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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121 Responses to “Right wing press need to check facts before screaming at disabled”

  1. Colin Stone

    I am 59, and have ‘received’ incapacity benefit for 2 years since forced ill-health retirement. In fact my benefit is reduced to zero because of my pension income and I receive nothing, but it does pay my National Insurance contribution. Maybe I COULD do some job on my good days, but who would be keen to employ an chronic arthritic 59 yr old who is unable to even leave home on bad days?

  2. kirst

    RT @leftfootfwd: Right wing press need to check facts before screaming at disabled http://bit.ly/hy8tWV

  3. Anon E Mouse

    Sue Marsh – Firstly this is your article and not mine so I assume you are the one who should answer the questions not me. For starters the headline is ridiculous and devalues your posting and although I accept it wasn’t yours, why you didn’t ask for a revision I do not know.

    It implies that someone is “Screaming at the disabled” and yet I have never seen a single factual example of that because it isn’t true and serves only to weaken the case presented.

    You claim you have linked to “evidence” but I see no sign of that either – just a report from the Daily Mail and Telegraph. Hardly evidence and certainly not from the government.

    Your first paragraph makes claims about the government. Please tell me where the government has “twisted the facts”. Your article does not link to a single government minister just your biased assertion which I do not believe and I also do not believe stuff I read in the papers either. Your remark about “twisting” actually links to another page on this very site (DWP War? – Please) which again is an opinion not based in fact – that author even has the cheek to link to another page he wrote.

    Your problem here is that I disagree with you and in typical left leaning fashion you don’t like it. I have asked you why you do not believe 500,000 people aren’t fit for work and you refuse to reply.

    Regarding “poor treatment” in responses, how would you describe a person saying they would report your spouse for misconduct because the truth wasn’t something they wanted to hear or that I was “uncaring” because I believe that governments have a responsibility to ensure our money goes to the right people.

    What is wrong with hard working taxpayers expecting some competence in the distribution of the money we worked for? You may argue that the system is defective or whatever but you’re not doing that Sue.

    You are making blanket assumptions, made with a clear political bias, against this government rightly attempting to clamp down on benefit fraud. Fraud is wrong and shouldn’t be accepted by anyone – it isn’t fair on the people who do need that benefit and to be totally consistent here I make no comment on people in genuine need.

    Finally I assert that you devalue your position by being so clearly biased and partisan and the message gets drowned out when it is an important issue that does need to be addressed…

  4. Sue Marsh

    Anon E Mouse – I have no idea why you’re still digging.

    1) The headline isn’t mine – get over it.

    2) I’ve linked to two studies to prove that the assessments are unfit for purpose.

    3) Chris Grayling has been reported to the HoC under breach of the minister code at least 4 times that I am aware of for releasing politicised press releases.

    4) I did say why I don’t believe 500,000 will be genuinely fit for work – 40% of decisions are going to tribunal remember? With up to 80% of decisions overturned.

    I shan’t reply any more, because in the face of overwhelmingly evidence you are simply becoming more and more personal and it just looks embarrassing on the thread.

  5. Sue Marsh

    Oh yes and if fraud was what you really worried about, the DWPs own figures record it to be around 0.5%. This isn’t about fraud at all, it’s about tightening the criteria for eligibility. Fraud is around 7.500. By all means go and catch those people, but it isn’t even in the same ball park as 500,000 is it?

  6. Anon E Mouse

    Sue Marsh -I’m still digging because my position has been represented incorrectly in spite of my postings and inaccurate personal comments have been made about me by other contributors here.

    I see no overwhelming evidence to support your claims – I never made any personal comments about you as an individual, just your entrenched views that do you a disservice.

    I do agree though to leaving it there…

  7. Elaine

    My case and many like mine and worse are also pretty glaring evidence that they are declaring people fit for work when they are not, like that lady who was on telly the other day who is recovering from a stroke and was not believed that she couldn’t see how many fingers the assessor was holding up. The whole point of this is they are making ill peoples lives much worse in large numbers and it is going to get worse. People will die. I have many things that help me cope, not everyone has those safety nets that I have. I am lucky I am still here but it is not thanks to the system…

  8. Ben S

    Something about “Invalidity benefit” in the Telegraph

  9. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    Anon’s position has been represented accurately and inaccurately, but he does not distinguish between these.

    He has been asked questions and not answered them. He has been given source-able citations in evidence and has denied he has been given them. Up is down, black is white and if you disagree you are a Labour supporter.

