Tomorrow I’m going on the Hardest Hit march to protest against the cuts to benefits and services which disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families need to live their lives http://www.hardesthit.org.uk.
I am taking POPse! with me because I think too many think-tanks think in isolation and I want POPse! to get its’ hand dirty. I can see protesting and campaigning doesn’t really come naturally to you social entrepreneurs. I’ve been mocked more times this week for my placard waving than a man on his stag-do attached to a giant blue smurf. (see POPse! Thursday afternoon session on old voluntary organisations v. new social enterprise: the Dance off)
But I am also marching because I think disabled people and older people are getting screwed over and I don’t think we should take this lying down- in the immortal words of Martin Niemoller “when they came for me, there was no-one left to speak out”.
There can be no doubt that marching tomorrow won’t do anything to change this Governments’ mind – we are knocking on a door that is locked shut. And as a seasoned campaigner, I question whether anyone has bothered to do a power analysis. If they have, it’s either not been communicated properly, or it’s marching in the wrong direction. But then again, who goes on a march to change policy?
The large charities have also been incredibly slow in coming forward to publicly and critically examine the welfare reform and cuts agenda. Caught in between bidding for contracts at a local authority level and not wishing to alienate a new government by critising its direction, the magic circle of charities have remained relatively quiet in the past months about the impact of the cuts on their stakeholders. We all saw it coming. They chose to remain silent. Now I fear it’s a case of too little, far too late.
Since the tsunami of the Government cuts agenda hit our shores, I have watched as disabled friends and colleagues have had the infrastructure of their life ripped out from underneath them without so much as a life jacket thrown. Having a disability is hard enough, being labelled as a benefit scrounger is worse, being let down by the silence of your supporting charity is unforgiveable.
So I am marching tomorrow in solidarity for all those who are going to be severely impacted by the welfare-reform and cuts agenda. I am marching for my disabled and non-disabled friends, and my family and myself. And my fellow social entrepreneurs, I am marching for you- because if and when you need any kind of support from the state to be able to engage in your community and your social enterprise, with all your rights held in tact, it will probably be too late.