Looking back at 2015, DPAC seems to have been even more pro-active and prolific then usual. It has of course been a very strange year in some ways with the General Election in May and the Labour Party leadership election in September.
This has resulted in two of the backbench MPs, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who have supported DPAC massively in the past 5 years now leading the party something which I don’t think any of us envisaged at the start of 2015. However one thing that seems very clear from the results of the General Election and the landslide victory of the SNP running on an anti-austerity agenda is that people have made it clear they are no longer going to put up with the Tories neo-Liberal agenda without challenging it.
January started with a hastily arranged lobby of parliament on 6th hosted by the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas to try to save the Independent Living Fund and the launch of a campaign to regain the right to live independently for Anthony Kletzander, a young man in Southern Ireland who had been deprived of his liberty. This campaign was successful and in May Anthony was able to return to live independently in his community.
In January we also supported a protest in Merton against cuts to the Local Authorities budget and helped to support an action around the 70th anniversary of Nazi Holocaust Day.
We spent a lot of time last year lobbying and making ourselves visible to Labour Party politicians as part of our Who2Vote4 campaign in the run up to the General Election. Lets face it this was necessary as the Blairites in the party are no better then the Tories in terms of failing to support disabled people’s rights and equality and it is important we don’t forget that. At the very least Labour should be an effective opposition and oppose the savage attacks disabled people are facing on a daily basis.
We went to the launch of the Labour Party Policy in Birmingham in March together with Kate Belgrave who took videos of Andy Burnham running away from answering questions about the ILF, Yvette Cooper running away from questions about WCAs and Liam Byrne suddenly remembering he had left his children at home and had to go and find them so he too couldn’t speak about WCAs either.
We lobbied every single Prospective Parliamentary Candidate about whether they would agree to keep the ILF open and obviously in particular Ed Miliband. In Ed’s case this had no effect and he seemed to ignore us totally when we said “give us your commitment to save the ILF and we’ll help get you disabled people’s votes.” I can only assume he didn’t want our votes.
We had a list of manifesto promises we asked parties to sign up to for the election and this was pushed by the Radical Left Group and John McDonnell in particular.
We also supported Operation Disabled Vote and helped with the push to get disabled people to register to vote and use their power at the ballot box. The General Election period further involved us in a number of anti-UKIP and anti-fascist protests especially in and around Kent and London areas. We make no apology for these although we have been criticised by one person for spending time and energy campaigning against UKIP. We feel however that UKIP really are dangerous for disabled people’s rights.
Also for the election in May we had a mini Revenge Tour. We weren’t able to make this as large scale as we had originally hoped due to lack of accessible transport to various places and people having to fit actions around working. However about 8 of us went to the Wirral to protest against that evil witch Esther McVey (apologies to any witches) and almost managed to occupy the local Conservative party office. The lone cop there to protect the Tories was just a little too fast for us though.
Our other primary target was IDS and an enjoyable and visible protest was held outside of his constituency office in Chingford. Iain’s office is on the 1st floor as he thinks that keeps him safe from disabled people and DPAC but we know he is wrong about that.
Meanwhile as well as all the lobbying and campaigning around the election we had a national day of action against Maximus on March 2nd the day after they took over the toxic WCA assessments from Atos. In total there were 28 local actions from Aberdeen to Truro.
Our previous efforts to toxify the assessment process seems to continue to be successful and due to the lack of ability of Maximus to recruit and retain staff they have been unable to meet their contractual obligations resulting in a drop in the value of their shares by 26%.
In March we published a template letter for people in the Support Group wrongly being called for interviews at Job Centres to send claiming harassment. Numerous people have now been able to use this successfully although we continue to monitor this situation and will be presenting evidence about various cases to Debbie Abrahams the shadow minister for disabled people in the new year.
We also published a ‘know your rights’ guide to ESA50 forms and information about the right to be accompanied to job centre appointments.
This year as well we’ve carried out several research projects together with PIRU (Public Interest Research Unit) about work and disability and into WCAs.
We took part in a Housing Summit in May and joined in with the Pride march in June.
We’ve had further protests against forced treatment of social security claimants with a joint action at Streatham job centre with Mental Health Resistance Network in June and December.
June and early July was a very busy period for us and in protest about the closure of the ILF and the implications for independent living we stormed parliament during PMQs followed by an ILF closing ceremony on June 30th.
As well as making sure we and our issues were very visible to politicians we also published solicitor’s advice about Care Assessments under the new Care Act which came into force in April this year plus guidance on Disability Related Expenses and what people might be able to have exempted from Care charging.
Since the closure of the ILF in June we’ve been closely monitoring the impact of this and are working with solicitors to make legal challenges where necessary.
