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Benefits: In Defence of the Fake Disabled

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The past week has seen Rod Liddle inflame debate in his almost non sequitur type piece. Following on, James Delingpole, in his Telegraph blog, has decided to back Mr Liddle's sentiments up. I would like to take the time to cordially respond.

With header of 'The fake disabled are crippling the economy' it's pretty easy to judge the flavour of James Delingpole's prose. Yes, another article fully obliging to the rhetoric that those pesky fakers are ruining our country. Mr Delingpole is also quick to proclaim that he's recently recovered from an 'M.E type illness' - to which I am sincerely pleased to hear. Trouble is, this is a familiar echo to any long term sufferer,

"What, you have M.E/Fibro? My mate had that last week, he's okay now. You want to get out more, you'll be as fit as a fiddle. Have a nap."

A familiar outlook that I've had to smile my way through on a regular basis, and the insinuation from Mr Liddle and Mr Delingpole that anyone with M.E/Fibro is a malingerer is overtly apparent, but it's nothing new. Let's not labour on this point, but instead I think attention needs to be given to the deliberate incitement in which they write. The world of journalism is akin to that of the magic circle, only with less capes and more trickery - like any trade, there's an ample list of tips, mischief, and slight of hand. Writing in the public domain, there is a somewhat lengthy process in which you have a multitude of opportunities to ponder and edit. So words that make a public platform have a very real streak of intent.

Placing an onus on the 'pretend' and 'fake' disabled is fairly lucid - and both Rod Liddle and James Delingpole are fairly concise in their statements that the fraudulent disability claimers are to blame for the country's woes. I find this quite astonishing. I find it even more troublesome that figures are not quoted to give any perspective to such a sweeping claim. By the government's own figures, only 0.5% of Disability Living Allowance claimants are fraudulent. By anyone's estimation, 0.5% is a minority.

Framing an article that addresses a fiscal crisis could have been centred around the fraudulent minority in general; for example, it was reported in the New Statesman that tax avoidance could cost the UK £69.9 billion a year. When looked upon from this angle, a healthy perspective is reached, and the burden is then placed on fraudsters instead of trying to get some viewing & copy figures by attacking disabilities and speculating who's affliction is worth state aid.

Let's not get into a numbers debate though, they're about as exciting to take part in as a Mathmagician on the ugly side of a children's party. The point is, an enigmatic question mark has been deliberately placed over all disabled persons, and every disability is now under a monumental weight of public scrutiny owing to virulent ramblings that just don't add up. The rhetoric has run away with itself and has gone uncontested.

The result of such a campaign is the apathetic and poisonous consequences that trickle down to those that do suffer due to chronic health. There has always been hate crimes and language at the disabled, and as most will agree, it is getting worse: disability campaigner, Nicky Clarke, conveys this area of societal abuse in her Guardian articles.

It's no coincidence that the word 'benefit' is now a dirty word, and by proxy, it now defines the disabled. If you're on benefits, then you are a lowlife by default. Of course, with the borrowed flavour of hyperbole in my fingers, not everyone hates or abuses the infirm, but deceptive opinion pieces from Mr Liddle et al - that are designed to titillate, are more dangerous than they would believe. You only have to read some of the comments on Mr Delingpole's blog to know that things are not quite right.

That said, there are rays of light. Brendan O'Neill, in his own Telegraph blog, puts forth the middle ground. To quote his last paragraph,

So on one side we have the Left saying "don't reform the disability-benefits system", and on the other we have the Right saying "reform it in order to save the state money". Both sides are wrong. The benefits system should be reformed, but for humanist rather than penny-pinching reasons, because there is nothing good, and a lot bad, with a system that is happier branding individuals as ill rather than having an honest, open debate about where modern capitalist society has gone wrong.

Mr O'Neill makes good points. There is a failing within the system, and it's one of complete inflexibility: Within my own comment section to my last blog, 'DancingRiver' made the point that those with fluctuating illnesses currently have very few outlets to work; and I shall leave the last words to them:

...it is reasonable, in my opinion, to ask for our needs to be accommodated at work, at school, and universities etc.

People have fixed perceptions of disability, general ideas about disability; one is either permanently disabled or permanently 'healthy'. None of these correspond to any reality. We struggle every day and we achieve great things with little help. Therefore, we have something to contribute. Of course this requires changing a few things socially, but it's not impossible; we just need to start being more political about it.