Sunday, 18 November 2012

The big lie about Disabled benefit claimants.

I’ve seen a lot of talk on the internet recently about libel and how it is unfair to wrongly and without truth bring down somebody’s good name. Yet disabled people who rely on benefits have the same thing done to them and it is treated as if it is all right.

This is done in a lot of different ways, including portraying things in a way that is not true. For me one of the biggest lies is this idea that disabled people fall into either one of two neat groups – fit for work or not fit for work. This ‘either or’ fallacy ignores a large grey area – limited capability for work. The fallacy is put forward by the hateful media, but it usually begins with the government itself. I know it is wrong for all sorts of reasons that come up in my head, but I can think of two officially recognised reasons too:

The fact that there are provisions relating to people doing ‘permitted work’ while on Incapacity Benefit and now ESA means that it is officially recognised that it is not as ‘black and white’ as being either ‘fit for work’ or not. This is like an accidental confession that the DWP and government are aware of this.

Secondly, the fact that there is a ‘Work Related Activity Group’ of ESA in between the support group and JSA shows the same thing – that it is not as ‘black and white’ as being either ‘fit for work’ or not.

Yet the media and even the government keep putting forward this ‘false dilemma’ even though they know that it is not accurate and that it promotes suspicion and even hatred of disabled people. It is a ‘libel’ against a large group of (often very vulnerable) people.

The sad thing is that this witch-hunt does not help anybody. It just causes a lot of stress, worry, poverty and illness which push people further away from the workplace.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Malcolm Bruce : The ultimate betrayal of Deaf people.

I used to think that there were few things that could really shock me. That was, until Malcolm Bruce voted for social security reform to go forward without it even being softened and made fairer by Lords amendments. What made me particularly aghast and disappointed was the context:

Mr Bruce has a Deaf daughter; he is a former trustee and current Vice President of Action on Hearing Loss. He heads the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness. He used to appear on See Hear and was involved with the Deaf community in all sorts of different ways. This seems to be a person who will do everything in his power to defend and protect Deaf people and the best interests of Deaf people. Yet what he has done seems to be completely at variance with this:

Voting to impoverish Deaf people.

Let’s be clear about just what Mr Bruce has supported. He has supported more impoverishment, stress and humiliation of Deaf people. This at a time when disabled people already suffer a lot, if not the most impoverishment, stress and humiliation. So Mr Bruce attacks the very people whom he makes out that he supports.

He voted for the Bedroom tax, to abolish DLA, to cut disabled child credits in half, limit ESA to one year for those who had made NI contributions, to abolish the premium for disabled people living alone and many other things in the Welfare Reform Act. This is the safety net that catches Deaf people who have been let down by the education system and shunned by employers.

Is this the ultimate betrayal of Deaf people? I would say it comes very close.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hate Pamphlet betrays its own hateful mind.

The Sun reports:

"WOUNDED war heroes are to keep their disability benefits for life after the PM stepped in to halt a bid to cut them.

Worried veterans — including soldiers who lost limbs in battle — had been facing humiliating re-tests that could have seen them stripped of crucial cash.

But David Cameron has now slapped down MoD bureaucrats and ruled that anyone left disabled by military service must be exempt from benefit cuts.

They will also be exempt from a new scheme to re-examine all claimants aged 16 to 64.

The PM intervened to help Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has been fighting civil servants over the issue since December.

Mr Cameron said: “I made a promise to our forces that they will get special treatment, and I intend to stick to it.”

The Government plans to replace Disability Living Allowance with a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment for all working age people with serious difficulties.

Incredibly, MoD bureaucrats were insisting that wounded heroes get the same grilling as suspected cheats and scroungers — because they feared their cash-strapped department would be left to pick up the bill for administering the payouts.

Mr Duncan Smith is now drawing up plans for wounded personnel to get their own tailor-made support package when they leave the forces.

The Royal British Legion welcomed the move, saying: “We applaud the PM and Iain Duncan Smith for standing up for our wounded heroes."

Note the facts that they accidentally reveal: That people are 'worried' about cuts, that retests are 'humiliating' and cause people to be 'stripped of crucial cash.' I'll leave you to work out the many things that this disgusting rag is letting slip, including their dumb 'deserving/undeserving' "logic.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Leveson's part in Disability Hate Crime.

An excellent article by Katharine Quarmby reproduced in full below and original link at bottom.

When the select committee on culture, media and sport wrote in its recent report: "In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies' directors – including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch – should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility", I couldn't help but smile. We all look to Lord Justice Leveson to clean out our stables in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal – after all, he is investigating "the culture, practices and ethics of the press" – arising from it. Yet he, like Rupert Murdoch, also appears to be "wilfully blind"; he too is failing to investigate properly; he too is ignoring evidence – in this case that some journalists, fed by unscrupulous politicians, are whipping up a perfect storm for disabled people.

The organisation Inclusion London, along with 10 disabled people's groups, the Disability Hate Crime Network and several individuals, including myself, submitted evidence to Leveson, arguing that media reporting on benefits reform has started to affect disabled people. (The journalist John Pring and I also submitted evidence on this to the NUJ, which has core participant status – but the union failed to mention hostile media reporting on disability in any significant way in its submission to the inquiry.)

