Tonight's Panorama, Britain on the sick leaves a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth. Clearly biased and pushing the government agenda of Arbeiht Macht Frei, it focused on various Incapacity Benefit claimants from Merthyr Tydfil an area with particularly high numbers of people in receipt of the benefit.
It would be foolish to deny there is a problem with both benefit fraud and the high levels of people claiming benefit but the focus of the programme was the so called 1 million. Those people receiving Incapacity Benefit whom the government claims to be able to get off benefit and into work by 2015.
Various people in receipt of benefit living in Merthyr Tydfil were interviewed from the single mum with learning difficulties suffering from post natal depression to the shining example couple. Calvin who had not worked since 1988 and his partner Karen who was described as long term unemployed because she'd stayed home to raise her family. (watch out home makers, you're clearly the next to be labelled scum)
The government were described as placing blame on to the GP's for signing people off in the first place, and things like the Pathways project held up as shiny examples of job seeking wonderfulness. Long term readers of this blog (and others more well known) will know just how wonderful the government's much hyped job brokers really are, but there was no mention of that issue or the equally problematic access to work. In fact people with complex adjustment needs were conspicuous by their absence too.
Not for a moment do I deny that benefit fraud is a problem, or that we have too many people receiving benefits, but if the issue is actually to be addressed then it must be done properly. The government need to stop sending out the message to society that those in receipt of benefits are unworthy scum and accept the challenges are more complex than they currently choose to imagine.
Once those who are easy to place in work have been creamed away from the vast majority of claimants who will find it much more difficult if not impossible to enter a workplace ill prepared and unwilling to accept them, whoever is in power will be left with the stark realisation that their Pathways programmes and job brokers have been no more than a phenomenally expensive sticking plaster over a hidden wound of rationed 'care', lack of access to NHS services and equipment and a system so failing to support the most vulnerable it makes work remain an impossible dream.