The DWP’s ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is causing real harm

Following today’s news six major disability charities have warned the government about its use of ‘scrounger’ rhetoric, we look at how widespread it has become.


Six leading disability charities have spoken out against the government’s ‘scrounger’ rhetoric on welfare cuts, saying it fuels abuse of disabled people.

The Guardian reports:

While the charities speaking out – ScopeMencapLeonard Cheshire Disability, the National Autistic SocietyRoyal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and Disability Alliance – say inflammatory media coverage has played a role in this, they primarily blame ministers and civil servants for repeatedly highlighting the supposed mass abuse of the disability benefits system, much of which is unfounded

Scope’s regular polling of people with disabilities shows that in September two-thirds said they had experienced recent hostility or taunts, up from 41 per cent four months before. In the last poll almost half said attitudes towards them had deteriorated in the past year.

Left Foot Forward reported about the tabloid attacks on disabled people back in June last year, following the results of an appalling survey carried out by Scope which revealed that half of London respondents said they experienced discrimination on a daily or weekly basis, and that 63 per cent of people with disabilities in London thought others did not believe they were disabled.

Dominic Browne wrote:

Many journalists cultivate the perception that if you are on a disability benefit you are either, a drug addict, a cheat, have to be forced into work, or should stop moaning because disability can be good for you. The second to last link, taken from the Mail, has a picture caption reading:

“Feet up: Claimants will lose their disability benefits as the public spending cuts bite (Posed by model).”

For an article about disabled people having their benefits cut we have a completely staged photo of a able-bodied man sitting on a sofa smoking a cigarette.

And of course just last week, Left Foot Forward reported on Rod Liddle’s disgusting – if unsurprising – attack on the ‘fake disabled’, in which he wrote:

My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to become disabled. Nothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades – fibromyalgia, or M.E…

Just the day after, James Dellingpole joined in the attack, blaming “the fake disabled” for “crippling our economy”.

But although the tabloids are doing the dirty work, the DWP is not innocent in this peddling of slurs. They routinely misrepresent their own statistics in a manner guaranteed to generate negative coverage of disabled people – and, surely coincidentally, ease the passage of their legislation.

As Steve Griffiths wrote for us last month:

The DWP press release opens with a mis-statement of the legislation:

‘The figures also show that a further 17 per cent can do some work with the right help and support’.

This interprets those assessed as belonging to the ESA work related activity group are as having been found ‘fit for work’. Yet the legislation states clearly that people qualify for ESA, including the work related activity group, because it is ‘unreasonable to expect them to work’ because of their ‘physical or mental condition’.

It is a misrepresentation that goes unchallenged almost daily.

Secondly, the 36 per cent whose claim was ‘abandoned’ before their assessment was complete are routinely represented as found ‘fit for work’.

Peddling the scrounger myth was only ever going to have one result. The DWP will have seen this coming, and the fact that they did it anyway is a disgrace.

See also:

Look Left – The hate-filled Right hone in on their next target: Disabled peopleShamik Das, January 27th 2012

Liddle’s latest outrage shouldn’t surprise usAlex Hern, January 26th 2012

It’s nearly time for the DWP’s quarterly love-in with the tabloidsSteve Griffiths, January 20th 2012

Aggression is a fact of life for the disabled in London, as the tabloids continue to attackDominic Browne, June 13th 2011

Society and the media are failing the sick and disabledSue Marsh, May 13th 2011

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58 Responses to “The DWP’s ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is causing real harm”

  1. Giles Bradshaw

    Have they ever actually used the word ‘scrounger’? Or are you just putting it in quotes to make it seem as if they have?

  2. Selohesra

    What are govt expected to do with abuses in disability claims – brush it under the carpet like labour or try and do something about it so the limited resources for disability benefit can be focussed on the most needy?

  3. Anonymous

    You are still not addressing the fraud issue.

    Not the claimant fraud, but the government fraud.

    Disabled had grown from 1 million to 2.5 million.

    Why? It’s hidden unemployment. Change the label and the unemployment figure goes down.

    That’s the fraud, and its being addressed.

  4. Grev

    Trolls getting in early, I see. I was a fraud officer working in this area. Claims that disability benefits have been used to massage unemployment figures or that the issue of fraud has been brushed under the carpet are entirely bogus. Anecdotes do not equal data. But don’t take my word for it, published statistics show an extraordinarily low rate of fraud in the system. It is dwarfed by official error rates. The comments below betray an alarming cynicism, an astonishing lack of knowledge and, frankly, a very nasty streak … which is exactly what this article addresses.

  5. Anonymous

    The first three comments do not address the issue at all. Well-respected charities have observed an increase in disability hate crime, and misleading and unrepresentative press releases from the DWP. Talk about that. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Comments are closed.