Thursday, 21 April 2011

Now Even the BBC is Jumping on the Crip-Bashing Bandwagon

It's bad enough when the Tory Rags lay into us after the latest crip-hating press release from the DWP, but in this article even the BBC seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. Oh, there are a few quotes from charities saying it just isn't good enough, but when someone sets out to deliberately villify people for being disabled, then the BBC is required by its Public Sector Equality Duty to challenge that argument, not repeat it. Even, perhaps especially, when the person setting out to villify disabled people is the Prime Minister.

I've commented on the article itself (comments section at the bottom of the page) saying:

"I am appalled by the tone of this story, which doesn't just pander to, but actively participates in the deliberate demonisation of disabled benefit claimants, in direct contravention to the BBC's Public Sector Equality Duty. I will be following this comment with a formal complaint. As a disabled person with a complex spinal problem I feel directly attacked by this article. I am not a benefit claimant through choice, I spent four years fighting a discriminatory employer to remain in work. My situation has deteriorated to the point even the new system recognises that I am currently unable to work, but the government persists in demonising all disabled benefit claimants. It is bad enough that I find myself attacked on a daily basis in the Tory rags, but to now find that I am being attacked by the BBC is beyond the pale."

I've also filed a formal complaint about the article on the BBC's complaints page:

"Deliberate demonisation of disabled benefit claimants

The article is an uncritical parroting of a DWP press release intended to stigmatise disabled benefit claimants in order to increase public support for changes to the benefit system. The reality for disabled people is a rapidly increasing climate of fear in which, benefit claimants or not, we face attacks in the press and abuse and even physical attack in the street. Under the Public Sector Equality Duty the BBC is required to take action to promote the equality of disabled people, this article instead sets us up as a target for abuse.

I fought for four years against a discriminatory employer to avoid being made redundant because of my disability. I have made every effort possible to remain in work and now to find work, but the reality is that my disability is worsening, not improving and even the new system accepts that I am currently not able to work. Yet I find myself being attacked at every turn by the DWP's campaign and its sycophantic press. My own disability is a complex spinal problem that limits every aspect of my life, yet the DWP reduces that to 'back problems' and a nudge-nudge, wink-wink implication that I'm just swinging the lead, because 'everyone knows' back problems aren't serious. Just because 'everyone knows it' doesn't make it true and the BBC is mandated by its Public Sector Equality Duty to actively challenge the casual discrimination against disabled people implicit in attitudes of this kind.

And what applies to one disability applies to all, and the BBC's acquiescence in the DWP's deliberate disablism is implicit in the article's outright attack on claimants with addictions or obesity. Despite their misuse as diagnostic labels by DWP, addiction and obesity to the degree of being unfit for work are almost universally symptoms of wider psychological or physiological disorders, for instance Prader-Willi Syndrome. To attack a benefit claimant for being addicted or obese is to attack them for being disabled, which is disability related harassment in contravention of the Equality Act. To participate in that harassment calls the legality of the report into direct question and in my opinion the BBC is not simply failing to meet its legal obligation under its Public Sector Equality Duty but actively participating in a hate crime.

It doesn't matter if the Prime Minister is the one to say it, any statement leading to a disabled person feeling harassed or intimidated is disability related harassment and as a disabled person I find his statements offensive and intimidatory and I view the BBC's unquestioned repetition of them in precisely the same light.

My fears and the perception of being attacked by government and media at every step are not simply my own, they are echoed by the vast majority of disabled people I know. We find ourselves increasingly living in a climate of fear engendered by a deliberate demonisation of disabled people by government and DWP and their allies in the right-wing tabloids intended to allow them to gut support for disabled people while convincing the non-disabled population we are nothing but feckless parasites. I and others have been harassed on the street by complete strangers with no idea if we are benefit claimants, simply that we dare to be disabled in public is enough to trigger their xenophobic hatred and abusive claims that we are benefit frauds and faking our disabilities. It is the BBC's responsibility to highlight this behaviour as unacceptable, not serve as its cheerleader. I have given up hope of being treated as an equal in the Tory rags, but I had expected better of the BBC."

I expect they'll just try to write it off, saying that quoting a charity or two gives the article balance, but we all know that isn't the impression casual readers will get, and the difference between the BBC and the Tory Rags is that the BBC is subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty and expected to take a stand against disablism. Or at least that is the way it is supposed to be, sadly the reality now appears to be something else entirely.

