Why BBC's Hen Night should be essential viewing

Chloe Timms

Chloe Timms discusses how BBC's new drama Hen Night is changing the face of social care.

Chloe in her wheelchair looking at a computer screen in her home office

In the new BBC drama Hen Night, a young disabled woman, Jessica, celebrates her upcoming wedding before lockdown hits. She then sees her independence stripped away as her access to social care is cut. Her mobility car is also taken away due to budget restraints. 

Hen Night is written and directed by Vici Wreford-Sinnott. The drama, based on real experiences of disabled people, is ground-breaking. It’s one of the first pieces of British TV written, directed and starring disabled women. It was inspired by Dr Frances Ryan, a disabled journalist and writer of Crippled: Austerity and the Demonisation of Disabled People

Frances wanted to change perceptions about what social care is and who it’s for. To see real reform.  Understanding that social care goes beyond older people in care homes and providing just basic personal care. Recognising the needs of young, independent, vivacious disabled people is vital. And Hen Do does precisely that.

Why Jessica is the perfect lead character

Jessica is a young trainee teacher and a fun-loving disabled woman who goes for nights out with her mates. She’s been to uni, been on disastrous dates and now is getting married. And she also uses social care, with support workers coming into her home. This is far from the stereotypical image of a social care user. This is a side to disabled people’s lives we never see and one we desperately need to.

When Jessica’s care is reduced, it affects her job, sense of worth, and independence. It makes her feel more locked out of society than being in a national lockdown. Her choice of support and access to information about it is restricted to social workers who say their hands are tied. These frustrating experiences are familiar to many of us who use social care.

Changing the face of social care

Being set at the height of the pandemic, this drama is particularly poignant. As the narrative at this time was a dismissal of disabled people’s lives. Using the shorthand of “underlying health conditions” to minimise our needs at a time when thousands of disabled people were dying. In Hen Night, Jessica’s sees her social care being cut to shreds. Discussing times when she was offered unreasonable hours for support workers to help her get ready for work under the assumption she’s disabled and therefore doesn’t work.

She’s also offered a bedtime call at 7:30pm. Implying once more that despite being young and having a social life, being disabled means she doesn’t have a life. Watching this is maddening and laughable on Jessica’s behalf. But this is a battle many disabled people have faced against the rigid care plans of their local authority and another reason why reform is so important. Social care in its current form fails so many of us.

Our #CareForEquality campaign

This short drama will resonate with many disabled people. And it echoes perfectly the aims of Leonard Cheshire’s #CareForEquality campaign. While this image of a working-age disabled person with a great social life will hopefully change perceptions, Jess’s story is all too familiar.

It illustrates the fundamental need for social care reform so that all disabled people have access to care that meets their individual needs and supports independence.