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Paralympics performer from King’s Cross leads 100-strong anti-cuts protest at Westminster Abbey

Pictured from left are disabled campaigners Penny Pepper and Sophie Partridge. Pic: Dieter Perry Pictured from left are disabled campaigners Penny Pepper and Sophie Partridge. Pic: Dieter Perry

Monday, June 30, 2014
4:03 PM

An performer at the Paralympics from King’s Cross led a protest to occupy the grounds of Westminster Abbey in anger at Government’s plans to axe cash for the disabled.

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Sophie Patridge, a 45-year-old actress and writer from Delhi Street, joined demonstrators, many of them disabled, at the landmark last Saturday.

Tents were erected and draped with banners against the planned closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for severely disabled people.

At least ten police vans were part of a heavy police presence, with officers at times three rows deep to deal with around 100 protesters.

A separate demonstration against chemist chain Boots by anti-tax avoidance group UK Uncut – which was founded in a pub in Islington High street, Islington – swelled the numbers at the protest in front of the Abbey.

Ms Partridge, who has a genetic condition resulting in her being very small in stature and having weak bones, said she was there because she depends on the ILF to employ carers and live in the community.

“We are here to say we are not giving up, we are not going away and that it is our right to live independently,” she said.

“If people come here today and go away knowing about the fund we’ll have achieved something because most people support us.

“I was a performing artist at the Paralympic opening ceremony and it was a wonderful night, but two years on where are we? What happened to that legacy?

“This is the reality - disabled people such as myself are having our livelihoods taken away.”

Protesters claimed their attempts to negotiate their presence on the Abbey’s grounds with the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, had been rejected and they had been advised by police to leave the grounds or face arrest.

Many moved on but a group of disabled protesters, many in wheelchairs, stayed on to continue the protest.

The £320million central government fund provides support to around 18,000 disabled people.

From June next year funding will be devolved to local authorities, but protesters claimed that cash-strapped councils would not be able to guarantee the same level of care.

Before being told they had to move on, campaigners from the Islington Disabled People Against the Cuts (IDPAC) protest group said they were planning to stay outside the Abbey until July 22, when Parliament’s summer recess is due to start.

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