a protest in Stratford High Street and decided it was a good occasion to take another walk in the park at Stratford which had been the site of the 2012 London olympic games and to make some more panoramic images.

It was a year since I had been there, and four years since the Olympics and I had hoped to see the park in much better condition than I found it. Considerable progress had been made in the buildings which are shooting up around it and many of the ways into the park are still closed.

I walked around much of the southern area of the park and found it still “largely an arid and alienating space composed mainly of wide empty walkways rather than a park.”

I took rather a lot of pictures, both panoramic and more normal views before it was time to make my way back through the Westfield shopping centre into the centre of Stratford.

Many more pictures at A Walk in the Olympic Park.


Against Mind’s collusion with the DWP – Stratford

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive came out and spoke to the protesters

The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) came for a Halloween Demo at the national office of mental health charity Mind in Stratford.

They complain that Mind failed to mention the effects of welfare reform, sanctions, or benefit-related deaths in its latest five-year strategy and has dropped its support for the long-running court case aimed at forcing the government to make WCA safer for people with mental health conditions.

Mind’s policy and campaigns manager Tom Pollard had been seconded to work as a senior policy adviser to the DWP and was to start the following day and they demanded the resignation of Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer.

Farmer came out to meet the protesters on the pavement and told them that Mind was still working for people with mental health problems and not for the DWP, and that Pollard’s decision had been entirely a personal one in order to gain more insight into the workings of government rather than to assist them in the any discrimination against the disabled.

The protesters were unconvinced and after he had finished speaking several spoke about how local Mind groups were working against the interests of those with mental health problems. They claimed the local managers were often more interested in empire building than in the welfare of benefit claimants.

More pictures at Mind’s collusion with the DWP.


Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan: Ten years ago on 28th September 2013 I photographed a protest in Parliament Square against the degrading and wholly unreliable tests administered by Atos to determine whether disabled peole qualify for benefits. The I continued to the Sudanese Embassy where a large crowd of Sudanese were calling for an end to the repressive regime in Sudan.


10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests – Parliament Square

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

10,000 White chrysanthemums were spread on the mud and grass of Parliament Square in an act of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 disabled peole who have died in the three months after being made to take the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The 10,000 are largely made up of those who already have a terminal diagnosis but still have to come and submit to the tests for ther benefits to continue for their remaining few months of life. And despite compelling medical evidence many are refused benefits and said by Atos to be ‘Fit for work’.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The ceremony took place in the square bounded by the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and the Treasury and was organised by the 10,000 Cuts & Counting Campaign which included disability activists, Occupy activists, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and others who recognise that lives are being devastated by the government’s austerity programme.

Atos Deaths & Regime Change in Sudan

The campaigners do not claiming that the test itself kills the 10,000, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests adminstered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

Sophie Partridge reads the words of Karen Sherlock who died in 2012 after endess pressure and loss of benefits.

A number of disabled people and a mother of three disabled children gave moving testimonies with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions and their lack of understading of the needs of the disabled. They had not been treated with dignity or humanity, with deliberately discriminatory policies, targets to be met, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence. And there was a period of silence and prayers to the four corners of the square.

The Tories had obviously seen the disabled as an easy touch for cuts, thinking they would be unable to defend themselves, but organisations such as DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, have signally proved them wrong. Many of the disabled have become desperate and have been some of the most prominent and most effective protesters, not least because the police have great difficulties (and some sympathy) in dealing with them. Arresting people in wheelchairs isn’t easy.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.


Sudanese Call for Regime Change – Sudanese Embassy

I left Parliament Square where the protest was still continuing with a number of people including MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as well as several disabled activists still waiting to speak to rush to the Sudanese Embassy in Cleveland Row at the end of Pall Mall.

There a noisy crowd of around a hundred were in a protest pen calling for Omar al-Bashir and the National Congress Party to resign. The London protest was in solidarity with those that have been taking place in Khartoum over rises in fuel prices and corruption over the past six days. The protests there have been brutally attacked by the regime.

The protesters in London from ‘Sudan Change Now’ and the ‘National Sudanese Women Alliance’ see the government as a total failure in managing the country for over 23 years, presiding over a political, economic and social collapse.

