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.