It's fair to say that the government is now trolling the disabled. In a recent press release, the Department for International Development outlined the "first ever" Global Disability Summit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The press release stated that the summit will "shine a light on the discrimination and stigma faced by up to one billion people globally who have a disability". As superbly highlighted by columnist Ian Birrell, the hypocrisy around this summit is startling and completely lacking any self-awareness from the government.
I'd like to think that someone with even a passing interest in disability rights would now understand what an absolute kick in the teeth this is for the UK disabled community. Only a couple of months ago we learned that more than a million disabled people have had benefit sanctions since 2010.
We're not talking about a mere inconvenience, a cut-back on a few luxury items in the trolly, or one less drink down the pub. We're talking about the absolute definition of the poverty line.
Not only have the cuts crushed disabled people, but we're also doing very little to address disability working environments. For over two years I've written a series of blogs under the 'I'm Broken Britain' banner. One of them highlighted the crucial need to reinvent the workplace if we're serious about giving disabled people a proper chance at competing. But with each harsh cut comes a period of inaction. Nothing has really changed.
The reason I've chosen to write this series anonymously is out of a personal mix of fear, pride, embarrassment and stigma. Yes, it really is hard to admit you're disabled in 2018 in the UK.
I'm in fear, primarily, of what comes next. As it currently stands, I've been without any welfare support for around a year now. My weight is dropping due to a brew of anxiety and low income. I type this latest piece on a laptop that's comprehensively broken, using an online word processor because my desktop package stopped working last month. The small chance I stood of finding trickles of income are now diminishing as I find myself without the tools to forage.
I've always managed to keep myself occupied and have a few projects to my name which, on the face of it, look impressive. The only trouble is they're not exactly money earners. I've written anonymously to try and preserve what little reputation I may have. I also now find myself in a position where the funds I need to do a small amount of travel, mainly into London, no longer exist, so my prospects of furthering my career paths on my own have essentially dried up completely. These are the hidden elements to benefit cuts. It's not just about paying the bills, it's about the often literal life-lines of independence which soon become severed when you don't have any money to fall back on.
Every so often you do get a glimmer of hope, even if it is fleeting. Channel 4's The Last Leg has consistently championed disability rights and causes. You could almost compare it to a wartime variety show, designed to lift the morale of the troops.
On a recent episode, it held Anna Soubry's voting record to account. Presenter Adam Hills pressed the Conservative MP and, to her credit, she gave a good answer. She highlighted the repugnant practice of target-driven cuts and default zero score assessments in the now infamous Work Capability Assessment – something I too have been through, and yes, I did receive a zero score across the board.
We've reduced the complexities of living with a disability down to a linear assessment which lasts around ten minutes, and then ultimately one's fate is decided by a numerical score. The Last Leg has become one of the few places which has maintained its voice in challenging the government's brutal mishandling of the disabled population.
It's not often I fail to come up with a suitable sign-off paragraph to a blog, but on this occasion I do admit to struggling. My own circumstances now lack hope. This blow is hard to compute and becomes the fuel of recurring dreams. You're never quite able to fall asleep owing to a busy mind, trying to figure out the next step towards survival. I'm far from alone in this, and I'm far from the worse case as I am blessed with a wonderful family who pick up the slack. But for many, this is not the case. We desperately need to collectively do more to solve this situation. I don't have much hope of that happening.
The writer of this article wished to remain anonymous.
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