Saturday 19 October 2013

Starting as He Means to Continue?

Imagine the uproar if a new (male) Minister for Women's first press article said 'well, we all know that they are all sluts', or if a new (white) Minister for Racial Equality's first article said 'well, we all know that they're all terrorists', but the (non-disabled) Minister for Disabled People fronts an article saying 'well, we all know that disabled people are all frauds and scroungers' and no one bats an eye. 

Yes, with DLA fraud at 0.3% the lowest of any benefit, new DWP Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning's first public act was to star in the latest* in the Hate Mail's ongoing demonisation of all disabled people as frauds and scroungers by claiming that DLA is riddled with people put there by Labour in an attempt to defraud the unemployment figures (apparently he's a bit hazy on the fact DLA is an In Work benefit) and that 94% have never had a medical assessment. As Sue Marsh eloquently points out, that might just be because in 94% of cases a DWP decision maker has decided there's really not much point in checking that an amputated limb has grown back, cerebral palsy has vanished overnight, or whatever.

Unfortunately as disabled people we're growing used to this. You wait years for justice and then along come three Ministers Against Disabled People in a row. First we had Miller, Miller the Cripple Killer, then the odious 'they get better' McVey, and now Penning, whose only prior contact with disability from a quick scout of Hansard appears to have been questions about disabled shipping while Undersecretary of State for Transport. If you look at his c.v. in more detail it doesn't get any more promising - squaddie in the Grenadier Guards (and IDS is an ex-Guards officer), fireman, junior minister at Transport, junior minister at Northern Ireland, and now us. We can be charitable and assume that he didn't come by his disablist views independently, but nothing in his background suggests anything likely to have generated an informed or remotely empowering attitude to disability. He was Shadow Minister for Health, but that's more likely to have driven him into the 'they're broken' Medical Model camp, amply reinforced by his coming of age in the relentlessly physical Army and Fire Service. Whatever his own views, it's clear that the institutional disablism of the Department of Work and Pensions (or maybe just IDS's SpAd), have thoroughly nobbled him in his first week in the job.

So once again disability advocates and activists are faced with dragging another Minister kicking and screaming into the 20th Century, and god forbid we manage to get one to understand the Social Model before they are moved on. It is clear the DWP's Unum-trained advocates of the perverted Bio-Psycho-Social-Model (aka 'the scroungers have only got themselves blame if they're too lazy to recover from a spinal cord injury') have already gotten their claws into Penning, but note that both Miller and McVey were promoted for what they did as Minister Against Disabled People, so clearly vilifying us in the media equals a job well done in Cameron's eyes. I'm not sure that even Miller or McVey started their ministerial stint with such an open attack on disabled people as frauds and scroungers, and neither were exactly slouches at that, so keep your eye on Penning, he may be the coming man.

Disablism, the one form of hate that's growing ever more popular, now with extra Ministerial approval....

*I'm not going to link to it, that just drives up their advertising revenue and convinces them that attacking disabled people gets plenty of page hits.

Edited to add: I may have been unreasonably positive about Penning, I've just seen his interview with Disability News Service: Spending on DLA and PIP will be cut next year, says new disability minister and apparently he knows all about disability because he's friends with Simon Weston and knows some disabled ex-rugby players *headdesk*  *headdesk*  *headdesk*


  1. You forgot the bit where he says "he doesn't know what the social model of disability is yet". Seemingly he didn't find out before going and giving interviews to the Daily Mail. Or finding out what the different benefits are or enable people to do either, for that matter....

    1. Actual knowledge would get in the way of vilifying us! And admit the Social Model has value? That's heresy as far as DWP is concerned.

      What worries me is that the Mail piece plunges us straight back to the worst WRB-era open vilification of disabled people by DWP ministers as fakes and scroungers, now with the extra twist of the knife of implying that we only count as disabled people at all because Labour stuffed us on DLA to hide us from the unemployment figures. It's not just lies, but illogical lies that explicitly rely on ignorance and prejudice at a time when disability hate crime is known to be up. DWP has been specifically and repeatedly warned about the danger of this kind of ministerial statement by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, but here they are again, plumbing new depths of contempt for disabled people.

      Penning is supposed to represent our interests at the highest levels of government, how can we possibly trust him after this?

  2. Another hateful article by the Daily Heil ,how many more lies can the Tories and this rag keep spewing. I see no comments are up yet, as usual mine is likely to get censored.