magazine

LGBT and Disabled communities fighting the cuts

In Benefits, Cuts, QUAC on 04/11/2012 at 12:39 pm

By Dr Joseph Healy (This article first appeared in Eco-socialist)

Firstly, it is necessary to state that as a HIV+ gay man I straddle the divide between both communities but it is also necessary to point out, that there is already a large overlap between both communities. Many older LGBT people are disabled, there are many disabled people who are LGBT and, of course, there is the large number of people living with HIV, some of whom, like me, for over 20 years. Both communities are in the firing line for these cuts, although it is more obvious how it affects the disabled community than the LGBT one. The response of both communities has also been markedly different and there are lessons to be drawn from this and also warnings.

Apart from the large pan anti-cuts organisations such as Coalition of Resistance (where I am a national officer) a large number of anti-cuts organisations have arisen voicing the protest of various communities and putting their agenda forward to both government, trade unions and national anti-cuts bodies. These have ranged from Women Against the Cuts to Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts. One of the most active has been DPAC (Disabled People Against the Cuts) although it is necessary to state that there have been other disabled groups also actively campaigning against the cuts, such as Black Triangle, based in Scotland. DPAC have organised high profile protests, such as the Alternative Paralympics, which included a large picket outside the HQ of ATOS Medical Services. DPAC members have also spoken at national anti-cuts rallies and seem to have a national structure as well as several very active bloggers. They have brought to the attention of the press and public the deep impact that cuts in the welfare budget to payments such as Disability Living Allowance will have on the lives of disabled people, including those living with illnesses such as HIV, cancer and sickle cell.

Less obvious, and partly because of its relative lack of protest until now, is the impact of the cuts on the LGBT community. There is a general view of ‘the pink pound’ etc and that the LGBT community is insulated against austerity. This is not the case. Much of the LGBT voluntary sector which meets the needs of those such as young homeless LGBT people who have often been the victims of bullying etc, are threatened by the cuts. One such organisation is GALOP which deals with hate crime against LGBT people and also relations with the police. Many older LGBT people also live alone and a recent Stonewall survey indicated a high rate of social isolation and mental illness among this group because of a history of harassment and discrimination. In order to mobilise the LGBT community against the cuts we formed QUAC (Queers Against the Cuts) a year ago and I am its Treasurer. So far we have marched in the Brighton and London Pride parades, taken part in Black Pride and held public meetings on issues such as the impact of the cuts in housing benefit on young LGBT people as well as the reduction in disability benefits and their impact on HIV+ LGBT people. Both communities are being targeted by these cuts which hit the most vulnerable and both are determined to resist.

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