PEOPLE with disabilities braved the cold to protest against changes to benefits.
A candlelit vigil, part of the Hardest Hit action week, was held outside Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens last night.
Today, campaigning Wearsiders followed that up by taking part in a demonstration through the streets of Newcastle.
The rally, hosted by Sunderland disability campaigner Claire Parker, took place next to Grey’s Monument with a series of speeches.
It was part of the Hardest Hit campaign, organised jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium – made up of 50 organisations – and the UK Disabled People’s Council.
Protesters fear cuts to the support disabled people depend on risk pushing them into poverty, debt and isolation.
“I’m disabled and think it’s absolutely shocking,” said Mick McGlen, 56, from Ashbrooke, who attended last night’s vigil in Sunderland.
“It’s shameless the way the disabled are treated. I hope this raises awareness.”
Henri Murison, of The Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: “Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are already at risk of hardship and face massive barriers to getting into work and education.
“The Chancellor has just announced a further £10billion cut to the welfare budget.
“With £9billion having already been removed from disability benefits and services in this Parliament, disabled people are already at a tipping point.”
He added: “The Government has some urgent choices to make, but must rule out targeting disabled people for further spending cuts in the next Budget and comprehensive spending review.
“Disabled people, their friends and family in Sunderland have shown their commitment to the Hardest Hit campaign and hit home the message to Government. Enough is enough.”
Among the speakers at last night’s event were Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson, and Caron Walker, senior lecturer in public health at Sunderland University.
The Government has said that reforms to Disability Living Allowance benefits are a priority.
Chancellor George Osborne said it was because the number of claims had risen by almost 40 per cent in the last decade, making it one of the UK Government’s largest items of spending.
The Chancellor said changes would mean the Government could “continue to afford paying this important benefit to those with the greatest needs, while significantly improving incentives to work for others”.