Steven Sumpter‘s speech for DPAC at the Birmingham rally:
Disabled People Against Cuts stands today in unity with public sector workers and their unions against discriminatory cuts to our education, care and support services.
With such savage, rapid and all-encompassing cutbacks taking place, disabled people’s rights are being pushed back decades. In education, disabled children will be pushed towards segregated special schools as funding for inclusive education is cut and more Academies set up with their tendency to discriminate against disabled pupils, with the effect that disabled people will not have educational opportunities and will remain marginalised and disempowered. And disabled people also face job losses through cuts to the public sector which employs hundreds of thousands of disabled people across the country.
Here in Birmingham, the Council plans to cut £33.2 million from its care and support budget. 5000 disabled and older people will lose vital services as charges for personal care go up, skilled support workers are made redundant and social work services are privatised. The latest proposal to raise the eligibility threshold still further has been temporarily stopped by a court case but the Council is planning to start its consultation process all over again and to continue to push through changes which will see a further 4000 disabled and older people lose services. Many will have their support provided by the lowest bidder as the Council plans to privatise all jobs in adult care. Organisations which once defended the rights of disabled people in Birmingham have been reduced –there were once 3 main disabled people’s organisations , only one is left with reduced capacity and funding. Cuts to disabled people are felt across the local economy. Cut hours to paid support workers means wider job cuts and losses to family income.
Birmingham City Council says that its new service offer “is based on the idea that the vast majority of people can use their own resources and skills to care for themselves.” But independent living is not about disabled people doing things for ourselves, it is about receiving the support we need in order to have the same life chances as other people and to take part in life equally and with dignity. What they are getting at by this “use their own resources”, what they really mean, what they want disabled people to do, is to use our emotional resources to come to accept what they want us to believe is our lot in life, to accept that although there is money for wars and weapons, there is money to make the rich even richer, there is money for chief executive and directors salaries, there is no money for us, no money for as many incontinence pads as we need in a day, no money for personal assistance for us to shower or go out, no money for support to stop us going into crisis; we are meant to accept our lot in life that is to sit in our own piss and shit and dirt for hours and days on end, our lot to stay trapped indoors, isolated and alone, or our lot to lose our homes altogether. It is patronising, offensive and plain wrong to assume that if you take away our support services we will suddenly “make an effort” and find we could have been doing things for ourselves all along.
DPAC will be lobbying the full Council meeting on July 5th at 5pm and having a public meeting on July 20th at the UNITE office on Broad Street to which anyone concerned about cuts to care services is invited.
More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626962085905/
Report and photos at the Birmingham Post http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2011/06/30/5-000-striking-public-sector-workers-gather-for-rally-in-birmingham-65233-28973270/