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I predict an #AudioRiot against Universal Credit cuts

Disabled People Against Cuts in Sheffield are part of a week of action next week.

The words Question Austerity in lights on a motorway bridge
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As we become more conscious of rising food prices and shocking leaps in energy bills, it's the worst possible time to cut £20 a week from the income of the poorest people in the country. Yet the Conservative government is due to reduce Universal Credit by that amount, affecting almost six million claimants. Citizens Advice Bureau statistics show that single claimants under 25 will be the hardest hit, as this will be a reduction of a quarter.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is organising a week of action next week. DPAC Sheffield told us more about #AudioRiot.

Next week, DPAC is having an #AudioRiot week of action. What is the campaign about?

The government is set to stop the £20 increase to Universal Credit that was brought in to support people during the pandemic. This will have a huge and distressing impact on millions of people, including disabled people. We want to tell people what it means.

How is DPAC Sheffield involved in the campaign?

Jen has designed some brilliant graphics and videos to publicise the #AudioRiot action at King’s Cross Station on 28 September. We’ve been interviewed by media and we’ve helped put together a playlist of appropriate songs that will be played at full blast on the day. We’ll also be repping Sheffield at the solidarity vigil in Brighton on 28 September.

Disabled People Against Cuts DPAC logo

How can people participate?

People can take part in many ways.

Firstly, they can follow the #AudioRiot week of action opening rally on Friday 24 September 2021, 7.30 pm to 8.30pm, streaming live on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

If people are in Brighton for the Labour Party conference and/or The World Transformed, DPAC are holding a solidarity vigil on Tuesday 28 September, 11-12pm at The World Transformed festival, The Old Steine, Brighton.

The Audio Riot itself is taking place from 11.30am on Tuesday 28 September at King’s Cross Station, central London. If people can make it down there, they’re more than welcome. If not, there’s a twitterstorm starting at 9am on 28 September. Use the hashtags #20More4All #CancelTheCut #StopAndScrapUniversalCredit #IncreaseDisabilityBenefits #UniversalDisCredit

Then on Thursday 30 September people can follow the Cancel The Cut rally and protest outside 10 Downing Street. If people are able to make it to London that’s great. If not, then tweet solidarity and support to #CancelTheCut on Twitter.

What are the goals of the campaign?

To make sure that as many people as possible know what the cut to Universal Credit and the government’s failure to add the £20 increase to legacy benefits means to millions of people. The ‘mainstream’ or ‘legacy’ media won’t report the full truth. So we’re going to tell the world the truth.

A billboard with the words Austerity Isn't Working
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Why is this campaign important and why is it happening now?

The £20 cut to Universal Credit is the biggest cut to social security in modern British history, outstripping the Tories’ 1988 slashing of housing benefits and even the 1931 cut to unemployment benefit during the Great Depression.

Research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has shown that disabled people in receipt of the Universal Credit uplift still only reach to 43% of the recommended minimum income standard. For those on 'legacy benefits' who are not getting the uplift, it’s 33% of the recommended income level.

Poverty rates for working households have already reached record levels, with over half of children living in poverty in the UK coming from in-work households. Yet JRF estimates that the government’s £1,040 a year cut will immediately throw half a million people into poverty, including 300,000 children, just as energy, petrol and food prices are increasing sharply. In fact, families with children, especially single parents, will be disproportionately impacted. The majority of those affected are working families.

An important fact that isn’t often reported is that the £20 uplift was never applied to people claiming so-called ‘legacy’ benefits such as ESA, meaning that many disabled people have been left in appalling financial circumstances whilst trying to deal with the democidal fallout from the pandemic that has culled thousands of us, with approximately three-fifths of people who have been killed by Covid having a disability.

The policy to end the uplift has been condemned across civil society, with workers, claimants’ groups, charities and even six Tory ex-Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions signing a joint public statement all calling on Sunak not to end the payment. Following the punitive and cruel austerity programme of the last decade and the destruction of services through the pandemic, these cuts will be felt particularly hard by disabled people who now are as unsupported and isolated as a community as we’ve ever been.

The cut will come just six days after the scrapping of the furlough job support scheme at the end of September. More than 1.5 million households receiving Universal Credit in February 2021 were private renters, 55% of whom already did not receive enough housing support to make the rent.

People will be made homeless. The government has defended its decision citing the need for a “jobs led” recovery, ignoring the fact that 37% of Universal Credit claimants are in work.

The Tories are pushing workers and their families over a financial cliff edge as a whip to enforce their herd immunity-inspired return to work agenda and to create as exploitable a labour force as possible as the economy is fully reopened. But the pandemic is still here, with approximately 1,000 people a week dying and the state continuing their assault on disabled people, who are more likely to die from Covid. The government has ended all shielding for clinically vulnerable people, forcing people to go to workplaces where there are no mandatory mitigations in place, to choose between risking contracting Covid or not having enough money to live on.

Keeping the £20 increase and extending it to legacy benefits would help prevent this. Disabled people need this money more than ever.

If somebody wants to get involved with DPAC Sheffield, how can they do so?

They can follow DPAC Sheffield on Facebook and Twitter, look out for actions that are coming up and get involved in any way they feel able.

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