They say the government disrespects the Sudanese people and ignores their education and health, with all the money going into ‘security’ spending, which does not make the people secure but is used to repress the people and fight wars, with many of the best Sudanese men and women being killed in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

Under the regime of Omar al-Bashir, the judicial system was base on Sharia Law, with stoning, flogging, whipping, hanging and even crucifixtion. Some saw the protests in Khartoum as the start of an ‘Arab Spring’ movement which would lead to regime change but it was not until 2019 that al-Bashir was deposed in a coup d’état, then arrested, tried and convicted on multiple corruption charges.

More pictures at Sudanese Call for Regime Change.


DPAC take Pants to IDS – 2013

Monday, September 4th, 2023

DPAC take Pants to IDS: Wednesday 4th September 2013 was the last day of a week of action by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) against the attacks by the coalition Tory government on the poor and disabled. I photographed protests outside the Dept of Health, Dept of Energy and Climate Change and the Dept of Education in the morning, and then a combined ‘Pants to IDS’ demonstration at the Dept for Work & Pensions in the afternoon. Between the these I also covered a rally in Parliament Square by UK Dalits protesting the failure of the government to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK; government policies on this issue seem to be dictated by their high-caste Hindu donors.


DPAC Picket Ministries

DPAC take Pants to IDS

DPAC was formed by disabled to give a voice to disabled people who are so often patronised and marginalised, despite many being highly intelligent and articulate and obviously being able to speak from experience. As users of services they know better than the highly paid consultants and cronies that governments seem to prefer to rely on to give the answers they want.

DPAC take Pants to IDS

At the Ministry of Health in Whitehall around 50 disablement activists held a protest “to defend our NHS and demand our right to levels of social care support enabling choice, control, dignity and independence.” There were banners, posters, placards, speeches and songs, including ‘Citizen Smart’ (Alan Smart) and Adeola Johnson, who sang her ‘General Strike’

DPAC take Pants to IDS

The protest there was continuing when I went on to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and joined those “angry about the numbers of disabled people living in fuel poverty while the energy companies rake in ever growing profits” to hear more speeches and songs.

DPAC take Pants to IDS

There were people holding a banner across the door which appeared to be blocked. Again I left before the end, catching a bus to the next of the four initial venues.

The mood at the Dept of Education was angrier, with a group crowding around the single doorway shouting and arguing with a man refusing them entry. They kept asking for either someone from the department to come out and discuss their protest against government attacks on inclusive education and a return to segregation or for a delegation to be allowed in to deliver their manifesto.

After I left three people were allowed to take the manifesto in, and were told that they might be allowed back to discuss it later in the week. There was so a protest at the Dept of Transport but I was too late by the time I arrived there.

More at DPAC Picket Ministries.


DPAC take Pants to IDS – Dept for Work & Pensions

The pavement outside the Dept of Work and Pensions was rather crowded with roughly a hundred protesters along with reporters and around 35 assorted wheelchairs and mobility vehicles.

They listened intently to speeches by Sean McGovern, co-chair of the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, John McArdle of the Black Triangle Campaign (named after the symbol the Nazi’s forced those they considered “asocial” or “workshy” to wear) and Richard Reiser, co ordinator for UK Disability History Month, along with several from DPAC members.

There were performances by Heydon Prowse as a man in a white suit and with a three piece gospel choir performing a piece about Atos miracles which certify the dead and dying as ‘fit for work’.

A deputation let to deliver a copy of the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto: Reclaiming Our Futures which was to be launched at a meeting in the House of Commons later in the day to Downing St. Research shows that “disabled people are being disproportionately impacted by the cuts with those with the most complex levels of support need being hit by austerity nineteen times harder than the average person.”

The manifesto was produced by disabled people and their organisations and sets out the key principles, demands and commitments that are important to deaf and disabled people. MPs were reminded that “With around 1 in 5 of the population being disabled and many more affected by disability as family, friends and carers or simply as citizens who care about social justice, policy and pledges on disability will be a key concern of many voters as we approach the next election.”

As the deputation left, Andy Greene of DPAC opened the large bag he had been carrying around all day. He reminded us that Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) had his problems too (earlier McArdle had described him less sympathetically as “the psychopath that is the minister in this office“.)

