Thursday 27 October 2011

The Hardest Hit Protest, Leeds

Last Saturday thousands of ill and disabled people, their carers and supporters took to the streets in cities across the UK to protest against the cuts that are unfairly targeting them. This unprecedented event was The Hardest Hit October Action.

It takes a lot to make the disabled community take to the streets, mainly because its so difficult for us. If you had eavesdropped my twitter feed last week you would have seen my conversations and musings dominated by The Hardest Hit as we all shared protest survival strategies. We knew there would be a price to pay in our health for attending but as one of my friends put it, "protesting will hurt me but not protesting will hurt me more".

For every one of us attending an event there were hundreds who were unable to go because they were too ill or disabled, too poor, too busy caring for someone or just couldn't use our inaccessible public transport. They sent messages of support, they were with us in spirit.

I'm not an activist or a disability campaigner, I'm just an ordinary person struggling with some pretty serious mental health problems. I am, like most other ill and disabled people, one of the hardest hit by the cuts.
I travelled to Leeds to join the Hardest Hit protest because this Government wants to stop my benefits, remove my services, call me a scrounger and force me from my home. For many of us this protest is personal, we're not just fighting for fairness - we're fighting for survival.

Over two hundred of us gathered in the sun in Leeds. We marched along The Headrow bringing the city centre to a standstill. Shoppers stood and watched as we marched with our wheelchairs, our Assistance Dogs, our mobility scooters, our carers, our children, our friends and our banners. Speeches were made by disability activists, charity sector workers, trade union members, NUS members, a local MP and ordinary people facing huge challenges. The message from all of them and the people listening was clear - these cuts are unfair, we are afraid and we are angry.

There is a 'perfect storm' facing ill and disabled people. We are already struggling to survive from day to day. Our NHS services are being cut and the voluntary sector agencies who would offer us support are losing their funding. The benefits of those of us who cannot work are being cut or removed and those of us who do work are losing the practical and financial support necessary to make working possible. The additional cuts proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill will leave us and our carers more impoverished, isolated and vulnerable. On top of this, ill and disabled people are being labelled as scroungers and benefit cheats, vilefied by the media and treated with suspicion by the public. Disability hate crime is increasing, people are facing abuse and harassment on a daily basis and many are afraid to leave their homes.

This Government has promised to support disabled people who are in genuine need - but only if THEY can define 'support', 'disabled', 'genuine' and 'need'. This is a cynical disability denying ploy to remove support from the people who need it. This Government is merely transferring funds from ill and disabled people and carers to private companies making millions from 'welfare reform'.

One of the most disturbing things is how badly informed most people still are about this. The public still think that disability benefits are a 'lifestyle choice' and believe we are all driving around in BMWs. Sadly many disabled people and their carers are still unaware of quite how badly the cuts will affect them. The media is not listening to the disabled community, some of the Hardest Hit events attracted over a thousand protesters but there was barely any BBC television or radio coverage. The future for society's most vulnerable is bleak. We are 'all in it together' its just that some of us are deeper in it than others.

Attending the protest left me with mixed feelings. I was proud to stand in solidarity with the hundreds on the streets of Leeds, the thousands in cities across the UK and the tens of thousands who were there in spirit.

But I was also sad and angry that this country should need an event like The Hardest Hit at all

Guest Post by Vanessa Teal.


  1. Your right of course, people do not fully understand the implications of what will happen. This goes for disabled and non disabled people. What can be done to highlight our cause myself have mailed mp's lords newspapers but they all seem to or choose not to listen or give you that same typed out reply they give to everyone. I honestly dont know what more we can do the major charities have said they want to take it to the court of human rights that i fear will be a little to late for the vast majority who's lives will be devestated by these in human cuts. Why dont we get air time radio time any time i dont know the answer to that question either

  2. What can the sick and disabled do? Not much but I feel these will at least help.
    Vote to stay in the EU as bad as they are it is our only hope of some protection and human rights.
    If you vote at all vote for a left wing minor party say the communists they will not win but if one or two get voted in they will help a little to counterbalance the overwhelming right wing.

