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Spending cuts ‘risk reversing decades of progress’

Government spending cuts risk reversing decades of progress towards more independence and control for people with learning difficulties, according to leading members of the self-advocacy movement.

Two prominent activists with learning difficulties spoke out this week as they backed a new campaign that opposes cuts to benefits and services for disabled people.

Steve Robertson, chair of People First (Scotland), said he was angry that funding for self-advocacy organisations was under threat across Scotland.

He said: “One of the things that makes me more angry is probably in the last 10 or 20 years we have come a long way to moving on from ‘service land’ to people being more in control over their lives.”

He said he feared the cuts would risk the progress that had been made, with people moving out of the old institutions and into the community.

He added: “With the cuts there is a real worry that to save money [they will] go back to people sharing where it would work out cheaper.”

Jackie Downer, another prominent activist with learning difficulties, said: “It is like we are going back to the early 1980s and 1990s and fighting again.”

She said people with learning difficulties were having to refight the battles they fought and won for self-advocacy funding.

She said: “It makes me cry. It makes you want to chain yourself to one of the politicians. They are taking our lives away, they are taking our resources away. They don’t care.”

Self-advocacy organisations – like People First Lambeth – were already being forced to close, she said.

The Campaign for a Fair Society, launched with a full-page advert in The Times, says the cuts are “counter-productive” and “unfair”.

Downer said: “I feel angry because it is not a fair society, it is a scary society.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who is also backing the campaign, said she hoped it would be one of many “over the coming months to prevent our hard-won personal support being withdrawn in the name of ‘public service prudent cuts’”.

She added: “It is not prudent to force disabled people back into dependency, which is inhumane and expensive.”

Among cuts highlighted by the campaign are those to council funding, the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new members, and the decision to scrap the mobility component of disability living allowance for most people in residential care.

And the campaign says cuts to funding for the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme have “effectively rule out shared home ownership for disabled people”. 

News provided by John Pring at