This week a woman not known for her timidity, admitted how a non-disabled man had used his presence and the environment to disempower her; I’m referring to Dame Anne Begg and the she interview gave to the BBC. In the Daily Record Dame Anne is quoted as saying “Iain Duncan Smith took to standing behind me during Prime Minister’s Questions. He stood at what’s called the Bar of the House and occasionally he would lean on my wheelchair…Our working relationship was slightly fraught anyway because I’d been critical of him a lot. I wanted to keep that criticism a professional criticism, not a criticism of him as a person so I never quite built up the courage to actually say: ‘Please don’t do that.’” Dame Anne also was recorded as having explaining how “she would normally reproach people who invaded her personal space but she let him off“.
This is an excellent example of how competent, intelligent, and independent disabled people not only experience prejudice – as people either knowingly or subconsciously, use their bodies, words or actions to oppress us; but how this actively exasperates and diminishes us.
It is no coincidence I use this example with IDS being the perpetrator, as it is again his department, the DWP, I am discussing today. In November last year I introduced you to Burt, who with our support at DEAEP was transferred from WRAG to the support group last December; since then Burt has received up to three letters a month plus texts reminding him of his “Back to Work” appointments! Each month Burt has responded to each letter with a phone call saying “but I’m in the Support Group”, he has received an apology and a promise to rectify this from each call; yet it has continued.
Burt is a former career soldier who fought in wars all over the world, until being retired out with a crushed spine and severe PTSD, amongst other conditions, all contracted during his service. He isn’t a naturally timid man, he loved his Army life and willingly gave everything to “Queen & Country”, as his service record and the plethora of photographs and awards proudly displayed in his lounge demonstrate; and yet the persistent harassment he has experienced from the DWP in the past 2 years has left him joyless, feeling without purpose and literally unable to complain.
As Dame Anne alluded to regarding IDS, his actions which amount to bullying in my opinion, makes it difficult if not impossible to positively challenge the perpetrator(s); and this is the situation Burt is in. Personally I can totally relate to this, and would suggest many readers and other claimants can also. It is these dismissive attitudes and continuous intimidation by the DWP that creates the ‘Brown envelope Syndrome’, so well recognised by those of us unfortunate enough to claim benefits; it is also this oppression, and misuse of positions of power, that has contributed to the deaths of many us.
How much worse this is going to get following the closure of ILF and a budget, which I believe initiates the removal of WRAG? Being forced to deal with increasing poverty is physically and psychologically damaging enough without having to deal with this prejudice and discrimination from the DWP.
I find this particularly ironic that jobseekers (presumably including those who would have been placed in WRAG) are being mandated to participate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which claims to Stop negative thought cycles; I can’t help but think IDS, his ministers and the staff at DWP would benefit far more from CBT than claimants?