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Book news: Frances Ryan's Crippled - Austerity and the demonisation of disabled people

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,038

Scope community team

edited September 2020 in 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decade, the book takes a critical look at how the Conservative Party’s programme of welfare reform has increasingly withdrawn disability support and positioned disabled people as scroungers, undeserving of state help and expected to manage alone, without complaint.  


Crippled book cover with blue background and illustration of wheelchair


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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  • janer1967janer1967 Member Posts: 11,201 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks for sharing something which deserves some thought before responding looks like it would be a good read but nay be a bit close to the reality
  • OxonladyOxonlady Member Posts: 408 Pioneering
    Yes, this book is needed to highlight the impact of Social Care cuts on chronically ill and disabled people. 
    Back in March 2019, Social Services reduced my care hours from 30 to 20. It means that since then, there is no time for my Carer to help me tidy up nor to have a weekly trip to the shops. They basically condemned me to a perpetual lockdown. I have been fighting since then to have my hours reinstated, with the help of a solicitor from the Disability Law Service. 
    It is not just central government that has no understanding of the needs of people like me. 
    Social Services staff are largely hostile and unsympathetic, say that I should just be grateful for the hours I'm getting, even though they were reduced illegally. They appear to have no respect or regard for anyone needing assistance and I have definitely been made to feel like a burden and a nuicance. The Council is repeatedly delaying the legal process, irrespective of the devastating effect that the reduction in my Care hours has had on my health. It is absolutely disgraceful and both central and local government need to be held to account. I wish I could shout this from the rooftops but having been housebound for six years, I am invisible and inaudible... 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,038

    Scope community team

    edited September 2020
    @janer1967 I'd recommend the book if the topic is one you are interested in.  I realise it's not easy reading though  :(

    @oxonlady Thank you for sharing your story, to us you are both seen and heard.  I'm so sorry you have experienced this and it really echoes the stories in Frances' book.  Disabled people have, and still are, being let down and given minimal support by the state and local authorities.  I know it's a huge question but what changes do you think could begin to turn the tide and bring about a better approach to how disabled people are treated?
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  • OxonladyOxonlady Member Posts: 408 Pioneering
    Hi Cher_Scope, thank you for your reply.
    A huge change of attitude is needed throughout society for a start, to change the stereotypical perception of those who are chronically ill and disabled. We are definitely not a burden to society, we are not expendable and we should not have to be ashamed for needing support, financial or otherwise. People need to understand that we can make a positive contribution if given the resources to do so.

    I can only speak for myself but depriving me of the opportunity to have a weekly outing is affecting me psychologically and I feel I'm losing my social skills and becoming agoraphobic. 
    Social Services may well need more funds from central government but they also need a change in attitude, which can be hostile and disrespectful. 

    I wish I could have a talk with the Prime Minister, to remind him how unfair it is that funding for social care has been drastically reduced, as if this is inconsequential. Lives are being ruined and this does matter... 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,038

    Scope community team

    edited September 2020
    @Oxonlady I agree, the assumption that disabled people are somehow less than, or inferior needs to change.  If more attention was placed on what people can do, rather than what they can't, then we could achieve a society that values everyone and treats them with equal respect.

    I'm sorry you have lost the opportunity to get out as much.  Is there any chance of your weekly outing being reinstated?  I realise coronavirus might be limiting this though.  Have you had any support from your GP around your feelings of agoraphobia and loss of confidence?  

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  • OxonladyOxonlady Member Posts: 408 Pioneering
    Cher_Scope, thank you for your comments. The legal fight is still ongoing to try to reinstate my hours. But the Council is being obstructive and causing delays. We'll see where this goes but I'm not giving up.
    I wouldn't dream of approaching my GP for psychological problems, I see it as my responsibility to deal with them. I have to be more proactive in restoring my self-confidence and ensure that I don't give up the fight to get Social Services to restore my care hours. Perhaps they are not used to people challenging them but this time they are against someone who doesn't give up! 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,038

    Scope community team

    @Oxonlady You sound like one determined lady.  Good luck with the ongoing legal fight.  

    I realise you feel that your mental health is your own responsibility but if ever it gets too much please speak to your GP or someone close to you.  As you know, we are always here to talk to but I want you to keep safe and as happy as can be  :)
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  • OxonladyOxonlady Member Posts: 408 Pioneering
    Cher_Scope, thank you. Let's hope there will be some progress made in the case soon. 
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 713 Pioneering
    Ageism and Disablism are not regarded as equal with Racism.  We should unite the multiple splinter groups of different  disabilities, and the overlapping group of seniors, and of carers, , because our interests frequently shared, and we can and must be  mutually supportive . Together,  our numbers are an overwhelmingly large section of the population.     

    Every time there's a reference to  a minister for/ a plan for, finance for/ the needs of......Youth, or Bames, or  to Black and ethnic groups, or racism, we should be sure there's  equal consideration, planning and provision for Age, or various disabilities and to carers, and Disablism  and Ageism.  

    The exclusion of, often, greater needs, or attention to, often, greater injustices,  must not go unchallenged.  Well meaning or merely thoughtless do gooders will trot out mindlessly excluding phrases such as "young people must have secure homes"  .....with the implication their grandparents  or disabled parents can go and sleep in a field?    Or....." we must have a Ministry for race, for women, for youth, (and for sport)" ......but not for Age and Disability and Carers (and  not inclusive Rehabilitation  Exercise Provision for people who cannot go jogging with a zimmer frame.)........with the implication these huge  and totally ignored sections of the population have no unmet needs, no problems, no entitlement  to equality. 

    (Sir Trevor Phillips said  Disablism is institutionalised,  invisible,  universally  practiced, institutionalised,  and worse than Racism, in the effect on people's lives.)
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,653 Disability Gamechanger
    Great book! :)

  • WestHam06WestHam06 Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,358 Pioneering
    Thank you for sharing the book with us @Cher_Scope
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