Book news: Frances Ryan's Crippled - Austerity and the demonisation of disabled people
Frances Ryan: Crippled – Austerity and the demonization of disabled people
What is the book about?
Frances Ryan’s Crippled, released on paperback 1st September 2020, is a book dedicated to examining the impact of austerity on disabled people in Britain. Focusing on the last decade, the book takes a critical look at how the Conservative Party’s programme of welfare reform has increasingly withdrawn disability support and positioned disabled people as scroungers, undeserving of state help and expected to manage alone, without complaint.
To illustrate this argument, Frances speaks to a group of disabled people who have directly felt the brunt of government budget cuts. Their real-life stories include Bessie, a 51-year old lady with agoraphobia, Asperger’s and digestive problems. Frances follows Bessie over the course of 5 years and narrates her journey of losing Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance, as well as a worsening of her mental health and life in extreme poverty. This state of ‘severe material deprivation’ Frances reminds us is experienced by one in five of the disabled working-age population; a bleak reminder of the broader inequalities still faced by the group.
Why is the book needed?
We spoke to Frances, a Guardian columnist and ardent disability campaigner, to ask her what first motivated her to write Crippled. She told us:
Since the first austerity measures came in around 2012, I’d been reporting on the impact on Britain’s safety net. It became very clear it was disabled people who were being most impacted, and that impact was staggering - people pushed into extreme poverty, losing state benefits en masse or the right to independent living. As a journalist, most days I’d be contacted by someone who couldn’t afford to eat or who had been left housebound without social care. It was a scandal I thought we needed to talk about as a society. I wanted disabled people’s experiences - and voices - to be pushed to the forefront.
We also asked what Frances wanted disabled people to take away from reading the book:
That they are seen, believed, and they matter. I understand parts of the book can be difficult reading, especially if you’ve gone through these problems yourself, but I wanted it to conclude with a sense of hope: disability inequality isn’t inevitable, it’s a political choice, and one society can choose to tackle. And, as ever, it will always be disabled people themselves who will be at the forefront of that change.
Crippled has received wide-spread acclaim for drawing attention to the reality of disabled lives in modern-day Britain, and Frances’ expert discussion of the impact of welfare reform is an important read for those interested in disability politics or personally touched by the austerity cuts of the last 10 years.
Here is where you can find out more about Crippled and buy your own copy. Also be sure to follow @DrFrancesRyan on Twitter to keep up with her great work.
What are your thoughts?
- How has the government’s approach to disability benefits impacted you?
- Do you feel disabled people have been demonized and stereotyped as a burden to taxpayers?
- What actions do you think we as disabled people can take to bring about positive change?
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