Today’s post is from a guest blogger (Jane, who’s already posted articles on autism services and empathy). For those of you who are wondering about the hiatus, I’ll be back with regular articles next month. Although she doesn’t have autism, thanks to a degenerative illness Jane is now classed as disabled and therefore affected by cuts to disability benefits and the privatisation of the NHS. Jane raises some very important points about the governments attitude towards disabilities and why it’s important to vote during the up and coming election.
Personally, I don’t know a great deal about politics. But what scares me about politics is the climate of fear and hatred that has been created. Ordinary people are being encouraged to hate anyone on benefits and fight in favour of “hard working families”. This attitude is damaging due to it’s similarity to a military strategy which I’ll refer to as “divide and conquer”. Whilst the general public is angry at people like me for claiming low rate disabled living allowance, they are ignoring the billions of pounds that has been taken from them in taxes to pay for politicians mansions and bankers bonuses, leaving the government free to tighten their strangle hold. Disabled people are also prevented from recognising the real enemy because we are forced to spend long hours justifying the support we need in order to stay alive, filling out form after form, responding to your cries of “lazy sponger!” and yes, writing blog posts explaining that we are just as hard working and worthy as able bodied people.
Nobody should have to justify their place on this earth, and there is more than enough wealth to ensure we are all healthy, happy and adequately provided for. The real issue is not “benefit spongers”, it’s that our wealth is in the hands of the wrong people. Just imagine what organisations like Bradford Autism Support could do with one bankers bonus! Anyway, Jane explains the issue much better than I do, so here are her thoughts on the up and coming elections:
As I write this, it’s the day before the general election in the Uk. Latest polls suggest the likely result will be “too close to call”. And I’m feeling mad, mad as hell. And very worried about the future. So why do I think is this election so important for people with disabilities and ASD? Why is it important that people vote when many feel the choice is between 2 options that are both awful but one is slightly less awful than the other?
Back track to some very heated conversations in our house over the last few weeks. Our household is made up of 2 people with disabilities, a first time voter, and a lifelong labour supporter. In the eyes of the right wing (UK) press we could easily be seen as a family of “scroungers” dependant on financial support and services from the state. It would be tempting justify our position with a long list of my previous working life, voluntary work etc that both G and I have done to “put back” into society, (something I believe in passionately). But this would only feed the prevailing rhetoric of “deserving and undeserving”, so let’s not go there. The bottom line is this. We were all born into this world equal. As we have grown, society has put barriers in place to create a world that is very unequal. In the case of many with ASD this barriers manifest from an early age, from adults who are intolerant to how they communicate, to the sensory bombardment of busy train stations, shops and public buildings, which are major challenges to many with ASD trying to live and work in the neurotypical world.
For others like me, disability is something that comes to us later in life, due to the impact of accident or illness. I am now living with a long term degenerative condition I have no choice or control over, just as those with ASD have no choice over being born on the autism spectrum. I am reliant on a state funded car to get me even the shortest distance, and a pharmacy full of state funded medicines in to keep me alive day to day. But how much longer will these necessities be available for?
All three mainstream parties see reducing the deficit as our absolute priority, over and above everything else. How they will do this, and how long it will take is what differs. The Conservatives have now made it clear that there will be no increase in taxes, but that the welfare bill will be cut, meaning those who are already the most vulnerable will be expected to bear main responsibility for tackling the deficit. This terrifies me. Some of our local MPs have recently stated that imposing the bedroom tax is justified to “encourage the disabled to be more adaptable”. And yet, disability benefits and out of work benefits combined still make up a much smaller proportion of the overall welfare bill than pensions and housing benefit. The housing benefit bill has undoubtedly been inflated by the almost complete lack of meaningful rent controls in the UK since the 1980s. Many MPs pay for their properties at tax payers expense, then rent them out to people on housing benefits.
Labour have a commitment to increase taxes on the wealthy through “Mansion Tax”, but the absence of any clear proposals on disability benefits, coupled with their continual emphasis on “hard working families” makes me anxious. Given that disabled people make up a significant proportion of the voting population, we deserve a mention.
So how does all this tie into the election? If we don’t vote, however limited our choices may be, we don’t have a voice. Next time round it will be even easier for the government to ignore and marginalise us. By voting we’re saying, “we count”. Celebrities like Russell Brand have often been the most powerful voices during this campaign. I believe the priority has to be to overturn the current government, then use our power to push for change from the bottom up. We all have a right to be here. We all have a right to basic levels of support to lead productive and meaningful lives. We need to shout loud, and hope that together we’ll be heard.