Thursday 4 April 2013

Open Letter to the Telegraph

Dear Daily Telegraph,

Yesterday, you published an article by Allison Pearson, ("Mick Philpot, a good reason to cut benefits" 3rd April) based on a press release issued over the Easter weekend by Conservative Central Office. (NB :NOT the DWP who are barred from issuing overtly political and partisan press releases)

Your original story (900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests, 30th March) claimed "828,300 sick or disabled ppl had chosen to drop their claims rather than face new tougher assessments (my italics). That claim simply isn't true.

What's more, it wasn't true back in April 2011, either, when the gov first made the same false claim.

A little while later, The DWP's themselves issued figures showing a huge proportion (94%) of claims were dropped because the person got better or went back to work. They dropped their claims because they were honest, not because they were dishonest!!

There is a three month qualifying period for out of work sickness benefits. (ESA/IB)

As you can imagine, most people need a little help to get through a nasty illness or accident at some point in their lives.

Maybe a weekend rugby player who snaps his collar bone resulting in 2 months off work, or the Mum who needs a sudden hysterectomy and time afterwards to heal? This will happen to every last one of us at some point.

But you can't get help when you really need it any more, in those first terrible weeks of pain and recovery. Now you have to wait 3 months before you can apply.

In that time, for all but the most unfortunate, bones and scars will have healed and the person will be back on their feet again.

With no point in continuing the claim, people do the honest thing and let the DWP know they no longer need support.

This information is all in the public domain and all proven by evidence. Yet the government send out a politicised press release over the Easter weekend aimed at mis-leading the public and encouraging an entire nation to mis-trust one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

Worse still, you run the story unquestioningly, repeating claims that had already been proven to be completely untrue.

Today, referring to the same misleading conservative HQ press release, Allison suggests a child murdering abuser (Mick Philpott) is somehow representative of the same group of very unwell or disabled people

"That’s nearly a million Britons who were taking the Mick. And they didn’t stop until they were about to be found out."

The aim of these press releases and subsequent articles in your paper is clearly to demonise people with severe illnesses or disabilities, to imply that nearly a million of them were dishonest scroungers when exactly the opposite is true and to make a wider public resent and judge a group of people who most need their support.

If its simply headlines you need, I can give you plenty : "140,000 incorrect sickness benefit decisions legally overturned" or how about "Disability testing centres inaccessible to disabled people" or maybe "Sick and disabled ppl to lose £28.3 billion - nearly a quarter of the entire deficit."

I can barely bring myself to ask why a government in 2013, here in the UK, would feel it can repeatedly issue information they know to be untrue in order to vilify people with conditions like cancer or MS or cerebral palsy.

But that a national newspaper can support such a dangerous campaign, or be complicit in misleading the public to believe the worst of those most in need? That's truly shocking to me.

When stories are this sensitive and affect so many disadvantaged people, we have a duty to get it right. If these welfare "reforms" are just, the government should have no need to mislead or misinform.

But as Lord Leveson's report so recently showed, it's even more important that any information making claims about people who, in many cases, won't even be able to respond for themselves, is closely scrutinised and balanced.

We can't afford to get this wrong. History will judge us on the success or failure of these reforms. How sensitively were they handled? How accurate were they? How many suffered?

Finally, lets remember this is not simply a minority issue. A huge 3.4 million people with long term illnesses or disabilities will be affected by these changes to social security, not to mention their families and carers. The rest of us will all need a little support at some point.

Approaching reform with a degree of honesty and sensitivity is surely the very least sick and disabled people can expect?


  1. Excellent piece of writing. That anti welfare propaganda machine is in full swing and is costing real lives.

  2. Telegraph also stated that DLA was "a charter for State sponsored deceit and idleness"

  3. I don't know why they don't just rename the paper, The "Tory Tomes" or the True Blue Daily Ragge?!

  4. Great post Sue. I don't know how you do it, you're such a warrior

  5. I see Osborne has jumped on this bandwagon.
    Great letter just wish Labour thought Welfare was a winnable and actually did something rather than to let coalition walk all over them.

  6. Thank you so much Sue for writing this! Best wishes, as ever, from Liverpool. Maggie

  7. Sue, you should immediately turn your open letter into a complaint against the Telegraph and send it to the Press Complaints Commission.

