And the DWP weren’t done with demonising disabled people yet. This farce was only priming the public for the proposed changes to benefits they announced in the Autumn. The constant narrative they’d been weaving to the press that disabled people on benefits are “languishing on the sick” and “workshy shirkers” meant it was easy for them to roll out THE next stage of their plans.
These included snooping on benefits claimants bank accounts, proposed changes to the not fit for work categories of benefits like universal credit and employment support allowance and of course their grand “back to work” plan. These changes really were the final nail in the coffin for many disabled people.
Speaking of press narrative, it seems to have only gotten ten times worse this year, with what seems like a constant barrage of reporting that disabled people are taking hardworking people’s tax or with debates on places like the Jeremy Vine show asking if disabled people deserve benefits.
I was on one such debate where a right-wing commentator I appeared with later took to Twitter to proclaim that I only wanted to work a couple of hours and then nap – I mean, yeah, doesn’t everyone? The hatred I received from this and tweeting that disabled people on benefits deserved nice things such as getting their nails done – something which 89% of the public think they shouldn’t be allowed – cemented how much the governments plan to turn the public against disabled people was working.
It’s always worth pointing out though that in the same YouGov survey 26% said those on benefits shouldn’t be able to afford basic food and 27% said they should be able to buy school uniforms for their kids.
There was also the constant slew of columns and opinion pieces claiming that the increase in neurodivergent diagnoses like ADHD were all the fault of TikTok making it trendy. As a self-diagnosed ADHDer who was watching their friends struggle with medication shortages this made me want to hide even more.
As if the government haven’t shown us just how little they think of disabled people enough, at the beginning of December we saw the absolute spectacle of the mysteriously reappearing minister for disabled people. With Pursglove running off to hate immigrants, the post being vacant for a week, ITV confirming they’d axed the minister for disabled people, then three hours later the government appointing Mims Davies in a downgraded role as undersecreatry.
It wasn’t all terrible though, we did have some wins. Representation wise we had the incredible A Kind of Spark which showed autistic teens being aspirational, messy and real without having to be tragic or aspirational, with a majority cast and crew of neurodivergent people including the incredible Lola Blue and Ella Maisy Purvis. Tasha, a deaf woman appearing on Bake Off with an interpreter and even shows such as Loose Women having specials on hidden disabilities. There was also of course the incredible victory in stopping the government from closing ticket offices in train stations. Something disabled campaigners fought at every turn.
2023 was a year when it felt like the world was against disabled people more than ever, but it’s important to remember that those most powerful often have control of the narrative. But hopefully there’s change coming. The government can’t be allowed to win and hopefully an election next year will stop them.
I want my final message to disabled people of 2023 to be a reminder that there are always people fighting your corner. We’ve got a fight on our hands in 2024, but so do the Tories.
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