Friday, 4 February 2011

Complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over Daily Mail

Today I decided to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).  It was in regards to a piece done by the Daily Mail on disability benefits.  Its actually one of many articles and they seem to be intent on creating hate for people on benefits.

The article in question, written by James Chapman, had the headline "The great disability benefit free-for-all: Half of claimants are not asked to prove eligibility"

It went on to add that "half the 3.2million people on disability benefit have never been asked for evidence to back their claims, it emerged last night."

With huge thanks to Rhydian Fôn James and the Broken of Britain for the statistics and links; This claim by the Daily Mail is not only grossly inaccurate and misleading, but is also a distortion and misrepresentation of the truth. 

There are no Disability Living Allowance claimants who have never been asked to provide evidence - filling in the long application form (40+ pages) is a prerequisite of a successful claim. Not only do you have to complete the application form, answering the most personal questions from showering/bathing, to dressing, to feeding, you need to explain how it affects you on a daily basis, including your mental health.  It's hard enough having to live with a progressive illness but to then have to put it down in black and white can be pretty degrading and stressful.

There are Special Rules for claimants who need their claim processed quickly - in cases of terminal illness, for example - but these rules only apply to 1.2% of the DLA caseload or 37,800 people. [source]

The Daily Mail claims that "More than two million people on DLA have been given indefinite awards, which means they have no further contact with officials about whether they still need the benefit."

The Hansard document does show that a majority of DLA claimants are given 'Indefinite' Awards. The prevalence of this type of award reflects that a great many impairments are lifelong, progressive and cannot be cured, and that reassessment of these cases would be a waste of time and public money. However, you can still be called for an assessment at any time.  The Daily Mail article distorts these facts to support their claim that disabled people have never been asked for evidence when making a claim for DLA.

The article also says that: 'The Department for Work and Pensions says the number of people on DLA has risen inexplicably from 2.5million in 2003 to nearly 3.2million.' In fact, the DWP have said nothing of the sort and that there are many possible explanations - including population growth, demographic shift, and increased awareness of the benefit. 

By reporting that the increase in benefit claims is inexplicable, the Daily Mail fails to distinguish between fact and comment.

The article reports that: 'Of those [claimants], 31 per cent – almost a million – have been claiming for 14 years or more, while 46 per cent have been on the benefit for more for ten years.' Whilst this claim is accurate, and related to the statistics for indefinite awards, it is distorted in the context of the article. [source]

The Code of Practice sections that I have complained under are;

1: Accuracy;
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

12: Discrimination;
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.;

On a final note in my complaint, I also mentioned that given some of the reader comments it also shows that such reporting incites a climate of hate towards vulnerable groups.  Hate speech has one common outcome: it creates an environment of hate and prejudice that legitimises violence against its targets. 

If you would like to see the article for yourself, you can do so here and if you have already seen the article and want to make a complaint (the more impact it will have on these types of reporting) then you can do so at the PCC