Money, money, money
The Comprehensive Spending Review continues, and by and large we're none the wiser about what will actually come to pass when it's all done and dusted. We know it's not going to be good and thanks to the likes of the Institute of Fiscal Studies poorer people are going to take a more than a fair whack of the economic medicine about to dispensed from the Treasury. But, don't be fooled - the Government is playing a skilful game. They have said there will be cuts, and given out some pretty big numbers but there is no real inclination of what actual impact will be. There has also been a steady drip of 'disabled scrounger' stories in the media and one paper even has a beat the benefit scroungers campaign and 'hotline'. Though, I can only imaging that the people ringing are from various arms of the Government's long tentacles. How many people video their neighbour on the hunch that their green fingers belies that they are receiving benefits they might not qualify for, or hang out in night clubs on the off chance of taking a picture of a dancer doing a bit of benefit moonlighting? A whole group has been tarred with the same brush and we have to ask to what end and for what reason? Just how bitter will the medicine be and why should the already most economically disadvantaged have a rather pernicious and accusing finger pointed at them? It doesn't quite feel right: They've given us a problem, an issue that needs defeating, set a course of direction and then put their heads back under the covers and won't come out till they've arrived at the destination they wanted to get to in the first place.
At the same time as being willing to offer comment about the current benefit system as a whole and on individual cases if you, I or an inquisitive hack asks a Government department about it's spending plans the response is along the lines of "we are in the middle of a comprehensive spending review process and are not going to give a running commentary on it.” Keep yer head down, crank up the rhetoric, (only 0.5% - that's right - less than 1% of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance claims are fraudulent!), and then let the indignation grow as stories of scroungers whirl around unqualified and misrepresent a whole section of society.
The whole process is dangerous as well as depressing. Every time a fresh bought of scrounger stories hit the headlines more disabled people are more likely to be shouted at in the street. Just how easy do our comparatively privileged and pampered politicians think it is for people with chronic fatigue or learning difficulties to get into our ferocious the job market? For some, due to the level of their impairment, work will not be an option. What does the Government think will happen to people often on the economic, social and cultural fringes of society. What type of society do we want to live in? At every opportunity we've said - on the BBC, Sky News, The Guardian - that the Government hasn't considered the impact of its spending review on disabled people. At every opportunity we've tried to hold them to account, and we will continue to do so and it's about time they stared to listen. But, I won't hold my breath