This insidious propaganda campaign against disabled people is starting to remind me of the work Joseph Goebbels. The Daily Mail and The Daily Express seem intent on creating a climate of prejudice against disabled people. There once was a very British saying, it was kind of thing that the small c conservative readers of the Mail and the Express used to believe, “There for the grace of god go I”, now it would appear that the Mail and the Express want their readers to look upon anyone on a disability scooter user, a blue badge holder (disabled parking permit) or maybe just someone using a walking stick and think to themselves there goes a parasite, someone defrauding the state. Since 2010 physical assaults on disabled people have increased by some 22% and one only needs to stand in a bus queue or in a shopping precinct to hear the verbal abuse carelessly and remorselessly thrown at the disabled people. This kind of prejudice was something that I believed Britain had left behind two or three decades ago.
The simple truth no one actually knows just how many fraudulent benefit claims there actually are, NO ONE! The statistics thrown around by the Daily Mail and Daily Express simply have no evidential basis whatsoever. Yes there are benefits cheats I don’t think anyone denies that, however, what this campaign is masking is that government is systematically changing the scope of disability benefits to exclude people that they have determined are capable of work, this determination is not based upon a medically determined set of criteria but upon a political and economic arbitrary line drawn to exclude as many people as possible, it is in fact a piece of social engineering. This government for reasons of philosophy have chosen to attack a group in our society and attempt to blame them for what they describe as the “spiralling costs of benefits”.
If they were actually serious about doing something about the costs of benefits and inherent fraud they would examine the housing benefits in its entirety. During the 1980’s “Right To Buy Scheme” millions of properties were transferred from local authorities to private ownership arguably a good thing in itself, however, the local authority housing was not replenished and the money from the sale of council homes was used to reduce the subsidy that central government paid to local authorities forcing those who would have qualified for social housing into the private rented sector. In the early 90’s local authorities control over “fair rents” was removed by central government and the role of inspection by council housing officer greatly diminished. This was probably the largest privatisation undertaken by the Thatcher and Major governments and it took place by stealth. This seemed pretty uncontroversial for many years state money in the form of housing benefit was transferred to private landlords this lead to mass expansion of the “Buy to Let” sector which in turn aided economic growth and wealth creation. Therefore there was no need or incentive for the Labour governments to change tack or reform this system, property appeared to be making people wealthy and no one wanted restrict personal entrepreneurship.
With the Coalition agreement of 2010 came this apparent need to reduce the deficit, this again was completely arbitrary and totally political, if the previous Labour government could be blamed for a spiralling deficit then cuts could be made without too much political pain. But the inherent problem that the Coalition faced was that the Conservative Party and to lesser extent the Liberal Democrats were wedded to private sector housing. So here is the real reason we have this systematic attack on the disabled. Proportionately disability benefits do not cost a great deal in terms of overall government spending, however when housing benefits are included they create what can best described as huge black hole, benefits are linked to inflation, housing costs are not. During a time of economic austerity the one cost that appears to be constantly rising is rent, there are no restrictions on what landlords can charge and no mechanism to determine if those rents are fair. So rather than tackle the actual problem this government is attempting to remove benefits from those that need them and by using a rather right-wing nasty element of the press blame them for the mess in the first place rather than the policies and philosophies that created actual problem. This scapegoating of disabled people makes the government the plan obvious, remove public sympathy and then remove the right to benefits, the problem is this doesn’t make the sick, well or the disabled, able bodied.
Disabled and sick people are not responsible for the state of the United Kingdom and their scapegoating is little more than the failure of government to actually tackle the real problem. Iain Duncan Smith is totally driven by a neo-liberal philosophy which is not only dangerous but also potentially more costly. It will be the NHS that will eventually end up picking up the costs of this stupid and ill-conceived policy and the criminal justice system that is forced to deal with the damage of bigotry created by language used. Shame on you and shame on your friends in the press.
I had intended my first post to be something a little more universal, however, yesterday a friend of mine posted the photograph on facebook and I felt this really need to be addressed. With sincere thanks to Ebony Dawn Marsh.