Last week the Employment Committee of the European Parliament voted to put an oral question to the Commission on the impact of austerity policies on people with disabilities. The oral question was proposed by Paul Murphy MEP and the European United Left group (GUE/NGL).
This will now trigger a debate in a full plenary session of the Parliament, possibly in the upcoming session in March.
Paul Murphy MEP has been campaigning on this issue alongside disability rights organisations and activists in Ireland and across Europe, a debate in the plenary session gives an excellent opportunity to highlight these issues and give a political expression to the disabled rights movement fight against austerity policies.
Austerity is devastating the lives of millions of people across the continent. Social welfare and public services are being hit particularly hard. This is having a disproportional impact on people with disabilities as vital services that disabled people depend on such as home help services, personal care budgets, employment supports and other welfare payments are being attacked, resulting in people with disabilities suffering disproportionately from unemployment and poverty.
The impact on the quality of living for people with disabilities and their families of these cuts is cruel and devastating. People with disabilities have for many years campaigned hard and won many rights, including the key right to independent living. However the pro bondholder and pro big business austerity policies being perused by the EU and its member states are putting these hard won rights under threat. In many countries there is even a regressive move back towards a discredited institutional care model.
In the course of the debate on this issue many MEPs from the establishment political groups put forward the idea that cuts are inevitable and all that we can hope to do is to administer them in a fairer or more equitable manner. The Socialist Party rejects this logic. Austerity is not inevitable, it is a political choice.
The recent report by McKinsey Consultants, ‘Investing in Growth, Europe’s next challenge’ reported that there is €650bn in excess cash holdings lying idle in the bank accounts of the largest EU based private companies. If this wealth was harnessed it would provide a basis to redevelop the economy, end unemployment and improve the living standards of all in society. Instead the pro capitalist parties choose to protect the private wealth and profits of these multi nationals ahead of the needs and rights of ordinary people.
People with disabilities have been to the fore in combating austerity policies in Ireland and across Europe, a fine example of this was seen in the recent fight against cuts in home help hours. It is now vital that these organisations link up with other movements opposing austerity policies, such as the Campaign against the Household and Water Tax, to challenge the government and its austerity policies.
Paul Murphy MEP speaking in the Employment committee on the debate on the ‘impact of austerity on people with disabilities’
Paul Murphy MEP speaking in the Employment committee on a related issue of ‘impact of austerity on vulnerable groups in society’