Voluntary Sector: Disability group forces coalition into U-turn

Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap and Sense united to highlight the impact cuts to the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance will have to disabled people in residential care.

Fighting to get out: disabled people pose behind bars to highlight their campaign, supported by a huge rally in London
Fighting to get out: disabled people pose behind bars to highlight their campaign, supported by a huge rally in London

Campaign Mobilise for DLA
Clients Charity coalition of Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap and
PR team Charities' in-house teams
Timescale October 2010-November 2011
Budget £10,000

In 2010, the Government announced plans to scrap a payment for disabled people living in residential care - the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance. There was low awareness of the impact the cut would have on disabled people in residential care. Leonard Cheshire Disability believed it would leave those affected trapped indoors and unable to live independently. There was also misplaced belief that the allowance was being met by some local authorities and that some disabled people were receiving double funding.


  • To raise the public's awareness of the detrimental impact the cut would have on 78,000 disabled people living in residential care
  • To promote the lobbying work being done to influence policy and decision makers and stop the planned cut.

Strategy and plan

As the issue affected disabled people in residential care across the UK, the charities decided it was essential to raise awareness about the impact of the cut in regional press. Local, emotive human interest stories and letters to the editor proved a successful way to engage the public in the campaign. The teams encouraged disabled campaigners to generate coverage in their local area.

The charities also wanted to reach decision makers through national and broadcast media, many of which were reluctant to cover the issue. The charities decided that working in a coalition would help to create the most impact as they had a united voice and message.

The team staged a stunt outside Parliament where several disabled people were photographed 'behind bars', to emphasise that without their DLA mobility component they would be trapped indoors. The team also took advantage of national lobbying and campaigning work, such as the biggest disabled people's rally the UK had seen, to highlight the issue of DLA across mainstream media.

The charities also used the key findings of an independent review chaired by Lord Low of Dalston, to highlight the fact that the DLA mobility component was a vital benefit for disabled people living in residential care and that double funding was not taking place. Social media were used to keep disabled people engaged with the campaign.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign achieved more than 350 pieces of coverage across national, regional, trade and consumer titles, and online including in The Guardian, Daily Mail, The Times, Daily Mirror, Community Care, Local Government Chronicle and Able, as well as being discussed on news bulletins on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live.


Sustained PR activity led to an overwhelming public response against the proposals and cross-party support in Parliament. In November 2011, the Government announced that it had reversed its decision to remove the allowance.



What struck me was how effective this campaign was in bringing to life the human impact of a pretty unfriendly and potentially 'Tory re-toxifying' policy decision.

Focused on the grassroots and led by disabled people, the intent of the campaign was powerfully captured in its iconic imagery: disabled people behind bars, replacing the tired 'charity cheque' photo-call format.

I admired the selfless decision to put the cause above the individual charities' fight for share of voice. This type of coalition working proved to be a useful model for the resource-constrained charities in helping to emphasise the scale of the problem.

The success of the campaign should not, however, be judged on the 'thud factor' of the column inches it gained, but the way in which it mobilised public support.

To have achieved all of these things for a single, unnoticed but important issue was laudable. To have cut through the behemoth of the Welfare Reform Bill (now Act) and ultimately reversed the Government's decision was nothing short of extraordinary.

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