Right wing press need to check facts before screaming at disabled

Sue Marsh reports on the Mail and Telegraph misreporting of disability benefits.

Sue Marsh blogs at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Oh how very depressing days like today are if you’re sick or disabled. Disability campaigners spend months trying to build up awareness of sickness (ESA) and Disability (DLA) benefits, only to have their work totally undone in just a few minutes by a government intent on twisting the facts to suit their agenda and a media who don’t even know the difference between the two benefits.

“Two million claimants on disability living allowance face being stripped of payments”, shouts the Telegraph, whilst listing a range of at best dubious claims from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The most persistent of these claims is that claimants are simply given DLA by the wheelchair-fairy based on no evidence and are never checked again.

This is nonsense. Claimants must fill in a 40-page form accompanied by evidence from consultants and health professionals. Their claims are reassessed regularly, usually every three years unless an indefinite award has been granted.

The Mail go further, claiming:

• Up to 500,000 are ready to start work immediately;

• People on lifetime benefit are more likely to retire or die than get a job;

• 38 per cent just need the right support to get back to work.

Sadly, the Daily Mail actually have the wrong benefit.

Letters aren’t, as they claim, being sent out today to people claiming DLA asking them to submit reassessments. Letters however are being sent to those claiming Incapacity Benefit summoning them to assessments for the migration to Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

In a staggering bit of misreporting, the Mail also claims:

“Out of the 1,626 people assessed in Burnley and Aberdeen a third of those questioned were taken off the DLA and instead put onto Jobseeker’s Allowance.”

No, that would be Incapacity Benefit too.

Of the 500,000 “ready to start work immediately”, the Mail forgets to point out that assessments have been called “unfit for purpose” by every main investigation into them, including the Citizens Advice Bureau and the government’s own advisory committee. whilst 40% of these “miracle cures” are being overturned at tribunals, costing the taxpayer £19.8 million.

Most people awarded DLA for life have severe, degenerative conditions that will never improve such as cerebral palsy, severe learning disabilities, total paralysis or kidney failure. The government seems unduly shocked that people with lifelong disabilities should receive awards for life.

Surely constant reassessment of those people whose conditions will never improve is the single most ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money since someone decided MPs ought to get expenses on top of their already generous salaries?

Coalition plans to reform ESA and DLA are flawed and many of us spend our lives trying to inform people and fight for modifications to the welfare reform bill that could end up saving great distress.

This level of reporting is not only lazy, but it could be dangerous. Sadly, all the while the DWP are happy to twist the figures themselves; I can’t imagine things will improve.

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