‘Bumps in the road’? –Scots disabled people and a no-deal Brexit

By Susie Fitton, Policy Officer, Independent Living in Scotland, part of Inclusion Scotland

Like many Policy Officers at the minute I find myself attending numerous roundtables about Brexit. I am there to draw attention to the concerns of over a million people in Scotland who are disabled - their fears about erosion of hard-won rights, social protections, staffing within health and social care and funding for their organisations - which have been nowhere near the top of the agenda in the political debates over Brexit.

As we veer ever closer to crashing out of the European Union without a deal these meetings have become more and more alarming. We are now discussing the real possibility that disabled people in Scotland might die because of Brexit.

Everywhere you look there is breaking Brexit news, analysis, theories and more– the EU’s appetite for negotiating a new deal, the chance of a successful no-confidence vote in the current government, the calls for a national government of unity, an all-female cabinet to resolve the crisis, the likelihood of a general election or a people’s vote - and hour-by-hour predictions of what will happen next. In this chaos and clamour, very few people are considering the potentially life-threatening consequences to disabled people of crashing out without a deal.

As the UK Government’s own leaked predictions make clear a no-deal Brexit could cause turmoil and hardship for many people across the UK but disabled people are at heightened risk. They are more likely to be living in poverty, have been hardest hit by austerity which the UN has said has led to ‘grave and systematic violations’ of their human rights, and face specific threats from a no-deal Brexit.

Which of our UK party leaders are reassuring Scots disabled people and those in the rest of the UK that their lives will not be threatened by food or medicine shortages, or that they will work to ensure staffing shortages within health and social care are not exacerbated by a no-deal Brexit?

As UK Minister’s talk about possible ‘bumps in the road’ after exit day their  complete failure to recognise and address the fears of disabled people about Brexit must be viewed in the context of a much more widespread and systematic denial of disabled people’s rights by a UK government that has presided over a raft of austerity-driven welfare cuts that have killed disabled people. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, over 130,000 deaths in the UK since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts. 

The failure by the UK Government to reassure disabled people in Scotland that their lives will not be blighted by Brexit is truly shocking, but not that surprising given that this is a government that will be remembered for the damage and destitution caused by the roll-out of Universal Credit and the Bedroom Tax. In many cases, welfare cuts were ideological and have not  ‘re-balanced the books’ or saved money but have actually cost additional money to the taxpayer to effectively make disabled people poorer.

In this context, Inclusion Scotland has been working to plot a course towards protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights in Scotland as they are affected by Brexit now and in the future. 

Given the current chaos, we have no real expectation that our suggestions will be heeded by anyone with influence in the UK Government but it is our marker that we are not going away. 

Scots Disabled people need concrete commitments from both Governments that their rights and services will be safeguarded as we leave the EU and we won’t stop raising these issues until this happens.

This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the Alliance or individual members. 

For further information contact: Susie Fitton, Policy Officer, Independent Living in Scotland, part of Inclusion Scotland at susie@inclusionscotland.org 07910 373778

Inclusion Scotland is a national network of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and individual disabled people. We work to ensure that policy affecting the everyday lives of disabled people in Scotland is informed by and reflects their views. We work for the removal of barriers to the inclusion of disabled people into all aspects of Scottish civic, social and economic life. To those ends we carry out policy work and information, engagement and capacity-building activities at national and local level across Scotland.

Malene BratlieComment