On 12/01/12 The Daily Mail edited the story they published on the 10th January about Nina Charbecks – who they were calling Ms Friday until Sunday, stellar bit of journalism there – the lady with rheumatoid arthritis who, depending on which day you read the Mail’s piece, is allegedly either £300 or £400 a month worse off for going back to work either four or five jobs; after spending ten or twelve years receiving benefit and choosing not to take up paid employment during that time.
The Mail still refers to Ms Charbecks as a “mother of two” despite their earlier version of the same piece detailing that Ms Charbecks’ children are actually grown adults in their twenties. This is to misdirect people into thinking that Ms Charbecks situation is analagous to that of a disabled parent who has legal responsibility for their children. Ms Charbecks’ two daughters are in fact both engaged with children of their own. I know this because when The Mail printed two different names for the same woman, I had to run my own attempt at a fact-check, and stumbled upon Ms Charbecks’ suprisingly public Facebook profile (as of 14/01/12 it has been made private).
Ms Charbecks in in a long term relationship with her live-in partner Charley. A Facebook picture uploaded for public view in December 2012 by Ms Charbecks shows a lady’s left hand with an engagement ring on it. This would indicate that Ms Charbecks is in a stable relationship.
The Daily Mail has stated that Ms Charbecks had, at points during her ten year history of continuous unemployment, been the recipient of sums of benefit money totalling up to £1,260 per month; and now her personal income is “just over £800 per month”, and she doesn’t claim income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit or any disability-related benefits.
The Mail has not however bothered to explain that when a couple is considered to be living together as common-law husband and wife, they are treated by the DWP as one unit, and calculations for entitlements take into consideration the earnings and assets of both partners. My sister, for example, didn’t qualify for any benefits when she moved in with her partner last year and was unemployed, as his salary is too high and it is assumed by the powers-that-be that he will be subsidising her lifestyle to the extent that basics will be covered. This same reasoning would be applied to Ms Charbecks’ entitlement calculations now that she lives with Charley.
Nobody with a live-in partner receives out-of-work benefits as a single entity. The £1,260 sum paid directly to Ms Charbecks could only have been paid to her when she was claiming as a single person. If Ms Charbecks’ and Charley’s combined income is lower than £18,023 then they are entitled to working tax credits to make up the sum to a living wage. As they appear to be maintaining a home and several well-groomed dogs in the heart of sleepy rural Norfolk, I hardly think that Charley’s on the breadline forcing Ms Charbecks out to do four jobs while she’s in constant pain, and telling her they’re not going to be on the dole because it’s embarrassing.
So we have a couple now earning enough between them that they aren’t entitled to out-of-work benefits; with one partner in the couple complaining that she used to have more money in her pocket when she was single and getting benefits. The real story here seems to be that since moving in with her partner, Ms Charbecks now has to work through constant agony in order to get any money of her own to spend – so if the couple aren’t earning over £18k between themselves a year, we certainly know whose bank account the tax credits are going into.
If Ms Charbecks stops working now, she will not receive that £1,260 for as long as she remains part of a couple. The Mail knows this. They’re banking on their readers being too uninformed to realise that they’re really comparing apples to oranges. As I wrote previously, this misdirection is a lazy effort to prime the readers of the Tory Tabloids into accepting the new Personal Independence Payment to replace Disability Living Allowance this coming April. Perpetual fudger-uppers Atos and TV License enforcers Capita have been tasked by the Tories with cutting the PIP/DLA budget 20% by 2015/16, by putting claimants through the universally maligned “fitness to work” assessments run by “healthcare professionals” (read, not necessarily a doctor/specialist, more likely a physiotherapist or a nurse of some description) whose literal job is to attempt to discredit every GP in the country who has stated that their patient qualifies medically for extra financial assistance in the form of DLA/PIP.
We know this to be true because at the end of veritable streams of bullshit and jobseeker-shaming attributed to Ms Charbecks, this little snippet is crudely bludgeoned in:
“…This put her among the 3.2million Britons who claim the benefit each year, at a cost of £13billion. Around 500,000 claimants are expected to lose the handout in a crackdown.”
They haven’t mentioned which specific benefit they are talking about; but seeing as it’s only DLA that faces a reform and prospective “crackdown” later in the year, I can’t think what else on earth they could be referring to. If we look at the structure of the piece; we can see that they have given us a list of out-of-work benefits Ms Charbecks claimed as a single claimant and given a total sum of the maximum received, talked about how she has less money in her pocket now that she’s part of a couple that doesn’t claim benefits, and then mentioned that one of the set of benefits she received as a single claimant would be facing a crackdown this year.
They would like people to believe that the DLA formed a substantial part of the money Ms Charbecks received whilst unemployed, so that people will feel happier about a “crackdown” occuring. They would like people to think that the DLA contributed to a workshy, “scrounger” mentality. In reality, everybody in the country who is deemed to have the requisite medical symptoms is entitled to DLA. Princes, paupers, Paralympians and even politicians.
DLA/PIP does not contribute to a “workshy” attitude. It is claimed by some of the highest achievers in Britain. And even politicians. Don’t let The Daily Mail get away with these sorts of grotesque and slimy manipulations. Support a fair approach to the discourse about social security.
Disabled people are very fucking valuable!
Pass it on.
UPDATE 14/01/12 – Ms Charbecks has made contact to insist that the story be taken down lest her solicitor get involved. Lulzors. I have changed the article to reflect the reality that the photo taken of a living room is from a holiday home, and is not Ms Charbecks’ usual abode.
UPDATE 15/01/12 – Nina Charbecks reported to be working as pub landlady in 2011.