If anyone wants to join me in complaining about the article, please feel free to use any or all of the words above.


  1. I also wrote in a comment and pointed them to the direction of Sue's post on her blog in reference. I did the same on the Yahoo site which is reporting the same kind of "news" as I am appalled this is even making a headline. I sincerely doubt it will get published which is even worse, really, but at least my spleen was vented!

  2. Thank you David. U write exactly how I feel, but i cant write lik3 that any more because of ME. The situation is frightening, especially as a young disabled person (26) cause I may not get better and there may be many more years of this for me & my ME friends :( x

  3. I feel sick. But then why fight the causes of poverty, abuse, exclusion and marginalisation that lead to substance use problems (I include food in that) when you can blame the victims instead?

    I've just received 3 new permanent diagnoses (including spinal deterioration) and I'm so scared every time the post comes. I'm 33, I didn't ask for this life.

  4. DavidG-I completely agree with your view-I do not happen to be disabled or ill -but even the headline is intended to portray a "shocking finding" and stir up the populace-the categories are statistical conveniences and mean nought-there was a similar "revelation" concerning DLA recipients with the same "categories"-never mind it is a non-out of work allowance and is not given for particular illnessess/conditions but how it impacts on people-"paying people to get pissed,drugged up,and overeat" is the intended message-what category next-I dread to think.

  5. I've noticed in recent months that the BBC has been essentially regurgitating government press releases. Thank you for highlighting this and sharing your response; I will also be making a complaint, and your post has provided useful guidance on how to approach this.

    One truth that has been lost in the government's demonising spree is the fact that receiving an income from the state promotes dignity. Benefits are based on the idea that, no matter who you are or what's happened in your life, if you become unable to provide for yourself for whatever reason, you should be given the resources to have the same basic freedoms and choices as everyone else. Because everyone is better off when we don't leave people in the gutter with no options.

    I actually wonder if part of the reason for this sudden focus on people dealing with addictions is that our protests are starting to bear fruit. The public may be tumbling in greater numbers to the wrongness of these cuts - partly because more and more people now know someone who lost their IB and couldn't cope, and partly because cuts in other areas are affecting many non-disabled people (all those healthcare workers being laid off...), who will then be more skeptical about David Cameron and George Osborn's claims in general.

    So the government start focusing on people they assume NOBODY has a problem demonising - addicts. Overweight people. Smokers. Anyone who can be "blamed" for their health problems. It dovetails so nicely with the debate over the cost of the NHS, and that old chestnut of "Should smokers/drinkers pay for their treatment?" Better to get the public blaming each other than questioning how the whole thing is run.

    We must all resist these divide and conquer tactics....

  6. Well said, David.

    I do feel you should copy your remarks to your MP, and to the DWP who sent out the original press release. They should be warned that they can't say things like this without challenge.

  7. Interesting to note that this article is not the same article which was posted before; it's been changed to make it sound like the Guv'ment desperately wants to help those poor addicted folks to get work as that of course will make life so much better. Comments have also been removed.

    There's not even a sign of the former article now, unless it is cached.

  8. @anon - sadly for the govt I am 100% socialist to the bone. I support drug addicts, alcoholics, those with eating disorders, asylum seekers and *gasp* yes, even people in prison.

    I would gladly, wholeheartedly, passionately support a cut in my benefits if it meant HELPING the disadvantaged, the oppressed, the marginalised and the desperate.

    I'm sickened that we are a developed country with an appalling rate of stillbirth and early infant death due to poverty, that children are going without,that disabled people (like myself) are silenced, erased, mocked and vilified purely because they know a lot of us can't get out to vote, to protest, to make our voices heard.

    A further strike against me is that I'm northern. As far as I'm concerned I don't live in the same country as the Westminster Mob, I'm British, not English. Up here we're still struggling after the last recession, no not the one you're all thinking of, I mean the one in the EIGHTIES. We're poorer, sicker, ignored, regarded as Celtic cousins through Uni, for medication, while our kids languish on the dole, while we choose between food and medication.

