NUJ Release: Stop calling disabled people scroungers

November 20, 2011
Disabled People are being demonised in the press as “work shy” and “scroungers” and as a result are facing hostility from the public and in some cases physical attacks.
In response, the NUJ’s Disabled Members Council has issued a statement urging journalists to operate within our recognised code of ethics, which calls in all NUJ members and media colleagues to “support and sustain fair and balanced reporting of matters relating to disabled people”.
The council talks of a drip feed of stories relating to incapacity benefit fraud, when the facts show it is, at 0.3 per cent, the lowest of all welfare benefit frauds.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The NUJ stands up for fair and accurate reporting of disability issues. The union has a long-standing ethical code of conduct and provides reporting guidance to NUJ members.
“In the current climate we are asking all journalists to think long and hard before writing stories that whip up hatred against disabled people and those with long term health conditions. The NUJ is opposed to all prejudice and scapegoating based on a person’s disability or perceived disability and this includes anyone who is targeted as a result of their physical disability, sensory impairment, learning disability or mental health.
“Our disabled members are reporting increased discrimination and physical attacks ” so we have issued the following NUJ statement to raise awareness and express our solidarity:
NUJ Disabled Members Council Statement relating to media coverage of disabled people:
Over the last few months we have seen a continuous drip-feed of stories which have promoted a range of inaccurate and generalisedaccusations against disabled people with long term health conditions. As a result disabled people have faced greater hostility from the public, with many claiming that they have experienced hostility, discrimination and even physical attacks from strangers.
The majority of disabled people actively support legal action against those few who do falsely claim, but equally, Scope, and other charities agree that there is powerful evidence that a “backdrop of negativity” behind the cuts is leading to a rise in hostility and even violence towards some of the most vulnerable in society who fairly and correctly claim benefits.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee on Incapacity Benefit have themselves criticised the Government for the language it uses when it releases and comments on official statistics on the incapacity benefit reassessment programme resulting in some media using terms such as “scrounger” and “work shy”.
Further investigation into the Government’s own statistics on the incapacity benefit fraud rate reveal that this particular benefit has a fraud rate of 0.3% which is the lowest of all welfare benefits.  Disability Living Allowance also has a low rate of 0.5%, again, much lower than other benefit rates.
Rather than offering constructive support to disabled people, certain stories and features  have portrayed disabled people as unsustainable, unproductive and even  not disabled at all, but profiting from fraudulent benefit claims. However, little attention is paid to the poor performance of ATOS Healthcare in respect of their medical assessments which continue to be criticised by UK Parliamentary inquiries as well as by advocacy groups such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. Indeed the UK Deartment of work and Pensions is reported in 2011 to have by far the highest number of decisions overturned at appeal by any UK Department of State.
The NUJ Disabled Members Council calls on all journalists to continue to operate within our recognised code of ethics, which upholds the rights of all individuals and groups to fair and just representation.  In line with our code the Disabled Members Council call on the NEC, all NUJ members and media colleagues to support and sustain fair and balanced reporting of matters relating to disabled people who are increasingly fearful, not just of the cuts being forced on them, but also of the continual demonising of disability.
The NUJ code of conduct and reporting disability guidelines can be found
Stephen Brookes – Joint Chair Disabled Members Council

Meeting next week

November 6, 2011

Islington trades unionists and anti-cuts campaigners will be meeting next week to build maximum support in Islington for up to 3 million public sector workers likely to be striking on Wednesday 30 November in defence of their pensions.

The meeting, called by IHOOPS (Islington Hands Off Our Public Services), will also be discussing how those of us who use the borough’s libraries can unite with the staff who work in them to resist cuts in the service imposed on the Council by the Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition government.

IHOOPS spokesperson, Ken Muller, said:

“After it was revealed last week that the directors of the top hundred companies in the UK paid themselves a 49% pay increase last year, we want to hear no more from the likes of Cameron and Osborne that we are all in this together. It is disgusting that, when the Tories’ fat cat friends are continuing to live it up on their bonuses, the rest of us – not just in the public sector, but in the private sector too – are being told to pay more and work longer for substantially reduced pensions. It is equally disgusting that they are depriving the 99% of ordinary people of important services like libraries at a time when they are doing nothing about the £120 billion in taxes avoided or evaded by the rich every year. The Tories and their millionaire friends must be laughing all the way to the bank. They will not be smiling on 30 November.”

For further information, contact: Ken Muller on 07950075088.

Islington People’s Assembly – THE VIDEO

November 2, 2011