One of IDS’s problems had been over housing, but had been solved when his daddy-in-law had given him the mansion where DPAC activists had visited him for a protest on his very nice lawn, and another was apparently with some very personal items.

Back in 2003, one of his senior aides gave evidence to a House of Commons Committee that he had claimed expenses from the taxpayer for – among other items – his underwear. So here in the bag were lots of pants for IDS, and we were invited to personalise them with a message saying what we thought of his policies, after which they could be pegged up on a washing line between the lamp posts outside the ministry. None of the comments were positive but there were just a few that were fit to photograph and print.

More pictures DPAC take Pants to IDS


End UK Caste Discrimination Now – Parliament Square

Between the DPAC protests I also photographed a protest by some of the estimated 200-400,000 lower caste Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) living in the UK. Although the House of Lords had twice voted for caste discrimination to be included in equalities law, and section 9 of the Equality Act 2010 requires the Government to introduce secondary legislation to include it under race, the government continues to cave in to high-cast Hindu objections to doing so. Although illegal in India, it is still widespread there, and many in the UK have also suffer abuse because of their caste. But wealthy Hindus are large donors to the Conservative Party (and probably now to Starmer’s Labour.)

I wrote more about this on My London Diary and there are a few more pictures at End UK Caste Discrimination Now.


Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims – 2012

Tuesday, August 29th, 2023

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims: On Wednesday 29th August 2012, the day that the Paralympic Games opened in London, disabled activists held a vigil to remember those who have died as a result of the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Paralympic Sponsor Atos, delivering a coffin to their head office. The vigil was a part of a week of action organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC).

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

I met with the activists in the two two coffee shops on Triton Square to prepare for the vigil shortly before they moved out towards Atos. It was raining steadily but fortunately there was an area under cover in front of the Atos offices where the could set up a PA system, an electronic organ, a lectern and an altar.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

The event began with a speaker (and a signer) explaining the problems with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as delivered by Atos, “a relentless health and disability assessment regime which has been used to slash vital benefits from hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people” and where assessors are told they have to reach strict targets in failing the great majority of claimants, finding ways to fill in the relevant boxes on the forms and often deliberately misinterpreting the claimants responses and misrepresenting their medical condition.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012

Stories were read out about people who had committed suicide after incorrect Atos WCA assessments and where there was evidence that this had been at least part of the direct cause of their deaths.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims - 2012
Claire Glasman of Winvisible holds a poster about June Mitchell, found fit to work when dying from lung cancer

Four disabled people in wheelchairs or mobility scooters then brought a coffin to the vigil and people came forward to lay flowers on it.

The coffin was then carried to be put down directly in front of the Atos office entrance, and more flower petals were then thrown over it.

In 2012 I commented:

The event was a solemn and moving reminder of the scandal of the work capability assessments and the terrible effect they are having on the disabled. Many are losing the allowances that enable them to travel to work, others housing benefits, and are being told they are fit to work when patently they are unable to do so. One of the protesters had a placard with a list of some of the cases, “a suicidal woman – a man with FATAL heart condition – rape survivor of Rwandan genocide – man with kidney cancer – woman with sever MS”. It is a list that could be extended almost indefinitely – and now includes a man in a coma.

Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims

Despite Atos having been discredited, repeatedly been accused of dishonesty and associated with the deaths of disabled people, according to Disability News Service it earned over £465 million before withdrawing from the WCA contract in 2015.

Atos were left out of the awards for disablity assessment contracts worth over £2billion announced this year for 2024-9, with the contracts going to Capita, US company Maximus and Australian multinational Ingeus. But Atos may eventually get one of the five contracts, as they took the DWP to court after losing out to Serco for the southwest England contract, claiming the evaluation of the bids had been unfair. The court action ended with the DWP agreeing to reassess the decision, and the £338m contract may yet go to Atos.

As Disability News Service points out, both Capita and Maximus also been linked to the deaths of disabled claimants. Capita also has had serious data protection problems and has failed to meet acceptable quality standards of its PIP assessements and has been linked to “widespread reports of dishonesty by its healthcare professionals“. Despite this, these companies continue to be rewarded by hugely lucrative contracts. Privatisation apparently saves money but only by providing a service which employs staff often without adequate qualifications, forces them into dishonest practices and shoddy work and claimants pay dearly for this, sometimes with their lives.

