Rain and windy conditions failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers and friends of the SUWN who turned up in Dundee city centre yesterday to protest against the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This change was designed to claw back billions of £’s by ensuring that half a million fewer people received disability benefit by 2015/16. Barriers have been raised, and assessments are being made harder, with fewer people being awarded the points needed to qualify.
Here in Dundee, we have encountered many people who have either been denied PIP payments or, following re-assessment from DLA to PIP, have had their mobility vehicles and scooters taken from them because they did not qualify for the highest rate of mobility. We have also raised concerns that those applying for higher mobility through assessments at the Atos Dundee Science and Technology Park assessment centre have often been tricked into negotiating a 40m corridor in order to access the assessment office. Many people who have been forced to walk the ‘blue mile’ have complained that the effort caused them pain, and was only completed after strenuous effort, but that this was enough for their assessors to deem that they did not have significant mobility problems. This, despite the fact that Atos guidance clearly states that those undergoing assessment must be able to complete the task without pain and repeatedly. The stress and anxiety that the subsequent removal of mobility vehicles causes for unsuccessful claimants is causing them further health problems.
We marked out a 40m corridor in chalk to demonstrate what Atos in Dundee were up to. This, however, was described as ‘an act of vandalism’ by an officious jobsworth who introduced herself as ‘THE city centre manager’. When we pointed out that the Dundee weather would ensure that it wouldn’t be around too long, she then shifted her focus to our collecting tin and demanded to see our license. We just stood back, shook our heads and carried on, at which point she informed us that she was phoning the polis and we should expect a £50 on the spot fine when they turned up (they did turn up, had a good look at the chalk marks and then got back in their van and hung aroond for a bit)
The response we received fae ordinary Dundonians was in stark contrast to that of this pettifogging jobsworth. We were able to distribute around 700 leaflets and our use of the megaphone drew a fair amount of interest from passers by. We were also able to dispense a fair bit of general advice to those who approached us with welfare issues, and met three people who said they would like us to keep in contact with them. Thanks to all the volunteers and supporters who came along to offer help and support. We now plan to have regular street stalls in the city centre, perhaps once per month or so, in order to help raise public consciousness regarding the impact and consequences of welfare reform.
Many thanks to Karen Brownlee for the cracking phoaties.