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Mik ScarletMik Scarlet Posted: 08/06/2013 00:00

Successful broadcaster, journalist and musician who is happily married and lives in trendy Camden Town in London… oh, and he’s disabled

‘Can We Please Get Our Facts Right?’

On Thursday Labour leader Ed Miliband went on record with his parties plans to cap the welfare budget if they get into power after the next election. He made sure he included the infamous ‘disability benefits’ for the sick and disabled in his speech just to make sure he was nicely up with the zeitgeist of our society.

Whether you are disabled or not and whether you believe the hype about these ‘disability benefits’ and their claimants, every one must have heard the claims that they are rife with fraud.

If the certain sections of the press, politicians and the media are to be believed disabled people are a way too costly drain on our impoverished country, that is if they aren’t just breaking the law by defrauding the state entirely.

But as a disabled person myself, and one who has needed to fall back on the benefits system at different times during my life time, I think it is time that the truth was told, both about the figures and how the distortion of the truth is impacting on the lives of real people.

The key factors are the statistics as released by the government.

In 2011-2012 they announced that the fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance, which is the benefit which helps (in a very small way) towards paying for care and travel, was only 0.5% which cost the exchequer £60m.

On top of that the fraud in the Incapacity Benefit system, for those whose impairment means they are unable to work, was 0.3% costing just £10million.

Now as the two benefits combined came to £17.6billion and the combined fraud is £70million I don’t think that’s too bad. Especially if you then take into account that the amount wasted due to official error came to 0.5% of total expenditure, which equals the amazing sum of £0.8billion or £800,000,000m.

But do we hear about cracking down on error with the same crazed obsession as fraud in the ‘disability benefits’ system, even though it costs the equivalent of a tear drop in the ocean compared to the total £159.2billion spent on welfare? (My head is reeling from these figures so please take a minute to really get your head round them. Yes that is £70million compared to £159.2billion!) (Figures taken from the DWP website)

With the mind boggling figures out of the way, let’s look closer at the essential word in the phrase benefit fraud… fraud.

When we are talking about ‘disability benefits’ if you are disabled you surely must be entitled to claim them, so if there a very few who might be getting a little more (but please don’t forget all those who are getting less, who never merit a mention) then all those left have one thing in common that makes them fraudsters. They are NOT disabled!

It’s obvious really that if you are fraudulently claiming benefits designed to make disabled people’s lives a little easier then you must be able bodied (or non-disabled as we like to call them). So surely the media and political classes should be going after all those scrounging able bodied types? Where are the headlines about that eh?

This obsession with the tiny amount of fraud which is all carried about by people pretending to be disabled is having a huge impact on the lives of disabled people through out this country, from all areas and financial positions.

In my own case I have seen a real change in the way people react towards me. I have been disabled since birth and for my childhood and most of my adult life I was mainly met with an attitude of quiet pity. “You poor thing” was a phrase that ran through my life until very recently, even if my life has been an amazing roller coaster of experiences that most people could only dream of.

Then during the last reign of New Labour, who started this whole targeting of disabled people when they rolled out DLA assessments back in 1998, things started to change.

By the start of the new millennium people now began to view me with suspicion. It began with my Blue Badge. I went from having one to “make sure I park close to stuff” which I obviously was entitled to as I could not walk to having something that everyone felt they should have the right to, which was demonstrated by having so many of them stolen from my car that I now have to padlock the two pieces of card to my steering wheel in a steel case.

But worse was yet to come.

In 2003 my wife and were viewed as easy targets by a group of youths and our lives became a living hell. The verbal abuse, which mainly focused on my disability although our dress sense also seemed to annoy them, moved on to physical attacks and this cumulated in my wife being savagely beaten up by three masked youths. We were then told that if we didn’t move out we would wake up to find our flat on fire… so we moved.

Once you’ve been on the receiving end of a disability hate crime this whole debate becomes very personal.

