Channel 4 Dispatches: benefit cuts and disabled people

Channel 4 television's respected 'Dispatches' series will carry a programme on Disability Living Allowance at 8pm tonight (Monday 25 February). It is entitled, perhaps rather sweepingly and unhelpfully, 'Britain on Benefits'. Nonetheless, it will be important viewing.

The details on the Channel 4 website are as follows:

The Disability Living Allowance helps more than three million people lead useful lives. It pays for transport and carers, meaning that disabled people can work and lead independent lives.

But the benefit bill has to be cut [says the coalition], and the government plans to take more than half a million claimants off DLA. What will that mean for those who depend on it?

Talking to fellow Paralympians, disabled army veterans and disabled people in work, wheelchair basketball ace Ade Adepitan goes in search of answers, and asks if this hugely ambitious and expensive plan to reassess disabled people has been properly thought through.

Unfortunately, the programme will NOT be available on '4od' (Four on-demand), the channel's 'catch up' service. Whether it will be available on any other subscription 'view later' services is unclear at present.

I added that 'says the coalition' in parentheses, by the way. It seems that Channel 4, along with most media outlets, still takes the statement "the benefit bill has to be cut" as a neutral one, rather than a contested one implying a certain set of political and economic interests on the part of the cutters.

Of course, if the issue is posed in terms of how to reduce the costs of welfare, then providing decent employment and housing prospects to those in need, alongside ending subsidies to landlords and tax-avoiding companies, would be part of a genuine reform package that would ensure that there is universal entitlement and contribution according to need and ability, that users are key stakeholders in the way the system operates and is decided, that those who need support get it, that those who can afford to pay do so, and that those who are able to work can.

A lively debate is already developing under the C4 information. One respondent, Cat, puts the concern starkly. She writes: "I get lower rate DLA Mobility and have a 17 year old car which I have run for the last 15 years. I cannot walk well and cannot get to the bus stop without it. I have a blue badge and passed a medical to get that. I save £2.54 Road Tax, £3.27 Insurance, 4.81 MOT/Maint and 20.00 petrol each week. I volunteer facilitating art groups for the local rehab, mental health charity and homeless charity (two hours each session so six hours a week). I am not lazy and contribute what I can to society. Six hours a week to you may not sound much but after that exhaustion sets in. If my DLA is removed, I am housebound."

* Dispatches - 'Britain on Benefits' - Channel 4, 8pm, 25 Feb 2013: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-123/e...

* WOWpetition - site of resistance to the War on Welfare: http://wowpetition.com/

* Sign the WOW petition on the government's e-petition site here, and ask colleagues and friends to do so: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

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(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia, which supports the WOW petition and is involved in research and advocacy alongside disabled and sick people.

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