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This authoritative book shows how the UK Government has breached human rights, harmed sick and disabled people and undermined economic recovery through its failed austerity policies.

Second Class Citizens by Stef Benstead was published by the Centre for Welfare Reform on 26th September 2019.


Are disabled people second class citizens in modern Britain? 

Despite severe criticisms from the United Nations, the UK Government has continued to reject claims that its austerity policies have targeted disabled people. Stef Benstead explores these competing claims and demonstrates without doubt that the UK Government is wrong and that it has indeed breached the basic human rights of disabled people. 


Second Class Citizens brilliantly weaves together:

  • The development of the welfare state and the efforts of disabled people to get recognition and support for their right to be included as equal citizens

  • The growing attack on the welfare state and the lies and rhetoric that have been used to justify cuts to services and basic income security

  • The life experiences of sick and disabled people and the real life impact of austerity and so-called 'welfare reforms'

  • An overview of all the different policies and services that impact on sick and disabled people and others that have been targeted by Government cuts

  • The economic flaws that underpin austerity and how modern economic thinking provides a better basis for developing a sustainable welfare state

Leaders of the UK Government claimed “We’re all in it together.” By the end of the book it will be very clear that we are not all in it together and that in fact these same leaders purposefully targeted some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups for harm and misery.

This is a must-read for:

  • Anyone who cares about social justice and disability rights

  • For advocates, activists, political leaders and policy-makers

  • For academics and students

  • Relatives and friends who unaware or in denial about what's been going on


Demolishing the narrative

The UK was told that austerity was an economic necessity after a real-estate bubble, fuelled by irresponsible lending, collapsed and caused a global recession. But the recession was no more than a convenient cover-story for cutting back the state. The consequence, predictable and predicted, is a country whose public infrastructure is crumbling; and it is disabled people who have been those most hurt by this state failure.

The state has abandoned its responsibility for the wellbeing of its citizens, in the interest of private profit and ongoing growth at the top. The consequence is that, for all its moralising about responsible and hard-working citizens, those placed through birth, illness or injury into the lowest sections of society cannot realise any success from their hard work and have few options open to them from which to responsibly choose. When the state closes the doors, it is not the poor who are to blame for being out in the cold.


Counting the costs

The post-2010 Governments have enacted huge changes to the social security system and welfare state. Disabled people are often amongst the most vulnerable to government policy whims, due to the vital role of the state in ensuring that there is healthcare, social care, income support and basic access to society. When this is cut back then it is disabled people who notice these changes first and who suffer most severely.


Everything that disabled people need has been cut. Income support has been slashed. Housing is unaffordable, inaccessible and often squalid. Healthcare is rationed. Social care has collapsed. Accessibility is subjugated to private profit. Education leaves disabled children a grade or more below their peers at GCSEs. All of this hit disabled people long before Universal Credit managed to grab public attention.

Austerity is linked to 200 additional suicides per year, 90,000 additional cases of mental illness, 30,000 extra deaths in 2015 above what was expected, and a rise in infant mortality.

You can purchase Second Class Citizens from Waterstones and other online bookstores, or use the Buy Now link at the top of this page (£12.99 including p&p).

If you'd like to buy the book in bulk please email:

Author: Stef Benstead
Publisher: Centre for Welfare Reform
Published: September 2019
288 pp
ISBN: 978-1-912712-18-2

What people say about Second Class Citizens

“the definitive verdict on government welfare reform, the UK’s shame”

Professor Peter Beresford,

“a benchmark study of the treatment of disabled people under austerity... A hugely well researched and comprehensive overview.”

Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty


“Essential reading for a more balanced understanding of what disabled people face when caught within the complexity of the benefit or entitlement trap.”

Baroness Jane Campbell

“The best account so far of the impact of austerity on disabled people in the UK”

John Pring, Disability News Service

“There is no other book like this. Stef Benstead has provided a comprehensive overview of all the different attacks on the rights of disabled people. But in addition she has described how these attacks flow from at least four decades of poor policy-making and the growing power of elites. She shows that not only are these attacks unjustified and wrong, but they are also based on failed economic assumptions which are actually holding the whole of the UK back.”

Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform

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