What is so shocking to me is that things have got so much worse than it was back then. Disabled people are systematically being targeted for the cuts and as scapegoats for our spiraling welfare bill, even though the figures above show this could not be further from the truth, which is creating an atmosphere of distrust, envy and aggression around the subject of disability.

This attitude is spreading all throughout our society and the dramatically negative effect it is having on disabled people is immeasurable.

Something that is never mentioned about ‘disability benefits’ is that they are a much cheaper solution to the answer of including disabled people into the wider society. If we agree that we do not want to “put us all down at birth” (which I am sure some people secretly feel is the answer to disability) then disabled people are going to exist, and we should be allowed to live like every one else. But to do that would cost a fortune.

Imagine how much it would cost to suddenly make every public building throughout the British Isles fully accessible. Then add the cost of doing the same to all public transport, housing, retail centers and shops… well you get the idea.

This is why the concept of ;disability benefits’ came into being. It is cheaper for our society to pay us a little bit extra to cover any additional costs we incur as we try to live in a society that disables us with a series of barriers than it is to remove every one of those barriers. I will explain this concept by stating that if every single step or flight of steps were accompanied by a ramp or lift then my being on wheels would have no real impact on my being able gain access to a building, and so I would be much less disabled by the world around me. (It’s called the “Social Model of Disability”, if you hadn’t heard of it before) It would then mean that we were no longer disabled but could instead maybe be described physically different, which is something every single one of us is.

This is the dream of all disabled people, but it is a long way off and while we wait it isn’t too much to ask to be given a little extra cash to ease the expense of living in a world that stops you living like the rest of society.

What has saddened me with this new announcement is that the party I have supported all of my adult life has taken the easy route and pandered to public opinion.

Rather than tell the truth and try to change the way an ill informed populace views the benefits paid out to disabled people, they went with the flow and have joined the other political parties in targeting those scrounging cripples.

“Disability benefits” should be paid out dependent on the numbers of disabled people living in our society, and if we adhere to the social model of disability that could easily be lessened by making our country more accessible. But that would cost even more money, so we are left with a no win position. Disabled people seem to be a legitimate target for all political parties now, and that says something deeply disturbing about the way our society is going.

I will leave you with something my good friend Ruth Gould, CEO of world acclaimed disability arts festival DadaFest, said to me:

“Non-disabled people are just disabled people the day before the accident or illness”

So if that accident or illness does hit you what kind of world would you like to become disabled in?

Follow Mik Scarlet on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MikScarlet


13 thoughts on “On Disability: STOP LYING and GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT MILIBAND

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    im afraid ive got to agree with you it all started from thatcher blair Unum who deny us our rights to and scream abuse at us for being disabled by our bodies yes it a farcry from whot they portray to whot they do to the sick and disabled of this once proud land jeff3

  2. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

    After the disabled cash cow is done they wil start on the pensioners. It will cost so much it will add to the recession debts. Endless pot of credit. Disabled people get benifit [cash] while poll a tricks get credit. Cash is more important than credit. Creditors & cv credits. Even my food stamps are not credit. So give the disabled people some credit [not money] that we are not credit [cash] cows in slavery. The rich are poor with too much credit debts. The poor are getting poorer. They the rich posh oos [corporate boffins] ain`t got a clue what poverty is & means. Not a means tested failure. £300 an hour for their lawyer. £300 an hour of the tax payers money. Public Money Scroungers = Government Lawyers & appeals against untruths & denials of the onus of the burden of proof that is overwhelming with no loop holes. Corporate Poll A Tricks creates coalition government for decades. There will be no elected uk government till at least 2040 if lucky. The DWP are using a failed Healthcare system proven by quite a few states in the USA with UNUM [one of the DWP`s contractors] to be an outlaw company that has nothing to do with the medical system [BMC or any other]. How can they think that a failed system in the USA is going to work in the UK!!!! Doomed from the start !!!

      1. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

        It seems I am the only one who has not filled out the ESA form let alone sent it back. My circumstances have not changed. A unpresidented case then !!!

      1. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

        Ed says that now, if they get in, coalition. Ed wants the Pensioners votes then their benifits to keep the Con/Lab coalition going.