  10. TiddK

    Anon. Thank you for enlightening me about Godwin’s Law. However, the fact that I had no idea what it was proves I was NOT invoking it. And I did NOT call you a Nazi – go back and READ this time. I suggest that you also go and actually read my blog that I linked to above. You might be enlightened as to the agenda behind behind not only the right-wing tabloid press, but also the Coalition Govt, AND New Labour who actually started the whole ESA business. (No, I didn’t vote for Gordon Brown).

    If you are not trolling, then I apologise for accusing you of it, but you have to admit that someone who sticks to a contrary line in the face of facts presented by others, is certainly behaving like one. Be that as it may. I withdraw that.

    You say, “What is wrong with hard working taxpayers expecting some competence in the distribution of the money we worked for?”. You imply – as does Cameron and every other Govt spokesperson, and the entire right-wing press, THAT SICK AND DISABLED PEOPLE ARE NOT TAXPAYERS!!!!! FIRST – let me agree with your sentiment. Only a fool would not want to see competence in the administration of public finances. Waste not, want not. SECOND – I am not working (I have had progressive MS for over 10 years and it gets worse by the month, let alone years), but I PAY TAXES!!! To enumerate : Council Tax, VAT on nearly everything I buy, on my savings, on my insurance policies, excise duty on the occasional drink I allow myself, a HUGE amount of excise duty when I buy petrol for my legs (Yes, my car is my legs), oh and lest we forget – notionally on my Incapacity Benefit, for which the DWP send me a P60 every year. So, *I* am a taxpayer too.

    But perhaps you meant only those who pay Income Tax? Poor dears. The lowest rate of Income Tax for generations, after the cosseting of the last x number of Chancellors, not to mention a shibboleth of “every other damn tax can be increased but NOT Income Tax.”

    So please, if you intend to stay here and argue your corner, please argue with some intelligence, and assume some intelligence on the part of your readers. And if you put forward an unarguable case for cutting the benefits of the genuinely sick and disabled (as is actually happening) then I will have no reply. But until that day, please do us the courtesy of Googling some facts :
    Paul Gregg’s verdict on ESA testing (designer of ESA, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit)
    Professor Harrington (independent report into the efficacy of ESA assessments)
    UNUM in the USA (parent company of ATOS Healthcare)
    David Cameron’s pre-election speeches on protecting the disabled
    Ed Miliband’s position on welfare “reform” (aka cuts – he’s for it – see, I didn’t vote for Gordon..)

  11. Disability Historian

    ‘People need to work to give their lives meaning.’
    Maybe, maybe not. It used to be fashionable for many millions of women not to work outside the home. Were their lives ‘meaningless’? Meaning is what you make of it. My life does not lack meaning because I have no job. It may lack meaning because I am numbed by painkilling drugs, unable to engage with my environment due to incorrectly administered drugs hat have caused more damage to function and memory. I am none the less valuable for that. ‘Obviously if they are truly disabled they should be helped’

    If I hear that used as a get-out-of-gaol-free-card for offensive opinions one more time I will scream! Every time someone says that they are trolling the genuinely disabled people they claim to support, maybe it’s the years of offensive comments along the lines of’ you’re not that disabled’, ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’,etc that people with heart conditions, brain tumours and fairly apparent disabilities like C.P. have to listen to. We are not in a competition to see who is the most disabled and if we were would not ask the kind of people who usually give their opinions to be our judges.
    I do not suppose that the writer of this article was arguing for no checks at all, though this is a common misconception of what we want. Talk of sweeping assumptions. Ms Mouse seems to think that many mildly ill people will remain unchecked. I doubt that very much. In the interests of a balanced argument, (I am a scholar, not a politician)I will admit that at one stage I was not checked for 7 years. However, maybe I SHOULD have been assessed to see if my Cerebral Palsy, brain tumour, learning disabilities and severe fatigue caused by a multitude of drugs had miraculously left me with the capacity to be outside the home unsupervised or able to ‘work’ at anything for more than a few minutes at a time. To give another example, how is it ‘kind’ for the parent of a child with profound permanent disabilities to be multiply harassed/assessed to see if they’ve ‘got better’? How can it be kind to suggest the state should make checks on people who will obviously be in the same position in 30 years time. Imagine the scene please, ‘Excuse me, does your child still have profound disabilities?’ ‘Yes, she is still deaf, blind, doubly incontinent with a mental age of four and severe epilepsy. How kind of you to ask.’
    We all have aspirations and yes, people should aspire to be the best they can but when their best is still not enough to match up to that of able-bodied people or to make them acceptable to employers the ‘aspiration’ of helping to get them off benefits’ is taxpayers spite masquerading as laudable hogwash. And not very convincing hogwash. Ms Mouse may have been unconvinced by this article but I remain unconvinced that anyone who speaks of the ‘truly disabled’ in such tones has any idea of what they are talking about. I am truly disabled’yet I do not believe Ms Mouse and her ilk support me one iota. Nor do I wish to be supported by them.

