Ron Liddle from The Sun wrote a column condemning the ‘fake disabled’. He says, “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.”
Peaky? This describes people that often become totally bed-bound, are in crippling pain, too exhausted to lift your head off the pillow or have to use a wheelchair. ME regularly kills people after ravaging their immune system, although the press keeps quiet on that. People don’t speak of the young people having to live in their beds due to the pain Fibromyalgia causes.
Another charming person, this time James Delingpole from The Telegraph, writes in support of Ron, claiming that there are eleven million people now saying they are disabled, and this it what’s crippled the economy. Eleven million disabled people there may be, but only 2.6 million claim Employment and Support allowance, the ‘not able to work’ benefit. The other 8.4 million actually work. Crazy, I know! (No reflection on those that can’t work meant, just that there is an assumption that disabled people don’t partake in employment.) It may be many people now fit the definition of disabled, which is ‘A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities’ but the vast majority of disabled people try their best to work.
Another couple of points on these multitudes of disabled people crippling the economy is that Employment and Support Allowance is around £97 a week, and if your partner earns over £5343 a year you get nothing. The governments own figures put the fraud rate for ESA at 0.3%. The fraud rate for Pension Credit is 2.3%, but nobody seems to mention that. They are also bringing in a change that people can only claim contributory rate ESA for a one year. After that year they’re means tested, with a limit of £6000 in savings.
There is another disability related benefit – Disability Living Allowance, that is frequently used to support working. The extra costs of being disabled is significant. Equipment costs a fortune, needing transport on every journey soon adds up, treatment that enables you to work is often not covered on the NHS, heating for those with joint issues, extra cleaning costs, heat pads and so on. So this benefit is often used to pay for all those bits and pieces, or actually extremely important functions that allow people to work, and as a result pay taxes.
This is having a real impact on people’s lives. The suicide rate is constantly increasing and if the changes to DLA go ahead – where one suggested option is to remove the mobility allowance from wheelchair users with the idea a wheelchair makes someone independent, this suicide rate is going to vastly increase – no doubt about it. That ‘free car’ often complained about is something where you can cash in part of your allowance in return for a leased car. This allows people to have low-cost adaptations and transportation that meets their needs. The adaptations I needed came to a few thousand pounds, and really the adaptations didn’t amount to that much.
DLA is incredibly hard to get. The stress and torment people have to go through to get it is indescribable. People with terminal illnesses get turned down. This is why the fraud rate is so low. Yes, of course people will always slip through the cracks – it’s easy to lie about something that isn’t personal to you, and even suck doctors in with it. And these are the other that papers scream about, this 0.5% that makes the news daily – Scroungers! Work shy! Liars! They don’t point out the 99.5% that are genuine.
I’ve just spent three weeks with many chronically ill people, most with multiple painful illnesses, and the vast majority of them worked full time, way past what they should have done. Many volunteered on top of that work, others were carers for other people. Hardly any of them were on the benefits they should have been and were struggling financially. Many had been awarded DLA at a very low rate, when they should have been entitled to a much higher rate, but were too frightened to fight as they will frequently turn around the remove the whole award.
The demonisation of disabled people, fed directly to the media by the government in order to make these changes, needs to stop. Hate crime against disabled people is up by 75%. Seventy five goddamn percent! Probably because every time someone opens a newspaper they find a story they’ve been fed about that tiny 0.5% of people incorrectly claiming Disability Living Allowance, or a story about people claiming they have a “fake” condition like Fibromyalgia to get the so-called free car handed to them.