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BBC drama depicting disabled people as benefit scroungers

Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,088

Scope community team

edited November 2020 in Disabled people

Earlier this week I posted about a series called 'CripTales' appearing on BBC 4. 

This collection of spoken monologues starred an array of disabled actors, with each programme honing in on a subject of importance to the disabled community. 

Despite the expectation that this was a positive move that could only improve awareness of disability issues, the airing of Liz Carr's 'Real Deal' monologue was met with widespread unease as it appeared to depict PIP claimants as fraudulent in motive.

What was the episode about?

The BBC website gives us this overview of the episode:
Meg is looking out of her window trying to catch sight of a man whom she thinks has committed benefits fraud. She is compiling details about him in order to shop him for his scam. But, unexpectedly, he forges a friendship with her, and encourages her to claim more benefits for herself.

A dark and witty tale about a woman caught in the benefits system.

In-particular, disabled groups have contested the plot twist that sees Liz's character, Meg, convinced to exaggerate her impairment symptoms to be eligible for a higher rate PIP.  For instance, Meg purposefully doesn't sleep the night before to look more fatigued in-front of assessors.

How have people reacted?

The episode was widely condemned by disabled people, campaigners and allies alike as it reproduced the harmful narrative that disabled groups are disingenuous, fakers and undeserving of financial help; an inaccurate understanding that risks undoing many years of work to progress equality.  

One disabled activist, Andy Mitchell told the Disability News Service:
"The problem with PIP is PIP, not scroungers. It feeds into Tory ‘genuine disabled’ rhetoric that has caused untold harm for disabled people.  It was a missed opportunity to tell a really important story that too many people go through on their own.”

How have the shows producers reacted?

Speaking to the Disability News Service, the show's producers defended the episode and explained:
"the episode intended to explore “moral ambiguity”, offer[ed] a critique of DWP policy and the “impenetrable” PIP assessment system, and provides a “rare comedic take on the hypocrisy that can be embedded in that PIP interview system”.

What did you think?

  • Did you manage to see the programme in question?
  • What was your perception of it?
  • Do you think the public outcry is warranted or did you find it a comedy take on the PIP process?

Let me know in the comments below.
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  • woodbinewoodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 4,546 Disability Gamechanger
    Im afraid I didn't see it, but it doesn't surprise me, this government has had a downer on the sick and disabled since 2010 and their puppets at the BBC and in the right wing media have supported them, remember Iain Duncan Smith when sec.state at the DWP stating that awful line "work sets you free". It will be interesting where a Boris led govt. goes after covid with benefits.
    "Putting a child into care, isn't caring for a child" (T.Rhattigan)
  • deb74deb74 Member Posts: 766 Pioneering
    I took a part time job a few years ago knowing full well it wouldn't pay me enough to live on just to get the jobcentre off my back. The disability advisor was horrible to me she sent me for a cleaning job once. I went for the interview even though I wouldn't be able to do the job but I knew if I didn't go I would get sanctioned. The next time I went to the jobcentre she sanctioned me saying that I put up a barrier against getting the job and even picked faults with the clothes I wore for the interview and what made it worse was the interview was on my birthday!
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 5,039

    Scope community team

    I'm sorry that you had that experience @deb74, I can imagine that would've been upsetting. I remember you saying that you're now self-employed, do you find that a lot better? I'm sure it comes with its own challenges too. 
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  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 713 Pioneering
    Shame on Liz Carr.   Shame too on Lost Voice Boy, or whoever the actor is who does the same thing on radio 4, I heard part of it, apparently portraying someone who has a carer, goes clubbing, is spotted by his assessor while dancing, after pretending to be incapable of movement, in collusion with family members and various benefit scrounging hangers- on, and constantly 'playing the card' of disability as a way to scam, trick, gain sympathy,   (I'm not clear on the details, I didn't hear enough of the programme) 
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 713 Pioneering
    The silly thing is honest  documentary  would be  fascinating for all audiences, instructive, informative, educational, socially worthwhile, and what is more, cheaper for b.b.c. and is A Public Service, remember, the thing they are funded for?  To Instruct, Inform and Entertain doesn't have to include bl..dy Musac, or any producers' darlings, or any costly studios.   

    A day in the life of a paid carer.  A 24 hour day in the life of an unpaid carer.   A hidden camera night and day in the life of a 'care' home resident.   A fly on the wall of someone already made known to viewers who are shown the true conditions of his life, then shown the forms, the officials, the battles he encounters. A series of  built obstacles to someone impaired.

    What about  a series of false but common public  assumptions completely overturned?  Now, that could be included in dramas, as is beginning to be done.  A character who just happens to have this or that non-stereotypical personal  situation, but is not making a ' issues storyline' out of it.  ( There have been a surprising number of wheelchair using fictional detectives, but the costume drama series Harlots has the obese worker and the elderly one and the restricted growth one as among the most popular employees, which I guess is equality of a sort)   
  • deb74deb74 Member Posts: 766 Pioneering
    Hi Tori_Scope. I am much happier working for myself because I can work at my own pace doing something I enjoy with no-one judging me. It is hard work though but if you enjoy what you do you don't mind putting in the hard work! 
  • Cher_ScopeCher_Scope Posts: 4,088

    Scope community team

    edited November 2020
    @newborn I agree with all you've said.  At a time when disabled people and carers are being hit hard by the pandemic, previous easements of the Care Act and austerity then to fan the flames of stigma risks being particularly unhelpful. 

    As you say, just to show the reality of disabled life would be equally as interesting and an opportunity to dismantle damaging myths.

    To give credit where it's due, the BBC One did recently show a programme called the 'Disability Paradox' that focused on one 'real life' aspect of being disabled; whether it's truly possible to be happy if you are a disabled person.  But, playing devil's advocate, in some ways this hyped up the disability as tragedy trope and overlooked the matters impacting disabled groups here and now (and contributing to unhappiness)- employment, welfare, access to social care.  If anyone saw it, I'd be interested to hear what you thought.
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  • worried33worried33 Member Posts: 399 Pioneering
    I believe the intention was to promote the current popular opinion that many people on PIP are fraudsters. I remember speaking to a lady on the phone about a planned documentary, I was asked if I knew anyone who had committed fraud, I asked are you not interested in any other side of the story, and was told no and they only wanted to speak to people who knew someone who committed fraud.
  • leeCalleeCal Member Posts: 3,724 Disability Gamechanger
    Unfortunately there will always be some people who will abuse systems. Personally I don’t know anyone like that at all. It’s very easy to point the finger especially at those with invisible disabilities and that’s something we must endure with a steely resolve.
  • Richard_ScopeRichard_Scope Posts: 2,840

    Scope community team

    @leeCal is right. some people will always find a way around a system. I have known dozens, unfortunately. A certain section of the media also uses these rare stories to create mistrust and division.
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  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Posts: 5,039

    Scope community team

    That's frustrating @worried33. Do you know if the documentary was ever made? 
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  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
    edited December 2020
    Channel 5 shows these "documentaries" all the time! Makes my blood boil! It's bad enough the Daily Fail and Torygraph readers tar us all with the "benefit scrounger" brush anyway, these programs just further their existing prejudice.

  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 1,651 Listener
    If I could I'd work for myself, in an IT tech support Business, only thing is under the terms of my tenancy I can't run a Business from the Flat so I'd have to rent Business premises, and that wouldn't be cheap.

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