Opinion with Christine Tongue: On the front line

Christine Tongue

Disabled people are on the political front line. Not in the Ukraine war, though some are. Nor in our  councils – though God knows the battle goes on to keep our seafront lifts open and stop cars parking on pavements

No, it’s worse than that.

Most disabled people are not your standard issue voter – promise tax cuts and we don’t care. We probably don’t pay tax on our pensions and benefits and we desperately worry that any party promising tax cuts knows where they’ll get the money from – from the people whose voice will be heard last: the unproductive scroungers eating up our country’s wealth with their outrageous demands for unearned income. In other words, the likes of me.

We spend our time fighting for what we need to survive – carers, equipment, transport and most of all, understanding and empathy. Anyone can become disabled. You could fall downstairs today or have stroke and next week be needing a mobility scooter, regular physio, expert surgery and a load of expensive adaptations to your house.

You can’t cater for that kind of event as an individual. You’d never  be able to afford it unless you’re Elon Musk. (And he’ll have wasted his wealth soon on building Disneyland on the moon or something silly like that.)

But isn’t that what a functioning welfare state is about? We all fund a universal health system, a tax system that doesn’t let the vulnerable starve, a social care service that looks after people at home or in suitable, state run institutions when their needs are too great to be dealt with at home.

Getting anything near that ideal involves fighting on an epic scale.

My friend with a severely disabled child referred me to a Facebook page that can give advice about specialist wheelchairs – which I thought I might need at one point.

Some of the comments are the stuff of  nightmares. The page is mostly used by parents of children who can’t walk, often can’t speak for themselves, or speak at all, are incontinent, or need to be tube fed. Here’s an anonymised example, a mum asking for advice about wheelchairs:

“My daughter’s current wheelchair is wildly unsafe and unsuitable. She’s in constant pain slumped over to one side and won’t stay in it longer than half hour. She slips forwards under the lap belt as well.

“She’s a big girl at 25kg, needs lateral and hip support, she rocks hard when feeling any extreme emotion and can topple the current buggy.

“She is completely non mobile so proper hip and spine support is so important.

“Perhaps I’m being unreasonable but she has over an hour journey to school each way in her chair and I would actually love to be able to leave the house with her without her being in pain.

“Has anyone had any luck getting something that’s actually fit for purpose from wheelchair services?

“One stressed and cabin fevered mum here after being cooped up all week during half term because she can’t cope in her chair.”

So when I see politicians drooling over a man in uniform asking for fast jets from our government, i think of these kids who need a bit of fancy technology and a huge amount of funding chucking at their problems.

Where do you want your taxes to go?


  1. I was fortunate with the wheelchair service. For East Kent it means a long trek over to William Harvey Hospital at Ashford but the G4S ambulance took me over there and bought me back. Brilliant young black africaner bloke fitted me up with a bariatric wheelchair (I am a big bloke) & it resembled a tank but did the job. Used it for over a year but I can now mobilise with arm crutches or a zimmerframe. Realised other people now needed this wheelchair far more than I did and returned it to Ashford a couple of weeks ago. I actually think this is the NHS at its best – & why we need to keep it that way. “PUBLICLY OWNED, PUBLICLY RUN, FREE AT THE POINT OF DEMAND”.

    • I love your post Keith Veness. There are indeed some absolutely wonderful people working for the NHS. Also like the fact that you thought to return the chair when you no longer needed it as much – cooperative patients surely help the NHS. I recently needed various medical investigations ASAP (potential emergency). Thorough, kindly but clearly exhausted NHS staff sorted everything out within hours. Reading faces, body language and looking around I came to the conclusion that many of them would not be able to keep up with the workload and long hours for ever. Their own health must be at risk, let alone quality of life.

      However, whilst I understand Christine’s last point, I think there are probably very compelling reasons for supporting Ukraine with weaponry etc. over and above humanitarian aims, solidarity etc. And politicians drool over anything that makes ’em look good.

  2. Christine I see what you are saying but I think you’re being unfair about Mr Volodymyr Zelenskyy the Ukraine President as he is seeing his country destroyed by madcap Mr Putin and his Russian government I actually believe that we and all the other countries supporting the Ukraine and its people should have fought alongside them in outing Russian forces from their country it would have been over by now and saved thousands of lives on both sides and buildings which when the war/conflict is over will cost Billions possibly trillions of pounds, dollars or euros etc to rebuild a proud country. When we read about a child that is suffering and unable to get the help and funds to be safe in their home its very heart wrenching and I remember the first time I met a girl with cerebral palsy at 10 years old I asked her what was wrong between her mother and her they told me as it affected speach,now she had a wheelchair but 56 years ago a wheelchair was not like now it was wooden but with 4 or5 cushions it was usable, and 56 years ago you couldn’t get funding and now it’s still the same or not enough, Christine I have read the story you wrote about or one that is very similar as there are so many out there who need a better wheelchair to get around safely if you can get the funding from a charity or nigh impossible the wheelchair service there’s no hope, disabled people and social services need more money putting into it but we all are fighting for the little on offer, now the crunch we need to fight Russia and its desperate leader and his idea that the Ukraine is Russian as if we do not what was the point of us all fighting Hitler, yes putin is only fighting the Ukraine and Hitler everyone, Both are deserving of more funds and like you am disabled.

  3. What a shock that hard left previously Corbyn supporting Christine doesn’t think we should support Ukraine against Putin.
    Shocked, I tell you. 🙄

  4. I have every sympathy for Ukrainian people and the awful situation they are in. But we are constantly being told there are limited funds and no magic money tree so my plea is for some political attention to go to the disabled people who don’t have sexy uniforms and can’t put their case in Parliament eloquently.

    • Your comment about drooling over Zelensky and sexy uniforms shows your true feelings. Without help, Ukraine will be obliterated.

    • The murdered citizens of Ukraine don’t need wheel chair accessible shops, dropped kerbs and lifts.
      They just need coffins.

  5. I still pay tax on my pensions, and don’t regret UK weapons being sent to Ukraine, because given a chance Putin wouldn’t stop until his armies reached Berlin! The issue of health adaptions is another matter though, and I was able to buy my own mobility scooter that suits me. One lie the lying toad Boris Johnson said was we will fix social care, yeah right! This is what scares me most nowadays, possibly having to go into care. This will mean having to pay for it myself, and even selling my bungalow, but someone in the next room, who has no savings, or property to sell, gets the same care for free! Johnson knows what all good con men know, tell people what they want to hear, and then con them, he has been doing this all his life!

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