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Tuesday 26 March 2013

Super Soaraway Disabled Deception

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She might have thought the publicity would help her making a pitch for her as-yet unpublished novels, but once again, the real moral of this story is that you should never go to the papers.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.


Andy said...

There's quite a lot more on this too. Yet again it's assumed that she would lose all of her housing benefit should she begin work whereas she could well get partial payment depending on how much she earns. The same is probably true with tax credits which are reduced by a taper, rather than £ for £.

Also I suspect that the student grant her eldest gets must be a charitable or university bursary, I'm pretty sure the state no longer provides grants to students.

Then there's the dental and prescriptions, pretty sure her kids would get that anyway including the oldest as he he's in full time education. So working would only affect her own.

So, even if you include the housing benefit as income, which I actually think is valid because you'd have to find the money from somewhere if you didn't get it, it's likely that, even if she took a lower paid job than before, she may well keep significant payments of benefits. She would just be one of the 'working poor' instead of a 'benefits scrounger'.

Which of course is completely different...

Don said...

Chances are to arrive at the higher figure they treat the benefits as if net of tax and then try working out a gross income. As anyone who gets a job, most benefits while not taxed at the time, do count as taxable income were you to get a job for the rest of the financial year.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your work in uncovering dishonest journalism, however, having poor vision in one eye (if the other is healthy) does not make a person disabled in the conventional or legal sense and neither would nor should entitle them to additional benefits. Amblyopia (lazy eye) affects between 1-3% of the population, these individuals lead a normal life.