Saturday, 19 January 2013
Some Independent columnists know nothing about those on disablity benefits
A rather nasty little article from Philip Hensher in the Independent yesterday, which is dressed up as a more sympathetic piece. It starts with an attack on ATOS and mentions the recent Commons debate on the Work Capability Assessment. For a paragraph or so, the article actually makes some good points. After that, however, it becomes a Daily Mail style dogwhistle rant, a rant which is fisked outstandingly by Little Supernova and Johnnyvoid. Hensher's piece is short on facts and long on opinion. He reminds me of Ed Miliband's infamous speech, where the Labour leader suddenly developed medical skills and commented "he was convinced" that there were other jobs a man he had just met and who had been on incapacity benefit for a decade could do. Dr Miliband commented that the man was one of those who was "just not taking responsibility" even though he had only just met the man and had no idea of his circumstances or medical history. Philip Hensher's article reminds me of this. Perhaps this was his thought process when he produced this bigoted crap: "Someone cycled for more than 15 minutes? Must be fit for work! Because of course the only conditions preventing someone from working stop people cycling as well. And of course the energy to cycle for half an hour or so is the same needed for eight hours of work" "People off work due to depression? I'll just make up some twaddle claiming depression usually only lasts for weeks or months." "People unable to work due to being obese? I'll ignore the fact that obesity is sometimes a side effect of medication, and claim "The only possible purpose for public expenditure there is to help them back into fitness for work"" Hensher even has the cheek to portray anxiety related illnesses as not debilitating with the phrase "thousands off work with depression, even anxiety." His comment "But to move from that and say that none of the claimants should be examined sceptically and helped back to work is absurd" ignores that people on ESA in the Work Related Activity Group are helped to find work, and insults the good work that organisations like Restore do to help people on disability benefits find volunteering roles and work. Philip Hensher finishes his article by claiming that doctors are too eager to sign people off. He provides no evidence for this. This article, published by a newspaper that used to be respected, will help promote the idea that many people on disability benefits don't need them and increase disabled hate crime by promoting a "scroungers" mindset. I urge you to read two much better responses to Philip Hensher's crap, buy Little Supernova and Johnnyvoid. Also follow @zoesqwilliams, who has made some excellent points about Philip Hensher's article on her Twitter feed. If Philip Hensher is worried that not enough disabled people are working, he should donate a proportion of his salary to charities which help find disabled people work, such as Restore, Mencap and Scope. He should also campaign for improved access for disabled people to public transport and to workplaces. It's a lot harder to commute for an hour or two a day if wheelchair spaces on buses are occupied by people's pushchairs or if you can't get onto the train.