    I'm pissed off. I will fight for EVERY man, woman and child in this perpetual, ever-growing underclass if it finishes me off. I'll stand beside the woman who had to turn to prostitution to feed her kids, the man who was in so much pain from years of backbreaking work but was ignored by doctors, and had to turn to street drugs to alleviate his pain. I stand beside the mentally ill who self-medicate with booze,fags and dope because prescription alternatives render them unhuman and totally incapacitated, I stand behind the legions of school leavers who can go no further, f*cked over by those who were educated for FREE.

    I'll scream and shout until I'm hoarse for the Broken, the Brutalised, the Betrayed of Britain. They're my brothers and my sisters, my kids, my parents, my family.

    I just hope someone will be there to stand up for me.

  9. Yes, the article seems to have been completely rewritten. However it's still not challenging Cameron's vilification of people whose disability happens to make them obese or prone to addiction. Appallingly there's now a Labour shadow minister, Stephen Timms, joining him in suggesting this is a reasonable view rather than condemning him for encouraging discrimination and bigotry.

  10. A lot of the old propaganda has been creeping in with programs again too. Like the girl ripping off the system for years. Instead of going out there and finding these people, they seemed to have collected the few found to use for a massive hate campaign against us. They (BBC) are repeating programs from 2-3 years ago, showing the disabled in a bad light. Pick on the disabled, an easy target. Why don't the government and BBC do something a little harder which would be more rewarding (to the coffers), go after the bankers!
    Maybe BBC would like to record one of these people that today are "dead against the disabled" but in the future be in that situation their selves. Or make them disabled using props and follow them for a month or two, then see what they have to say. Remember Lenny Henry did something like this. Wish they would run that one again, that is one repeat I would like to see.

  11. Your Human Rights –
    a guide for disabled people...

    11: Section 2: Human rights and disabled people

    l Your right not to be treated in an inhuman or degrading way

    2 Your right to respect for your private and family life, home
    and correspondence

    3 Your right to life

    4 Your right not to be discriminated against

  12. Things you need to know about human rights
    1: they belong to everyone
    2: they are based on principles of fairness, equality, dignity and respect
    3: they are about how public authorities – including the Government, local authorities
    and hospitals – must treat you
    4: they prevent authorities from doing certain things to you, like treating you in
    a degrading way
    5: they also sometimes force authorities to take certain actions, like taking steps
    to protect your life
    6: they were first legally defined by international agreement after the horrors of
    the Second World War
    7: since the Second World War there have been many different international human
    rights agreements
    one of the most important human rights is the European Convention on human rights.

  13. very well put...I have a different story but through mine I know it feels so similar to being raped being accused of being lazy and a liar, having dignity and my freedom of autonomy stripped away...I posted a video yesterday and the link is on my is rather long but it reduces us to begging in so many ways...I wrote the other day...that I shouldn't be having to fight for my right to be ill, and battle with the conditions I do, if I have the right or not it is still there, I am still daily surviving, I also find happiness in there am I allowed dignity? I also said that for my well being I need support and encouragement not bullying and punishment...

    They can treat me in a very undignified manner but they can not take away my dignity....even if it takes me all my strength to rebuild it back up again, each time they attack me I get stronger I will not give into the psychological warfare...

  14. Has anyone got the original version of the article saved? Sounds like the basic thrust of it hasn't changed and a complaint would still be applicable, but the very fact they were observed replacing it with a rewrite is highly significant...

  15. I didn't save a copy, but my complaint went in before they made the change. If they have decent archival procedures and the complaints process is smart enough then they should look at the original, but that isn't guaranteed. Of course everything in my complaint still applies to the revised version, they'd just toned down the language, and particularly the Daily Heil-esque headline. What particularly disappoints me about the revised version is the addition of Stephen Timms, the Labour shadow minister, agreeing with Cameron's bigotry.

  16. I can't look now because I've got to go out, but surely there's a cached version somewhere? Google maybe?

  17. I believe this is the original (cached) version, hope the link at the bottom works:

    BBC Home > BBC News > UK Politics
    Thousands claim incapacity benefit for addictions
    20 April 11 20:43 ET

    More than 80,000 people are claiming incapacity benefits because they are addicted to alcohol and drugs or are obese, according to government figures.

    The Department for Work and Pensions, which wants to re-assess the UK's 2m claimants, said more than a quarter of the 80,000 had not worked for a decade.