  12. Anon E Mouse

    TiddK – Your posting requires a more considered response from me. I will get back to you late afternoon / evening – just pushed for time today and I need to check a couple of things with reference to waht you’ve said to make sure my next post is accurate.

    Disability Historian – Your response leads me to believe you haven’t bothered to follow my string of posts here but anyhow.

    You may not consider that people’s lives can have meaning via their work -fair enough but that is how most people define themselves. I’m an engineer and the first people ask if I meet them for the first time is what I do. I have yet to see a single example of someone not having their job discussed whilst being descriptive.

    That is not to say that if a person is not able to work because of a disability or lack of available employment there is anything wrong with that – it’s just how it is.

    You try to imply that since I say “if they are really disabled” that means something else. Not to me it doesn’t and if you read my previous postings you would see that was the case.

    You say: “I do not suppose that the writer of this article was arguing for no checks at all, though this is a common misconception of what we want. Talk of sweeping assumptions”.

    When did I make that assumption? You have assumed that is what I have said when it clearly isn’t because you haven’t bothered to read my posts and you have then gone into a rant about something I haven’t said – it’s called “Strawman”. What type of a scholar are you Disability Historian?

    Regarding this article there is nothing to be “convinced” about. From the headline onwards it has no basis in fact and just cites newspapers as government policy rather than newspaper articles or postings on this very site which are essentially Labour supporting opinions not fact.

    At no point have I said the disabled shouldn’t get benefits because I believe they should. For anyone to suggest otherwise is dishonest and unfair. If you have a complaint about the unfairness of the assessments then make that case but do not start shrieking about something you think I’ve said when I ask perfectly reasonable questions about the article in question – which is essentially anti government, Labour supporting hogwash…

  13. TiddK

    I will await your considered response Mr Mouse. However, just to challenge the last sentence of your previous post : “the article in question … is essentially anti government, Labour supporting hogwash”. Actually no – if you go and re-read it, you will see that it is an article about the MEDIA, especially the Press. Certain “facts” presented by them are plain wrong, and the article’s writer simply corrects them.

  14. Anon E Mouse

    TiddK – I need to check through your links is all. You’ve been polite enough to list them – I’ll extend that courtesy by reading them.

    Regarding your last post 60, The very first sentence of Sue’s article states:”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…”

    Which government minister articulated anything at all along those lines? Also she continues: “wheelchair-fairy”

    Please. This is a serious issue that clearly affects peoples lives and deserves more than a trivial remark like that. Frankly I wouldn’t expect such a remark from a sixth form student.

    She then states that the papers have the type of allowance wrong. And? (It’s a mistake I assume) Are the three points they make true or not? That’s the important thing surely, not if someone got something wrong at a paper.

    • 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.

    Are these statements right or wrong TiddK? – I assumed they were correct – not that I based any of my comments on them. My point is more general about people with disabilities in general – not some sort of victim mentality or anything just that fraud is unacceptable and if someone is not entitled to a benefit then they shouldn’t get it.

    On the specifics here I think the point Sue should have made was about the good or bad points of the assessments and not whether the government has the right to insist on them or not. Her political leanings ruin what could have been a thoroughly worthwhile article instead of this ill conceived biased diatribe against the popular press. (In my opinion)

  15. Elaine

    It is a shame that the style of writing has been discussed more than the points of importance here. It is a shame there has been name calling and nit picking. It seems there is a genuine wanting to understand.

    The assessments are harming people.

    The cost of these assessments and tribunals is costing more than is being saved.

    The fear that ill and disabled people are feeling due to experiencing unfair assessments is causing exacerbated conditions and in too many cases resulting in severe poverty and distress to add to the conditions. Some people are dying before their tribunal. It is a huge shame on this nation what is happening to the genuinely ill and disabled because the media and the governments have both worked on twisting the jealousy and how unfair it is that people on benefits can afford this that and the other while ‘hard working’ people have to struggle. Many on benefits are living in shocking conditions. I know mine shock many people and some judge me as not acceptable because of them, whereas it is testimony to the neglect I have been shown by services now being cut even more.

