Grace Eyre and Speak Out launched their campaign to: “Stop the cuts!” to disability benefits in Hove on Wednesday 16 March. Grace Eyre is a charity which works with adults who have learning disabilities.
Their latest campaign focuses around Ann and Margaret who are no longer allowed to go to see their friends at Grace Eyre. You can watch this video to hear their story of frustration, loneliness and boredom since they received letters telling them not to come to their daycentre anymore. A lot of other members of Grace Eyre are very frightened that the funding for their places will be cut too.
Ann agreed: “My money has been cut, I play at home and but it is not the same without the staff.”
When talking about Grace Eyre, Ann said: “This was my life, I shared lives, I am still completely gutted after my twenty years friendship. My whole life has been taken away. Grace Eyre is trying to get me back.”
Margaret said: “Take the money out of things and it’s not fair. Hopefully we will get it all back. I am doing something about it, I play bingo at home. I see my friends on Tuesday at the campaign group.”
Another group member explained: “The Government should apply the Equality Act and spend money on learning disabilities. Lots of organisations should get together. People with learning disabilities have been ignored for too long. Would you like to join us and our campaign?”
Johnny Schachter criticised the Government for spending so much money on a new airport and on MPs expenses instead of helping people with learning disabilities. You can watch the joint campaign group’s presentation here.
Stuart McCallion said: “We are hoping to stop the cuts all together. They are cutting the wrong services that’s all. All the money they got, they should pay us back from all the services they spent it on. It is the wrong thing to do. There is not enough money in this world, that is all.”
Hove Councillors Phelim MacCafferty and Lizzie Deane from the Green Party supported the launch at Grace Eyre.
Katy Lord from Brighton and Hove’s Speak out campaign protested outside the Brighton Council meeting to set the budget last month. She said: “It is just a constant thing hanging over us and it just lives with anyone on benefits. I have felt suicidal, I have had enough and it’s a shame that this terrible situation will not be over some time soon.”
“It is a very sad day for a person with a learning disability, high anxiety and epilepsy. The being heard in Government group has a dark cloud hanging over it. I lost my home in a housing association, it was a lovely home. I won’t be happy until the day comes when I don’t need any more assessments. My learning disability is not going away.”
You can read about the lives of all the people at Grace Eyre in their own words here: www.ourvoicesblog.tumblr.com
Former leader of the Conservative Party Iain Duncan Smith yesterday (Friday 19 March) resigned from the Cabinet because of Treasury pressure to make cuts to benefits for disabled people.
This prominent resignation of a minister follows mounting outrage from grassroots campaigners across Britain including Grace Eyre and Speakout who have been campaigning since 2013.
Read Mr Duncan-Smith’s letter to David Cameron below:
“I am incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the Government has delivered over the last five years. Those reforms have helped to generate record rates of employment and in particular a substantial reduction in workless households…
“You are aware that I believe the cuts would have been even fairer to younger families and people of working age if we had been willing to reduce some of the benefits given to better-off pensioners but I have attempted to work within the constraints that you and the Chancellor set.
“I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they’ve been made are a compromise too far. While they are defensible in narrow terms, given the continuing deficit, they are not defensible in the way they were placed within a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. They should have instead been part of a wider process to engage others in finding the best way to better focus resources on those most in need.
“I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest. Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.
“It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided to resign. You should be very proud of what this government has done on deficit reduction, corporate competitiveness, education reforms and devolution of power. I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of the cuts you have insisted upon and wonder if enough has been done to ensure “we are all in this together.”
Mr Duncan Smith has voted with his feet. The question is: Will the Prime Minister and George Osborne listen?