More at Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims.


Rail Strikes, Tickets & Right to Ride

Thursday, July 20th, 2023

Some of my thoughts about the UK railway system and my experiences of it with pictures from a protest on Thursday 20th July 2017 about the real problems faced by disabled rail users.


Rail Strikes, Tickets & Right to Ride

I’ve spent quite a lot of my life on trains. Not many very long journeys, though I did once go to Marseilles from Victoria long before the age of Eurostar and TGVs and I’ve always taken the train on my visits to Paris, Brussels and Scotland as well as most trips around England as I don’t drive. But the great bulk of my rail journeys have shorter commutes to photograph in and around London.

It was really the advent of the Travelcard in 1983 and its later extensions that made much of my photography of London practicable. Before that going Waterloo (or Vauxhall) had been easy for me, but getting around in London was a nightmare of buying tickets for individual journeys on trains, underground and buses. Well paid photographers could use taxis, but I was making little for most of the time and used them only rarely – mainly when others were paying or we could share.

The Travelcard also significantly reduced the costs of journeys involving several forms or transport or even several buses, and for those of us coming from outside London gave us freedom to travel within all six zones of Greater London. So news that it is to be ended for those living outside the boundary is not at all welcome.

Rail Strikes, Tickets & Right to Ride

More recently, engineering works at weekends and rail strikes have also affected my photography. There have been days when I’ve decided not to try to get into London as the though of perhaps an extra couple of hours or even more sitting on trains and buses have just made it not seem worthwhile.

Of course I support the rail workers. The government’s approach to the disputes, forcing the various rail companies into confrontation rather than trying to find solutions is totally ridiculous and unsupportable. At the root of the problem is the fragmentation of privatisation and the opportunities it gave and continues to give the companies – many owned by foreign state railways – opportunities to profit at the expense of the tax payer. Radical reforms are needed, almost certainly involving some bringing back of rail into public ownership and undoing at least some elements of splitting up the essentially indivisible.

Rail Strikes, Tickets & Right to Ride

And engineering work is essential, though I do wonder why it seems to happen now far more frequently than it used to. It does seem to be handled more efficiently in some continental countries and involve less disruption of weekend services.

The government and rail companies are now proposing to get rid of most of the rail ticket offices. We have a hugely complex ticketing system with many anomalies and which ticket machines and online ticketing are unable to process. Even the workers in ticket offices can’t always get things right. But before cutting back on their services which many – particularly the old, disabled and less frequent travellers – find essential, we need first to unify and simplify rail ticketing.

Rail Strikes, Tickets & Right to Ride

We have seen some improvements of our rail system since I first began using it back in the 1960s. There have been considerable improvements in rolling stock, begun under British Rail as did our faster services and Inter City lines, some electrified at that from London to Manchester. Design improvements have also changed our commuter trains (though in some areas these are still sadly out of date) making my journeys into London much less noisy and smoother.

I do miss not being able to open windows and doors, but can see the reasons for this. But though we no longer have to wait at stations while the guard or station staff rush along the platform to close doors thoughtlessly left open by exiting passengers making the stops at stations a minute or so shorter, and though the newer trains have better acceleration and faster maximum speeds and are running on smoother rails, travel times have actually increased.

The reason for the slacker timetables is clear. Train companies have to pay for trains that run late. So they add a minute here and a minute there to the schedules. They also close train doors before the time the train is due to leave, sometimes 30s, sometimes a minute. So my 9.59 train is now a 9.58:30 train, often leaving passengers who should have just caught it fuming on the platform. And instead of the journey taking 28 minutes it now takes 34 – or even 38 at weekends.

DPAC/RMT ‘Right to Ride’ protest – Dept of Transport

But my problems and moans about trains are trivial compared to those faced by those in wheelchairs or otherwise requiring support. On Thursday 20th July 2017 I was with DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and RMT members outside the Dept of Transport, calling for disabled people to have the same right to use rail services as others.

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) had called this protest during their week of action while the London World Para Athletics Championships was taking place. DPAC say the government uses this and similar events to try to show it is highly supportive of the disabled while actually they are highly discriminatory against all those who are not high-performing para-athletes.

