Here are videos from the DWP on Monday, when Disabled People Against Cuts blocked all building doors to protest at Mike Penning’s disastrous plan to close the Independent Living Fund.
The Independent Living Fund is used by people with severe disabilities to pay for the extra carer hours they need to live independent lives and stay out of carehomes. Because they have personal assistants available most of the time, ILF recipients have the support they need to work, study, socialise and generally get on with life like everyone else. Without that money, people will be forced to rely on the council social care system – a system that has been, as we all know, utterly decimated by government cuts and can’t meet demand as it is. There is absolutely no way that devastated council social care departments will be able to pay for the round-the-clock, high-cost care packages that many ILF recipients need – certainly not in an ongoing way.
ILF funding is actually used by many people to top up existing council care packages – that is certainly the case for most of the ILF recipients I’ve interviewed. That’s because these care packages are expensive. Penning can whack on all he likes about keeping a safety net in place for disabled people, but he knows and I know and everyone knows what the future holds for ILF recipients if the fund is closed. People with severe impairments will be shoved into carehomes (that’s assuming spaces are available, which I would not assume), or stuck at home in incontinence pads and relying on fractured council care. If they’re lucky. I’m already speaking to disabled people who must spend a great deal of their time fighting their local councils for care (this woman is one of those people – more on her story soon). I’ve already spoken with people who must spend their weekends in bed because their council-funded care packages don’t stretch to cover Saturdays and Sundays.
Campaigners won their battle to keep the fund open last year, but that hasn’t stopped Penning taking another shot. He says the fund will be closed by the end of June 2015. He’s determined to deny people their right to a full and civilised life – and probably to life itself in some cases. Some ILF recipients need round-the-clock care support. They won’t get that from councils, especially in the long term. We are all perfectly aware of that.
Recipients are equally determined to keep their fund and lives. Which is why they turned up to the DWP on Monday to make some noise and to speak to someone. Nobody came down from the DWP offices to talk to them, of course. That part of things was such bollocks. The DWP had an office full of people there, but not one of those people was prepared to give ILF recipients five minutes’ of the department’s time. Security guards actually said “there’s nobody in the office,” even as staff queued to try and get in and out of the office doors. You can see people lining to get past protestors at a side entrance in this video. Seemed odd to claim there was nobody in the building when everyone could see people coming out and going in.
At the start, round the front, the police tried to force campaigners into a little pen they’d set up in anticipation of the protest. “We’re not going in there,” people said. “We’ll be locked away soon enough if the ILF closes.” Precisely. There was no sign of Penning, of course. Hope he realises that he won’t get off easily. Campaigning is gathering pace. If Penning really insists that he’s going to close this fund, he should know that he’ll be doing in it public with the fallout from his vicious decision for everyone to see.