Is it time to eat the rich yet?

I have a theory that the only people this will be read by are other disabled people, because we have been so isolated. If you’re an abled person and reading this, can you identify yourself in the comments? Doesn’t have to have your name, or anything, just a +1 or something. I just suspect that I’m preaching to the choir. All other comments are also, of course, welcome. First posts may take a minute to get through moderation though, since I don’t know how to change that setting.

 

Content: Eugenics, financial coercion, tories, politics, homelessness, medical coercion, swearing, food insecurity… The whole lot.

 

I have tried so fucking hard to keep the politics off this blog lately. Partly because I know that other people can say it better than I can and partly because it is so fucking depressing that even writing about it on my own terms makes me think life is not worth living.

Today is the budget. George Osborne declaring how he will make this country fit for “the Next Generation” and from what he’s doing it’s pretty obvious that our Next Generation will not include the disabled.

At first I’d thought it was all an accident, that it just so happened that all the cuts and all sanctions and the worst of the punishment disproportionately affected disabled people. It was very easy for me to imagine that, in the minds of the Tories, disabled people were just acceptable collateral damage in their war against the poor. But with the power of hindsight it’s obvious that the plan all along was eugenic.

 

We start off with the changes to disability living allowance. Suddenly for a disabled person to get an amount of money they could live on the have to be found not just “not fit for work” but they have to promise not to try to find work, or even to try self-employment above a ridiculously low threshold. Meaning that once a disabled person has been declared “not fit for work” it becomes very difficult for them to even try to return to the workforce – would you risk taking self-employment which could ruin your health if you knew that in taking that risk you would have the money taken away which you had been trying to live on, and that if your business failed it would be months or years before that money was restored to you if it was restored at all?

In addition to this, there is a savings cap of £6000. This sounds like a lot of money, but it won’t get you a deposit on a house, it won’t buy you a vehicle (especially not a wheelchair accessible vehicle or a vehicle with adapted controls), it won’t even buy many of the more expensive mobility aids such as tilting beds or maximally-supported powered wheelchairs.

So, in one fell swoop, disabled people are locked out of the workforce and their mobility outside the home is reduced.

At the same time, there have been massive cuts to social care budgets.Never mind the loss of the Independent Living Fund, there are now no councils in England (at least) which provide their own social care provision – the instead rely on private agencies. This in turn means that provision of carers, personal assistants, and other human-based help to disabled people has become more expensive and less available.

That, again, has reduced the mobility of disabled people outside the home. Many of us would describe ourselves not as “living” but as “subsisting”, “surviving”, or even “being kept in storage”.

The sum total of this to begin with has been to reduce the visibility of disabled people in the abled world. Less people now will have a disabled co-worker, less people will know a disabled person down the pub, and less people would describe themselves as having disabled friends. As such, to most abled people, the thought of the systematic persecution of disabled people does not bring to mind the face – a friend – who will be hurt, or even killed, by these policies. It’s tragic, but it’s tragic in the same way that the destruction of the rainforest or a melting ice flow or the extinction of a rare rhinoceros is. It’s a sad, but ultimately natural, result of an unavoidable natural process. Darwin himself tells us that the strong survive and the weak perish.

Also involved in the changes to disability funding has been a particularly cruel piece of legislation which stops disabled people from forming families. Much like housing benefit (landlord greed subsidy) does not allow the poor under-35 to live in anything more than a room in a shared house, if a disabled person lives with someone who is waged (Above a certain, low, point) they become ineligible for ESA. Effectively this means that if an out-of-work disabled person enters into a relationship with either an abled person or a disabled person who is able to work, their partner must financially support them in every way. Food, rent, bills. PIP is, after all, only supposed to cover the “extra costs of disability”.

Unless you are extremely well paid it is basically impossible to support a second adult on one person’s wage whilst maintaining any quality of life.

Thus many disabled adults are forced to either live in shared accommodation or live with their parents, even when it is detrimental to their health.

(Another cruel side-effect of this policy, since the DWP require a long “cooling off” period after a relationship has ended before awarding a disabled person the full allowance which would be granted to them as a single person. This can trap disabled people who live with their partners into staying in sub-optimal or actively abusive relationships long after they would otherwise have ended.)

 

So, disabled people are now;

  1. Living alone, or living with their parents
  2. Not socialising with abled people
  3. Unable to save money to have any kind of personal safety net, thus more totally reliant on the state

 

And then the media campaign began in earnest. 2010’s “when you leave the house at 8 AM, it’s natural to resent the man whose curtains are still closed” looks frankly tame and benign compared to more recent rhetoric.

Disabled people are “scroungers”. Disabled people are “a drain on the state”. Disabled people are “expecting something for nothing”.

Disabled people are getting “special treatment” and “your taxes are paying for it”.

Look at the comments under any article about NHS care or state support of disabled people, and you will see plenty of people who believe that disabled people shouldn’t have nice things, or shouldn’t own property, and should basically be granted the absolute minimum required to survive (something like the diet of porridge whilst living in a three deep shelving system) and that to ask for anything more is greedy.

