Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The road to hell is paved with copies of the Sun

The Sun newspaper has a campaign going - 'Beat the Cheats'. The aim is supposedly to get members of the public to 'shop' people they think are claiming disability benefits who aren't entitled to them.

There are some real problems with this.
Many people have disabilities that aren't visible - many do not use wheelchairs. People with learning disabilities aren't always obvious. People with mental health issues are rarely 'visibly disabled'. People with many debilitating physical conditions may look OK to an outside observer. But the Sun, in it's wisdom, feels it's fine to brand these people as guilty cheats until proven innocent. This is little more than mob justice.

It's also very damaging to disabled people in general. It makes it acceptable to slag off people on disability benefits. It changes the climate so that people feel it's fine to point fingers at people and call them names - and this already happens in public. The Sun may say it doesn't condone this sort of vigilanteism but many of it's readers will take this campaign as justifying the sort of bullying and abusive actions that have driven more than one carer and disabled person to despair, or even suicide.

It also takes no notice of the many disabled people who, through pride or lack of information, do not claim benefits even though they are entitled to them - estimated to be significantly more money saved to the taxpayer than is lost to disability benefit fraud.

The Sun could have got behind disabled people and waged a campaign to get all disabled people the benefits they are entitled to. It could have changed the climate of public opinion in favour of humanity and justice rather than mob rule and vigilanteism. Maybe I'm hoping for too much from the organization that felt it was so far beyond the law that it was OK to hack any phones it liked.

It's major organizations changing attitudes like this that paves the way for the extreme right to say they have public support when they abuse disabled people in public. And if you think this doesn't happen, you haven't been out with a visibly disabled person lately.


  1. I think there's already been (one of many) formal complaints put to the Sun as a result of that article. Especially when the benefit line only results in 1% of all calls actually giving results of a cheat - over 97% of the calls apparently are purely made out of malicious intent (ex's, neighbours spatting, racists targetting anyone that looks 'foreign').

    I despair.

  2. Despair is not an option ....
    but it often seems like a good idea!