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This U-Turn by Government is due to the hard work and organisation of trade unions and campaigners, especially disability activists (shout out to DPAC North East!). If you responded in the public consultation, thank you. 

I want to build a Total Transport Network across the region. Fully integrated rail, bus, road and active travel.  Reliable services, cheap tickets with fare caps and free travel for under-18s. This is why I fought so hard to get a North East Devolution Deal. So we could take our buses back into public control. Rail and bus services should be run on the basis of long-term need, not short-term greed.

Consultation Response

We strongly oppose the proposed changes and believe this is a deliberate attempt to save money by risking Disabled people’s lives.

Concerns about this consultation

This consultation lasted only 8 weeks.  It proposed a huge change which will have a serious impact on thousands of people.  We did not have enough time to properly engage with our members in accessible ways.  Many of our organisations do not have the capacity to respond in such a short time.  This is why we are submitting this joint response on behalf of DPACne.  We find it totally unacceptable that such a short period of time is given, when the key audience are Disabled people with a range of access needs who will find it harder to respond and need more time, not less.

General points

We refute the government’s proposals to change the Work Capability Assessment descriptors.

The stated aim to “support more Disabled people into work” will not be achieved through subjecting people to greater sanctions and reducing their income. More Disabled people will be pushed into poverty, we will see more deaths and greater deterioration in health.

The proposals are ideological and will lead to serious consequences

The proposed changes are driven by two key elements:

A significant increase in the number of people who are economically inactive because of ill health and the desire to control welfare spending.

We believe reducing benefit payments and subjecting to conditionality to address economic inactivity is a political and ideological attack on Disabled people. It is especially true in the context of aggressive rhetoric towards Disabled people unable to work because of ill health.

These changes rushed through despite the proposal to abolish WCA altogether indicates to us that the primary aim is saving money on the backs of Disabled people’s lives and health.

The talk of employment support is misleading.  The easiest and most constructive way to help more people into work is to ensure the workplace is inclusive, Access to Work is working effectively, and provides good quality employment support to everyone on a voluntary basis.  Those of us who want to work and are able to do so will seek support if it is effective.

The growing number of people who are out of work because of ill health is a reflection of demographic changes and discrimination in the workplace. The focus needs to be on improving the workplace, not on cutting people’s finances and subjecting them to compulsion.

Some Disabled people will not be able to work, nor engage in any work preparation activities. This is equally true for those who just acquire impairments and those who have been claiming benefits for some time. The proposed changes will mean that thousands of Disabled people whose health conditions make it difficult or impossible to work will be forced to carry out work preparation activities without a real prospect of a job.

Thousands of people will be pushed further into deep poverty

The low capability to work related activity element, not only means the person does not have to fulfill job preparation requirements, it also means more money.  As a result of proposed changes people will lose £390 a month. It is shocking that the consultation proposal does not mention this at all.  It is also disappointing there is no clear indication of how many people will be affected.  This is crucial information and we seriously doubt the public can make informed contributions to this consultation without fully understanding the negative financial impact for future claimants.

An attempt to mirror WCA criteria with …
[10:01, 25/10/2023] John Harrison: The above consultation is for the  Work Capability Assessment Activities and Descriptors consultatio

“Reasons to be Cheerful”........ a note from DPACne

DPACne, the north’s leading disabled peoples protest group wishes to express its thanks for the support of Unite Community and dozens of its members that turned up to support the TOC (Ticket Offices Closure) campaign. We will be all be aware of the national outcome and this note seeks to celebrate the role of the relationship between our two groups.

From the very early days of the Universal Credit demonstrations and welfare stalls we have found that we share membership; and this has vastly increased our strengths both in sharing information, getting people out to protest; and success. Our profiles are so much higher than two years ago.

In total we have hosted or supported 20 TOC demonstrations.....I also understand it also spawned further local actions. The number of Unite members in these actions is difficult to count especially as a individual action may have many leafleting spots. This morning i came up with 24 names .. and I am sure it is much more.

Most pleasing was the degree of support from other unions who recognised our lead. Thanks go to members from the  PCS, Unison, NEAR and many community groups etc We certainly benefitted from a growing relationship with National Pensioners Convention through Martin, another Unite member . The RMT leadership and resources were truly excellent with Mick Lynch inspiring us all.

