Wednesday, 15 June 2011

It's never that simple

As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, yesterday Labour leader Ed Miliband made a speech attacking those disabled people who he believes can and should be doing some sort of (unspecified) work.

So far as anyone can ascertain, Mr Miliband doesn't have any basis for this belief - no background in Occupational Therapy, no medical qualifications - it goes right back to the old refrain of "if you can press a button, you can work," that we heard many times while Labour were in power and introducing ESA and their harsh Work Capability Assessment.

As I responded to Bendygirl's blogpost yesterday: it's never that simple.

If there is a button-pushing factory in my town (despite offshoring), or in a town I could move to (despite lack of accessible housing and the housing benefit caps), and if they're hiring (despite record UK unemployment), and if I can get up and washed and dressed in the morning (despite cutbacks to Social Services), and if I can actually get to work (despite inaccessibility of public transport), and if the button-pushing workstation and the route to it is or can be made accessible (despite Access to Work cuts)...

...and if the bosses and co-workers are happy to accommodate my need for frequent breaks at unpredictable moments (despite the hundreds of other applicants for the button-pushing job who are equally qualified for button-pushing and don't need breaks or adjustments), and if I will earn a living wage (despite the messing about with Tax Credits)...

...and if we can account for the fact that I only have the energy to function for about 10 non-contiguous hours out of every 24 and I must keep three or four hours of that aside for necessary things like eating, medicating, grocery shopping, banking, cleaning and managing my household, and the bureaucratic maze of disability...

...then I, along with many others, will be right there.


  1. And for me add similar restrictions, but because of my difficulty with sitting and repetitive movements, make it a job that doesn't mean button-pushing, and can be done while lying flat.

    And similar limitations for many, many hundreds of thousands of other disabled people.

    Ed made the same ignorant mistake made by every other disablist bigot out there, assuming disability is something obvious and simple, rather than the unobvious and counter-intuitive reality that we all know from the inside.

  2. Great post, Mary!

    It appears that there is a battle going on within the Labour Party between those on the right who want to stick with the neoliberalism of the former Blair govt and those who want to change and adopt a more Keynesian approach. (it's the creed of neoliberalism which says that almost everyone can do some work; basically neoliberals have no compassion or scruples, and put money before people every time).

    Ed Mil clearly knows which way is best, but doesn't have the courage and strength to impose his will on the Party, and is currently trying to appease the right wing of his party.
    The benefit claimant bit of his speech was contrived; the criticism of irresponsible behaviour at the top was genuine (in my opinion).
    But he's also painted himself into a bit of a corner with his rhetoric about the "squeezed middle". So, as yet, Ed Mil is not presenting the kind of coherent approach which we need to see.
    I sincerely feel that it's important that disability groups put pressure on Labour to ditch the neoliberalism which is so beloved by a number of shadow cabinet ministers.

  3. "the criticism of irresponsible behaviour at the top was genuine (in my opinion)."

    But all non-disabled people will hear is the criticism of disabled people, the allegation that we are irresponsible for being unable to work. In fact it's giving aid and comfort to IDS's claim that we were responsible for the recession. And the end result will be Ed's words being used to justify the abuse we face. If Ed articulates that, even if he doesn't believe it, then what use is he to us?