DWP facing nationwide protests over proposed welfare reforms

  • Post last modified:February 29, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

On Monday 4 March, there will be a national day of action against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It comes as the government is once again targeting chronically ill and disabled people under the guise of ‘reforms’ – potentially cutting people’s benefits to the tune of £390 a month. The action is organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – and is specifically timed, two days before the Spring Budget.

The DWP: never-ending chaos

As the Canary previously reported, in last autumn’s budget, chancellor Jeremy Hunt already announced a further clampdown on chronically ill and disabled people. Specifically:

  • Changing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to force more chronically ill and disabled people to work from home. This could lead to the DWP stopping hundreds of thousands of people’s benefits.
  • More people the DWP says are fit for work but who it doesn’t think are doing enough to find work will face tougher sanctions and lose things like free prescriptions.
  • The DWP will eventually scrap the WCA altogether, and make the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) health assessment the only judge of people’s illness and impairments. this could lead to over 600,000 people losing their benefits.

All this is on top of whatever Hunt announces in the Spring Budget on Wednesday 6 March. Moreover, all this comes after years of freezes and real-term cuts to benefit rates since 2016.

So, DPAC and its supporters will be taking action:

‘Welfare reforms’ killing people

DPAC said in a statement:

We have already seen the devastation caused by previous so-called welfare reform policies. They have failed on their own terms – the OBR confirmed more than once that they were an economic disaster.

We now we also have a large body of evidence laying bare the human catastrophe these policies caused; including the 2020 report ‘Health Equity in England‘ commissioned by UCL, which states that almost 150, 000 people (the vast majority from deprived areas) died as a direct result of austerity and welfare reform policies.

That is why we are calling for a local day of action on Monday 4 March 2024, two days before the spring budget, which we hope local DPAC groups and our UK coalition allies across the devolved nations will organise and participate in, alongside the main London action.

The London protest will meet at 12pm at the DWP head office at Caxton House, 6–12 Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA. If you can’t make it in person, you can get involved online using #NoMoreBenefitDeaths.

DPAC will also be holding a banner-making workshop on Saturday 2 March from 11.30 am to 1pm. It will be held at We are 336, Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA. Here’s an idea of what to expect:

Labour: not looking any better than the Tories

Paula Peters is an activist with DPAC. She told the Canary:

We are calling for active resistance across the UK to these brutal attacks on disabled people.

We are gravely concerned that the government plans to intensify conditions and benefit sanctions imposed on claimants and tighten the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

This would see social security cuts for hundreds of thousands of disabled people and new powers for unqualified work coaches in Job Centres who will decide what work related activity should be carried out.

This will have a devastating and catastrophic impact with many disabled people plunged deeply into poverty and deeply worryingly still we could see many more disabled people losing their lives due to the distress these reforms will cause.

Kicking the poor – particularly those in receipt of benefits – is still somehow viewed by party policy works on both sides as a vote winner. While the richest in our society have seen their wealth grow by more than 20% just since the pandemic.

It is important to stress that we cannot wait for a general election and a potential change of government. Labour have rejoined the attacks on claimants, saying recently that disabled people will not “languish on social security sickness support but will be pushed into work.”

This is the language of Atos and Workfare all over again. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

We need to be as visible as possible on the streets to show this government that we mean business and that we intend to robustly oppose these reforms at every opportunity

How much longer will chronically ill and disabled people have to protest for?

Campaign group the Chronic Collaboration will also be supporting DPAC’s action in London. It told the Canary:

As activists, some us of have been protesting over the DWP’s attempted genocide – as Adam Hills once called it on ‘The Last Leg’ – for a decade. Tens of thousands of chronically ill and disabled people have died, and continue to die, on the DWP’s watch – thanks to cuts, cruelty, and chaos.

Chronically ill and disabled people have occupied parliament, blocked London bridges, and gatecrashed Tory Party meetings. However, still the DWP refuses to listen or change course.

The UN said that it and successive governments had ‘gravely’ and ‘systematically’ violated chronically ill and disabled people’s human and civil rights. This was in 2016. However, the DWP refused to listen to that, either.

So, once more people who should not have to be protesting just to get their basic entitlements are having to protest again. For some of us, it feels like we’ve been fighting forever.

However, we will not rest. We will continue to fight until the DWP is forced to hold itself accountable and pay for every person it has abused, tortured, or whose death it has had a hand in.

The DWP: functioning as it should?

The DWP pushing yet more ‘reforms’ can only be seen as one thing: ideological. It’s a continuation of the ‘benefit scrounger’ narrative successive governments have pushed for years. These reforms also play into the Tories’ current drive to force as many people into work as possible – regardless of whether they can actually work or not. However, ultimately it is – as the Canary has repeatedly said – the DWP working as intended.

There’s no such thing as a social security net in the UK. There are ever-tightening hoops people have to jump through, just to barely survive – all whilst politicians are determined to make people reliant on benefits an underclass in the UK.

So, chronically ill and disabled people – via DPAC, the Chronic Collaboration, and other groups – will once more fight back. If you can, join them on the streets or online on 4 March.

Featured image via the Canary

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