Personal highlights
I believe our action at Darlington station may have been the very first action on TOC as it took place before the consultation had began. The organiser was Klint, a disabled Unite member. This targeted action had the station master so out of his depth and his workers totally in support of our action.

The nationally recognised and praised meeting at Berwick on Tweed more than ably led by Martin McCleary (RMT) and supported by our member Sarah Roelofs (and Georgina Hill)

The day our members arrived in great numbers at Newcastle Central station that we became the news. We surrounded the station and later whet on to put ten demonstrators inside the buildings.

Finally the huge public support.... everywhere. In Sunderland and Durham people queued to sign the cards.

Perhaps it wrong to centre on individuals, but reasons to be cheerful do not seem to come around often. My message from these notes are simple, celebrate where you can, take strength and get ready for the next fight

We are strong

John Harrison

Ticket Office Closure

Proposed Train Ticket  Office Closures

DEPAC NE oppose these closures because this is another attack on disabled peoples right to independence, choices and control of their lives. After years of austerity and cuts which have impacted disproportionately on us, Train Ticket closures will mean large groups of people with different impairments will be denied access to train travel. The use of on-line bookings and ticket machines are often barriers to disabled people purchasing tickets and will mean disabled people yet again relying on others or not travelling at all. 


DPAC NE are leading the fight against this social isolation in the North East and is working closely with other affected groups such as Pensioners, Carers and of course the RMT and other unions. Along with a professional social media campaign, protests and leaflet drops have been organised at train stations all across the region by DPAC NE. This has attracted other groups to attend and media attention which has seen representatives of DPAC NE being interviewed on local TV news.


The profile of DPAC NE has been raised massively which will ensure the fight against ticket office closures will continue and also the highlighting of ablist discrimination against us.  We are proud to have organised and led ten actions 

Miners Gala

Miners' Gala

“Gan canny” is a phrase I hear so often sometimes I miss the genuine hope that I will take care and go carefully, but when I met Mary at the Durham Miners Gala and she said it, I knew she meant it. Going careful for me that day had ensured that I had somewhere to lie down, that people knew where I was and that I had access to the field. All disabled people have different needs, but I was there to find actions that would help the most people for next and future years. Clearly if you want to know about the difficulties disabled people face it is always best to ask them

Mary and I had been taking about the difficulties disabled people face in just getting to the Miners Gala. I was there as a member of the Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC )campaigning in support of the Marras and Durham County Council by finding out exactly what disabled people need.

Sometimes overcoming the obstacles just to get down to the site are almost overwhelming. It can be difficult for all gala goers, but when kerbs and pavements threaten you being thrown out of a wheelchair or you cannot find an accessible route. Nearly 50% of the people who approached us used mobility aids.

“You take your life in your hands coming down the banks…. I always worry about being thrown on my face if my stick gets stuck”

“I cannot use the pavements because I use a wheelchair so I have to risk it on the roads”

Our group spoke to 67 people for up to 15 minutes at a time and the calls for change were overwhelming. Two issues stood out:

The need for transport for disabled people from Durham railway station to the field. This should include anyone with mobility issues including age related disability issues. This was requested by 90% of respondents

“We need a shuttle service.. Where we do not wait for a long time”

The second result highlights the sense of loss from those reporting that friends are effectively excluded from the Gala. (62%) due to age impairment.

“She so wanted to see the bands and be at our Gala, but she has mobility issues. It is the first time she has missed from the 1960’s

These two major findings are clearly linked and speak clearly of the desire to bring about change

Some problems do not go away once you reach the field.

“My worry is that my wheelchair will run out of charge…..  so I only stay for an hour at the most”

“Can the field have a few charging points for wheelchairs and scooters”

The reassuring response from both the Council and the Marras in ensuring changes this year was well received.  The frequency of buses was increased and training for drivers around disability was introduced in preparation for the Gala.

“This year seems to have improved… and I want to thank our organisers”

The role of Councillor Rochelle Charlton-Laine’ has been pivotal this year and DPAC wishes to extend our thanks to her and the Marras. I hope they will ensure that the introduction of transport for the disabled goes ahead and their very action will ensure more people are able to “gan canny” … and with a little more confidence

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