We don’t know about you, but it feels like the world is slowly imploding and with all the chaos going on, it can be quite tricky to keep up with it all. And news affecting the disabled community seems to fall between the cracks. So we decided to do something about it. Rather than rage to each other in WhatsApp, we (Rachel, your Editor-in-Chief and Cath, your Deputy Editor) decided to do something about it.
And so this column was born; “The State of This”, because well, have you seen the state of it all?
In this monthly(-ish) column, we’ll do a commentary on the state of news, politics, and society, and how it royally screws over the disabled community. And we’re inviting you along for the ride while we get a bit pissed at the state of, well, everything.
So sit, back, grab a cuppa, and enjoy our first rant, where we’re discussing the Tory leadership…
Basically, we’re screwed…
For those that have somehow missed the last decade’s onslaught of bile, hate, and bigotry towards disabled people since the Conservatives rose to power, we’ll try to give you a quick rundown of where we’re at.
The biggest red flag to date has to be their handling of the Pandemic. Rachel has already written about this for The Unwritten here, but if you want a quick summary, disabled people died of COVID-19 in extremely high numbers (6 in 10 or 59% in the UK between 24th January and 20th November 2020) and the government just didn’t care. We were dispensable, as long as non-disabled people could get a quick pint or “Eat Out to Help Out” – Thanks for that by the way Rishi.
And of course we can’t ignore how the tories have destroyed disabled people’s lives with the reform of the benefits system. Since they came to power over a decade ago they have consistently made it harder for disabled people who rely on benefits to live that many sadly haven’t survived.
The sheer scale of how many disabled people the tories have killed thanks to their rigourous, lacking empathy assessments may never truly be known, as the Department for Works and Pensions are simply refusing to release the reports. However, distressingly, what do know is that between 2013 and 2019 over 17,000 people died whilst waiting for decisions to be made.
Then in 2020, we learned that 5,000 disabled people died whilst waiting to be have underpaid benefits corrected, however the scandal has been linked to 50,000 deceased people. Death by Welfare exposed that the coalition government were responsible for the suicides of 590 disabled people between 2010 and 2013.
When asked what the DWP will do to ensure the safety of vulnerable and at risk claimants, Secretary Therese Coffee said “We do not have a statutory duty of safeguarding, though of course we do care about our claimants.” Sure you do babe, because nothing says caring like refusing to increase benefits in line with inflation and sanctioning disabled people who claim Universal Credit because you don’t think they contribute enough to society.
It is therefore with some trepidation, that after the catastrophe that was Boris Johnson’s tenure, we are now looking ahead to a new Prime Minister. Many people were cheering with joy singing “ding-dong the witch is dead” at the absolute mammoth implosion of Johnson’s downfall. Even some of his allies jumped ship, although to be fair they only jumped once the colossal amount of bailing they were all doing was clearly doomed to failure.
Despite the joy at the removal of Johnson, we now are looking ahead to a situation that for many, won’t fare any better. Both candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak haven’t got the best track record when it comes to showing they want to even meet the basic needs of disabled people (so any hopes for improving our lives verges on laughable).
Both have a track record of voting for reductions of welfare benefits – Sunak 20 times and Truss a whopping 45 times – and penalising disabled people who rely on them. Trawling through their voting records reveal their utter contempt for the NHS, to the stage where we’d almost expect privatisation any day now.
According to the BBC, Fifty disability charities have called on both Truss and Sunak to give more cost of living support to disabled people. While Sunak’s meagre response is a drop in the water based on what is actually required, at least he responded. The Truss campaign didn’t even respond to the letter.
Because the bar is now so low, we’re even having to acknowledge a response. That we actually exist. However it should be noted that both have consistently voted raising welfare benefits at least in line with inflation so there’s no (literally) putting their money where their mouths are.
So don’t think that a new Prime Minister is a new dawn of opportunity for disabled people. We’re still absolutely screwed. And to be honest, it doesn’t actually matter who wins, because we already know the loser. And yet again, it’s disabled people.
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