Dec 6 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
MARCHERS sent a message to the coalition government about how reductions to disability welfare benefits are an attack on citizens with mental and mobility difficulties.
More than 200 people took part in The Hardest Hit demonstration that wound its way from NHS Harrow’s offices through Harrow town centre, along Station Road and finished in front of Harrow Civic Centre on Monday, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Organiser Richie McLoughlin, campaign co-ordinator at Harrow Association of Disabled People (HAD), said: “We are delighted with the turnout. There’s a great number of people, both disabled and non-disabled.
“It shows how strongly people feel about the cuts. There are cuts in every direction you look and prices are going up. Everyone has been hit, but disabled people have been disproportionately affected because life is more expensive for them.”
Marchers held posters and placards featuring slogans such as Cuts Don’t Cure and Stop The Attacks On Disabled People. Mr McLoughlin said passing motorists were sounding their horns in support and pedestrians were stopping to talk and take leaflets about the protest.
HAD chief executive Angela Dias said reviews of employment support allowance conducted by staff from private contractor ATOS had led to some disabled people losing the benefit. This would not help them overcome the existing barriers to getting a job.
There is concern about ATOS soon assessing disability living allowance in the same way, because the company has been asked by the government to cut 25 per cent from the benefit bill.
Ms Dias added: “The cuts are cumulative. Disabled benefits, housing benefits, people having to contribute towards their care costs. They could lose a substantial amount.
“It’s very scary how much people will be forced to live on and could lose their independence.”
Harrow Council leader Thaya Idaikkadar (Labour) addressed the rally, saying: “I assure you that I will do my best to ensure that the hardest hit are not the most vulnerable. The test of a civilisation is the way that it cares for its helpless members. With your help, Harrow wants to be a place that passes the civilisation test.”
Demonstrators represented other charities such as Mind in Harrow, Harrow Mencap, Kids Can Achieve, Flash Musicals and Age UK, while several Labour Harrow councillors and Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Harrow West, attended.