Many of the changes which the government is trying to impose on our railways, including Driver Only Operated trains, the removal of guards from trains and rail staff from stations all threaten the freedom of disable people to travel. DPAC have joined with RMT staff on picket lines for industrial action against these changes which discriminate against the disabled and threaten rail safety.

Disabled people requiring support to travel – such as a ramp to board a train – have to give a day’s notice, and even then are sometimes stranded when staff fail to turn up – often being left on the platform or taken to the next station. London buses now have driver-operated ramps, but no trains have these fitted.

After speeches and delivering a petition demanding the right to ride on trains without having to give a day’s notice they blocked the road outside the ministry in protest for ten minutes. DPAC are now protesting with rail workers against the proposed ticket office closures.

More pictures at DPAC/RMT ‘Right to Ride’ protest


Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby’s – 2015

Saturday, July 8th, 2023

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby’s: Wednesday 8th July 2015 was budget day, and campaigners were out in Whitehall to protest. For the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign it was just another Wednesday and they lined up to remind MPs of the need for action. Later United Voices of the World were back at Sotheby’s who had sacked four workers for taking part in the previous week’s protest.


DPAC Protests – Downing St, Westminster Bridge & Parliament Square

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

Disabled People Against Cuts supporters, some in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, were protesting against the changes to benefits which will hit the disabled hardest. Their supporters included Global Women’s Strike, Winvisible, Women Against Rape, Unite Community and Class War.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

They began at Downing St with a ‘Balls to the Budget’ protest, arriving with footballs and balloons and and after some speeches on the pavement opposite Paula Peters led protesters across the road towards the gates, which were protected by two lines of police.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

From there they tried to throw balls carrying messages such as ‘If the Tories had a soul they’d sell it’, ‘Cuts Kill‘ and ‘Blood on your hands‘ over the gates, but most fell short.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

They then moved off down Whitehall and Parliament Street on their way to Westminster Bridge. Police who had largely stood back and watched earlier tried to persuade them to go on to the pavement but were ignored.

They moved to the middle of Westminster Bridge as a small group on the Embankment in front of St Thomas’s Hospital facing the Houses of Parliament displayed a huge banner with the message ‘#Balls2TheBudget #DPAC’ with ahand making an appropriate two-finger sign.

This was then brought up onto the bridge and stretched across its full width, and along with the protesters it completely blocked traffic in both directions.

After some minutes Paula Peters called for the protesters to move to Parliament, leading the protesters and the huge banner on her own chariot past Boadicea.

Here they made use of the banner to completely block all traffic moving through the busy road junction.

They held a short rally on the street and were joined by strikers marching down from the National Gallery led by the sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin, victimised for her trade union activities.

By now police patience had grown thin, and reinforcements arrived to try to clear the protesters from the streets. They tried to grab the large banner and began to push protesters and press onto the pavements.

The press as usual obeyed the police instructions more or less, though that didn’t stop some being pushed rather too violently. Most of the protesters let themselves be pushed to the pavement, but many of those in wheelchairs refused to move. Eventually police made some arrests, including Andy Greene of DPAC who was on his mobility scooter.

Eventually police brought a specially adapted van they had hired into which they could put Andy, still on his mobility scooter and the others arrested and take them safely to the police station. Unlike normal police vans it had large windows through which I was able to take pictures.

More on My London Diary
DPAC Parliament Square Budget Day protest
DPAC blocks Westminster Bridge
DPAC ‘Balls to the Budget’


Joint Strikers Budget Day Rally

Public sector workers striking against the privatisation of the council services in Barnet and Bromley came to join the PCS strikers and held a rally in Parliament Square, along with various trade union speakers, including one of the four cleaners sacked by Sotheby’s.

Joint Strikers Budget Day Rally


Save Shaker Aamer weekly vigil

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign was also in Parliament Square, holding its regular Wednesday weekly vigil calling for the immediate release and return to the UK of Londoner Shaker Aamer and for the closure of the illegal torture prison at Guantanamo.

Save Shaker Aamer weekly vigil


Sotheby’s 4 sacked for protesting

Later I met the United Voices of the World and their supporters at Oxford Circus, marching with them to Sotheby’s.- in Old Bond Street. As well as their original demands for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions they were now demanding the reinstatement of the ‘Sotheby’s 4’, cleaners sacked for taking place in the protest a week earlier.

