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The disabled “scrounger” myth

September 17 2013

stephen-hawking_2571635bI become more and mere frustrated on behalf of disabled people when the word scrounger always seem to crop up whenever the media are discussing benefits.

I recently read a feature in the Daily Telegraph about a GP claiming that his surgery was swamped by the “disgruntled unworking well” and that he was considering displaying a poster of Professor Stephen Hawking along with the caption: “This bloke is not on the sick” on his premises.

His argument seemed to be that if Professor Hawking can work, so can most disabled people.  This is a rather puzzling comment. Disabled people are all individuals with different needs and abilities and motivations.

Many of the disabled people we support tell us that they face real barriers when trying to access education, training and the workplace. Our Enterprise Agency works to help hundreds of disabled and/or disadvantaged people who want to set-up their own business, often because they have been unable to enter the world of work in any other way. They don’t lack talent and certainly not motivation, but they have to deal with the fact that the workplace is not always welcoming for disabled people and that there is a real absence of opportunity.

The Paralympics did much to change our perception of disabled people, but again we have to remember that not all disabled people can be athletes, or like Stephen Hawking globally renowned physicist, but they all have something unique to contribute to society. Labelling them as “scroungers” is not helpful or justified. Of course there are people that will attempt to abuse any system. Many successful , working people abuse the taxation system for instance, even big multi-nationals. Do we label them ALL as Tax Evaders? A minority of people only abuse the benefit system, the majority just want to have access to the support they need to be able to live independent lives.

What we should be doing as a society is looking for ways to provide opportunity and ensure that we are fully inclusive.

Let us be clear that Stephen Hawking was able to access high quality education which gave him the best possible start in life. What are we doing to ensure equality of access to education? The recent funding cuts have made it much more difficult for disabled people to get into further education.

As a community PLEASE let’s do all we can to moderate this disparaging and devaluing language and rhetoric about disabled people and benefits. Many of the people we support have very complex needs and the mainstream world of work will probably never be a possibility for them. We should always remember to value them as individuals and that every life is precious. Let’s all be committed to challenging the tabloid driven rhetoric about scroungers whenever we hear it.

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