    The climate we are living in undermines the self worth, well being and quality of life for all those who are being scrutinised and continually being forced to quantify why they are in the position they are in. They say beggars can’t be choosers. I didn’t ever want to be a beggar but as a person who is ill that is what I have become. A beggar that the system will punish at every turn they can it so often seems. A beggar that everyone seems to think they can judge and advise on the best way to get better.

    The prejudice encountered is getting worse, the relief at finding understanding and compassion often means tears with a nicer feeling.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Elaine – You raise good points and I fully agree that the system of assessment looks like it does need revision…

  17. Sam Barnett-Cormack

    These hypothetical 500,000 people are no more ‘ready to start work immediately’ than they ever were. All that’s happened is the goal-posts have moved. People with a given set of problems were considered unfit for work, now suddenly they’re fit for work…

    Never mind the fact that, as supported by the high success rates at tribunal, many are found ‘fit for work’ despite the fact that, per the legal criteria, they are not.

  18. TiddK

    Anon. You wanted facts. Here are some facts.

    I’ve SEEN the revised assessment form – the official document – signed off in January 2011 for use by HCPs (Healthcare Professionals) from this month, April 2011. I’ve read through it, scoured it with a fine toothcoomb. I know what they are testing for and, by omission, what they are not.

    Now as I said above, I have progressive MS. My main symptoms are – Fatigue – Spasms – Incontinence – Cognitive ‘misfiring’ – Weakness. What I will be tested for, under the revised system, is : Incontinence, and Weakness (to the extent that it affects walking, standing, bending, kneeling). The three kinds of MS fatigue I experience every day? Nope. Spasms? Nope. Cognitive malfunction (where it is less than to make me a sociopath, psychopath, or autistic)? Nope.

    Extending this to all diabetics, people suffering Parkinsons, Muscular Dystrophy, Motor Neurone, Fibromyalgia, and heaven knows how many other serious conditions, will not have major symptoms / symptom groups tested for. And THAT is the hidden truth behind all those headlines presented above in the article.

    Yes, the press made serious errors in naming the kind of benefit – DLA instead of Incapacity Benefit. What makes you think the other ‘facts’ presented are equally reliable? 500,000 people ASSESSED as ready to start work immediately does not mean they are. Many of their symptoms will not have been tested for or taken into account. Many will appeal against the decision, and around half will win their appeals. “People are more likely to die on a lifetime benefit than get a job?” Actually, the ONLY lifetime awards that are made are of DLA. DLA is awarded to people whether IN work or NOT in work, so that piece of reporting is logical nonsense.

    Carry on researching. No-one here has told you a lie. Just because the website is the opposite of your own politics, does not mean that we here blogging are talking rubbish. Keep digging. The truth is out there and you’ve been told part of it already.

  19. Anon E Mouse

    TiddK – Thank you for your response – I have a relative with the same condition as you have. He’s in year 3, is wheelchair bound and not doing well. I worked with the disabled for a couple of years for Social Services (just teaching general email, word processing – simple stuff really) and three or four also had MS and it wasn’t good. You have my best wishes for your situation.

    You have also responded and I agree with the majority of your reply. I also agree that if the papers can make one mistake then they can make more than one but that doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t have the right to assess individuals – it should.

    I do however believe that if the assessment is not suitable and from peoples responses I have no reason to believe that they are incorrect, then that is the case that should be made.

    Because of the silly language of this article it has devalued the content which is a shame.

    I have read Sue Marsh’s blog (via Éoin Clarke and his Green Benches) on a few occasions and just feel if she made a more generalised point instead of the dogmatic Labour stuff which really is unattractive her case would be better made.

    I have never said that people were talking rubbish, just that to dismiss a policy just because a government they didn’t vote for brought it in is pretty pathetic and means any genuine point made gets lost in the fog.

    (Btw I voted Labour my whole life until they forced Brown on us with his clamp down on civil liberties, his employee McBride smearing Cameron around the time his disabled son died and all the other disgraceful actions against the country and now I am so disillusioned I cannot see me ever voting for that bunch of hypocrites again. For a party that used to represent the working class they should be ashamed of themselves.)

  20. TiddK

    Thank you for your response Anon – you understand more than you let on! You did make one factual error which surprised me : it wasn’t the Coalition Government that brought in the ESA testing. It was New Labour, effective from 2008. What the present Government has done is 1) remove the Mobility DLA from those in residential care (but that is a whole new discussion) 2) time-limit contributory ESA to 12 months and 3) are planning to replace DLA – a benefit which actually IS fit for purpose – with a new benefit PIP which will require us all to undergo the assessments all over again.

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