The attack on disabled people shows no sign of letting up, and before April Fool’s Day has come one where a range of smears against the disabled have been deployed, with the assistance of the Tory Party on occasion explicitly present. The target, apart from the disabled, is the notion that, when faced with suitably rigorous examination, large numbers of supposed malingerers suddenly get better.
This reinterpretation of the Gospel of St John (Chapter 5, verse 8 in case you need to look it up) has been taken as his text by the Telegraph’s Patrick Hennessy, who has come down to be among his flock and spread the word of the allegedly saintly Iain Duncan Cough. “900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests” he proclaims, to the sound of no Hosannas at all.
This meme has been continued by Tory MP Esther McVey: “I will go after bogus disabled... some of them DO get better! Ex-TV host who is our new Work Minister on the UK's THREE MILLION claiming disability benefit” trumpets the Mail headline, going into Sun territory using CAPITALS to make sure READERS know to get VERY ANGRY about SOMETHING.
So what is authentic Merseysider Esther going to do? “She is to slash what Ministers say is the most abused benefit in Britain, the £13 billion a year Disability Living Allowance (DLA)”. Well, either things have changed dramatically in the past year, or “Ministers” are talking out of the backs of their necks. In 2010-11, DLA overpayment due to fraud was just 0.5% of the total.
Compare this with Council Tax Benefit at 1.3%, Housing Benefit at 1.4%, Pension Credit at 1.6%, Income Support at 2.8% and Jobseeker’s Allowance at 3.4%. If it’s the “most abused benefit”, it ain’t shown in the figures. And the assertion made by Hennessy did not get far before the Guardian’s Shiv Malik called bullshit on the Telegraph article. He had good cause to do so.
The idea that 900,000 out of a three million total coming off sickness benefit is either news, or confirmation of the success of Government policy, was shown to be a sham. As Malik pointed out, the average percentage of the total coming off that benefit per quarter during 2008-10 was 37.12%, which would make rather more than 900,000 in a total population of three million.
He then noted that in 2010-12 – as we move into the land of tougher and more rigorous scrutiny – the percentage actually fell slightly, to 36.5%. So more of that total population was staying on the benefit, not coming off it. Malik’s attempt to get an explanation out of the source of the “900,000” story, Tory Party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps, do not appear to have been successful.
And thus another lame slice of right-wing propaganda bit the dust.