A disabled person’s furious response to the cost of living crisis points to a bigger issue

Paula Peters speaking on Zoom and an image that says cost of living crisis with pound coins in the background
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A disabled person has launched a furious response to the government. It’s over the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’. But her anger points to the fact that systemic attacks on chronically ill, disabled and poor people are a long-term issue. And it shows that actually, this is less a cost of living crisis and more of a class war.

The Spring Statement: “surviving or dying”

Paula Peters is a disability rights activist. She is a member of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Unite Community. On Sunday 27 March she was on the online, left-wing programme Not The Andrew Marr Show. Peters used her appearance to give a heartfelt but angry plea on behalf of chronically ill, disabled, older and poor people.

She said:

We’re in a position of… not being able to eat or heat. We can’t afford to do either. We are in a position now of barely surviving or dying.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement did nothing for the poorest people. In fact, he just made their lives worse.

As I previously wrote, around 10 million households are facing at least a £290 cut in real terms to their social security. This is on top of things like the benefit cap, which has caused persistent child poverty. The National Insurance threshold rise won’t do anything for chronically ill and disabled people who can’t work, unpaid carers, those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, and part-time workers who didn’t meet the threshold in the first place.

So, what can we do?

Read on...

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“We’ve got to work collectively”

Peters said:

We’ve got to work collectively. And we’ve got to support one another’s campaigns.

Currently, groups like the People’s Assembly are organising demos. There are ones happening across the country on Saturday 2 April:

You can find all the details here.

But there are two problems with this. Firstly our resistance has to go beyond occasional marches to looking at how we engage in practical and effective solidarity on a daily basis. And secondly, government persecution of chronically ill and disabled people isn’t new.

Where’s the support been?

Peters said, becoming tearful:

I’m fucking angry. I’ve had fucking enough. And I’m fucking pissed off to see disabled people die… when we have action, there’s not enough support. That’s got to fucking change. Solidarity isn’t a word. It’s something we fucking do.

Groups like DPAC have been fighting government attacks on chronically ill and disabled people for years. Yet often they have not received much support. This is despite bodies like the UN saying that the UK government had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. It’s despite tens of thousands of claimants dying on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) watch, when it told them they were fit for work or ready to start looking or preparing for work.

Even so, here we are. People are calling protests about a ‘cost of living crisis’ that for chronically ill, disabled and poor people isn’t new. Because successive governments have either frozen or cut their social security for years. So, as Peters said:

more people are going to die in the winter. More people are going to die now.

The government knows this. So, let’s start calling the cost of living crisis what it actually is: class war, pure and simple.

Watch Peters’ full speech:

Featured image via Not The Andrew Marr Show – YouTube and The Canary

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  • Show Comments
    1. I Understand the anger here, and agree entirely. I am more fortunate than most disabled people, in that I receive the so called “Legacy Benefits”, alongside a private pension that I get from my last employer. This makes me an Income tax payer, and I pay my council tax as well as a mortgage. I got nothing to help out over the past two years, although costs increased and I had to continue to pay for my Motability car each month, although I have received a small amount of money back from the insurers – I have yet to drive 4000 miles in over 2.5 years because of my need to isolate!

      The recent increases in the costs of fuel have hit me hard. Because I live in a rural area, and have no access to gas, the cost of heating oil has gone up dramatically – in 10 months there has been an increase of over 160% already, with more to come. The Government is getting a windfall increase in the fuel taxes we have to pay, including the increase in car fuel, not a luxury if you cannot walk, but a necessity. I thought I had put away enough to pay for my domestic heating until November – I’ll be lucky if I have the money to heat my home and water until June at the present costs. Maybe if they capped the fuel tax at a price, and not a percentage, it could help us to afford a little more heat.

      No £20 a week uplift for me during the pandemic, although I had to pay all the increased costs that those on Income Support did. It could have helped me to pay for the food I had to buy from different sources, because for 12 months I was unable to get a home delivery, despite my being reliant on them before the pandemic. I managed to get a few more once they put me on the “At Risk” list, 12 months after the lockdown started, and 14 months after I locked myself down, to minimise the risk of infection to myself.

      I am angry, but you won’t find many disabled people like me on a protest – I can’t walk far, and have no-one to assist me if I use a wheelchair. I have written to my MP, but his suggested action would have led to a reduction in benefits, rather than an increase.

      The increase in fuel costs might be reflected in the level of inflation measured in September, but that won’t lead to any benefits increases until April 2023. How can those who were already struggling to survive on benefits manage until then? Don’t ask me, I’m already worried about the cost of fuel for the rest of the year, and unsure how the unsolicited debt is going to help me when next years bills start to fall on my doormat.

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