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.