Embargoed till 00:01 on 31 October
Glasgow, UK                                          

 GDA supporting disabled people during ‘worst ever crisis’

Ability Fest to provide vital support to disabled people at risk of isolation and suicide due to impact of Welfare Reform

A ‘perfect storm’ of cuts to services, reduced access to justice, welfare reform and increasing community care taxes is causing the worst ever crisis for disabled people. Decades of progress in relation to disability rights and independent living have been eroded over a short period.

Members of Glasgow Disability Alliance report feeling under attack, “It’s as if there’s something every week with ministers outdoing each other to become the ‘toughest on the vulnerable,’ “ Lillian, GDA Member.

Last Monday [21 October] The Department for Work and Pensions published its response to a consultation on changes to the test of mobility for PIP, the replacement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Under DLA, those who were unable to walk 50 metres unaided qualified for a higher rate of support. This has been slashed to just 20 metres under PIP.

DWP claim the consultation was conducted ‘in a fully open-minded manner,’ despite the fact that GDA’s members and wider audiences of disabled people including the majority of respondents, were against them. The response from disabled people to the consultation challenged DWP and overwhelmingly stated the fact that there is no evidence to support the changes, and that the reduction to 20 metres will:

“Increase isolation and reduce independence, have significant financial impact, and cause deterioration in their physical and mental health.”

DWP Consultation response.

The changes will have knock on effects in all areas of disabled people’s lives. The 50 metre benchmark is widely used as a measure of significant mobility impairment, including for blue parking badges and in official guidance on creating accessible built environment, such as how close parking spaces have to be to buildings.

As a result of the changes, many people who can just about walk 20 metres, or the length of two double decker busses, but cannot walk 50 metres, or the length of an entire football pitch, will lose their specially adapted vehicles, powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

“Life without DLA would leave me socially isolated, leave me housebound, staring at four walls. I would be financially worse off and leave me back where I was 15 years ago- depressed, isolated, unhappy and unable to be part of my community,” Bridie, GDA Member.

“I think the suicide rate amongst disabled people would increase and more disabled people would be imprisoned in their own homes and feel neglected from society,” David, GDA member.

GDA’s Drivers for Change Group describe this as “the latest assault on disabled people’s rights, which has also included the Universal Credit, Work Fare schemes, ATOS ‘fitness for work’ assessments and the bedroom tax. Some of our members gave evidence to the UN Special Rapporteur, Raquel Rolnick, on her recent visit to the UK to investigate the impact of the bedroom tax, and she was convinced that this should be abolished,” James, GDA Member.

Glasgow Disability Alliance provides support to disabled people in this unprecedented time of crisis, and works to build resilience and strength so that disabled people can have the personal and collective strength to survive. With over 2,000 members, a disabled staff team and board, GDA is one of the leading Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO’s) in the UK. GDA is part of the organising committee of Ability Fest which is a partnership approach to supporting disabled people in Glasgow.

Ability Fest, a free and fully accessible event at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow on Thursday 31 October, 10am – 4pm, will help bring disabled people together to support each other during this time of crisis.

Tressa Burke, GDA Chief Executive said:

“Disabled people are facing the worst ever crisis due to the perfect storm of cuts to services, reduced access to justice, welfare reform and increasing community care taxes. We need to come together so that people can support each other and build strength and coping strategies not only to survive but to thrive. It’s not enough that disabled people just exist- we must support people to be full citizens which means having autonomy, participating and being able to make a contribution. Ability Fest is a starting point for many disabled people providing vital information and signposting to services as well as the chance to try out learning and gain confidence for the future”

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the GDA and their hard working staff team. They go above and beyond to help disabled people. I can’t believe what’s happening to disabled people. I remember the war. My parents lived through the General Strike and the depression. This is worse, this is much worse because the powers that be, know about human rights- they just don’t seem to care, ” Kathy, GDA Member


Notes to editors

  1. Glasgow Disability Alliance was established in 2001 and is a charity run by disabled people, for disabled people. GDA’s mission is to act as the collective, representative voice of disabled people in Glasgow, promoting equality, human rights and social justice. GDA has a membership of over 2,000 disabled people. See our website or follow us on twitter @GDA_ _online 
  1. Read Glasgow Disability Alliance’s response to the DWP consultation on the 50 metre / 20 metre changes, which includes quotes from dozens of disabled people on how it will affect their lives, here:

  1. Ability Fest is being held on Thursday 31 October at the Thistle Hotel, Cambridge Street, Glasgow from 10am – 4pm. A campaign against community care charges ‘The Care Tax’ will be launched at 1pm at Ability Fest.
  1. For more information or for an interview, please contact Nick Henderson, Communications Officer.
    Mobile: 0745 600 2690