The politics of "I met a man"

6/14/2011 09:04:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 14 Comments

"I met a black man in his 40's who'd been in the Royal Navy for 30 years"  was a (paraphrased) refrain from David Cameron during the Leader's Debates last year. Now, it seems Ed Miliband has met a man too. Unlike David's man, Ed's wasn't a hard working member of a minority group who'd been serving in the armed forces longer than he'd been an adult. Oh no. Ed's man was a 'scrounger' A good man, a man who wanted to do his best by his family, but still a scrounger whom Ed, without any medical qualifications, training or experience feels able to inform the nation could work if he felt like it.

Maybe he could work, maybe he can't. In this sense it doesn't really matter - using an IT company to administer so called 'fit to work medicals' which are nothing more than government decided descriptors is no more accurate than using Ed's lack of medical expertise to decide upon people's fitness to work. Something that Liverpool MP Steven Timms could have told Ed had he bothered to ask. There are already over 1000 genuinely sick and/or disabled people in Merseyside who've been refused sickness benefits despite being too ill to work. Despite poor mathematical skills and the lack of Ed's research team, even I can work out that will extrapolate to 10's if not 100's of thousands of sick and disabled people being refused the benefits which they have paid for via national insurance across Britain.

Issues of benefit fraud and welfare dependancy are important to tackle, none hate benefit fraud more than those forced into a position of genuine reliance upon the benefits system. The increasing scrounger rhetoric is terrifying to those of us knowing that no matter how much we wish to work, how much we try, not only is the system stacked against us, but that the health issues we face are inescapable. Whilst some small steps have been made by Labour MP's such as Liam Byrne to separate out the sick and/or disabled from the unemployed, it's such a quiet statement against the torrent of abuse heaped upon sick and/or disabled people by the wider media and political climate it leaves room for the one message Labour sent to the electorate via Ed Miliband yesterday.

Incapacity benefit claimants are irresponsible scroungers. Even when they're actually decent, honest, have worked, become genuinely incapacitated and are now trying to bring up their families as best they can, they're still scroungers who should just try harder.

The detail of the rest of the speech didn't matter. The message was hammered home in the first paragraph. The Labour party, the party of the people, the party of social justice, led by Ed Miliband are more than happy to be seen as the party demonising disabled people.

As the 'reformed' Work Capability Assessment originally introduced by New Labour continues to deny benefits to genuinely sick and/or disabled people, and the press slowly move away from sensationalist scrounger stories to reporting more and more genuinely ill people being denied benefits, Ed's slam a scrounger policy will undoubtedly return to incapacitate him.


Jackart said...

"who'd been serving in the armed forces longer than he'd been an adult"

Not being pedantic, but it would have been perfectly possible for a 45 year-old to have been serving for 30 years, as the forces used to recruit "boy soldiers". They were known as 'Junior leaders' in the army. Now I think the army cannot recruit anyone below 17 and can't let them be shot at until they're 18.

OK. I am being pedantic.

Jackart: This is true - But your pedantry is one of your most loveable qualities ;) BG Xx

Mary said...

It's the "if you can push a button, you can work" mentality again.

Certainly. If there is a button-pushing factory in my town (despite offshoring), or a town I could move to (despite lack of accessible housing and the housing benefit caps), and if they're hiring (despite record UK unemployment), and if I can actually get up and washed and dressed in the morning (despite cutbacks to Social Services), and if I can actually get to work (despite inaccessibility of public transport), and if the button-pushing workstation and the route to it is or can be made accessible (despite Access to Work cuts)...

...and if the bosses and co-workers are happy to accommodate my need for frequent breaks at unpredictable moments (despite the hundreds of other applicants for the button-pushing job who are equally qualified for button-pushing and *don't* need breaks or adjustments), and if I will earn a living wage (despite the messing about with Tax Credits)...

...and if we can account for the fact that I only have the energy to function for about 10 non-contiguous hours out of every 24 and I must keep three or four hours of that aside for necessary things like eating, medicating, grocery shopping, banking, cleaning and managing my household, and the bureaucratic maze of disability...

...then I, along with many others, will be right there.

Andy said...

I'm not sure that Byrne's approach is that much better as it just shifts the blame for society's ills onto the unemployed who are in no better position to change their lot that those of us on incapacity benefits.

And once the new work capability assessment has done its work there will be nobody left classed as 'sick or disabled', we'll all just be 'unemployed'.

Notts: It was a scraping the barrel effort to find something vaguely hopeful to include ;)

What Mary said. Pretty much word-for-word.

I do work - I help my husband run his business and I am trying desperately to build my own career as a writer. It's my only option because I can barely, rarely leave the house (and on the last occasion I left the house it was in an ambulance).

