Dearly beloved friends,
Cordial greetings and a very good day.
As a resident of Great Britain I have become increasingly concerned with the climate of hostility towards my countries sick and unemployed, fostered by politicians and misguided ultra right-wing journalists. It now seems that these, often very vulnerable people, are considered fair game and somehow deserve to be vilified and demonised. Odious comparisons are drawn between ‘skivers and strivers’ and the mentally and physically sick are subjected to harsh and unsound work capability assessments, simply designed to declare them fit for work, regardless of how unwell they actually are. The grim reality is that many poor and vulnerable people are either loosing or being denied essential welfare benefits to which they are rightfully entitled. Many find themselves unfairly ‘sanctioned’ by the DWP (the British government department responsible for administering welfare) for *alleged *violation of the rules. Now am I alone in thinking that all of this highlights a new and troubling trend in this supposedly tolerant nation? Why, it is now almost tacitly assumed that the vast majority of unemployed are feckless ‘scroungers’ and that those claiming sickness benefits are probably swinging the lead and almost certainly exaggerating the extent of their medical condition. Is it any great wonder then that in the current age of austerity the unemployed and disabled have become easy scapegoats?
It is a chilling sign of the times, dear friends, that such a harsh new mood towards the sick and unemployed has become acceptable and normative. What admits of no doubt is that there has most certainly been a hardening of attitudes among the British public, so much so that if one even dares now to defend the sick/jobless then one may find themselves being branded a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ and even a Socialist. Unfortunately, much of the blame for this sad state of affairs must rest on the shoulders of the extreme right-wing press and the present governments ill-conceived welfare reforms. There has in recent times been a new dialogue respecting disability, characterised by the unremitting drip-drip of stories implying that the vast majority of benefits claimants are bogus and live a carefree lifestyle at the taxpayers expense. We are continually told that benefits have been doled out without proper checks and that people have, for example, been given indefinite disability payments just because they feel a little depressed and stressed. Alas, very few people are prepared to stop and ask if this is merely ultra right-wing political propaganda, designed to curry the favour of the chattering middle-class and secure their vote on the ballot paper.
Alas, dear friends, it is a sad fact that there has been a significant increase in articles about ‘benefits cheats milking the system’ and ‘feckless scroungers and skivers’ in the media. Moreover, this propaganda, for such it is, is not only to be found in tabloids like the Daily Mail, but also in quality broadsheets. However, what is also very noticeable is that alongside the increase in such shameful articles is a gradual reduction in reports on discrimination and sympathetic stories about the sick and unemployed. Politicians remark that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of the media, but they are clearly not ignorant as to how the game is played.
However, dear friends, it is not only the press who is to blame. Much of the propaganda has emanated from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which has twisted facts, manipulated statistics and distorted data to win widespread support for its drive to cut costs and crack down on benefit abuse. Now it does not take rocket science to see that this cascade of spurious claims and scandalously spun stories results in demonising the sick and unemployed and hardening public attitudes towards them. In reality, levels of fraud for disability benefits are 0.5%, much lower than for other benefits and, indeed, less than the level of errors made by government officials. This is certainly a glaring and despicable social injustice, but what is far worse is that the British public have largely allowed themselves to be duped, hook, line and sinker. Sadly, you will always find a celebrity to voice their disapproval on the plight of badgers, but you would be hard pressed to find any who will champion the cause of the sick and unemployed and denounce the shameful injustices being perpetrated against them.
If, dear friends, there is one group who have really suffered as consequence of the British governments recent welfare reforms, then it is those with mental health problems. Incontrovertably, they have felt the coldest chill of the new mood of intolerance of which I have been speaking. The problem for these poor souls is that often they do not look obviously disabled and are therefore targeted as being workshy or of not thinking positively about what they can achieve. This is jolly patronising and based upon sheer ignorance.
My plea, dear friends, is for the Catholic faithful in Britian to champion the cause of the sick and unemployed and be a voice for them. Please write to your Member of Parliament and raise the issues which I have discussed, stating your dissatisfaction with the way that your fellow citizens are being treated in a supposedly civilised society.
God bless and thankyou kindly for taking the time to read the above.
Warmest good wishes,