Saturday 19 November 2011

Prisoners have more rights than disabled people

Yesterday saw 2 cases brought before the courts by convicted killers for breach of their human rights because of the use of "slopping out". In other words they had been expected to use buckets which were later emptied rather than being taken to the toilet.

I totally agree that this practise is upsetting and degrading. But it is no worse than what is expected of thousands of disabled people up and down the country. Unlike convicted killers however, disabled people have no recourse to the courts. Their human rights are not deemed to be breached in any way.

As budgets are stretched to the limit and social services cut back on care more and more, disabled people are expected to use commodes in their own homes in between visits between carers. This is the equivalent to "slopping out", except that it is fully condoned by social services. Worse, some disabled people who cannot use them have been told they have to soil themselves and be cleaned up when the next carer arrives. I put that this is a far greater breach of human rights.

The blatant disregard for disabled people was all too evident in the landmark case of ex ballerina Elaine McDonald. Her night time care was removed as it was deemed too expensive. Unable to use a commode herself, she was instead issued with incontinence pads. Now this lady is NOT incontinent. But she was expected to wet herself and be cleaned up in the morning. She took her case to court but it found in favour of social services. The supreme court judge Lady Hale who was against the ruling was extremely "troubled" by the finding. But that is of little comfort to Elaine and disabled people across the country who now fear similar actions by their own social services.

In other words, when it comes to disabled people, it is not a breach of their human rights to expect them to soil themselves if it is financially advantageous. It is different when it comes to convicted murderers however, if they are expected to use the equivalent of a commode.

Thursday 10 November 2011

BBC: Betraying Disabled People

As a British citizen who owns a working television I have to pay my tv license. In return I expect a certain level of service from the BBC, which is meant to be an impartial organisation.

It therefore came as rather a shock to see the latest edition of Panorama which was more worthy of the Daily Mail than it was of the BBC.  Called "Britain on the Fiddle" it showed disability benefit claimants who owned yachts, played golf and it made such claims that the DWP loses 22 billion a year to fraud and error.

The program was unapologetically sensationalist, but worse, either wrong or factually misleading.

It made no mention for instance that incapacity benefit is a non means tested benefit. It is paid to people who have faithfully paid their national insurance contributions and then become too sick to work, checked by a system which is said to be the most stringent in Europe and set to become even more difficult. It is perfectly possible therefore for someone to have savings or own a yacht yet not be a fraud. Do we, as a society, want to push people who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes and national insurance contributions into penury if they have the misfortune to become sick?

The £22 billion figure was even worse. It had no place in a program about disability benefit fraud. Firstly, it is the figure for fraud and error across ALL benefits. Secondly the figure for fraud is only £3.3 billion, the rest being government error. Yet this figure was not mentioned at all. The figure for disability benefit fraud in particular is £1.1 billion. This figure was certainly not mentioned. The general public will have come away from this program with the erroneous, misleading and damaging figure of £22 billion.
When challenged by a member of the public, the BBC all but admitted it had misled the public:
"I understand you were unhappy with the figures that were given out by this programme as you felt they were inaccurate.

I’m sorry if you felt the figures were inaccurate but what was stated in the programme was:

“22 billion pounds a year. According to the latest research that’s how much fraud and error costs the government. A significant chunk of that is benefit fraud.”

As you can see the programme didn’t state that fraud and error in the DWP cost £22 billion but rather that fraud and error overall.

Now, 1.1 billion out of 22 is not a "significant chunk" by any means. It is 5%. I expect better from the BBC, a company I pay for and is supposed to fairly represent all members of society, not demonise them.

This follows a trend from the BBC.
Over the past year it has:
Closed down the disability messageboard despite great protest and without undertaking an impact assessment.
Chosen not to cover the Paralympics.
Shown little to no coverage of the Hardest Hit marches, the largest street demonstrations of disabled people in the past decade.
Refused to report on the stories of the problems of the WCA and its impact on disabled people.
Refused to report on UNUM, ATOS and their vested conflict of interest in designing the WCA in the first place.
Not reported any disability linked questions at any of the recent party conferences even when Ed Milliband was caught out at question time and the questioner was followed right the way to the toilet to get her story!

Now the BBC seems to be crossing the line and actively attacking disabled people on benefits. This comes at a time when hate crime against disabled people is rising rapidly, when savage cuts are being proposed and hoped to be passed thanks in part to a misinformed public who wrongly believe that fraud is rife and benefits easy to obtain. The BBC should be informing the public, not joining in on a witch hunt.

Shame on you, BBC.