I would give anything to be able to have a 'proper' job. The fact that I can't makes me feel like I'm not a 'proper' person. Well done Ed for compunding that distress.

Sarah said...

Ed Milliband lost my vote in one single vicious sentence.

I'm used by now to attacks on disability benefits as ones that "anyone can get" and being wasted on scroungers and fraudsters.

But this was even worse. This was saying that even the genuine cases were shirking their "responsibilities" and could work if they really wanted to. AND you can recognise these people at a glance!

In a world where many trot out "stephen Hawking" to triumphantly declare that no disabled person could possibly be unable to work, completely ignoring the fact that he is not ill, has access to an army of carers, the best disability equipment available and has a one in a million job this is nothing short of irresponsible.

This will only encourage the general public to look at people on long term incapacity benefits as workshy, however genuine their claim is. It is already difficult enough without the social stigma which comes with it.

And even for those disabled person could do a job could we please stop blaming him as the sole culprit for being out of work?

What about the lack of support, be it from social services withdrawing vital care, inaccessible transport services, inaccessible workplaces, employers only paying lipservice the DDA and complete prejudice which sees employers admitting they would not even consider employing a disabled person? And this is only getting worse under this government with the withdrawal of ILF, less cover from ATW, future plans to remove DLA and replace it with PIP which will remove help from many which would have allowed them to get to work.

Until these things are tackled the people shirking their responsibilities are the ones in power, be they the government who should be ensuring the required help is there, or employers who should not be showing such prejudice.

In the mean time we will suffer from vilification and a backlash from the public which could take a very nasty form. Hate crime is on the up. This will only add fuel to the fire.

Anonymous said...

Pollyanna syndrome – (meaning - no matter what or how serious your illness or disability it can be overcome) usually said by those who are not ill and/or disabled to those that are. They often sight another disabled person who for example works to make you feel even more inadequate and worthless. It is a recognised mental illness, therefore if you experience this unpleasant abusive experience please advise the mentally ill individual to seek Professional medical help as soon as possible. Those in power over others appear to disproportionally suffer from this serious mental illness and therefore would require the most help.

Jane said...

Actually, Anonymous, I think Pollyanna syndrome would probably be classed as a personality disorder, which means mental health services are unlikely to take much interest - on the basis that improvement can only come about very slowly with lots of support and that's too expensive for most mental health trusts to contemplate!

Sorry to be pedantic, but having been married to someone who died because of the effects of stress and disadvantage on his personality disorder I couldn't resist the temptation to point out that Ed and others probably can't be fixed anyway! So that just makes the hypothetical situation even worse!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane
Thanks for your comment sorry to hear about your loss  I too suffer from panic attacks and a whole range of physical symptoms including long term illness and accompanying sickness so I guess I fall under all three/four. Oh dear! I see “pedantic” is also listed as “overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.” I hope I don’t have that too! Hee! Hee! Just trying to bring some light-heartedness’ to these very dark depressing times.

RockHorse said...

Excellent piece and great comments - Mary's reply was spot on!

To anonymous and Jane: Full frontal lobotomy and/or ECT can still be used in extremis. I'd suggest that they might be a starting point in treating those displaying this particular variant of Pollyanna Syndrome ;)


Anonymous said...

Those who are ill and disabled know who they are and the DWP and ATOS know who they are and all they need do is to stop mucking about and victimise those back into work who cant and for many reasons cant

Those who would like to try to get back into work need as much help as possible from everyone concerned for you need to keep that persons morale up at all times to be effective otherwise their illness or disability will come back with a vengeance but at least they have tried and that in itself is a good thing

For those others who don't try the DWP should not victimise them by phoning them up with threats and the like but should except the fact from their doctor that they are ill or disabled and do not wish to go to work and that should be good enough.

To continue to harass a sick or disabled person any further should be seen as a case for police intervention to protect that person from killing themselves or others as that is the likely outcome and could only possibly be the only outcome

Both ED and Liam need to understand illness i know it's hard Ed and you to Liam but can assure you if you live long enough your get to experience it first hand and then like everyone else i have met over the years who experience long term illness they always say the same "oh i see i didn't know it was this bad" well Liam and Ed it is and if your unlucky you'll wish you were never ever born

Robert said...

To day Miliband talked about the disabled the sick, he stated the use of words like frauds scroungers by the Daily mail, sometimes rightly, he then went off on a rant, ah yes I. still waiting for those who are disabled to have a tattoo and wear a badge to ensure everyone knows who we are, Labour and the Tories blame game. what next work camps with large chimney's.

Anonymous said...

"To continue to harass a sick or disabled person any further should be seen as a case for police intervention to protect that person from killing themselves or others as that is the likely outcome and could only possibly be the only outcome"

Go ahead make my day you scrounging cunt