Daily Mail Uses Disabled Woman To Lie About Disability Support

by richardhutton

Significantly, in light of the recent cuts to in-work social protection, the Daily Mail published an article on 10th January 2013[1], which it amended two days later, in order to reinforce a distorted image about the reality of being disabled, and in receipt of support.

The poor quality of this article is made plain by the number of inconsistencies the two versions contained:

Title:

‘Putting others to shame: The disabled mother, 45, who refuses to claim benefits and works FIVE jobs even though she would be £300 better off on the dole’ by Lucy Crossley/Daily Mail; 10th January 2013.

‘Poorer but happier: The mother who gave up benefits to work despite being £400 worse off a month’ by Andrew Levy/Daily Mail; 12th January 2013.

Subtitle:

“Nina Friday juggles work as a cleaner, a care worker, a caretaker, a school midday supervisor and runs a website. She has lived in constant pain since rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Despite her hard work she is £300 a month worse off than on benefits” (Lucy Crossley version)

“Nina Charbecks juggles work as a cleaner, a care worker, a caretaker, a school midday supervisor and runs a website. She has lived in constant pain since rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Despite her hard work she is £400 a month worse off than on benefits” (Andrew Levy)

Throughout the two versions of the article, the Mail attributes various quotes to the woman in question. For instance, according to the Mail’s earlier article:

“’In total I work about 35 hours a week,’ Ms Friday told The Daily Star newspaper. ‘But it still isn’t enough to cover what I would have been on from disability and living allowance.’”

In the amended article this becomes:

“The mother of two had been receiving around £1,260 a month from income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit and payments related to her rheumatoid arthritis”.

In reality, while income support is available to people who are unemployed, Working Tax credits are available to people who work. People who work less than 16 hours per week remain eligible for income support. In fact, even if they work longer hours than this, people may still be eligible for income support if they are a carer, or – of all things – a part-time firefighter, or member of the Territorial Army. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a non-means-tested, non-taxable payment, which disabled people can claim whether they are employed or unemployed. It is designed to help with the extra costs of daily living caused by their condition. Being in work does not mean this support automatically ceases.

In the later version of the article, the Mail quotes:

“There’s plenty of work out there but people are fussy – particularly when they get their rent and council tax paid”

Again, in reality, housing benefit is available to people in work; as is council tax support, at the time of writing.

It is noteworthy that when the Mail amended its article, it chose to omit any mention of how the woman’s disability actually affects her. In the original version, it wrote that:

“As a result of her arthritis, Ms Friday finds that some simple tasks can take her hours to finish because of the terrible pain in her joints”.

This disappeared two days later. The Mail also elected to remove the following:

“‘There are hundreds of people like me who would be happy to work but don’t because they’d be worse off.'”

This is not based in reality, at all. Disability support does not stop because somebody secures employment: only unemployment support does – this payment is minimal, and is dwarfed by the average weekly salary. As noted previously, income support, housing benefit, and council tax support are all currently available to people who work.

This is not news reporting on the real experience of being disabled, and in need of social protection – this is using a dupe to help push forward a fallacy: that people on benefits are scroungers, receiving handouts, and will benefit from having this support removed. Contrary to the impression readers of the Mail’s article will be left with, in Britain, the majority of disabled people already work. Pretending otherwise is unsavoury in its own right – but here the Mail is exploiting a disabled woman to make the case for cutting social protection to all working people with disabilities.

Update: as some readers have pointed out, income support is available to the unemployed – I was thinking of working tax credits. Thanks for pointing this out – I’ve amended this.


[1] ‘Poorer but happier: The mother who gave up benefits to work despite being £400 worse off a month’ by Andrew Levy/Daily Mail; 12th January 2013: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260118/Disabled-mother-45-refuses-claim-benefits-works-FIVE-jobs–400-better-dole.html

It notes: “PUBLISHED: 12:40, 10 January 2013 | UPDATED: 02:06, 12 January 2013”

The original version has vanished; but I was able to retrieve a copy of it from the Iconocast website:

http://www.iconocast.com/01-10-2013/58/Disabled-mother-who-refuses-to-claim-benefits-works-FIVE-jobs-would-still-be-better-off.php

For more information on income support, see the government’s own guidlines in ‘Income Support’:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/advisers/claimforms/a1_print.pdf

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