    You can make a complain online, if that is preferred.

    Thank you so much for such a clear explanation of how the government and the Telegraph have tried to deceive the British people towards bigotry and hatred.

  8. At a time when society should be debating the unfairness of the bedroom tax, changes to DLA, the way benefits will be paid in the future etc, the fact that millionaires are getting a great tax break when others are suffering, the media and conservative mp's are tarring all benefit claimants with the same brush as a man who killed his children in a burning building. We are all evil and a product of the welfare state. How can we fight back, I want to but don't know how everthing is such a struggle and everything is skewed against us who need help from the state.

  9. When a formerly employed middle class woman kills her children, with more premeditation than the admittedly vile Philpotts, the "Daily Mail" doesn't question her lifestyle up to the point of the murders. When middle class people kill their sons and daughters, crime writers are deployed to explain what went wrong with these individuals.

  10. This is terrifying >> "Sick and disabled ppl to lose £28.3 billion - nearly a quarter of the entire deficit."

    Do you have a source for that? It makes me want to link it all over the internet...

    1. It was done in a study by the think tank Demos - the government has insisted they can't be arsed to do an impact assessment, so the Demos Team did. It's pretty worrying stuff:

  11. Did the Telegraph mention that the treasury loses ten times more money through tax evasion/avoidance than it loses through benefit fraud.

  12. Great piece Sue. Something I don't understand is that if an MP lies to Parliament, it is a very serious matter. But if they lie to the public - the voters - the people who pay their generous salaries and expenses, then that's acceptable - part of the political game. I think Osborne has shown himself unfit for public office by this recent outburst on the Philpott case. I've just listened to a Tory MP on Radio 5 Live defend him on this and on his driver using a disabled parking space. Shameless, the lot of them.

  13. I am one of these 900k ! I walked away from the system because it is, as we know, a deeply floored and abusive system. I was treated as a number, as everyone going through it knows. On my last assessment I had a panic attack & was asked how long would I be? As a person with Epilepsy, having regular seizures, the stress was too much to bear. I walked away because the system which was meant to help me was no hell at all.

  14. I have twice started an application for DLA, but was unable to continue it because I found the ESA application so stressful I simply cannot face the DLA one. I was put in the Support Group for ESA, and don't get enough money to live on, so I desperately need DLA. But I just can't face the stress of the application process.

    Nobody who possibly has any other means of survival would apply for ESA. It is a truly horrendous experience which exacerbates people's ill-health.

  15. loonylefty your not alone stay strong
    So many sick and disabled have died through additional stress placed upon them in going through the welfare reform bill and still the government are getting away from prosecution.

    If the government are not stopped soon only a very small select group of sick and disabled people will be left living as the government know that the general public wont come to their defence which gives a green light light to take away all of our benefits leaving us like myself in a very frail like nelson Mandela like position and death around the corner

    who will make it through to the end that's the big question ?
    who will be able to fight to the death from a house bound position ?

    who will be looking out for those that live alone ? I do i may add and was punished by the DWP for doing so

    but in general who will be on the lookout for those like sue who has to take to her bed ?

    And then their are those who live alone and are bed bound ? what sort of hell will they be living in ?

    The uk is at a crossroads with thousands of lives at stake and like the many thousands that have already died where will all this death be leading to?

    without public support the vast majority will die so we need to be proactive if we can and if thing get bad don't hesitate to tell the police as they are very helpful when things get tough

    they will not leave you to rot but take the right sort action be it with the council or whoever and like me you'll fight on like i have done for the past 30 years or so and fight another day

    I'm very frail like nelson Mandela but younger at 60 but we have both had a tough life although my battles go on with the DWP as they've always done and that will never change till my death

    nelson Mandela likewise will have to live quietly as the years he suffered in prison have taken their toll and as say we've both got the same body shape because we've been abused for years and all you get from being abused is TB with a very hollow chest

  16. Thank you so much for this post. I'm also on benefits and ill, and am really angry about this. So sick of being sick, and tarred with the benefit scrounger brush. Xxx

  17. Totally agree with what you say but you missed out the poor when you said about philpott

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