20/10/14 Lord Freud – What am I worth?

According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘worth’ – as a noun can be defined as

‘The level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated’

Or, as an adjective as

‘Sufficiently good, important, or interesting to be treated or regarded in the way specified’

Hmm.

Poor old You. Last Wednesday you caused a bit of a hoo-har when you suggested that disabled folk weren’t worth the minimum wage – and that the heady – less than the living wage – £6.50 an hour could be replaced with er, about £2….

Hmm.

Thank Goodness for Ed Miliband, charging in at Prime Ministers question time, remembering most of his lines, demanding that the you, as the newly found son of Satan, should resign.

To my mind, this whole furore requires a bit of perspective, a soupçon of context to help us understand why we’re gathering outside your house with pitchforks and torches.

So, who are you to be having these OPINIONS about the potential welfare of folk who, if asked to live on the £80 a week suggested above, would er die within 6 months because they couldn’t afford to live without food, shelter, ‘n’ shit…?

Oh, you’re the welfare REFORM minister…reforming welfare into er, what exactly?

But I see you’re also a trustee, er director of the Jecda foundation – a charity set up to relieve poverty amongst other things.

Given your expressed opinions above, one could be forgiven for thinking you’re drumming up trade for your charity.

Later on in the week good old Auntie Beeb ran the story on any questions/ any answers.

I imagine a number of other listeners were surprised when a concerned mother called in to the show describing her adult children as ‘not terribly bright’, explaining how she’d be happy for them to receive £2 an hour for their labour – they would, after all, be getting out of the house, learning new skills and the like.

She suggested that their disability benefits could be reduced, pound for pound in line with the money they’d earn for their labours.

Outrageous?

Well, before Iain Duncan Smith started pissing about with benefits, people with severe learning disabilities (living alone) who are mobile could expect to receive a little over £1000 per month (Employment and Support allowance plus disability living allowance) plus rent, plus council tax.

Perhaps not such a crazy idea then? Employers and government working hand in hand to include people with disabilities in an all so important part of mainstream life.

With the advent of the new Personal Independence Payment, what people with this level of disability will end up with is anyone’s guess.

On top of this…

we live in a world where benefits claimants are seen as skivers – where anyone claiming is seen as a cheat…

where people are judged by what they do, not who they are…

we live in a society where disability hate crimes are higher than they’ve ever been and where even the charities that claim to speak on our behalf describe us as ‘…the burden of disease…’

at the same time we like to divide folk into goodies and baddies. Who can forget how Mind came to the rescue of all folk with mental maladies last Halloween when evil Asda sold mental patient costumes – and how things became spookily quiet after Asda UK’s CEO, Andy Clarke, donated £25 thousand…?

This is a debate that transcends simplistic polarised arguments.

Sack him.

Don’t sack him.

Without a meaningful discussion about the issues nothing will change.

Sure, the goodies will feel good for a bit. What about the baddies? Will they feel contrite? Or will they simply feel anger that they’ve been caught out?

The sacked minister will be quietly reintroduced into government after a couple of years in no mans land.

And nothing will change.

The question, ‘what am I worth?’ has been completely lost in the mist of battle.

Walk a mile

Chris

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