7 January 2008
The governments attempts to scapegoat sick and disabled people have reached new heights.
Before being forced to resign for alleged financial impropriety, Peter Hain characterised sick and disabled claimants as daytime TV addicts whose lifestyle harms their children.
Just weeks before being forced out of office, Mr Hain told the media that:
"The longer you stay on benefit, the more likely you are to die or retire on it. After you have been on it for a couple of years, and have a life of watching daytime television, your children are brought up in that environment. It is no better for them than it is for you. There's a steep fall in mental and physical health. That's bad for the individual and the public purse."
Mr Hain seemed to particularly have in mind young people with mental health problems when he launched his attack (see: Young mental health claimants to be first ESA targets 31.01.08). However, Mr Hain offered no evidence to support his assertions either that the majority of sick and disabled people ‘have a life of watching daytime TV’ or that the viewing habits of claimants are harmful to their children.
The assertion that there’s a steep fall in mental health of people on long-term incapacity benefit may well be true. But as many such claimants have chronic and deteriorating health conditions it’s difficult to see why this should be put down to their viewing choices rather than their ill health.
Finally, if it is the case that the children of incapacity benefits claimants have deteriorating health, it seems entirely possible that this could be attributed to a combination of long-term poverty and the lowered self-esteem caused by constant pillorying of their families in the media by wealthy, Oxbridge educated MPs who have experienced neither long-term sickness nor grinding want.
Mr Hain is, however, like many innocent claimants, learning what it feels like to be branded a liar and a fraud.
© 2008 Steve Donnison