Social media, disability, welfare, work and calculating 'benefit'
In recent months social media has proved its worth against some harping critics. The uprisings across the Middle East, the worldwide Occupy protest against unsustainable corporate neo-capitalism and the Spartacus Report revolt of disabled and sick people over punitive welfare cuts and changes: all these movements for change have benefited in a variety of ways from web 2.0 and beyond, from online crowd-sourcing, from twitter, from virals, and from 'internetworking'.
Importantly, the worlds of research and reflection in which Ekklesia deals have also been strengthened. Yes, there is plenty of trivia, inane 'debate' and depressing confrontationalism to be found on blogs, in online media comment and elsewhere across cyberspace. But this is to be expected. C'est la vie. What is much more heartening and surprising (at least for the cynics) is the counterbalancing weight of worth.
The analysis and lobbying over the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB), which reaches its climax in the Commons debate on 1 February, is a good example of this. Patrick Butler's fine regular liveblogs on the WRB report stage and Third Reading in the House of Lords has drawn creatively on high-quality instant commentary, various official sources, other media and the best of the twittersphere and blogosphere. Putting this together is a challenge for any journalist, and Patrick (http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/patrickbutler) has done it with skill, adaptability and aplomb.
One of the many previously unknown sources I have discovered on Twitter during the course of my work over the past few days is the Los the Skald blog. I particularly commend an article entitled Is the Welfare Reform Bill ‘Best’ for Disabled People? Essential reading. It sets out its stall here:
The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate that the Welfare Reform Bill currently passing through Parliament is unsuitable for its stated aim and, in certain respects, contradicts the evidence provided to the DWP. It is mainly based on evidence from the meta-analysis contained in the 2006 report ‘Is Work Good for You?’, focusing on this report’s discussion of disability. What it shows is that, although the principle of employment is important (a view shared, after all, by even the most radical disability campaigners, Vic Finkelstein), this view is contextualised in a number of specific ways, the nuances of which are lost in welfare reform which focuses its rhetoric on ‘scroungers’ and the ‘fake disabled’.
Detailed and referenced sections follow on: What is ‘employment’? - Is Work Good for You? - What is to be done? You can read the whole post here: http://tinyurl.com/88o5nau
Another important read is Declan Gaffney's 'The square root of nothing', on the con of the benefit cap: http://lartsocial.org/benefitcap
(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He has been commenting, reporting, analysing, advocating and briefing on the Welfare Reform Bill debate for the past three weeks - in between other commitments.
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