This post also appears on the excellent Where’s the Benefit? blog, which is keeping tracks of the budget cuts and the impact on (disability) benefits
I’d love to know what it’s like being someone with the mindset of a Daily Mail reader. It must be fascinating to be outraged by something today that is the exact opposite of the thing you were outraged by yesterday.
The subject of benefits is ripe ground for this: on the one side you have the “benefit scrounging scum” who are displaying frankly extraordinary skill and expertise in amassing small fortunes at the expense of your average hard-working taxpayer. On the other, you have “our brave lads” and “heroes” whose sacrifice and commitment to our way of life the government isn’t valuing by scrimping and saving on the measly difference of a few quid a week.
Into this melting pot of prejudice, hypocrisy and knee-jerk reaction enters the “hero officer blinded by gunman Raoul Moat”, David Rathband. The DWP has assessed him as being eligible for the lower mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, £18.95 a week, compared to the higher rate of £49.85.
Predictably, the Daily Mail is appaled by this decision, branding it “paltry” and quoting Mr Rathband as follows:
If only they knew how hard it is being blind. I need help just to get to the end of my garage. Each day is a challenge to get about. As a blind person you have to learn a route in your mind, if it’s walking to the shops and back, and it’s taken me six weeks just to do that. How on earth does that make me mobile? I’m going to appeal the decision. I don’t know if I’ll win or not but this is a point of principle.
This, of course, from the the paper which gave us:
— George Osborne’s remedy for a crippling benefit (bonus points for particularly distasteful use of language)
— Just one in six incapacity benefit claimants ‘is genuine’ as tough new test reveals TWO MILLION could be cheating (extra style points for use of capital letter for emphasis)
All in all, this amounts to the usual, ill-informed hypocrisy of the Daily Mail. Only it could glowingly quote a hero talking about the “principle” of the positive difference benefits makes in their day-to-day life, whilst at the same time lambasting every other benefit recipient as a “scrounger”.
With all due respect to Mr Rathband and the difficulties he will undoubtedly face for the rest of his life, there are plenty of people in far worse a position than him who are being targeted by the coalition government’s wilful confusion of Disability Living Allowance as an “out-of-work benefit” and the Daily Mail’s gleeful coverage of people that fit the bill.
Perhaps the Daily Mail should recognise how hard it is being a disabled person by ensuring everybody gets the right level of welfare support they need, rather than just those it happens to think are the most deserving.