  3. Panorama was to broadcast yet another programme on welfare, this time, benefit fraud, but it is now postponed due to the 'Dale Farm Special. That would have been two programmes in one week in prime time. This is definitely suspect especially when the HH events were ignored by the BBC. Further as post aboves notes, there is no analysis of what a US style welfare system will mean for society qand indeed the wider community.

    three things we could do,

    one, protest at the BBC, locally (though they are much better) and nationally. we should also kick up a fuss about our licence fees and the way we are being represented...

    two, use social media sites like FB, Indymedia, Twitter, popular activist sites like Occuppy London

    three, demand that our disability charities respond quicker and more effectively to this 'black propaganda' a instant rebuttal unity by the benefits consortium would be ideal...

  4. Can anyone pull together details of the problems with BBC coverage, emphasis of fraud and little chance for our voices to be heard, and so on? If we pull it together, we ought to be able to complain to the BBC Trust about it - preferably with charities and disabled person's organisations behind the complaint as well.

  5. Our march fell flat because only six of us turned up, which was a pity....

  6. idea's people that's what's needed here

  7. What panorama need do is come to my house and see a man who is a physical wreck and looks like he has just come out of a prisoner of war camp that's what they should do get some some shocking images on to the tv screen

    Well they wont do that pity but expected anything difficult like all so called professionals and back off

    Human Rights Act

    The Human Rights Act 1998 gives further legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. These rights not only impact matters of life and death, they also affect the rights you have in your everyday life: what you can say and do, your beliefs, your right to a fair trial and other similar basic entitlements.

    Most rights have limits to ensure that they do not unfairly damage other people's rights. However, certain rights – such as the right not to be tortured – can never be limited by a court or anybody else.

    You have the responsibility to respect other people's rights, and they must respect yours.

    Your human rights are:
    the right to life
    freedom from torture and degrading treatment
    freedom from slavery and forced labour
    the right to liberty
    the right to a fair trial
    the right not to be punished for something that wasn't a crime when you did it
    the right to respect for private and family life
    freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to express your beliefs
    freedom of expression
    freedom of assembly and association
    the right to marry and to start a family
    the right not to be discriminated against in respect of these rights and freedoms
    the right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
    the right to an education
    the right to participate in free elections
    the right not to be subjected to the death penalty

    If any of these rights and freedoms are breached, you have a right to an effective solution in law, even if the breach was by someone in authority, such as, for example, a police officer.

    i could sure use some of these rights but they have always been denied freedom from torture and degrading treatment well i have the degrading treatment and am sure most of us here have the right to liberty i never had that what's the hell is that i could go on but what's the point

  8. Anyone know any good sick and disabled songs like these?
    THE HOLLIES - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – YouTube
    Gerry The Pacemakers - You'll Never Walk Alone – YouTube
    Seasons In The Sun - Terry Jacks 1974 – YouTube

  9. Well I'm sure a number of people who have been shot by the police and died the families have stated they have a legal right to an answer.

    Does not mean you will get the answers

    Already we know that you have a legal right to enough money to live on, well labour and the Tories used that right to give JSA £68 a week, and many people on the min wage get that much money once they pay for going to work and pay for rent and council tax.

    The fact is the UK has a veto and can veto some aspect of the EU regulation, but the EU have stated that welfare reforms is needed.

  10. If things are bad now what’s it going to be like when the United Kingdom(s) no longer exist and the main engine of England (finance) relocates to the EU?

  11. 'Can anyone pull together details of the problems with BBC coverage, emphasis of fraud and little chance for our voices to be heard, and so on? If we pull it together, we ought to be able to complain to the BBC Trust about it - preferably with charities and disabled person's organisations behind the complaint as well.'

    This is what I have been hoping for: the only way to get redress is at the highest level, as Sam says, thats the BBC Trust, thought I don't trust them either.

    We should also write to the unions, they are looking for allies at this time...

  12. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.


  13. My friend recently killed himself after being harrassed by the DWP.

    That's what they want.


  15. That is so very sad....the poor man.

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