Monday 30 July 2012

Hatemongering at the DWP?

The press-officers and Special Advisers at the Department of Work and Pensions must have been burning the midnight oil the last couple of days, searching the records of the DWP for benefit claimants they can spin as having unjustifiably claimed benefits for what they can try to convince people are minor injuries. And today they must have been patting themselves on the back as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express laid into disabled people for daring to claim when suffering such minor injuries as low back pain.

As it happens I have low back pain, it has dominated my life for twenty years, it led to the end of my career as an engineer developing flight control systems, on far too many days it has left me curled up on the office floor, in so much pain I can’t think straight, as sensation tries to convince me I have burns across the entire lower surface of my body. So forgive me if I disagree that this is a minor disability.

As I read that article in the Mail, I didn’t share its outrage. What I felt was fear, the fear of being targeted for the baying mob as a ‘fraud’ and a ‘scrounger’. The Mail is teaching everyone who reads that article that people who have low back pain, people who have any little understood disability, ultimately all disabled people, are ‘frauds’ and ‘scroungers’, and suitable targets for their hatred as the economy tanks. Is it any wonder disabled people see terrifying parallels to the similar campaign in Nazi Germany.

Incitement to Disability Hate Crimes dressed up as socially responsible reporting by the Hate Mail and the Vexpress, this is nothing new, but the interesting question is why today?

The answer can be found in the TV schedules. At 8 PM on Channel 4, Dispatches will be ripping open the repellent truth of ATOS and the WCA, with a doctor going undercover and being told by his ATOS trainers that the point of the WCA is to get people off benefits and that if they don’t hit the targets and put sufficient people off benefits they will be sanctioned (the targets the DWP swears blind do not exist). Then at 8:30PM on BBC 2, Panorama does exactly the same thing, with Professor Harrington, the independent reviewer of the WCA saying that there are areas where it is clearly failing disabled people.

The DWP are desperate to do whatever they can to prevent the truth of their disablist behaviour and that of their contractors becoming more widely known, and as they have done on previous occasions, they have tried to launch a pre-emptive strike through their glove-puppets in the right-wing press. We may not see their hand directly, but only the DWP is in a position to dredge up the figures quoted in both articles.

IDS may proclaim himself perplexed at the way the right-wing press turn DWP statements into vicious attacks on disabled people, but there can be no doubt that we are seeing a deliberate campaign of vilification orchestrated from within the DWP. If they want the results to be different, they have had years to change their behaviour, but there has been no such change. Instead we see the shameful sight of a government inciting hatred against its most vulnerable subjects.

And the effects of that campaign of hatred and incitement will be seen tomorrow when Scope publish the results of their latest survey, revealing that the rate of disability hate crime has doubled since 2008.


  1. Thank you so much for this. I'm usually too afraid to declare myself as sick or disabled these days unless I know people really well because of the automatic assumption that I'm a scrounging fraud.

  2. I also believe a certain "skettch" featuring a pair of characters in little Britain has sewn the perception of "benefit frauds" as a parody into popular culture. Amazing though this may sound, I have witnessed people taunt and parody disabled people in the street. (not to mention gay or fat people). Attacking vulnerable people has somehow become "culturally acceptable" behaviour by the press and TV "comedy" writers? That's the moral baseline for Greyling, IDS and the DWP?

  3. I'm afraid there is nothing 'amazing' about disability hate crime, I was talking about it just this morning on Radio London and I'm into double figures with incidents, including a physical assault and a false report to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline. Nor is my experience unusual, something like 2/3rds of disabled people have experienced it and the latest Scope Survey, out today, reveals the rate of disability hate crime has doubled since 2008.

  4. It was impossible to watch last nights two programmes without being ashamed of what we have become as a country. The Paralympics will no doubt promote and laud the image of 'brave disabled people doing amazing things' whilst at the same time, we have Government-sponsored discrimination becoming the norm for 'ordinary' disabled people. Its a frightening situation and the DWP's Press Office should hang their heads in shame at colluding with newspapers that aim to spread hatred against people who have committed the crime of being disabled or becoming ill.

  5. Sick of talking about this
    I want action
    It's time to fight back

  6. Really appreciate your article and letter to Mr M. Such a shame that this policy started with a failed NEW LABOUR government and has been compounded by the conservative tribe who seem to be triumphing the term "Work makes you free". The question is free of what? Being hpounded by bigots who have nothing better to do than kick those who are already "down". Easy targets make for easy publicity and the growth of yet more prejudicial treatment or control by "authority". They are authorised by a minority, they ARE a minority government (small G intentional!), propped up by an even smaller group of so called liberals(sic)who clearly have not listened to those who have, in the past, supported them, again the word democrat is omitted intentionaly