Soon after those 2 events came out Balls2thebudget action which started in Downing Street and moved down to the river later in the morning.
In June at the PA march Liz Carr and John Kelly were able to put forward assisted dying arguments and introduce introducing the disability equality arguments on AS to 250,000 people
Also in September DPAC who have supported the StopChanges2Accessto Work campaign were also part of a significant march in September. This was the biggest march of Deaf people for about ten years but most significantly it brought together Deaf and Disabled campaigners and interpreters in a bi-bilingual protest. The campaign was also successful in getting the thirty hour limit on interpreter hours over-turned this year.
In October DPAC supporters travelled to Manchester for protests at the Tory Party conference and a celebration of DPAC’s 5th birthday. This was closely followed by the unprecedented visit by a team of UN rapporteurs who came to investigate the grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights that is occurring in the UK. This is the first time ever that the Optional Protocol of the UNCRPD has been used in this way against any government – a fact that the Tories and indeed all politicians who sat back and allowed these violations to occur should be utterly ashamed about.
2nd most viewed video this year 222,675 Boris Johnson gets pelted with balls by Disabled People Against Cuts https://t.co/uY0yr2Xim0
— ARTIST TAXI DRIVER (@chunkymark) December 31, 2015
As well as initiating this investigation and working with the UN in relation to it since 2013 DPAC also helped to initiate an individual complaint using the Optional Protocols against the closure of the ILF to new applicants in 2010 together with Inclusion London which is ongoing.
While in London speaking to the rapporteurs we were also able to meet with Debbie Abrahams and Owen Smith, shadow ministers for disabled people and DWP to start what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with them. We also attended the launch of their forthcoming roadshows in parliament on International Day of Disabled People.
DPAC was also first to expose the underhand tactics of Motability in changing their grant-making conditions for disabled drivers who need either internal transfer or drive-from wheelchairs. We have been trying to find someone able to make a legal challenge about this so if anyone has been affected please get in touch.
DPAC supporters and steering group members have spoken at a massive number of events and meetings and also provided a speaker and music for the PA march in June.
DPAC supporters and steering group members have spoken at a massive number of events and meetings including but not exclusively:-
- Barnet Trades Council AGM
- DPAC revenge tour Wirral west sack Esther McVey
- TUC Disabled Workers Conference
- RMT Regional Council Meeting
- Labour Party fringe meeting on housing
- PCS/unite social security conference
- GMB equality forum
- Unite the Resistance conference London
- 100 years of women in RMT
- National Peoples Assembly conference.
- Hackney North CLP National
- Stop Changes demonstration.
- Liverpool Trades Council including delegates from National pensioners convention.
- Lambeth Libraries demonstration.
- Day of action at Tory party conference.
- TUC Disabled Workers meeting. various trade union branch meetings.
- Regional Peoples Assembly meetings.
- TUCG meeting
- Trade Union Disability Alliance AGM
- Irish Congress of Trade Unions disability employment conference in Waterford
- Croydon Assembly
- Unite Disabled Workers’
- Manchester Met University panel on disability
- Leicester University panel disability and media
- Leeds University Caroline Gooding Memorial Seminar, Disability and the Equality Act
- Ankara/Turkey presentation on Challenge and Activism
- Radical Assembly
- Radical Student Conference
Debbie has been re-elected to the European Network on Independent Living ( ENIL) board and DPAC is engaged in the European Alliance against Disability Cuts. We’re also involved in the further development of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA ).
We also back up our street campaigns with prolific on-line social media campaigns, these are just as vital in the resistance to the government and for disabled people who cannot make one of our protests due to their impairment and access needs be included in our campaigns by joining the resistance against the government on social media and the internet. With our protests on line – we’ve used twitter storms, tweet lists, thunderclaps, face book pictures and links to share, and have trended on twitter and face book with our actions around the right to independent living for the fight for the ILF, the budget event in July, and just recently in October with our Manchester action where we used the hashtag #IDSMurders, which trended on twitter during his speech to the conference.
Finally money things – just to say thanks you to all of our supporters and those of you able to respond to our fundraising drives this year. In total we raised over £5,300 from the 50p challenge and fund an activist against IDS.
This funding has been spent getting people to all the many protests and lobbies of parliament we’ve and without this support DPAC would not be in a position to be as effective as we are.
In addition we were able to raise £610 eventually towards the cost of court charges for a supporter arrested at our Balls2thebudget protest. We hope you feel we’ve made good use of your donations to us.
Also don’t forget we now sell merchandise on-line for gifts for the bolshie ones in your life. http://dpac.uk.net/stuff-to-buy/