The Tories continue to show their contempt for disabled people
Rishi Sunak seems to have forgotten about roughly 22% of the population – or at least his government has. So far, it has failed to appoint a minister for disabled people at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after the Tories made Sunak PM.
However, this is hardly surprising given Liz Truss downgraded the role anyway. Of course, the role itself is pointless – because historically it has done nothing to improve the lives of disabled people. But this government not even considering it important enough to appoint someone to the role shows how little it thinks of disabled people.
DWP: ministers come, ministers go
At the DWP there are various ministers below the overall boss, who is now Mel Stride. One of them is the minister for disabled people. Five Tory MPs have had this job since 2016, including serial Tory leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt. Recent appointees for the minister for disabled people include Chloe Smith, who went on to be DWP secretary of state for just a matter of weeks.
However, even the government website struggles to know who has actually been minister for disabled people. Currently, it says there have been four of them since 2016. Actually, there have been five. Claire Coutinho was the last one – before Sunak moved her to education:
It has been an enormous pleasure to serve for a short time as the Minister for Disabled People at @DWPgovuk, one of the best jobs in Government.
I am delighted however to be joining @GillianKeegan & team ‘at the closest thing we have to a silver bullet’ – @educationgovuk.
— Claire Coutinho MP (@ClaireCoutinho) October 27, 2022
So who’s replacing her at the DWP? Well, it seems the Tories have forgotten to give someone the job.
Internal DWP vacancies
As James Moore wrote for the Independent, the DWP hasn’t officially announced Coutinho’s replacement yet. He noted that:
Disabled people have their backs against a very hard wall. There’s the energy crisis; out of control food price inflation; and all the other stuff we have to shell out for that [non-disabled] people don’t even think about is also surging in price.
However, the lack of a minister for disabled people isn’t the only problem. As Labour’s shadow minister Vicky Foxcroft noted in parliament back in October, Truss effectively downgraded the job – from a parliamentary under-secretary of state to its “junior” equivalent. Foxcroft said [0:08]:
What message do we think that this sends to disabled people who already feel like an afterthought from this government, and will the government reverse this decision immediately?
Coutinho, at the time, had to defend her own role – saying it was still an “important” job to the government:
Today I asked @ClaireCoutinho why the Minister for Disabled People has been demoted to Parliamentary Under-Secretary and called for this decision to be reversed.
Disabled people have been treated as an afterthought for too long by this Government and they deserve so much better. pic.twitter.com/IuBgT52GAC
— Vicky Foxcroft MP 💙 (@vickyfoxcroft) October 26, 2022
Minister for disabled people: abuse-enabler
It’s hardly news that the Tories don’t give a shit about disabled people. After all, in 2016 the UN accused successive Tory-led governments of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. More recently, on Boris Johnson’s watch 60% of coronavirus (Covid-19) deaths were disabled people. And the DWP’s assessment process for health-related social security is not, and has never been, fit for purpose – all while delivering real-terms cuts to people’s money at the same time.
A Tory minister for disabled people made no difference to any of this. Moore wrote in the Independent that a minister in the role could lobby for disabled people. Historically, this has demonstrably not happened.
Ministers for disabled people are little more than DWP and government mouthpieces. So, does it make any difference to disabled people not having one? Not really, because the minister for disabled people is little more than an enabler of state-sanctioned abuse – no matter who holds the position.
Featured image via Maurice – Wikimedia, resized to 770×403 pixels under licence CC BY 2.0, and Wikimedia
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