Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, when bloggers around the world get together to blog against the disablism that makes life so unnecessarily difficult for disabled people. Sadly, this year those of us in the UK are operating in a target-rich environment, able to turn our focus on not just individuals and the odd organisation, but media en masse, the Civil Service, politicians, and, most notably, our Prime Minister, David Cameron.
That Cameron’s government is hostile to disabled people is no great revelation, we have been subject to a string of bigoted press releases from the Department of Work and Pensions under his henchman, Chris Grayling, ever since they got into power. The structure of the press releases: data without context, damning headlines that are all too easily shown to be false; even their timing, the last two immediately before four-day weekends to prevent any organised response or reasoned debate, all too readily betray the deliberate intent to smear disabled benefit claimants, and all disabled people alongside them, as feckless scroungers, swinging the lead to avoid working a single real day in their lives. That the Tory Rags should run so eagerly with the ‘story’ isn’t surprising, after all their core readership of Little-Englanders aren’t happy without a minority to hate, but lately even the BBC seems to be falling for the government line. There are scores of analyses out there of the data and the twisted way that the press releases are put together, several of us here on WTB have taken them apart, so have other disabled campaigners, charities, advocacy groups and so on. A journalist wouldn’t even have to exert themselves, the story of the government distorting facts to demonise a minority will put itself together all too readily, but no, Auntie Beeb is reduced to recycling disablist government propaganda, hateful, twisted headlines and all. When did the BBC forget how to do basic research?
Now to a (minute!) degree we can excuse this kind of behaviour from Cameron and Grayling, they’re modern politicians, what the Romans might have considered infames, persons of low moral character, just like pimps and those who ran stables of gladiators, who can’t be expected to aspire to the same standards of behaviour as decent, respectable folk. But Cameron and Grayling aren’t putting out the press releases from the DWP on their own, they are helped in their bigotry by full-time Civil Servants who put together the data, the misleading interpretations, and the twisted headlines for them; who carefully see to it that the Press Releases don’t include the context necessary to understand what the figures really mean and the failures in government policy that they reveal. Civil Servants aren’t supposed to lower themselves to the standards of their ministers, the Civil Service code binds them to a standard of behaviour and restricts their ability to engage in party political behaviour on behalf of their minister, or others, or themselves. That code is summed up in four words: Integrity, Honesty, Objectivity, Impartiality.
The truth is that the disablist press releases began before the Con-Dem government came into power, and that DWP policy has actually remained consistent across two different governments; pushing ESA as the solution to all ills and painting those on IB as deliberate fraudsters outwitting the system with fake disabilities. The reality of ESA’s failure, its harsh descriptors that deliberately and calculatedly fail to account for the reality of many disabilities - to the point that even some the ‘health care practitioners’ who have sold their professional integrity for 30 pieces of silver have complained it is almost impossible for them to score people with cancer or MS as anything other than fit to work, the parody of fairness that is the ATOS-operated WCA, the ludicrous surreality of the access-all-areas ‘imaginary wheelchair’, all are carefully whitewashed out of the picture presented in DWP press-releases. So we have to conclude that there is a cadre of DWP personnel who aren’t just working on these press-releases because they have been told to, but who have actively bought into the ESA and WCA ‘reforms’ and are working to drive them on, no matter who they have to mislead and no matter how many facts they have to twist to do that. And yet these are Civil Servants, subject to the Civil Service Code. Do their actions display Integrity? Well, no, because they’re displaying deliberate deceit. Honesty? No, deliberate falsehoods don’t really count as honest. Objectivity? No, the truth about ESA is there to be seen, but they are busy sweeping that under their subjective carpet, eyes blinded by their own particular interpretation of what is best for the country (and disabled benefit claimants be damned). Impartiality? Well, they are following the same path under two different governments, but that path isn’t one a reasonable person would consider impartial, in fact they might consider it to be very partial indeed. So there we have it, not for DWP civil servants Integrity, Honesty, Objectivity, Impartiality, but Deceit, Falsehood, Subjectivity and Partiality.
No, it’s not good enough and someone needs to sweep out this nest of vipers from the core of disability policy. But, and it’s an awfully big, elephant in the corner kind of but, the Prime Minister, Chris Grayling, the DWP and the media couldn’t get away with this kind of behaviour if they knew that they were operating in a society hostile to disablism. Yet there they go, stabbing us in the back at every chance, actively convincing people that we are legitimate targets for their bigotry. What does that say about our society? What does it say about what is wrong with our society?