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How post-Brexit fish were championed above the rights to live a healthy and equal life

Dan White with his daughter Emily - Credit: Contributed

DAN WHITE gives a personal account of how Brexit is already impacting the disabled.

It came as no surprise to anyone in the disabled community that the government had not conducted an impact assessment on the effect of leaving the EU on disabled people, despite concerns around the supply of medical supplies expressed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. 

This to me and many others was the final proof that the government continues to shamefully treat disabled people as collateral damage.

Even today, the government continues to ignore the effect of crashing out of the EU on millions of disabled people and their carers in this country, some of whom already face destitution as a result of their existing brutal austerity measures. The system is adamant that Brexit is a success even though my 14-year-old daughter is becoming one of the hidden statistics of this horrible ideal. 

In the care and disabled community, we all knew there would be repercussions from Brexit. It has happened and there seems no way back, at least in my lifetime. The dye is cast and slowly it has dawned on the industry that the promised sunlit uplands were always going to be replaced by grey lowlands.

However, hidden under the layers of the frenzy over scallops and a reduction in exports to the continent is how the Brexit effect has trickled down to those whose lives were always ignored but ever dependant on good and efficient commerce. 14 million lives stand to be transformed forever in an even more negative way.

Brexit is shown to have been all about trade, rather than the kind of society we want to live in. 

My disabled daughter recently left the hospital after a gruelling surgery to correct the curvature of her spine. She endured the attachment of titanium rods and screws to her vertebrae, an anxious stay in intensive care, a spinal infection, and a hospital on red alert with Covid. The one stipulation for effective recovery after all this was that we invest in a better supportive wheelchair for her, to ensure her surgery is a long-term success. Duly she was measured and fitted for a new set of wheels and we waited for news on delivery. 

Wheelchairs are like cars. Wheelchairs for disabled people are built specifically for their needs and size. Cars and wheelchairs rely on components from the EU. We soon found this out very early one morning after weeks of enquiring about the wheelchair delay. The rather embarrassed engineer from the wheelchair service group informed us that the chair was delayed as essential pieces were still in the EU, red tape and paperwork holding up Emily’s independence and human rights. Brexit had finally touched our lives and not for the positive. 

These new rules governing Britain’s trade with the EU have been responsible for vehicle holdups at both sides of the channel. Amongst those trucks in limbo are the components Emily so desperately needs to be free of pain. When I heard of the reasons for the delay I was stuck halfway between disbelief and tears.

The ardent and unswerving Brexiteers insist that 17.4 million people knew what they voted for but I can’t believe that so many people knew they were voting to impede the health and well-being of their fellow disabled citizens including a 14-year-old child, and if they did then I’m utterly revolted.

As it stands, five months on from the surgery my daughter is looking increasingly uncomfortable in her old chair. She is enduring intense pain down her right side, increasing until she is either on painkillers or in tears. Her once straightened posture is slowly unravelling as bone and muscle pull and spasm. A human casualty of an ill-thought-out ideal. 

When I broke this story on social media I was instantly besieged with hundreds of similar horror stories from the disabled community.

From prosthetic limbs to whole powerchairs delayed, from little things like UPVC for doors and metal for ramps that make life so much more accessible, all were being delayed and held up while lives were put on hold. People were crying out and no one was listening to them, families were picking up the pieces and looking to their silent, Brexit championing representatives for answers.

The repercussion of this pointless sovereignty exercise will be that the disabled community will suffer longtime health issues, and why? Because fish seemed to be of higher importance than disabled people’s right to live a healthy and equal life. 

It’s not just equipment spares that have been impeded by bureaucratic changes either.

Dan White fears politicians have given fish higher importance than disabled people’s right to live a healthy and equal life – Credit: Contributed

Drugs for epileptic children have been caught up in this red tape web. The government, obviously realizing the implications far too late has offered a six-month reprieve from Brexit rules, allowing essential Bedrolite oil (which stops potential fatal seizures) from the Netherlands to arrive unimpeded and save the lives of so many beautiful children with epilepsy. If they can do this, then why not open their eyes up to other disabled children’s needs?

The government record on disability care is already horrendous, without urgent action it will turn into a humanitarian crisis with adults, children, families and carers left as human carnage, the result of a country demanding third-world status. 

My child is heartbroken over all this and I am at a loss what to do. The terror of her operation coming undone has pushed her mental health to breaking point. Her once confident self gone. I’m her dad, I’m supposed to be her protector, to make her better, to give her the promise of a better tomorrow, and because of politics, paperwork and ignorance I can’t do that.

I’m watching her in pain between the laughs and the tears.

Has Great Britain’s ideology really led to this? Supposed sovereignty over health and wellbeing? Britain is in a state of flux and it needs to prioritize people’s health over its passport colours before the casualties line up, casualties starting with my beloved, beautiful child.

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