Watch: Rally warns politicians of disability rights movement’s strength ahead of local elections and #GE17

Disabled people hardest hit community after six years of Conservative austerity

A RALLY in Glasgow’s George Square has warned politicians of the strength of the disabled community ahead of forthcoming local and general elections.

Around 200 disabled people and supporters gathered in front of Glasgow city chambers yesterday (20 April), to warns that Glasgow’s 150,000 disabled people would be a potent force in elections in the city, and that disabled people across the country represent one in five voters.

The rally was organised by Glasgow Disability Alliance, Scotland’s largest disabled people’s organisation, which has grown to over 3,500 members in recent years of austerity and hardship for disabled people.

“I could talk in detail about how we’ve had a commitment from the previous administration for an independent living strategy five years ago and there has been very, very little progress on that. That’s absolutely shameful.” Tressa Burke, GDA

Addressing the crowd GDA chief executive Tressa Burke said: “Over 25 per cent of our population in Glasgow are disabled people

“That’s over 150,000 people. That is a lot of voters. 

“And people should pay attention. They should pay attention to our manifesto, to our five asks. They should pay attention to the fact that we have demonstrated with relatively modest resources, with limited support, disabled people can achieve amazing things.”

Burke noted the difficulties of advancing disability rights in Glasgow, and some frustrations with Glasgow City Council administration, which she hoped could be remedied after local elections

“£300m was spent on the underground [refurbishment] in Glasgow, can we use it? No we can’t.

“Why can’t we? Two accessible stations, so if you want to get on an off at one of the two accessible stations you can use it.

Read more – Fiona Robertson: Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me, and you need to know why

“I could talk in detail about how we’ve had a commitment from the previous administration for an independent living strategy five years ago and there has been very, very little progress on that. That’s absolutely shameful.

“We need the new administration, whoever they are, to work with us on it.

“We could talk in detail about how people’s social care packages have been cut, we know some have been dramatically cut – from 60 hours to 20 hours.

Burke also spoke of the rise in “violence” and “hostile attitudes” towards disabled people in the wake of the banking collapse and resulting austerity.

Watch the full rally with speeches and singing, filmed by Independence Live

Addressing the rally for Inclusion Scotland, the umbrella organisation for disabled people’s organisations, Bill Scott, encouraged disabled people to vote for those who would advance rather than attack their rights, in a speech in which he attacked UK Government austerity policy, and media “scapegoating” of disabled people in the wake of the financial crash.

He said: “There are two elections coming-up. I work for a charity and I can’t tell you how to vote.

“But I know disabled people, and I know you are wise enough to make the right choice

“Vote for those that you see as delivering on their promises to disabled people – not those who are determined to make disabled people live in poverty for the rest of their lives

“Because that’s what’s happening at the moment.

“What kind of society is it that condemns disabled children to live in poverty, condemns them to leave school with no qualifications, to go throughout the whole of their working lives without a job?”

Disabled people have borne the brunt of cuts since the election of the UK Conservative government in 2010. Thousands of disabled people have died after being found fit for work by private companies as part of UK Government efforts to cut public spending and disabled people have been forced deeper into poverty and social exclusion since the onset of the austerity agenda.

Read more – Disability rights groups slam UK Gov for falling living standards in week of "catastrophic" cuts

Recent weeks have seen a doubling down by the UK Government on austerity cuts to disabled people’s welfare payments and services.

GDA development manager Marianne Scobie, who works with young disabled people, protested the barriers faced by young people in living standards, employment, access to services and leisure activates and much else, and challenged the city council to Glasgow inclusive of young disabled people

“I was a young disabled person in the face of a lot of barriers I’ve just described.

“I’ve been working with young disabled people for twenty years, and it’s a disgrace that those young people still face the same barriers as I did twenty years ago.

“Our message to those people over there in that building [city chambers] is to listen to us, include us and support us.”

GDA has been central to the Scottish Government’s consultation for the creation of a social security system, administering around 15 per cent of newly devolved welfare spending. The Scottish Government has promised its new system will do away with the more coercive measure implemented by the UK Department for Work and pensions.

The event also saw the launch of GDA’s manifesto for the local elections, demanding action to alleviate the extreme poverty facing disabled people, and for social inclusion to give disabled people the ability to overcome the obstacles to their full participation in Scottish society.

Pictures: CommonSpace, Glasgow Disability Alliance

Video: Independence Live

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