On Wednesday, United Response news correspondent David Allkins joined more than 150 disabled people at a mass benefits lobby of parliament. In his latest report, he finds out what they asked their MPs.

This was my first major story of 2016. The Disability Benefits Consortium, an umbrella group of 60 members which includes United Response, organised this mass lobby of parliament. What this means is that over 150 people with disabilities had booked to meet with their local MPs to discuss several concerns.

While these include the freeze in benefits and the Benefits cap, the main concern was the reduction of Employment Support & Allowance benefits to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), which is set to be reduced from £102.15 to £73.10 a week.

An impressive setting

The Lobby was in Parliament, but in a different location to the committee rooms I usually go to for my reports. This time, I spent the day talking to disabled people, MPs and spokespeople in Westminster Hall.

The venue looked like an impressive Gothic film set. There were tables set up for each region of the country and electric heating units; the latter were needed as this part of parliament was built in ‘BCH time’ (Before Central Heating)!

People with disabilities lobbying their MPs in Westminster Hall

Usually it is fairly empty, so it was strange to see it so busy as I looked down from the steps to watch the activists assembling below.

Hearing the other side of the debate

Because of the range of people that had travelled from around the country, MPs attended this event from parties across the political spectrum including the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

In the report, we were pleased to have Shadow Minister for Disabled People Debbie Abrahams and Conservative MP for Newquay and St Austell Steve Double give reasons for and against the cuts because this gave some balance to the debate. If you disagree with something, you need to hear the other side so you know why some people are agreeing with it!

Disabled people are politically active

This event was important to me because it showed not only how important it is for people to be involved in politics, but also that people with disabilities should not be put in little labelled boxes. We spoke to people with an awareness of history who just wanted to be able to live their lives without difficulty.

We are also very sorry that we could not get everybody who wanted to speak to us on film because of time limits – in the end, we covered so much that this report could have been made into a 90-minute documentary!

One of the key things that I will take away from this experience is that political activism and engagement are far more widespread than most people think.

Take a look at my report here:

Remember to share it on social media so that the messages from disabled people at this lobby are heard far and wide!

David Allkins, news correspondent.