The Daily Mail has again been heavily criticised by disabled activists after publishing a “map of workshy Britain”, which highlights the towns and cities where the highest numbers of people have been found “fit for work”.
The Mail has repeatedly published news and comment pieces which have misrepresented official statistics on the controversial new work capability assessment (WCA), and which disabled activists say has stirred up hostility towards disabled people.
The Daily Mail news story is just the latest by the right-wing media to use Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures to suggest that all those disabled people being found fit for work are “workshy”.
And it has led to further calls for an inquiry into how the misuse of DWP figures is fuelling hostility towards disabled people.
The new figures show the number of people on old-style incapacity benefit (IB) who have been reassessed for the new employment and support allowance (ESA), broken down according to where they live.
But the Mail fails to point out any of the widely-publicised flaws in the WCA.
It also does not point out that only just over two per cent of former IB claimants who were found fit for work found jobs in the first year of the government’s new Work Programme.
And it fails to state that large numbers of those being found fit for work are appealing those decisions, with many of them winning those appeals.
Debbie Jolly, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “The so-called ‘workshy’ map published by the Mail is yet another attack on disabled people – it was one that was easily countered with the facts, yet it was also something designed to incite negative attitudes towards disabled people in a time of increasing disability hate crime.”
She said DPAC had already provided information about media demonisation of disabled people as part of a report on the WCA, which was submitted following a request for information from the UN committee monitoring the disability rights convention.
Nick Dilworth, a welfare benefits specialist from the campaigning social justice website ilegal, said: “What is wrong about that article is it just looks at vilifying benefit claimants. How do they know they are workshy? That’s ridiculous.”
He said the vilification by the Daily Mail of disabled people found fit for work was also “alienating potential employers”.
Dilworth said: “This constant vilification is not only damaging to the mindsets of the claimants involved, it is also very damaging to the mindsets of potential employers.
“If everybody found fit for work is ‘workshy’, what employer is going to want to employ them?”
He said that Work Programme providers “need to be challenging the media and saying ‘you are really damaging the prospects of this programme working’”.
Labour MP Sheila Gilmore, a member of the Commons work and pensions select committee, has already said she will push for the committee to carry out an inquiry into the use of misleading statistics by work and pensions ministers.
The committee – which is chaired by the disabled Labour MP Dame Anne Begg – is due to decide this week which new inquiries it plans to tackle.
The Daily Mail failed to respond to a request for a comment.
9 May 2013