It’s no coincidence that disability hate crimes are on the rise, and that most disabled people I know live in fear. The tabloid press colludes with the government to paint disabled people as suspicious, dishonest, and not-like-us, not “full members of society”. I’ve been spat on, kicked, had people attempt to take my dog away from me, been denied taxis and buses, been pushed to the back of queues, all the while the familiar litany drones from the crowd; “Cripple”, “Scrounger”, “Faker”, “Freak”, “Kill yourself”, “Spending my money”, “How dare you”, and the worst of them all “I’ll dob you in”.

 

The implications of “I’ll dob you in” are startling. For the blissfully unaware; the Department of Work and Pensions has a hotline which you can call to report disability benefit fraud. The only evidence required is to know a disabled person’s name, and to have seen them doing something suitably un-cripple like. This could be as simple as standing up, opening the door, smiling, going to a nightclub, riding a motorcycle, basically anything other than lying in bed. It doesn’t matter if the person has a fluctuating condition and exhausted themselves for a week in order to get a chance to sit by the canal for an afternoon. If you saw them enjoying the sunshine, and that annoyed you, you can tell the Department of Work and Pensions and their benefits will be immediately stopped pending a reconsideration.

As you can imagine this results in a lot of vexatious calls. Got a grievance with a disabled person? Instead of having an argument you could just get the government to starve them for six months. Much easier. And, best of all, calls to this hotline are anonymous meaning that you can keep making vexatious claims as often as you like with no chance of retribution.

 

Effectively, the government have enshrined the right for the people to armchair-diagnose the disabled, and hold this armchair diagnosis in higher regard than the collective opinions of the disabled person and their own doctors, and even higher than the opinions of their own assessment team.

To add to the count, disabled people are now;

  1. Living alone, or living with their parents
  2. Not socialising with abled people
  3. Unable to save money to have any kind of personal safety net, thus more totally reliant on the state
  4. Living in fear of casual hate crimes, encouraged by the press
  5. Living in fear of “not looking crippled enough” in case a stranger decides to report them

 

And then the cuts began.

First, the privatisation of removal of many NHS services which are largely used by disabled people. Ever tried to get a physio appointment with a long-term condition? How about looked at the length of surgical waiting lists? Never mind guidance on reducing the prescription of needed painkillers and other medications because they are “too expensive”.

 

People believe that. It’s easy to believe that disabled people are just “too expensive” to support – We have all these strange demands, and we make planning things more complicated, and, honestly, who knows any really disabled people anyway? And obviously the ones on painkillers are junkies, and the ones who use a wheelchair part-time are fakers, and anyone who uses a blue badge or a priority seat is taking a lend, so why should we support these horrible, unproductive, useless eaters anyway?

Now, it’s the cuts to ESA (Why should a cripple get more money than any other jobseeker?) and then finally, today, the planned cuts to PIP (Wherein any disabled person who uses an appliance instead of human help will no longer qualify).

 

The result is that many disabled people, possibly even most disabled people, will have no money at all unless they can find and keep work. Which, with some disabilities, will just be impossible – It’s hard to find an employer who will let you take infinite sick days for pain, or to sleep in the afternoons, or work variable shifts, when often you might have only minimal education due to a lack of university provisions for disabled students, and the prohibitive cost of university for most people anyway.

 

The real-world result of this is that disabled people will die. We are already dying. The government is reluctant to release figures about deaths after benefit sanctions, deaths after being found for work, and deaths whilst waiting for benefits to be awarded. That’s even before we look at figures for homelessness, housing vulnerability, morbidity associated with poor diet, poor mental health outcomes due to lack of physical security or social inclusion, and all the other likely outcomes of taking a population who are already very sick and discriminated against and taking away their money and their rights.

 

Recent conversations between myself and other disabled people have tended to all point towards a similar conclusion; that the next step will be something like a workhouse. Now that we are entitled to less monetary compensation, and without the support that has helped us to find work in the past, it might seem like an obvious solution to the problem. House the disabled people in a big Institute somewhere, give them simple work sewing underpants, and in return for that work they will get regulation clothing, and medications, and room in a bunkhouse. They won’t need money; everything they could possibly need will be provided. Asking for choice in what to eat, or the opportunity to socialise, or raise a family, or keep pets, or live where they want, or pursue a hobby or education or a career of their own choosing, will be parsed as greed. And the general populace will say “isn’t that nice? The government have made it so easy to care for those poor people. I remember before the workhouses, they all lived in poverty and alone and afraid.” And, of course, the government will make a tidy profit selling our labour to the kind of multinational corporations that they are so keen to protect and attract to our shores.

 

Considering everything else, this doesn’t feel far-fetched any more. The UN is investigating the UK for grieviously violating the human rights of disabled people. This isn’t just a few frightened people who think the sky is falling.

One of these outcomes could have been an unfortunate accident. Two or three of them, perhaps a thoughtless snowballing of circumstances, which would obviously be rectified as soon as it was noticed. But all of them? This is a campaign. This is eugenics. This is a naked attempt to isolate, scapegoat, weaken and eventually (judging by history) murder an entire sector of the population, whilst blaming them for the sins of the rich.

 

If I don’t survive this government, know at least that I saw it coming.