Friday, 17 June 2011

Those comments by Philip Davies...

I'm sure you've all by now read Philip Davies MP's comments that disabled people should work for less than minimum wage because he claims we're less productive than non-disabled people.

What he actually said was:

"Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can't be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn't got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice."

From: Channel 4 News

As the EHRC quickly pointed out, this would "by definition" mean that Richard Branson is less productive than someone without dyslexia. Or Kiera Knightley, or Henry "The Fonz" Winkler, or Ben Elton, or Eddie Izzard, or Steve Jobs… Of course, dyslexia isn't the only learning difficulty out there; what about dyspraxic Daniel "Harry Potter" Radcliffe? Was he less productive than the rest of the cast in those films? I have a specific learning difficulty, I have auditory processing disorder (yes, really, in addition to my mobility impairment and my chronic health problems. I really am spectacularly unlucky). Does that mean that when I was well enough to work that I was "by definition" less productive than my peers? Did I get halfway through a stand up set and then just give up and leave the stage? No. Did I write half an article and submit that? Of course not. In my rent-paying day job did I get less photocopying done than non-disabled person would? I wish, I could've done with less monotony. And as for the risk of employing learning disabled people, it's an oft quoted fact that there is evidence to suggest that learning disabled employees take less time off work their non-disabled counterparts (like here).

This morning's discussion was about the minimum wage rather than welfare reform, but you can quite obviously see what inspired Davies's chain of thought. It's been painted in the minds of every person in the country that all disabled people are both capable of working and not working currently. You hear of visibly disabled people who don't claim any benefits being called "scrounger" in the street, and Davies was obviously making a similar assumption here; that we must all be benefit scroungers who are capable of some form of work and need to be gotten off of benefits whatever the cost, ignoring the fact that 48% of disabled people are already in work.

Of course, making disabled people work for pence will hardly be an effective tactic for getting people off benefits. Housing benefit, income support, and working tax credits are all available to people on low incomes. The less disabled people earn, the more benefits they need to receive. So if this government really wants disabled people off benefits and into jobs then making us work for a pittance is a ridiculous idea as it means our income will still be coming from the DWP rather than from our employers.

This has been the news story du jour, so there's been hundreds of blog posts and articles about it. The best two I have read are by Richard Exell and Latentexistence.


  1. Very good response, thank you.

  2. Among the list of notable people with dyslexia, Philip Davies should note that one Michael Heseltine, a Conservative of note, also has dyslexia.

    So he's even managed to crap in his own kennel as well.

  3. might as well kill us disabled people off or put us in work camps it be cheaper!!! nazi

  4. I agree with everything that Mr. Davies is saying.

    I'm 49 years old, have Asperger's syndrome and have never had a job.

    I need to be able to offer an employer something so that he will at least just consider giving me a job; and I reckon that his being able to pay me less than statutory minimum wage might just do it.

    I doubt I would be any worse off than actually being paid a proper wage because of the complex interactions between the various benefits I receive and the amount of money I have to pay to social services for my care. In effect a wages subsidy would be in operation.

    I desperately want to work, and need to work, so that I can fully contribute to, and participate in, society; and strive to become the best person I'm capable of becoming - and the minimum wage legislation is hindering me in my search for employment.

  5. what about all the rich people who doge tax that have loads of dosh???? Ok did you ever consider disabled people have kids what about child poverty??? CRIME WILL GO UP IF YOU MAKE PEOPLE WORK FOR NUFFIN. our country is amazing and generous for looking after the poor and the vunrable that what it is to be british. If you want to go back to being a third world country and ditatiorship where disabled people are killed of or living on the street to beg then take note of that ingnorant man. there are more people don't claim benefits when they should then those who do that shudn't. FACT.

  6. @Lee: You need an employer who will respect you, otherwise you will be exploited in every way possible throughout your employment. And saying you will work for less than the minimum wage starts the disrespect and the exploitation from the moment you sign the contract. If the employer will only employ you through exploiting you, what does that say about his attitude towards disability and the way he will treat you in the job?

    Each disabled person who proposes working for less than the minimum wage weakens our case for demanding equality for all disabled people both in getting into work in the first place and in staying in work and progressing and being paid at the same rates as other people once we are there.

    If disabled people start accepting jobs at less than minimum wage, then every other disabled person will find themselves pressured to accept work under the same terms, or not at all. Perhaps a few might find work who might not otherwise, but the situation for every other disabled person would take a firm step backwards.

  7. Most of academia lay somewhere on the Autistic continuum, as do most of the staff of the R&D departments in the blue chip manufacturing companies that are meant to be growing us out of recession. Are they less productive?

    Henry Ford, the inventor of modern production techniques, was dyslexic.

    Gordon Brown was visually impaired but that had no bearing on his productivity, he spent by all accounts 18 hours a day working solidly to demolish the economy.