Many disabled people feel they are being singled out by the coalition Government to bear the brunt of the 'welfare reforms'. We all know that Governments love a scapegoat, history tells us that, and with a political machine whipping up faux outrage at an 'out of control' welfare system, on cue enter the blood baying public fed up of 'handouts', benefit fraud and those pesky disabled.
Read the right wing papers such as the Daily Fail and you are told of the universal outrage over a rising welfare bill, the disgust over widespread benefit fraud and universal contempt for those work-shy 'disabled' people who are a drain on the welfare system. The public are drip-fed carefully manipulated stories of injustice which by the time the hack is done with it has more relevance in fable than news . Take the benefit claimants strolling around massive, tax payer subsidised houses while you, the tireless City type make do with a small one bedroom apartment above a kebab shop in Peckham or the disabled people janting around London in Motability sports cars, parking for free and avoiding the congestion charge. Those sly bastards!
I am not a fan of the Lib Dems, come to think of that I wouldn't be a fan of any party that's willing to jump into bed with its opposite number and roll over contently with the crumbs from the table. We all know the Tories like someone else to blame while feathering their nest and of course those of their City cronies while swinging the axe to public services. I do suspect that despite his political impotence, Nick Clegg has had a moderating influence on the Tories who, I'm sure by now would have had the disabled report for reapings for the Welfare Games; the Tory equivalent of the Hunger Games.
More and more stories have emerged of disabled people being bullied, abused and mistreated by ATOS (the Government's 'medical' wing-men) at medicals for disability and out of work sickness benefits and a number of peer support and protest groups such as the Black Triangle Campaign and ATOS Miracles have appeared and give members a voice. Membership of these groups is swelling as more disabled people and their carers unite online and feel more able to challenge government policy and the governments treatment of sick and disabled people.
I am very supportive of any effort which brings people disabled people and carers together to provide peer support and advice while providing a vehicle and a collective voice to challenge injustice and extreme hardship caused by this governments welfare reforms. Many of these groups provide more support and assistance in relation to welfare reform than that available through official channels.
There are critics of course, there always will be, need I mention the self-styled guru of all things disability, Simon Stevens who's relentless insults and diatribe against disabled people and benefit claimants led to the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity ditching him and running as far away from him as possible. Simon likes to paint himself as a warrior, a guru or a Katie Hopkins type who is restoring balance to the argument by calling fellow disabled people 'fake disabled' if they happen not to be in a wheelchair and of course a 'Nazi' if they criticise him. Perhaps Simon is hoping to run for parliament as a Tory or UKIP candidate? Who knows, the only thing I do know is that many of his clients on his website don't consider themselves as clients at all and of course, he did 'advise' ATOS by reading a briefing.
Vilification of benefit claimants and disabled people is endemic, perhaps the government should just stitch on the black triangles and be done with it or bring in the Welfare Games to keep us at a more manageable number and remind us how grateful we are for all the 'pitty money' (in Simon Stevens words) that we get.
Under a Tory (or ToryLite) government, things are only going to get worse for benefit claimants, disabled people and their carers.
Photograph: Channel 4