The War on Disabled People: Capitalism, Welfare and the Making of a Human Catastrophe by Ellen Clifford


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In 2016, a United Nations report found the UK government culpable for ‘grave and systematic violations’ of disabled people’s rights. Since then, driven by the Tory government’s obsessive drive to slash public spending whilst scapegoating the most disadvantaged in society, the situation for disabled people in Britain has continued to deteriorate. Punitive welfare regimes, the removal of essential support and services, and an ideological regime that seeks to deny disability has resulted in a situation described by the UN as a ‘human catastrophe’.

In this searing account, Ellen Clifford – an activist who has been at the heart of resistance against the war on disabled people – reveals precisely how and why this state of affairs has come about. From spineless political opposition to self-interested disability charities, rightwing ideological myopia to the media demonization of benefits claimants, a shocking picture emerges of how the government of the fifth-richest country in the world has been able to marginalize disabled people with near-impunity. Even so, and despite austerity biting ever deeper, the fightback has begun, with a vibrant movement of disabled activists and their supporters determined to hold the government to account – the slogan ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ has never been so apt. As this book so powerfully demonstrates, if Britain is to stand any chance of being a just and equitable society, their battle is one we should all be fighting.


The War on Disabled People is a must-read book on resistance to the “conscious cruelty” of austerity, which attacks the most disadvantaged. Clifford’s book thoroughly documents the government’s ideological policy agenda of welfare reforms to rip away the welfare-state safety net and put conscious cruelty at the heart of their austerity agenda.’ —The Morning Star

‘Disabled people have suffered terribly in the period of Tory austerity. Just bad luck? Ellen Clifford gives the answer and explores the uncaring politics behind this harsh regime of punishing the vulnerable. This is an essential book.’ –Ken Loach, filmmaker & activist

‘A valuable framework for our continued resistance against the continuing onslaught of purely ideological attacks on our human rights.’ –Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts

‘If you want to resist the cold cruelty of the war on disabled people and its intensification in the age of austerity, this book is utterly indispensable.’ –John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

‘A forensic account of the devastating assault on disabled people’s benefits and services.’ –Roddy Slorach, author of A Very Capitalist Condition: A History and Politics of Disability

‘A vivid account of the systemic oppression on people labelled disabled and is essential reading for everyone concerned about inequality and injustice.’ –Colin Barnes, University of Leeds

‘As the proportion of disabled people gets ever larger in societies globally, this becomes a must-read text.’ –Peter Beresford, University of Essex and Co-Chair of Shaping Our Lives

About the Author

Ellen Clifford is a disabled activist who has worked within the disability sector, for over twenty years. She currently serves on the National Steering Group for Disabled People Against Cuts.

  • Paperback : 264 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1786996640
  • Product Dimensions : 13.97 x 2.03 x 21.59 cm
  • Publisher : Zed Books (18 Jun. 2020)