Opinion

Disabled people on benefits aren't to blame for UK's recession – the Tories are

We need to stop turning people who can't afford to pay their bills and worry about Tory billionaires, says disabled journalist Rachel Charlton-Dailey

Prime minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street

Prime minister Rishi Sunak in Downing Street. Image: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Last week the news came that the UK was officially in a recession, to many this wasn’t a surprise. To be honest with you I thought we were already in one. While the past 14 years living under Tory rule have been hard, the last couple in the cost of living crisis have felt excruciating, especially for low-income disabled people. But of course, these are also the people who are being blamed for the recession.

The narrative was as easy to see coming as the press calling it a Rishession (no, we’re not doing it). Obviously, the crippling debt the country is in is down to people who are too sick to work, “languishing on benefits” and taking the hardworking taxpayer for a ride. 

It’s absolutely not down to the fact that the government has wasted billions of taxpayer money, including the billions Boris Johnson’s government wasted while Rishi Sunak was chancellor. 

It’s certainly not the fault of a government that carved up public services and then sold them off piece by piece to their Tory donor pals, like the NHS. No, just to be clear, according to the Tories that’s down to disabled unemployed people draining services. Ignore the fact that waiting lists are at an all-time high due to funding and staff shortages. 

And it’s absolutely the fault of disabled unemployed people who are struggling to heat their homes, not British Gas who boasted that in the last year their profits have increased more than 10-fold from £72m to £750m. 

This is of course all sarcastic, I had to point that out because many other columnists will spread this seriously without a hint of introspection.

Writing in The Telegraph, secretary of state for work and pensions Mel Stride called people of working age who had been deemed not fit for work by his own department “the shadow of economic activity that continues to hang over our nation.” Now personally, I think government officials who are allowed to have second jobs where they are doubly paid to spread their propaganda to the masses is the true shadow that hangs over the nation, but what do I know?

It’s the same dangerous rhetoric we’ve seen for the last year or so from the Tories, people on long-term sick benefits cost the taxpayer too much, people don’t want to work because it’s easier to leach off of the taxpayer. 

The one I find the cruellest is the lie that the country has not gotten three times sicker in the last decade to match the trebling of those on the highest tier of disability unemployment benefits. This is proven to be false on so many levels, though it is very Tory to deny that the pandemic has and is continuing to hit disabled people the hardest while making hundreds of thousands newly disabled in the process.

If you really want some stats on who’s wasting taxpayer’s money here are some of my favourite stats. £42bn a year is lost in unpaid tax. £350m was spent by the DWP in the last decade trying to deny disability benefits, enough to cover the highest level of PIP payments for 39,000 people for an entire year. 

LBC’s James O’Brien put it best earlier this week when a listener called in to essentially rant about her sister who is on benefits. He asked, “Why are you talking about people who’ve got even less than you, instead of talking about people who’ve got more?” This is it at the end of the day, the right-wing government and media have successfully detracted attention away from their own finances and stopped people questioning them by making those who are truly struggling the enemy. 

This year we have the chance to finally get the Tories out of power, but if people keep believing their disgusting tripe about how evil disabled people are, we could see another five years of cruelty. Well, that’s for those who are lucky enough to continue living. 

More people need to ask themselves who the real enemy is here. Is it the person who’s struggling to pay their bills or is it the Tory millionaires and billionaires who want us to turn against each other while they rake in the profits? 

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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