Why did I pick up the Sun today?

Wednesday, 29th December 2010 at 3:05 UTC 4 comments

I’m travelling today, and so I get the excuse of having a large number of newspapers around me to tempt my curiosity. I rather wish they hadn’t. There are days when I swear at the news for what is happening, and there are those days when I get angry because what is written totally misses the point, or is so clearly written with an agenda of injustice.

Under a headline of “Makes Yule Sick” and sub-head “1.5m spend FIFTH Xmas on incapacity benefit”, parts of the article almost sound sympathetic to those few members of the global disabled community lucky enough to live in a country where life is an option for those incapable of working within an increasingly demanding economy. How terrible it is to be able to continue living a whole 5 years of reasonably independent life away from the gutters.

I suppose part of this is my loathing of the Conservative Party’s worldview. Chris Grayling is quoted as saying “It’s truly shocking almost 1.5million people have had to struggle through their fifth Christmas trapped on incapacity benefits – all because they have not been the right help to get into employment”.

This of course assumes several things. It not being Graylings fault that incapacity rates are so low. Its not possible to get by on just a little and still have a fulfilling life. Employment is our atonement for the crime of being alive. Work Makes Free, after all.

I suppose one should expect nothing better from the gutter press, but I just found myself fuming. Often its not the assertions one makes but the underlying assumptions that have an impression on people. After all, as children, we internalise social norms, both good and bad, based on our observations of these turns of phrase.

The final sentence of the report particularly got to me for very much this reason. “Last month a survey by the OECD think thank showed the UK has more young people on incapacity benefit than any other industrialised country”. The statement is a fact – in a completely context-free environment I would probably have responded with curiosity. There could be many reasons for this discrepancy, amongst which could be that we are a more compassionate nation, or that we drive our young people to depression and therefore huge numbers can’t work, or that Britain’s young people are generally from such poor backgrounds that many more must rely on incapacity benefits rather than family assistance. In this article, I have no doubt that what is being implied is that Britain is soft, its youth lazy and that we must end this situation now.

And the graphic attached to the article? Inexplicably, a Christmas pudding with a statistic printed over the top. Is it any wonder people in Britain are feeling greater and greater animosity towards the marginalised when they are being drip fed lies about and more specifically ill-feelings towards those less lucky than themselves.


Entry filed under: Community, Conservatives, Disability, Media, News, Poverty.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  Wednesday, 29th December 2010 at 18:44 UTC

    Err Graham, Chris Grayling is talking about helping to get people back into work. I suggest you find someone you know who’s been surviving on benefits and ask them which they’d prefer, to work or to continue on benefits.

    Let’s get everyone stuck on benefits, shall we? How about some Yorkshire miners, do you think they’d prefer benefits to jobs? Work’s an entirely bad thing after all, and not in any way necessary for the world to keep moving.

    I suppose this post is another instance of your general politics, which is that the coalition is wrong, no matter what the issue. I sort of wish that David Cameron would say two opposite things on consecutive days, so that I could have the fun of watching you stridently declaring both to be wrong.

    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 29th December 2010 at 19:00 UTC

      I assume you’re referring to Yorkshire miners who are on incapacity benefits. Otherwise, I think you’re making a strawman. Sure, many people end up on JSA who should be recognised as incapacitated, but in what other way did I discuss none-incapacity-type benefits?

      I know several people who would be more happy to remain on benefits than to enter work. They’re signed off as ill because being on benefits is better for them than working and making themselves more ill, or because they simply can’t work.

      And you use the phrase “back into work”. Back? You imply that people are coming out of work. The inference of the youth statistic is that these people have never been both fit to work and old enough.

    • 3. Ceri  |  Thursday, 30th December 2010 at 9:15 UTC

      Greg, I’d suggest asking my friend who is in Bootham atm if she’d rather be working than on benefits. Before her latest admission, she was struggling really hard to keep doing two hours volunteering, three days a week, because she was so desperate to be doing *something*. Sure, she’d rather be at work, fit and well, but that’s not going to happen for a while.
      I’m sure there’s people you were on a hospital ward with in similar situations – you said some weren’t going to be able to live independently again, so how realistic is it that they’d be able to get and keep a full-time paid job?
      Earning enough to avoid claiming benefits isn’t an option for everyone, particularly for people with more support needs – for example as my friend needs 24-hour supported accomodation, when she had a paid job she lost the benefits which paid for that support, so she actually lost money by working.

  • 4. Greg  |  Thursday, 30th December 2010 at 21:17 UTC

    So Ceri, either you can tell me how Graham got all that out of Chris Grayling’s mouth (via the Sun) or we can conclude that Graham is just reading his hatred into whatever he reads.


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