Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


IT IS a universal truth that if you tax people they don't like it.

Poor people get uppity and rich people threaten to just get up and go, which means that whoever's running the country - and some days I honestly couldn't tell you - worries about who to tax.

It's a bit like listening to schoolchildren planning who to pick on next. Cleggy wants to tax the rich. Gideon thinks the rich will run away. Either way, Dishface wants to blame last year's bullies. The way they're carrying on they'll never get round to taxing people at all.

Luckily there is a solution, which is to take money from those who aren't real people and can't threaten to get up and go.

They're sly little sods, the disabled. They use wheelchairs when they're capable of walking for ten or twenty yards. They selfishly force businesses to install ramps and widen doorways, and make buses wait for a few seconds longer so they can get on board.

Some of them don't make it obvious they're disabled but keep their medical conditions hidden away so you wouldn't know to look at them that they're not like you. They need special signs and their own bogs, and they wilfully sit on vast piles of taxpayer cash. If you counted it all up, why, it would pay to bail out the banks all over again.

Luckily you can say what you like about them. You can call them frauds, cheats, liars. You can use names like mong and spaz, and talk about how they could work if they made the effort. Look at all those paralympians - if one spaz can do the high jump, why can't the rest of 'em do a job?

Which is why we're spending £170million a year making the disabled jump through hoops. That's the cost of the contract and appeals process for the assessments given to disabled people to see if they can work.

Around 1,400 doctors and nurses use a points system to decide if you're fit. The system decided a man who can't stand on his own two feet was fine; it said a man with an incurable brain disease was healthy; and it decided someone in a coma could get a job because he hadn't sent the form back. It's even accused 32 people who are terminally ill of malingering.

It's probably ferreting out people who aren't as disabled as they say they are. The Department for Work and Pensions' own estimates show that a whopping 0.5 per cent of disability living allowance is claimed fraudulently - worth £60m.

NOUGHT POINT FIVE PER CENT! Crivens, that's worth spending nearly three times as much to stop. We won't mention the fact official error accounts for another £90m of wasted money, because that's not as important.

Far better to spend £170m to save £60m, and while we're at it scoop in a few thousand disabled people who will have to give up millions more in order to make the government contract not look like a complete waste.

In fact if the 'savings' on the balance sheet don't pass £200m it will have been a failure, so we can rub our hands with glee at the likely prospect of disabled people losing at least £140m they've been hoarding, the lazy gits.

Money which for many is used to help them get to work so they can earn and pay taxes, and without which around 25,000 won't be able to do either. Money which pays for adapted cars, public transport, or to help the one third of disabled people who live in poverty because their conditions produce a higher cost of living.

It's far better that money is spent on paying for a massive government contract awarded to a French firm which is using some of the cash to sponsor the Paralympics. An optimist would say they're trying to give something back, a realist would say they're engaging in PR, and only a real cynic would suggest they're trying to prove everyone without legs can run just fine.

The games organisers say without sponsorship the Paralympics wouldn't happen; personally I'd rather they'd asked almost any other firm on Earth to do it. Presumably there are no banks with money or a need for good publicity.

But you can ignore me, because I'm a spaz. I was born with a brain wired differently to most people's, and while what is wrong with me isn't interfering with my life and probably won't get any worse, other people with the same thing are in wheelchairs and graves.

You wouldn't know it to look at me. I don't hide it because I'm not ashamed, but I don't make a point of mentioning it because people find it hard to grasp I'm fine while also having to occasionally compensate in silly little ways for something no-one else notices.

Disability is a spectrum - and I can get around my very minor one fairly easily. Because I can walk, and talk, and do a job people presume there's nothing different about me.

And because the Paralympians can run, and jump, and win gold medals, because they can overcome a severed spinal chord or a bomb blast or accident of birth and because they seem to be fine, people will think better of them than the hundreds of thousands who are confined to their homes and bedrooms and who cannot fight back when those playground bullies turn up and ask for money they can't afford.

I don't know how many of the athletes hold down a job, but I'll bet it's harder work to prove yourself to an employer than it is to an ATOS assessor.

They say the Paralympics are showing the best of British - and they are.

They're showing not only what disabled people are capable of with the right opportunities and funding, but also that if you want to call them scroungers, cheats, fraudsters, mongs, malingerers or spastics you'd best do it from a safe distance.

Just like all bullies do.

"Ivory tower? Not a problem."


notjarvis said...

Was rather impressed that the GB team all hid their Atos Sponsored Lanyards when they came out.

