Make a note in your diary: Channel 4, Friday, December 17 (tomorrow), 7.30pm, Dispatches: The Truth About Disability Benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions doesn’t want anybody to see it, apparently.
It’s a documentary investigating the unexpected deaths of disabled benefits claimants, including those who have taken their own lives.
It’s been scheduled at short notice – but the DWP will be taking very careful note of viewing figures for this programme, hoping that it attracts a smaller audience than usual, as this can then be shown as proof that there really isn’t any great public interest in the lives and deaths of benefits claimants.
As the website Benefits and Work states,
If that’s the case, they can carry on denying there’s a problem and keep on covering up the suffering inflicted on disabled claimants by a heartless system.
But the more people who watch the documentary, the harder it will be for the department to brush aside its findings.
And the more likely that others will begin investigating the secrecy surrounding almost everything the DWP does.
Long-term readers of This Site will know that I spent more than two years fighting for the DWP to release up-to-date death statistics on people claiming the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (and its forerunners).
The Information Commissioner’s Office eventually forced the government department to release its figures in August 2015 – but it could only provide those for people who had died within two weeks of having their benefits cancelled as civil servants do not follow up on what happens to people beyond that time.
This means that a lot of information about the fate of claimants whose benefits have been cancelled is hidden from the general public – but the little I was able to secure was damning, as it showed that thousands of people had died for unexplained reasons within the three years covered by my Freedom of Information request.
I would have pursued the matter further but we all know what happened next: I reported on false claims of anti-Semitism against members of the Labour Party and was then accused of anti-Semitism myself. I’ve spent the last five years fighting those falsehoods in one form or another.
So I’m glad that John Pring of the Disability News Service has been pushing matters forward.
It seems he was the one who contacted TV production companies around three years ago (2018?) calling for a documentary to be made, and the Dispatches film will apparently tell the stories of the DWP’s disabled victims.
Benefits and Work quotes Mr Pring as saying:
“Those stories are shocking. What is almost as shocking is that we are still waiting for an in-depth, independent inquiry into DWP’s repeated failures over the last decade – and even earlier than that – to learn from its mistakes and make its assessment system safe.
“Countless disabled people have died because of that failure. We need an inquiry now.”
The documentary is filmed and presented by disabled film-maker Richard Butchins, who has had personal experience of the DWP’s ways.
Relatives of deceased claimants will be speaking out on television for the first time, to explain how the system contributed to the deaths of their loved ones.
And there is testimony from a DWP whistleblower who describes a dismissive and mocking attitude toward claimants among staff at the department.
Allow me to reiterate: the Tory government wants this show to get low viewing figures so it can put out propaganda saying the British public don’t care if a few (hundred)(thousand) cripples croak it after being denied the payments they need to live.
So we need as many people to be told about it as possible.
If you can tell your family and friends, please do. Let’s make sure this is something the Tories can’t lie about.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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