This is what John J. Marulanda, LADPP member, talks about. The cuts have increased cases of marginalisation and isolation of these people and will undoubtedly make them even more vulnerable citizens. And the British government has shown clear signs of not caring about their future.
The Latin American Disabled People’s Project (LADPP) functions as an adviser for people with any disability or illness to get the services and support that enables them a decent quality of life.
It is a non-profit organisation, based in London, and serves about 1,500 people each year (Spanish and Portuguese speakers), of which 450 use the services that the institution offers every day.
Unfortunately, their work has been hard hit in recent years due to the austerity policies implemented by David Cameron’s Government, which on more than one occasion have made LADPP members consider stopping their charitable work de to the lack of budget.
However, despite the obstacles – and from what John Jairo Marulanda says, the man responsible for leading and developing the project – they continue to look for other ways of operating. They have had to change the way they operate and to “make the users participate more in LADPP ” to continue offering their services.
“Our 60 volunteers are essential for hundreds of people to continue to benefit from our services,” he explains, adding “People from the government are planning high class cuts, they have never walked the streets of immigrant neighbourhoods, or visited an organisation or a hospital.”
How damaging are these cuts to the disabled and to the organisations that help them?
The structure of the community system is changing radically due to the cuts policies. At present, there is a conservative government that aims to reduce social benefits, forcing people to work and be more productive.
Many NGOs have disappeared due to lack of budget and this has caused a major social impact. Without money we cannot continue to work, and the big losers are the people who fail to receive cultural, linguistic, and counselling assistance to enable them to make use of the services and supports that they are eligible to apply for.
Not everyone needs access to the state aid system, and the majority of people who do use it do so because they work and have rights. What the government is trying to do is stop people from being dependent on the state, and force them to work to solve their own problems. I think when a government has this attitude, not worrying about their citizenship, it creates barriers to the development of society and the integration of people.
In the last four years we have questioned on many occasions whether we could continue with our activities. We had to rethink our performance to remain active.
What have these changes included?
We have always sought the help of state agencies, but they are not always willing to work with disabled communities in Spanish and Portuguese, they are interested in other more general groups, such as the fight against cancer and poverty.
It isn’t about rejection, but about prioritising aid granted to organisations. 15 years ago the Government treated immigrants seeking asylum and refuge excellently. But today it’s completely the opposite, they are trying to reduce the number of immigrants.
For us to survive we have to change our strategy, by gambling on our survival, seeking collaboration with our users.
What is the reaction of the people?
The Latin American mentality is very broad. They are always willing to receive, make use of the services, and when they have solved their problems they disappear. Changing this attitude is very difficult.
Now they have to pay for certain services, they see how the aid is reduced. Many believe that having an English friend who translates it solves everything, but it doesn’t. They need people who know their regulations and rights, and that’s where we come in, and where they need us.
A person with a disability is itself already vulnerable, what will happen then if these organisations disappear?
They would lose their rights as they wouldn’t know where they are available, they wouldn’t have anyone to orient them and advise them legally. They couldn’t be placed in society. They would become even more vulnerable citizens, and the cases of marginalisation and isolation would increase.
We are necessary because in a government organisation they don’t receive the treatment they are offered here in their language. They will suffer from misinformation, which to some extent is what the State is interested in.
The Latino community responds to a market of interest. Most are employed in informal jobs with low wages.
Looking broadly, we see that people with disabilities have more problems, they cannot work in most areas. We try to make these patients have adequate housing, and support to cover their basic needs such as education, food or transportation.
Most of our users asked for advice on issues of housing and Council Tax. Moreover, many are interested in disability aids available, two of the areas that the government is cutting.
Yes, this is why we have to counter that attitude by working in a different way. I believe that the measures being taken are creating a social unrest that could cause mass demonstrations that at other times have been taken to the streets.
When we talk about the UK, we speak of a rich power, and when you see government attitudes are against the poor you can’t understand it. Why not cut all funds intended to support or provoke wars in other parts of the planet?
What should be improved in the system to provide greater service to the disabled?
Here there are many services and you can access them depending on your status. I agree that the state should halt the use of health services for foreigners to ensure the system works for national residents, but the reality is that many people who live here are not British.
From a legal point of view, an illegal or undocumented person should not worry us, but from a humane point of view you cannot deny a person the help because they don’t have documentation. We must serve them and advise them to organise their legal status in this country.
What is the main problem faced by the disabled in terms of aid?
People have no idea what their rights are, so do not make use of them to have a better quality of life. No country provides social services like the UK. But you cannot let England help all people, for example, for being citizens of the European Economic Community. I agree that the Government should prioritise and secure the services of its citizens, but not in the way that they are applying all these cuts.
(Translated by: Sophie Maling – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)