The WCA they preside over is clearly a shambles, but a fair bit of the fault must lie with government too who set the harsh descriptors ATOS operate under....

Danny Bramman said...

Well said, clear as always and very right

KD said...

I have a son who is severely disabled, cannot walk, talk nor use his hands well.
I have had people accuse us of being scroungers, had people say my son is a drain on society and that the money it cost when he was born at 26 weeks to keep him alive would have been better spent elsewhere in the NHS. But through it all my son is happy, we are a happy family and narrow minded fools rarely get to me.

The only time I was bothered was when I started a job with a guy who also had cerebral palsy, albeit not as severe as my son, I overheard the boss mention that they hired him to look good and he was the token politically correct employee. He was just as good at his job as the rest of us and yet it had taken his 30 interviews to get the job, and didn't want to be on benefits forever as he was told would be his only option at the Job Centre.

Ken Haylock said...

At the risk of coming across as a heartless persecutor of the sick and the lame, the "man who can't stand on his own two feet" is 36 years old and one of his feet are now buggered. The test is 'is he incapable of work'. Of course he bloody isn't. He used to be a road sweeper and I assume he won't be capable of doing that any time soon, nor indeed other kinds of work that require walking about or standing up for long periods. But really, if he can drive an unadapted car, and walk, slight limp or otherwise, from the car to a desk, and from a desk to the loo or the canteen, then surely he is no more incapable of doing paid work than you or I. Conversely if he needs an adapted car and needs to use a wheelchair or a knee crutch to get from car to desk, perhaps we as a society should be stumping up to pay for these things to level the playing field for him. But are you really suggesting that because his foot has packed up he should be allowed to pack it in and retire at 36 years old, funded by the rest of us? When therre are 36 year olds out there with no legs at all who seem to have no problem working?

Anonymous said...

Well done Foxy. Publicising such issues is the real purpose of a noble and free press, not the prurient reporting of some sleb's boob job and latest affair.

Matt said...

From your writing you would never know you had a disability, which, as like last night as I watched the athletes pour into the stadium made me realise how much of a c@nt I am by assuming everyone that looks 'normal' (for want of of a better word) has no disability.

All those I have waited behind because they cannot use a piece of technology or walk slowly may seem stupid at times but last night made me see that you can never tell what someone might be suffering from.

So hopefully from watching these games people will start treating others better and realise that not everyone is the same inside.

As an aside I have a little tip, don't google image search Katrina Hart the GB runner at work with safe search off.

Chris Wright said...

As spinal chord? *goes to piano and scratches head*

Ken Haylock said...

PS: Presumably the £60 million figure is for out and out fraud? I think the government believes that there's a lot more to be recovered from people who are claiming long term disability payments because they believe they are unable to work, when in fact that isn't objectively true. When people who had spent 40 or 45 years down a coal mine were thrown on the scrapheap after the pits closed, you could almost forgive the pragmatic idea of allowing them to go on the long term sick, given that the alternative would be expensively retraining them and then having them sit on a dole queue for three or four years until retirement age. Most of them would never work again whatever the government did, and the former mining communities they were from had enough problems without making things even worse.

Where did this lead to society deciding that 36 year old blokes with a non-functioning foot should be bankrolled to sit at home not seeking work for the next 30 years until retirement age? What next? Should Premiership footballers be allowed to claim once they hit 36 and have to give up playing because they aren't quick enough any more? Or would that be ridiculous?

Anonymous said...

The issue with this comment is that yes, in theory, the guy in your example could get a job. *could*.

But then so could the other 2.5 million unemployed. The difference is they could opt for virtually any menial job, whereas the guy in your example is limited to a much smaller number. And given the choice, does an employer take on someone disabled or someone able-bodied? Especially if it comes with the overhead of specialist equipment.

I do agree with you to an extent, that if you can work you should look for work - but ability to work != a job. Stopping someone's benefits because they could feasibly do 2% of the jobs other people can do doesn't strike me as the right way of doing things.

Yes, get them the equipment, get them help - maybe even offer incentives to employers to take on disabled staff - but to simply say "they can work, get a job" and lump them into the same category as able-bodied job seekers? That's just not right.

Elaine O said...