At Sotheby’s police tried to move them away to the other side of the road, but the protesters, including a group from Class War and supporters from Lewisham People Against Profit, SOAS Unison, the National Gallery strikers and others ignored their requests. They left the entrance clear but wanted to make their presence clearly felt, protesting on the road outside.

Eventually two vans of police reinforcements arrived and started to push the protesters away, leading to a number of arguments. Eventually protesters were pushed to the pavement opposite, making it easier for taxis to drop clients directly in front of the entrance to Sotheby’s rather than having to walk past the noisy protest.

The protest was continuing when I had to leave after around an hour later.

Much more on My London Diary at Sotheby’s 4 sacked for protesting.


BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

Friday, May 19th, 2023

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts – Thursday 19th May 2016 – Seven years ago today.


Greenpeace ‘Sinking Cities’ banners at BM/BP show – British Museum

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

There are some protests which are advertised well in advance and other actions which are kept highly secret with only a small group taking part being in the know. And the action on the opening day of the BP sposored exhibition Sinking Cities at the British Museum was definitely one of the latter.

I heard about it only as I was on my way up to London for another event close by, and detoured slightly to cover it. I live on the edge of London, just inside the M25 and can’t usually respond to ‘breaking news’ as it takes me too long to get there.

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

Clearly the BP sponsorship of ‘Sinking Cities’ was going to be controversial as there has been a long campaign, particularly by ‘BP or Not BP’ to get the British Museum to end the deal which has allowed BP to ‘greenwash’ their polluting and climate destroying activities, which have significantly contributed to global warming and so to recent floods in cities across the globe.

Greenpeace had come with very professionally produced large banners for ‘Sinking Cities’, naming some of the places which have been flooded recently by global warming induced climate change and had managed to come inside and hang this down the columns across the front of the museum’s Main entrance. At first glance they really looked as if they were a part of the Museum’s own publicity.

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

It really was impressive, and the Museum had been caught on the hop, reacting in panic they closed the whole museum for the day, dissapointing many who had come. This seemed unnecessary as the museum could simply have closed this front entrance to deal with the climbers and remove the banners. The climbers on the columns were obviously experienced and operating safely and apparently without damage to the museum structure.

It served as rather a good advertising stunt for the show, but of course was rather embarrassing for the sponsors BP which is why the Museum felt it necessary to remove them. Most other major arts organisations in London including the Tate Museums, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery had dropped BP as a sponsor following pressure by protests such as these and pressure from artists, musicians and staff who work in them.

‘Sinking Cities’ banners at BM/BP show


No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts – Tottenham Court Rd

BP Greenwashing & Benefits Cuts

I had come to London that morning as delegates at the TUC disabled workers conference led by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible (Women with visible and invisible disabilities) were to hold a lunchtime protest which I had been invited to photograph.

They came out and marched, led by people in wheelchairs from Congress House to Tottenham Court Road calling for an end to government benefit cuts which have led to the deaths of many disabled people – including 2 DPAC members the previous day.

Two long banners gave the message ‘NO MORE DEATHS FROM BENEFIT CUTS’ and on arriving at Tottenham Court Road they held these across the road stopping traffic in both directions.

Another banner was full of the names of some of those known to have died because of sanctions and cuts in benefits, among them David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died penniless, alone and starving after being sanctioned. He didn’t even have enough money to keep the refrigerator to store his insulin running.

Another banner asked the question ‘IS THIS HOW 2 TREAT Disabled People?’. The protesters held a short and noisy rally, getting considerably support from many around including many workers also on their lunch breaks. There were a few short speeches before it was time for the protesters to march back for the afternoon session at Congress House, with a police officer arriving just as they were about to leave. As usual he is confused to find that no-one is in charge.

When the Tories got into power, at first in coalition in 2010, they determined they would save money by cutting benefits thinking the disabled would be an easy target. Groups such as DPAC and the others at this event have shown them how wrong they were. These people rely on benefits to live and to have a decent life and have organised and reacted to try to retain them against the government’s attacks.

More at No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts.