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Britain: callous indifference to the disabled – or deadly antagonism?

Britain: callous indifference to the disabled – or deadly antagonism?

Ian Birrell lists all the ways in which ‘Britain is callously indifferent to disabled people’, from neglect of those families caring for disabled members during the Covid pandemic, to a ‘collapsing care system’ in which ‘people with autism and learning disabilities’ are ‘locked up, abused and drugged in psychiatric units instead of supported in their communities’; and while there is ‘endless fury over health “cuts”’, there is ‘largely silence’ over the state of cash-starved social care, ‘despite dire staff shortages, dreadful front-line pay and corporate fat cats stealthily milking the shattered system.’


Even more seriously, he says there has been no public ‘outcry over figures indicating three-fifths of Covid deaths involved people with disabilities – or fatality rates almost four times higher for people with learning disabilities than fellow citizens’; and the pandemic has exposed the ‘[d]istressing bigotry’ of ‘blanket “do not resuscitate” notices imposed on people with learning disabilities’ and also lurking ‘behind the arguments of those who dismiss the lives of people with “underlying health conditions” so freely.’


He does see ‘a few rays of light’, however, pointing to ‘recognition of the crucial role performed by carers, even if much of the discussion focuses only on older folk.’ And yet even here, with little attention given to the problems faced by the disabled person being cared for, ‘lurking behind’ the sympathy appears to be the feeling that it must be terrible for anyone ‘forced to’ look after such people who, it is implied, would be ‘better off dead’.      


But the only example of discriminatory treatment omitted by Mr Birrell is the systematic extermination of the disabled unborn; it is perfectly legal to do so right up to birth, and with new pre-natal testing, even more unborn babies with Down’s syndrome are now being eradicated in this way, with relentless pressure on expectant parents to accept abortion. This also applies to babies with other chromosomal conditions and to spina bifida,    but also to conditions like club foot and cleft lip; without a doubt, if such testing could be extended ever further, we could also progressively wipe out people with autism and other mental disabilities, to spare us – sorry, them – from a lifetime of suffering.


And while the campaign for ‘mental health, mental health, mental health’  goes on apace, those with actual mental illness or disability are treated as an afterthought, although, as Mr Birrell notes, a survey by the charity Scope found that half of people with disabilities ‘felt left out of society and even more were lonely or depressed’.


He concludes by observing that ‘[e]ven in a deadly pandemic, there seems callous indifferent to their plight’, asking ‘who really cares?’ and ‘Do their lives not matter too?’


Clearly, the families of most disabled people do care, and do think that their lives matter and, as he notes, the response of communities to helping those in need during the pandemic shows that the wider public also cares. However, on all the available evidence of official priorities, as far as those in control are concerned, the answer is ‘nobody’ and ‘no’. As he says, there are 14 million disabled people in this country, and while lifestyle choices like promiscuity are subsidised out of the public purse, the unavoidable non-choice of being disabled is treated as a public nuisance.


The perception of truly vulnerable individuals as not only nuisances, but expensive nuisances takes the official attitude from ‘callous indifference’ to deadly antagonism. The enlightened classes abolished the death penalty for murder decades ago, while introducing the death penalty for being unavoidably unwanted; now, the most serious offence anyone can commit is to suffer from problems not of their own choosing, to need help and to cost money.