Stop Changes 2 ATW -update

26th Sept 2015 – what a day to remember. It will go down as one of those historic occasions (we so seldom have these days in the Deaf community) where Deaf and Disabled people marched on a Saturday afternoon in the streets of London to voice their protest against what DWP/Access to Work and the Government are doing to us and our employment opportunities.

We held up the London traffic (was reported on the radio) on a busy afternoon in central London – right next to the Houses of Parliament.  I think we can proudly say it was a success, a real user led march – planned, organised and lead by Deaf and Disabled people.  We saw over 800 Deaf and Disabled people together as never before – really connecting with shared concerns – one Deaf person on the march said to me – I thought we were not the same as disabled people – but today I realised we are all part of the same movement.  Yes – we are and we have to be.

A group of 6 of us went over to Downing Street where we handed in our petition of 20,000 signatures – asking the Government to stop destroying the resources that help us to get into work and to stay there.  Without Access to Work what is the alternative?  Go back to the bad old days where Deaf and Disabled people either did not work, because they could never get a job or had to do poorly paid jobs with no prospects of improving their working conditions, and in an environment where they never knew what was going on because their colleagues could not sign and there were no resources to employ interpreters. Is this what we want to go back to? Increasingly this is the direction of travel.

How ironic now that there is project run by Deaf Plus funded by Trust for London ( to work with employers and employees to improve their prospects while in work.  It will be interesting to see how Deaf BSL users currently working in low paid jobs work, have opportunities to improve and increase their income whilst in their work places under the current climate.

We were lucky on Saturday to have a number of really inspirational Deaf and Disabled people as speakers – people who really have personal experiences of AtW and its cuts and a great compeer who was sensitive enough to be aware of the different issues for our speakers – e.g. asking people to clap for Roger Lewis who is blind.

What a day – what a group, what a campaign, and a real community.

Geraldine O’Halloran, Co-founder, StopChanges2ATW

Messages of support

Jonathan Bartley, Green Party spokesperson for Work and Pensions

“I am so sorry that I can’t be with you today. I send solidarity in the struggle for the rights of deaf and disabled people and in the campaign against the changes to the Access to Work scheme. These changes are unjust and further divide society. Deaf and disabled people already face widespread discrimination in the workplace. The Government should be tackling it, not making it worse. I pledge the Green Party’s complete support.”
Statement from Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People

Thank you for inviting me to this event and please accept my apologies for being unable to join with you today.  Unfortunately, prior commitments mean I cannot be with you in London.  I was delighted to be appointed as Shadow Minister for Disabled People last week, following four years on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, where I sought to hold the Government to account for their poor record in supporting disabled people.

I share many of your concerns regarding the Government’s proposed changes to Access to Work and the scale of the programme overall.  It is clear that Access to Work is an important programme which helps disabled people to function in the workplace.   However, fewer disabled people receive support under Access to Work now, and in every year of the coalition, than under Labour.

I know from the roles I have previously held, in the APPG on Disability and on the Select Committee, that the announcement of a cap on individual Access to Work budgets has caused much consternation to deaf and disabled people, worried that these changes will result in job losses and demotions.

These changes are part of the Government’s wider failure to support disabled people in their efforts to find and stay in work. In their manifesto, the Tories said they wanted to transform the work prospects for disabled people in Britain, yet last week’s Work Programme results, showing a fall in the number of disabled people accessing work through the Programme, revealed the truth of their failure.

Labour will ensure Access to Work funding enables disabled people to work, or to be self-employed. We will work with Disability Employment Advisers in Jobcentres to promote it, working with disabled people to ensure that everyone who needs it can get the support they need to take up, stay in or progress in a job.  I am also committed to asking disabled people to advise us on how the scheme needs to improve.


Related links:

Today’s Limping Chicken

Friday’s Disability News Service

Photos on Demotix by Peter Marshall:

Photos on Demotix by Philip Robins

Protesters on the Stop Changes 2 ATW march on 29 September 2015
Protesters on the Stop Changes 2 ATW march on 29 September 2015
Delivering the 20,000 signatures to Downing Street
Delivering the 20,000 signatures to Downing Street
Roger Lewis (DPAC) with NUBSLI interpreter (back shot) on stage at access to work rally whitehall.
Speaking to the crowd
Ellen Clifford speaking to the crowd
Ellen Clifford speaking to the crowd