I’ve invited TJ White, from Hull, to give her take on government threats to disability support.
“It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades.”
I’d been asked to write something about the changes to DLA, and I’m afraid it’s taking me a long time to work through the consultation document so I can write something truly informed. I am at present bothered more by two other phrases that have been used in conjunction with certain disabled people by the current government and in use by the media a lot at present. One is the word ‘vulnerable’ the other is ‘unsustainable’ – put them together and you have ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’, not a nice position to be in, and certainly not a positive way of being described.
“It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability.”
My main problem with this is that it just betrays such a nasty, uncaring and patronising attitude to disabled people. It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability. It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades. There are two ways (simplification, if you will allow) to look at this really – disabled people are an expensive burden on the taxpayer who must be supported because…. well why? I’m not sure. I’ve seen nothing about why these ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’ should have any help or assistance, just that we can afford less of it. There is no real reason or incentive to fork out all that cash. However what if these people are equal, have a right to life, family, freedom, work – voluntary or otherwise, friends and communication? Sometimes to be equal barriers must be removed, some of these barriers are financial, some of them cost money.
I can tell you the only way in which I feel vulnerable personally is to government spending cuts: I worry I won’t be able to go out any more – because they will take away my DLA, I worry I will struggle to live in a clean house, do my shopping, cook meals and to see my friends because they are going to cut my Personal Budget (social care package). I worry that even if I do become a little better I will never work again because they are cutting the Access to Work grants. I worry I won’t be able to feed myself or have a family because they are cutting my benefit (‘insurance’, according to my record, and ‘handout’ according to The Sun. Take your pick!). I worry they will move the goal posts again and declare me ‘fit for work’ – a meaningless phrase as, with a few exceptions, I am unemployable.
I am, however, only made vulnerable by these cuts. I am a capable, hardworking individual – even if that is not conventionally hardworking. I can take responsibility for myself and my life, I can be in control and I am still fiercely independent.
We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent.
I have known of people with varying levels of support and impairment direct their own lives, including those with severe mental health problems, learning disability and those living in residential care. We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent, without their input, without even meeting them. We make an underclass, unseen, unheard and locked away by the barriers and the labels we place in front of them.
No one’s life is ‘unnecessary’. No one has to live in poverty or misery. Most people, with varying levels of support, can live fulfilling, varied and personally controlled lives.
It is our choice whether we make people vulnerable or not – usually by declaring them ‘unsustainable’ or ‘too expensive’.
It’s our choice what kind of society we live in.
TJ White is a singer, songwriter and disability activist and lives in Hull.