I used to do some work with people who used to work with people who were on Incapacity Benefit due to illness or disability and there was one piece of feedback I heard over and over again. One of the issues is that when people are put on Incapacity Benefit in the first place you are effectively confining them to the scrap heap without any help or support - effectively saying "here, take some money and go away." Not encouraging peopel to have a place in society (not necessarily work) is hardly going to do anyone's mental health much good. It was at the point where many people being assessed were being assessed on their original claim, but in actual fact they were now suffering from a debilitating mental health disorder. We need to stop treating disabled people as though they are some sort of other species, and encourage them to be a part of society. Clearly, this will manifest itself in different ways for different people and different circumstance. The Paralympics shows that for some, that will be through sport. However it happens, I think it's worth spending taxpayers' money on.

Anonymous said...

You had me at "Crivens"...

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right that there probably is work that he can do, unfortunately most employers will look at him and compare him to someone without a disability and make huge assumptions which in effect will mean he has little to no chance of finding work at a time when finding a job for everyone is difficult. I know this because my job revolves around helping people with disabilities find work and believe me, it is a huge uphill battle everyday. What we really need is a company who are prepared to give these people a chance and who are prepared to accept that in some cases they may not be able to achieve a 100% output from some people but in return they will receive loyalty, hard work and reliability. A company like Remploy maybe, oh wait.........

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what about a 86 year old Queen or a 56 year old CEO or a 26 year old rentier - he, wait a moment...

Socrates said...

I love you for that.
(And I used to think you were such a £$%!)

Anonymous said...

Yes and that is what Disabled Living Allowance is for, it helps those with a disability or chronic illness to enter/stay in work.
Guess what? The Government has decided that half a million people too many are claiming.
How they arrived at this conclusion they haven't revealed, but maybe its not because people are lazy shirkers but because there has been an advance in medical technology which means that many people who would have died from their heart attack/stroke/diabetes/car crash/IED, now don't. Nowadays with a bit of help they can actually have a decent life. Maybe not back to the same state of health as before their debilitating incident but sufficiently able to have an independent life and make a positive contribution to society.
Effectively abolishing DLA and replacing it with a new benefit called Personal Independent Payment for many will actually stop many sick or disabled people from working eg many blind people will effectively be denied it apparently the Government believes after a year or so you will get sufficiently used to being blind you don't really need any help.
btw You make having a 'non functioning foot' sound like a trivial matter, whereas it can come with all sorts of physical and mental conditions.

Joe said...

Great work as usual, Ms Foxy. Except you forgot to mention that the disabled get the best spaces reserved in the country's car parks, too.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant writing. If only more people realised that having a disability doesn't necessarily mean a visible and physical condition (such as missing a limb), then perhaps there wouldn't be such bigotry and ignorance.

Being unable to work through disability could happen to any fit and healthy 'normal' person. I am fortunate that my disabilities (long term medical conditions) still permit me to work, and that my employer is supportive. Not everyone is this fortunate.

Steve Dunstan said...

Thank you for that comment Elaine, absolutely hit the nail on the head.

Bill Kruse said...

I'm glad to see you're picking upon this, Fox.

Anonymous said...

No it's for fraud and error in Disability Living Allowance Claims. I believe incapacity and it's replacent have a figure that's around the 0.7% mark. Highest rate of fraud and error in regards to benefits is with Housing Benefit - which is administered by LAs not the DWP. Official error is the biggest issue when it comes to lost money. Most 'fraud' can most likely be put down to mistakes in regards to the permitted to work and when someone counts as cohabiting with you.

Also worth noting that DLA is non-means tested so many people who claim it do work/ are in work. It's intended to hell with the additional costs (like adapting cars, paying for physio, travel etc) that often come with a disability.

Anonymous said...

Issue is that initially (less so in the last 10 years when various rules changed) people on incapacity benefit were not allowed to do voluntary work. Which meant many people were not able to do anything to help get back into work - or at least take part in the community if they couldn't work. Bad advice from job centres has been one of the biggest issues for disabled people (and benefit claimants in general) unclear rules and poor training and often people with no emotional intelligence are one of the biggest issues that no one has ever bothered tackling.

nollyprott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Very enjoyable reading and well put across as always.

People like me with fluctuating conditions find it hard to maintain employment. And offers of retraining from this or any other government have been non exsistant. I'd happily return to work if I could find a part time office job. With no experience and needing a lot of sick leave,it is a tall order.

Anonymous said...

Not entirely at one with you on this, but you are always worth a read and are v.funny

Red Rag said...

I hope it is ok to copy and paste your article elsewhere. The need to get pieces like this given as much publicity is huge. Hope it is ok with you, and I have also included a link to your site for people to read other articles.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed the irony of the name of the Paralympics logo which is known as the "Agitos" ?

Take out the "gi" and what are you left with ?

Who says no advertising in the Olympics hey ?

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