Submissions on disability from members of the public to the inquiry outnumbered those from any other equality strand, such as transgender, migrants and refugees, except that of women. Yet the Leveson inquiry decided that no disability organisation or disabled person would give oral evidence, we were told late last week. Four women's groups, one transgender group and one refugee group gave oral evidence. I'm really glad they did. But I'm astonished that disabled people were not invited to do so, given the number of submissions – and the salient fact that, unlike any other group, they have been targeted by newspapers in an orchestrated way. Indeed two newspapers – the Sun and the Express – have launched campaigns against "scrounging", in which they encourage the public to shop people they judge to be disability benefit fraudsters.

The government has played its part in this too. Lies, damn lies, and statistics are being peddled – such as claiming that 75% of people on incapacity benefit are faking it, when the real figure is likely to be less than 1%. Such lies have an effect – focus group research from Glasgow Media Group confirms that the general public believes that 50-70% of those on disability benefits are fraudulent (they also found that there has been a tripling in the use of words such as "scrounger" in the last five years in media reports). This campaign of misinformation is having its intended effect. When the Treasury website invited comments from the public on how to reduce welfare spending in 2010, the comments about disabled people (which were not moderated) were vicious. One argued that all disabled people should be sterilised. Another suggested that disabled people should be used as weapons of war: "Those who can work that upon rigorous medical examination turn out to be just thick or bone idle to undertake intesnive [sic] course in employability, where they will learn to be punctual, meticulous, smartly dressed, articulate, and gain working attitude. Those who repeatedly fail the course to be deployed in Afghanistan as IED deterrents." No government ministers have apologised for this. Nor have they disassociated themselves from pernicious rhetoric linked to the government crackdown. Leveson should therefore question ministers too, in module three, for their part in whipping up this dangerous mood.

It is not surprising that this climate of suspicion and hostility is feeding through to actual abuse. One mother, who is deaf, told me that another mother, in front of other parents, had accused her of faking her condition. She no longer attends school events, such as her child's assembly. Then there is Peter Greener, who has MS and who was harassed for three months by his neighbour, who called him a scrounger because he had once been seen walking. Recent polling by the charity Scope found a 50% increase in verbal abuse and intimidation on London's public transport – in the last two years – around the time that the coalition launched its campaign for welfare reform, backed by certain newspapers. Coincidence or not?

It's wrong that the government won't denounce this poisonous campaign against disabled people that they have kickstarted. It's appalling that some journalists have joined in the witch-hunt. Someone has to challenge this. It should be Leveson, and Inclusion London, and many other groups, are asking the inquiry next week to reconsider – and hear the voice of disabled people.


Saturday, 18 February 2012

Nazi UK 2010 onwards v. Nazi Germany 1930 & 40s: A valid and appropriate comparison of Hate Propaganda.

There have now been a number of times when I have compared the disability hate propaganda used by the right-wing press in the UK today to the disability hate propaganda that was used in Nazi Germany. This often attracts strong, but misplaced indignation from some quarters, with the favourite response being that ‘we are not gassing disabled people today.’ That may be so, but it is only the propaganda that is being compared, not the follow through. In any case, I do not consider causing disabled people to commit suicide in high numbers to be morally better than gassing disabled people. It is Social Darwinism for cowards.

The question of whether the Nazi comparison is valid is quickly and easily answered by looking at what is going on now and what went on in Nazi Germany. The papers mentioned below have been referred to Full Fact time and time again and found to be telling lies. It is extremely damaging to disabled people and the worst example I have come across is this:

Iain Duncan Smith on benefits Britain

Here, Duncan Smith states:

“What I cannot bear is the idea that this country was the workshop of the world. It gave everybody the free market, the industrial revolution. You think what we did to change the world. This was the place that everyone looked to.

“Yet we have managed to create a block of people in Britain who do not add anything to the greatness of this country.

“They have become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money. This is a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit. We have had to borrow vast sums of money. We went on this inflated spending spree.”

Compare that with:

Action T4

See the poster on the right of that link under the '[b]ackground' heading, which has the text:

“60,000 Reichsmarks is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too.”

The Government will try to limit or deny its culpability in all of this by saying that they are not responsible for what the press write. Yet their mode of operation casts doubt on this defence, with their constantly releasing, through their agents, the DWP, ‘twisted facts, manipulated statistics and distorted data to win support for its drive to cut costs..’ as Ian Birrell put it. They persistently release this information to all the usual suspects in the media – The Sun, The Mail, The Express and The Telegraph, even though they know perfectly well that these papers have a long and well-established propensity to stir up hatred against disabled people. They have their excuses; like they are legally obliged to give out such information at regular intervals, but the way they distort information and decide who they give it to mean that these excuses will not hold. I do not think it is any great exaggeration to say that the Government, the DWP and the right-wing media are engaged in hate crime against disabled people on an industrial scale.

Thankfully there are some decent and principled journalists out there who are saying enough is enough and a stop must be put to this cowardly bullying of disabled people. In my list of further reading below you will find some superb articles by Sonia Poulton and Ian Birrell, The latest written by Sonia is especially relevant to this topic.

Further reading:

Why does David Cameron insist on cuts that sickened his own party?

Welfare Reforms: Where is our national conscienc

We all want benefit reform, Mr. Cameron, but hiding the truth is not going to achieve it.

The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times

A whirlwind of hatred against the disabled