“Government sources” attacking disabled people

As I wrote in my last blog post, Benefits and BMWs, the recent article in the Sunday Times State hands out BMWs to ‘disabled’ (Paywall link) was factually incorrect in the headline and in several points in the article. Since then I have found that the same story has appeared in numerous national and local newspapers. The story in most of the local papers was actually word-for-word the same – just google “Flash cars leased to disabled people” to find many examples of it or read this one at the London Evening Standard. Motability scheme ‘being abused’

I will reiterate here for those that haven’t read my last blog post – the government does not hand out cars to disabled people.  The most severely affected sick or disabled people can claim Disability Living Allowance, which includes a mobility component. Those people receive the money, which they can spend as they like, or buy a wheelchair, car etc. Many choose to sign over the mobility part of their DLA to the Motability scheme, which is not government run, in return for a car, wheelchair or scooter. They can also choose to pay an extra fee to upgrade to a more expensive car. In the case of a BMW, that would be at least an extra £1400. Vehicles hired through Motability are exempt from VAT and Vehicle Excise Duty. (“Road tax”) A car can be used by another person on behalf of the sick or disabled person without them being present, for example going shopping for them, or perhaps returning something that they had borrowed. If a Motability car is used by someone else for their own purposes, that is a breach of the rules of the Motability Scheme and raises problems with the road tax and possibly the VAT on the car, but does not involve benefit fraud since the DLA would have been paid to the sick or disabled person, car or not. Relatives or carers getting a “free car” and using it for their own purposes are doing so at the expense of the sick or disabled person, not the government or benefit fraud.

The stories about relatives getting “free cars” and about people receiving BMWs through Motability are worrying because they seem to originate from the government. The Sunday Times article does not mention it, but the Belfast Telegraph and the story duplicated in lots of local papers quotes “a Whitehall source” who would seem to be the only reason that this is a story at all. This source says “The issue this raises is ‘is Motability being abused?’ And the answer is absolutely, in some cases it is.” His statement is true, but judging from his other comments his emphasis seems heavily weighted towards smearing and attacking the Motability scheme and those that use it.

This is not the first time that anonymous government sources have provided stories to newspapers sympathetic to government policies. (And only newspapers sympathetic to government policies.) In a previous attack, government ministers released a select list of excuses for benefit fraud supplied to them by the Department of Work and Pensions. Of course the excuses were bizarre and most of these cases really were fraud, but no mention was made of the incredibly low fraud rate and how few cases excuses like this represent. The papers also took the opportunity to belittle addiction and “bad backs” as disabilities, despite them being crippling and life-destroying.

In another recent attack, newspapers quoted a “source close to the reforms.” We are not told where this information has come from, and yet it appeared in several newspapers at the same time. I have been unable to find a press release that correlates to this information, and therefore I must assume that the figures have been leaked to chosen newspapers by government.

Then we have government ministers giving innacurate or just plain wrong statistics on television or to journalists. Minister for the disabled Maria Miller announced on live television news that more people receive benefits for drug and alcohol addiction than for blindness (They don’t.) and employment minister Chris Grayling stated that 75% of people claiming ESA were fit to work. (They weren’t.) Ian Duncan-Smith stated during an interview on Newsnight that people on benefits are “putting nothing back into the community” even though in the rest of the interview he came across as genuinely wanting to help. Even the opposition seems to be getting in on the act, with Ed Miliband going after the “take what you can culture” and again branding benefit claimants as lazy shirkers or cheats. Presumably this is seen as the way to attract votes and popularity now.

We also see an attack from the sidelines by MP Philip Davies, who wants people with learning disabilities to work for less than minimum wage, as though they somehow need less to live on than other people.

All these attacks add up to something very disturbing. The government is steam-rollering through welfare reform with only an occasional speed bump when people raise specific instances such as cancer patients that won’t have enough time to recover if given time-limited Employment Support Allowance. Such a shame that while highlighting 7,000 cancer patients, Ed Miliband didn’t spare a thought for the other 700,000 seriously sick or disabled people affected by the same rules. The pace of savage cuts and reforms backed up by relentless propaganda is terrifying and it is taking us towards a society that no longer cares for those who are sick or disabled.

 

Related blog posts

Benefits and BMWs

Compare and contrast

Response to the attack on DLA in today’s papers

“Putting nothing back into the community”

Other Links

Benefit Fraud: a success story the government doesn’t want you to know about

Ed Miliband and the “Cheats” and “Shirkers”

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Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

11 thoughts on ““Government sources” attacking disabled people”

  1. Very well written and TY for being the voice of reason, sanity and ‘us’ in respect of this constant battle against the lies and bashing we, as disabled people, experience on a daily basis.

  2. I think the idea of allowing employers to pay less than the minimum wage to people who would otherwise not be able to work is a complex issue. It’s not a clear case of a government attack on the disabled IMO. It may be that such a change would be hopelessly open to abuse, but at best it could combine the best parts of charity, independence, and employment.

    Other than that, thank you for listing all these things together. I wonder what the various disability charities think to all this?

  3. “A Whitehall source” normally means Departmental special advisers (SPADS), party hacks who are paid (handsomely) out of public funds to work as political advisers in Government departments.  Joanne Moore – who famously announced that 9/11 was “a good day to bury bad news” – was one of these people.  Ian Duncan-Smith’s SPAD is Phillipa Moore, who was outed during the election campaign as belonging to a church which advocated prayer to save and convert gay people back to being straight.  We, the taxpayer, are paying for this – which is something to bear in mind when Ministers start burbling about the nation’s overdraft.

    As a relatively senior ex-Civil Servant I have no doubt that this campaign is being orchestrated by a combination of SPADS and Conservative Central Office with the tacit approval of Ministers. I’ve seen it before, although not a campaign as nasty and squalid as this. There is simply something very disturbing indeed in an agenda that demonises the most vulnerable in society, and gives bullies an excuse.

    You are doing a fantastic job in exposing this.  Keep up the good work!

  4. I’m pretty sure that the ‘source close to the reforms’ is the DWP Communications Team and the charmless Roger Pugh. 

  5. Umm… have you ever read any Goebbels? Seriously, this is not crass hyperbole. And this is beyond a joke.

  6. I just wish this whole issue was being highlighted further.  I have been ridiculed on internet forums for stating that the right wing press are printing anti disabled propoganda.

  7. There was also the detail in a Telegraph article ages ago that 1/3 of benefits claimants have been investigated. It wasn’t attributed and I’ve never found it anywhere else so am assuming an ‘off the record’ chat with a ‘source’. 

    On the latest BMWs & Benefits rubbish, I’ve made an FOI application to find out if the Paul Slowey who was “researching badge use” in the wider-spread articles is employed by the DWP and is therefore likely to be that “source in Whitehall”. 

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/employment_by_andor_contracting#incoming-185178

    I found a Paul Slowey [see paulslowey dot com] who has previously done contracting work for the Ministry of Justice.

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