Hundreds attend welfare reform protest at Guildhall

GUILDHALL PROTEST. . . .One of the many banners on display at yesterday's 'Day of Action' protest against Welfare Reform in Guildhall Square. DER4814MC044

GUILDHALL PROTEST. . . .One of the many banners on display at yesterday's 'Day of Action' protest against Welfare Reform in Guildhall Square. DER4814MC044

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Hundreds of people attended a ‘Day of Action’ against proposed changes to welfare in Guildhall Square yesterday afternoon.

It was a joint protest involving Destined, the Pink Ladies, the Pink Panthers and Dove House.

People from all four groups held banners and placards showing their opposition towards proposed welfare reform.

Dermot O’Hara from Destined, a local charity organisation for adults with learning disabilities started the ‘Day of Action’ by informing people why they had decided to gather in Guildhall Square.

Dermot then invited his daughter, Roisin, up on stage to tell the people how cuts to her benefits have impacted upon her.

“I don’t understand why they are targeting the most vulnerable in society - surely we deserve more support,” said Roisin.

Geraldine McGurk from the Pink Ladies then came forward to talk about how having the worry of her benefits being cut impacted upon her while she was receiving treatment for breast cancer.

“Going through an illness like cancer is stressful enough without having the worry or anxiety of filling in forms and having to seek advice.

“Thanks to Peter at Debt Action NI in Dove House he was able to ensure I got the help and support I was entitled to but because of the way the government had changed things I had to go through the process all over again six months later.

“We must oppose these changes to welfare because they will affect all of us in the future,” she added.

Maureen Collins from Dove House Community Resource Centre in the Bogside read out a testimony on behalf of a cancer sufferer.

“I built a business over nine years and I employed nine people locally. My husband was earning a handsome salary but when I was diagnosed with cancer I could no longer work and my husband cut his hours in the construction industry to be my carer.

“A while later I received a second cancer diagnosis and had to undergo the horrible experience of attending a meeting with ATOS on the Strand Road.

“Sick people don’t need this - stand up against the cuts,” she said.

Michael McCrossan, a community worker from the Waterside read a testimony on behalf of a local 23 year-old suffering from poor mental health.

“I live alone, I have type one diabetes, poor mental health and suffer from post-traumatic stress.

“Since my benefits have been cut I have fallen into arrears with my rent. There’s not a day goes by I don’t think about suicide. These new reforms offer no hope to people like me.”