The Sun has recent form when it comes to selective disclosure on its benefits exposes, and Zelo Street featured two examples back in January, that of Natalija Belova – and all the unanswered questions surrounding her past and her photo portfolio – and then a young couple whose benefit payments were substantially exaggerated (they would have received some of that if in work).
Today, readers have been treated to the story of divorced mother of three Sharon Minkin, under the headline “I earned £120k in the City ... now I’m paid £70k in benefits”. And it’s another “exclusive”. So, folks, is Ms Minkin paid £70k in benefits? You know the answer already, and no she isn’t. The actual amount, which includes student grants and housing benefit, is actually just under £47k.
And, to no surprise at all, Ms Minkin has not said she is paid £70k in benefits, either. So why put it in the headline? Ah well. This is because, to get that £47k, you would have to earn a gross salary, if in employment, of around £70k. Added to this, many of the payments she doesn’t see: the housing benefit is paid to her landlord. So what does she actually receive?
Not a great deal, it seems. Tax credits of £403 a month, plus Employment and Support Allowance of £394. That’s £797 to pay the bills and feed everyone. That equates to an annual amount of less than £10k, never mind £70k. And something else is not quite as it seems with those benefit payments. Notice anything ususual? There’s a hint in the Sun article.
“Following an accident a few years ago I’m visually impaired in my left eye” says Ms Minkin. Now look again: she gets Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). That means she’s disabled. The Government’s website is quite clear on eligibility: “You may get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if your illness or disability affects your ability to work”.
Ms Minkin probably could work, but those kinds of work would be limited by that disability that the Sun has somehow managed to edit out of its report. So she’s most likely in the Work Support Group for ESA. The hack who filed this piece must have known of her disability, too, but we’re talking agendas to be pushed, and Ms Minkin is being presented to Sun readers as a scrounger in a “plush” house.
She might have thought the publicity would help her making a pitch for her as-yet unpublished novels, but once again, the real moral of this story is that you should never go to the papers. What she thought her story would look like, and what’s in the Sun, will be two very different things. And the Murdoch press doesn’t give a damn about minor stuff like disabilities.
Still, it gets the readers suitably annoyed, so that’s all right, then.