  3. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    As the good ship UK goes down,holed by endemic greed and fraud in its London financial services industry, they are throwing the poor, the sick, the old and the disabled overboard in an effort to stay afloat.
    Thankfully Scotland has a lifeboat if it wants to use it next year

  4. bobchewie says:

    I posted on the void a letter someone complaining about too many disabled parking bays driving ordinary people away from high street stores .

    Now am reading this from the daily hatemail and asking whats wrong with this picture when i read such words as exploiting a weakness in the system .
    atos benefit fraud checks and benefit sanctions and yet there is a weakness in the system?


  5. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

    The problem is that when ATOS & the DWP find there is nothing wrong with you & you are fit for work [overlooking the medical evidence the onus of proof]. That means that the disabled person has never been disabled. So why ain`t the DWP bullying disabled people for cheating them out of disabled benifits. Soon disabled people will be charged for conning the DWP out of hundreds of thousands of pounds overlooking the medical evidence. So ATOS & the DWP are at the next stage of Genocide in taking real disabled people to court for fraud in claiming disabled benifits, who are really disabled. But since ATOS & DWP have found me fit to work in fraud. Set up the Denial Factories !! Do the DWP really think that they control judges in courts of Law & The Onus of the burden of Proof & my wheelchair !! Bribe the judges now DWP. What a farse. So I now owe the DWP one million pound for not ever being disabled. Being disabled from birth means fact. Or perhaps I was not born at all – some wish.

  6. AL says:

    It’s all about what a person can do these days. The updated ESA Handbook is eager to state over and over how different the modern work place is in being able to include everyone. Very little ability is needed now to work in the modern workplace. To push a button occaisionally seems adequate. no lifting, bending, stretching or walking is necessary. If you can sit, stand or hover around a work station to push, said button, for half an hour then that is all that is required to secure work. This need not even be done in comfort. (I suppose you have the rest of the week to recover!) I’m still looking for the job where I can hover around for half an hour occasionally pressing a button and get paid. I do wish they had specified where this modern workplace exists and what job we need to apply for. It’s gonna have to be paid well above minimum wage that’s for sure on account of only needing to do half an hour. Bet all the fit buggers have got in there first!

  7. joseph mccaffery says:

    I had a Disabled Shower fitted a few years ago, To start with I was told someone from the council would come out to see me with two rival companies who would submit a bid, ok easy enough, the one who won quoted £3800, soon after a guy and his son came out, the guy in charge then said he was leaving his son to do the job(bad start already then) he did come back and visit in between what was to be a 4 day job with an Electrician at one point, 10 working days later it was still unfinished and after 4 further visits, the last with me refusing to except that I would have to keep switching the shower on and off because the pump was a new type and they didn’t think it was powerful enough,, it took me to insist they knock a hole through my wall to shorten the distance as I found the way the son ran it round the length of the wall and guess what at the end a follow up bill they submitted for extra’s included(one being the large black container that went under the floor that they seemed to forget in the beginning during ‘Job pricing submission between him and the other company with that one iten valued at around £800+) and even including the call-out charges for the 4 follow-up fix-it visit’s also was totalled at another £2100+,, and when I phoned to explain about why they had to keep coming out to fix problems caused by leaving his 22yr old son still in college part-time(ex-chef until 6 months prior also) there instead of doing it properly in the first place himself, even a safety-seat included in the request, I was told was too expensive to include now,!!???,, on 3 occasion’s (2 from the council)I was told by them both ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s not your money is it’ and as you can guess their arrogance still bugs me these 3 or so years later,, and it’s the absolute truth, all of it, no point lying because i’d happily go on record about it,, plus as it’s a Tory council, if’s there’s anything I could hurt them with I would as I consider them as just self-centred Elitist’s every single one of them,, Total Bill came to just over £6800+,, good scam if you can get it eh,, yet they don’t blame the corrupt Council Official’s or their Contractor ‘Freind’s, they blame the easy target, US.!!

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