Mo Stewart (a pen name) wrote this book, Cash Not Care, as an impassioned, critical response to what some might call ‘welfare reforms’ – and many, many others would call the austerity measures that have tightened since 2010, when the Coalition Government came to power in the UK. This administration was followed by a Conservative Government in May 2015.
Mo Stewart, a veteran, has researched the effect of those benefit cuts, in particular, on disabled people. She pays generous tribute to the many other disabled people, and allies, who have supported her in this painstaking piece of work which, in the end, was self-published. Benefit cuts are not an immediately sexy subject for publishers, unfortunately. When corporate giants involved in administering welfare reforms are criticised, as they are here, which increases legal risk, publishers may be cautious. This does not mean, however, that this painstaking piece of work should not be read, or discussed. I think this hard-won book, over which Stewart has laboured for six years, should be debated, scrutinised and read.
Stewart examines the roots of the benefits reforms in the UK, linking them back to previous reforms in the US (which haven’t yielded much, in truth, except more poverty). She then goes on to look at the rise of new welfare benefits here in the UK over the last five years. She provides a clear account of the history of the new benefits which have been introduced, how they were received, the way in which some parts of the media promulgated the worst parts of the benefits reform message (scrounger, skiver, need I go on?) and the effects of such poisonous rhetoric on disabled people themselves.
She looks at the resistance to the new reforms, as disabled people started to oppose them – on social media and on the streets. She pays tribute to the brilliant journalism of John Pring, from the Disability News Service, who has exposed a number of suicides after benefits were denied – with one coroner giving a ground-breaking verdict of a suicide being ‘triggered’ by a ‘fit for work’ test in January 2014 (Story by John Pring on the verdict, 18 September, 2015).
Stewart ends by writing that disabled people “have tolerated an unprecedented political attack against them in recent years”. This book is her “voyage of discovery”, which has taken her, like Odysseus, the best part of a decade. Disabled people aren’t home yet, either, and whether or not the current Labour party leader will lead disabled people safely into port is moot (although Stewart writes in her conclusion that he may do). Sadly, it is important to note that Labour started the welfare reform process, rather than the Conservatives.
Cash, Not Care is not an easy read – there are many Appendices, footnotes, and it could have done with some editing although this is a common issue with self-publishing. Traditional publishers may need to work harder to support those with a cause and a burning, important story to tell in the future. Cash, Not Care, was published by someone who felt the information had to be out there, no matter what the personal cost (and that cost was pain, financial and personal). This was set aside for the greater good. I urge you to read it. It is available on the link above. Please click…