Disabled people are being hit in every aspect of life by the cuts imposed by the coalition government. But a fightback is taking place. Thousands of disabled people joined the TUC March for the Alternative on 26 March, and thousands took part in the Hardest Hit march and rally on 11 May, the largest demonstration by disabled people for decades. There were then national weeks of action highlighting the role of ATOS healthcare in administering the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) with protests in London, Bristol, Truro, Manchester, Cambridge, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff and other places, and, on October 22, rallies organised by the Hardest Hit coalition with TUC support in many cities.
We have seen yet another attack taking place against the Remploy factories - some of them here in the midlands. Workers are in no doubt of the need for Remploy to continue and grow - the government clearly has other ideas. You can get involved in the campaign; sign up at the GMB and Unite.
You can also visit the TUC site for a newly published Remploy briefing
I am particularly pleased that the Midlands TUC Disability Forum has linked up with the Nightingale Club in Birmingham to raise money - and awareness - for charities supporting those with HIV. This shows a real positive aspect to trade unionism and reflects our core values of equality and fairness.
Rob Johnston, Midlands TUC Regional Secretary
The Midlands TUC Disability Forum held a fundraising event for World Aids Day last December with members of Unison and Unite descending on the Nightingale Club in Birmingham to raise awareness of our trade union movement and to bucket collect for two HIV charities in the midlands that face funding reductions through PCT and local government budget cuts
HIV in the UK today - By 2012 there are now 100,000 people living with HIV within the UK, the majority lies within the LGBT community, however since 2008 the area of highest transmission now falls within the heterosexual community.
HIV diagnosis - Sadly around 27% of HIV positive people remain undiagnosed and this is as high as 40% for gay men.
Once HIV is diagnosed treatment is very effective and there is no significant shortening of life expectancy, however if HIV is diagnosed late, there is a greater chance of treatment not being effective. In 2008 there were 525 deaths from HIV and 73% were due to late diagnosis
Testing for HIV - Testing no longer takes weeks to get results and is available at many GPs, health clinics and hospitals
HIV treatment costs - Did you know that lifetime treatment and medication for HIV costs the NHS between £0.28m and £0.36m per person
HIV and employment - HIV from the point of diagnosis is legally recognised as a disability, and your employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to remove any disadvantages your disability causes in the workplace
The trade union team was very well received at the club and the majority of customers being either young LGBT or students meant we were able to educate and inform about both the importance of trade unions and raise awareness of HIV.
Collectively over £500 was raised between the bucket collection, donations from Unite the Union West Midlands, Unison Sussex Police and Justice Branch, HSBC Commercial Services Leicester and thanks go to the support of our Unite and Unison members, especially the Unison West Midlands LGBT Self Organised Group!
Members of the Forum with the presentation cheque for Trade Sexual Health
The money goes to Trade Sexual Health (Leicester) and a smaller charity in Northamptonshire and will ensure that the LGBT communities are supported in the Midlands, our sexual health remains a key priority and onward transmission is challenged and reduced.
The Midlands TUC Disability Forum recently discussed what can make a trade union march and rally better from the viewpoint of a disabled member. A number of things were highlighted by members of the Forum, including:
Hosting those with a disability at the front of the march so they can help set the pace of the march;
Having a number of places organised where disabled members could join or leave a march, so shortening the route or avoiding hills and slopes;
Refuge and toilet facilities
Appropriately briefed and aware stewards
The provision of a bus for the use of members when they are tired, so allowing them to keep up with the march rather than drop out.
The autumn will see two import campaign marches and rallies - at the Conservative Party rally in Birmingham on 7th October and the TUC March for a Future that Works in London on 20th October.
TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber
The government is being 'fundamentally dishonest' about its policies for disabled people, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber warned at the TUC's annual two-day Disabled Workers' conference, recently.
'We are meeting amidst profoundly difficult times for disabled workers. Our economy remains in crisis with Britain now in a double dip recession. Employment rights are under attack when workers need them most and the government continues to force through cuts of a magnitude not seen in living memory.
'No group of people is more affected by the government's savage, ideological austerity than disabled workers. It's no exaggeration to say that when it comes to disability, there is a fundamental dishonesty about government policy.
'The coalition is keen to promote the language of fairness and is keen to stress the opportunities available to disabled people, but the truth could not be more different. Nowhere is the dichotomy between rhetoric and reality starker than when it comes to benefits - a lifeline for so many disabled people.
'As the right-wing press peddles its demeaning myths about workshy scroungers, the government is slashing £17 billion from the welfare budget. It is the poorest and most disadvantaged people who are suffering the consequences. Among them cancer patients unable to work, ex-service personnel who have lost arms and legs, and people living with thalidomide.
'The government's welfare reforms are causing immense damage. Think about the Work Programme, which is replacing welfare with workfare and allowing private firms to rake it in. Think about the conversion of Disability Living Allowance into Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This is a measure that is designed solely to save a billion pounds, and the only way that can be achieved is by reducing the numbers eligible for PIP. And think finally about Work Capability Assessments. The number of wrong decisions and successful appeals is indicative of a system that is frankly rotten to the core.
'If the government's approach to welfare is misplaced, then pretty much the same can be said of its approach to Remploy. Of the 54 Remploy factories across the UK, 36 are to be closed this year - with the remainder gone by the end of next year. And 1,700 jobs are going now - with 2,500 lost in total.
'What frustrates me is that Remploy hasn't been given a chance to succeed. There has been chronic under-investment from government - a systematic failure to use procurement intelligently and an unwillingness to calculate the true economic and social costs of factory closures. Now the government claims that it is helping disabled people into employment elsewhere. But once again, ministers are playing fast and loose with the truth. Let's be clear: slashing jobs at Remploy isn't going to create a single job anywhere else. It's just going to make a bad situation worse. The TUC is continuing to work with all Remploy unions to get the government to reverse its decision.
'Whether it's Remploy, welfare reform or benefit cuts, there is a fundamental deceit at the heart of government policy. The only way for us to respond to the government's savage attacks is by campaigning and mobilising for change.
'That's why - with the tide turning against austerity in Britain and across Europe - we need to be forceful in setting out our alternative to the cuts, an alternative based on growth, jobs and tax justice, so rather than cuts that scar the poorest, we have fair taxes the rich cannot dodge. That's the message the TUC will be taking to the people of Britain as we hold a major national mobilisation in London on Saturday 20 October.
'Our theme is simple: a future that works. The aim is not just to build on the huge success of our March for the Alternative last year, but to win the battle for Britain's future. The British people's sense of fair play has been offended by a government that slashes benefits for cancer sufferers and then cuts taxes for millionaires, and by tapping into this mood, I believe we can build a real momentum for change.'
Representing and Supporting members with mental health problems at work. Free download, or can be obtained from TUC publications (free to unions, £5 otherwise)
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Newsletter (1,700 words) issued 9 Jul 2012
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printed 22 May 2013 at 09:25 hrs by 126.96.36.199