- Before I forget the details.
- Because I think it deserves its own post separate from the main write-up about the events of the day.
I know some people who take a lot of taxis and always strike up a conversation with the driver. I rarely take taxis because I can't afford them. And even when I do I don't tend to talk to the driver because I'm awful at striking up conversations with strangers.
But today I overheard the driver talking on the phone in which he said "I didn't see any demonstration. I don't know what they were demonstrating about..."
So once he got off the phone I explained that the demonstration had been a bit earlier but it was over now and the roads had all reopened. And that it was a protest against the cuts to disability benefits.
"But if you get, say, £100 a week, they're not gonna cut that down to £70 though, are they?"
I explained that actually the planned cuts were much more brutal than that. He still didn't seem to quite accept when I explained just how cruelly disabled people were being treated. He just couldn't comprehend that our government could really do that to disabled people.
"Now, you see, the trouble is is all these fakers."
I tried to tell him that the official fraud rate for IB is around 1% (see page 8 of this DWP report), but on this he just wouldn't believe me. He insisted that there are fraudulent IB claimants everywhere.
I tried to explain that most people have a story of the time they met a faker. The government acknowledges that one in every 100 IB claimants is a fraud. But those other 99 are people he's less likely to meet. The other 99 will include people who are housebound or can't afford to go out and take taxis. The 1% who are fakers might be more visible than the 99% of genuine claimants, but that doesn't mean that they account for any more than 1%. He refused to accept this.
"But why do you believe that it's only 1%?"
The conversation got quite difficult for me here because he made it out to be a matter of religious-type belief. I tried to explain that the 1% figure are the government's official statistics but he wouldn't concede they were "right", he was only willing to accept that I believed them, but he chose to believe the tabloid-ised stats.
"I mean people in wheelchairs and that are obviously genuine, but I think a lot are fakers."
This turned out to be a simple claim to refute when he revealed that he had spondylosis and he found even walking short distances to be painful. He was perfectly willing to accept that some people have conditions that you can't see because he has one himself. I think his statement purely came from repeating sentiments he'd read in the tabloids but had never really thought much about.
But this did lead on to:
"Well I work and pay taxes so I don't see why I should be paying for benefits for people who could work."
We were stopped at some traffic lights about 100 metres from the end of my journey so sadly I didn't have time to address the "well I'm disabled and I work so why can't other people?" subtextual element to the question.
But what I did have time to explain was DLA. I explained that DLA was a benefit that disabled people could get for help with getting around and help with care. And that the benefit wasn't affected by your employment status because if you find a job your need to buy a wheelchair or your need for help getting out of bed in the morning doesn't go away.
I had to explain that the government and the media, in their attempts to whip up hatred towards disabled people, keep claiming that DLA is an "out of work" benefit. So despite what you might read in the papers there are some people who have a job and get benefits, but aren't getting those benefits fraudulently. He seemed to think that, actually, DLA was a really good idea.
Alas my journey ended here. It was quite a shocking conversation for me because it really drove home just much people believe the lies printed in the papers. He seemed like a genuinely nice bloke; I mean he pulled his cab over to pick up a wheelchair user which most cabbies won't so that's a fair indicator of his decentness. But for so long he's been fed these stories that there's a huge problem with people claiming benefits fraudulently that he now believes it and won't accept when just one person points out the facts to him because it's a lone voice in the face of all this propaganda. And so many times he's heard that "the most vulnerable will be protected" that he can't quite grasp that that's not true either.
The fare came to £11.40. He would only let me pay £7.