Labour Research September 2012



Why we are failing disabled people

Katharine Quarmby, Portobello Books, 304 pages, paperback, £15.99

Hot on the heels of the BBC Panorama programme, Disabled or faking It, the closure of Remploy factories, and government attacks on benefit “scroungers”, comes this book focussing on the lives of disabled people in the UK today.

As the government targets some of the most vulnerable members of society, Quarmby turns her attention to the disturbing realities of life for disabled people.

Channel 4’s Dispatches recorded one trainer at Atos, the medical services provider to the government, telling benefit assessors that losing a hand wouldn’t be enough to qualify for benefits: “As long as you’ve got one finger ... you can press a button.”

Quarmby also traces the history of disability from early cultures through the Industrial Revolution, the origins of Britain’s asylum system to the eugenics movement and the Holocaust, right through to the modern day. Quarmby also charts the modern disability rights movement to those still fighting for independent living, the end of segregation, and equal rights.

The book is a call to action to examine thinking and to change policies in order to ensure disabled people are seen as equals, not targets for exclusion, taunts and attack.

Reviews contributed by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop. Order online at