    Ministers said people must not get "trapped" on welfare.

    Campaigners said they had "serious doubts" about whether there was enough support to help people back into work.

    The figures released by the DWP are a snapshot of incapacity benefit claimants in August 2010.

    Since February this year, no new claims have been accepted and the government wants to re-assess all current incapacity benefit claimants by 2014.

    Pilot projects have already taken place in several areas of the UK to determine whether people are fit to work immediately, whether they can begin the process of looking for work with the right support or whether they need constant care and are unable to work.


    As part of this process, the government has released details of the 81,670 people it says are claiming incapacity benefit - and its successor, employment and support allowance - as a direct result of alcohol, drug and obesity problems.

    As of last August, there were 42,360 claimants with alcohol addiction, 37,480 with drug dependency and 1,800 battling obesity, officials said.

    The DWP figures indicate that 12,800 alcoholics and 9,200 drug addicts have been claiming the benefit for more than a decade, as well as about 600 people considered obese.

    Employment minister Chris Grayling said the problem needed to be addressed, both for the sake of those with such illnesses and society as a whole.

    "It is not fair on anyone for this situation to continue," he said. "Far from being the safety net it should be, the benefits system has trapped thousands of people in a cycle of addiction and welfare dependency with no prospect of getting back to work.

    "We have already started reassessing everyone on incapacity benefit and will support people with addictions to help them back to work."

    Ministers launched what they said was the largest back-to-work programme in modern history earlier this month as part of a root-and-branch reform of welfare designed to make work pay and simplify the benefits system.

    Campaigners for those with alcohol problems said they welcomed the government's intention to help people to give up alcohol and get back into employment. [cont'd...],000&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&

  18. That looks close, certainly it's got the offensive headline.

  19. David - have you got digital teletext? Y'know on the BBC there's the Disability section, usually containing some patronising bullshit about some 'inspirational' supercrip who manages to buy their own milk/put on their undies, know which bit I mean?

    Last night the main feature read "Just what are your taxes paying for?" and contained the original disgraceful article about how all the evil fatties, drunks and smackheads were destroying the country.

    On a disability news page. Put together by Caroline Cooper (fax: 020 7833 5689.)

    I emailed and asked why there had been no stories about unfair benefit denials, the blighted application process, the suicides, the distress, the protests etc, and why in one of the last 'safe spaces' for disabled people had she chosen to regurgitate divisive filth designed to further inflame the levels of hatred and violence aimed at disabled people in the UK.

    I was shaking after I read it, I've been sick as a dog all night.

    So please, if anyone has the spoons, complain.

  20. Oh and did I mention the article claims that something like 80,000 are on IB due to obesity?

    Like I said in the other thread sure I'm obese, but not being able to move out of bed for days kind-of does that. Argh.

    They're just trying to promote in-fighting to distract us.

  21. I checked teletext and the article is still there. It's cut down from the original, but completely unbalanced.

  22. Got a fauxpology today:

    Dear [me],
    Thank you for your comments.
    The article was reporting statistics rather than making comment and I'm sorry if you saw this as "demonising." I quite regularly write about disability discrimination and disability hate crime on these pages.

    So she's sorry *I* took offence (my fault then!) and she writes about disability discrimination and disability hate crime all the time, except I've never seen anything other her talking about Train Walks for autism, a 'scribblethon', and other fluff pieces.

    Yeah, us crips are soooo touchy and ungrateful.

  23. Statistics without context are comment! The press release was clearly intended to demonise disabled benefit claimants, repeating it uncommented is implicitly agreeing with its argument that disabled people whose disabilities result in addiction or obesity are not worthy of benefit, in direct contradiction to the BBC's Public Sector Equality Duty.

  24. Exactly. I'm really, really annoyed. But then I'm just a fat scrounger all jumped up on prescription opiates, I am clearly inferior to Ms Catherine Cooper.

    I know they're basically trying to drive a wedge into disability activist groups, by trying to separate us into Good!Crip and Bad!Crip groups, it's as clear as crystal. Do they think we're so stupid we won't notice? Never mind the pigheaded ignorance of titling the article "Who are your taxes paying for?" in a Disability news section. I felt like screaming "Actually, for ME". They seem to think none of us have ever worked.