Milking the System

Compassionate Sun columnist Fergus Shanahan attacked the government for being far too soft on incapacity benefit and encouraging people to “make a career out of milking the system” and have a great life on the state.

“Being on the social pays well,” according to Shanahan. Why, 40 per cent of people on incapacity benefit “have nothing physically wrong but blame stress or depression”.

“Millions have been encouraged to pick the welfare state as a life choice in the same way they might once have decided to be a postie or a plasterer,” says the perceptive columnist.
Perhaps a stint shadowing a mental health social worker to show how depression and stress can really affect people would be a good reality check?

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair got into trouble for calling the media institutionally racist in the way it reported murders. He said white middle-class murder victims get far more coverage than people from ethnic minorities. The Met boss contrasted reporting of two men murdered on the same day, January 12. While emphasising that all murders are terrible, he said the death of City lawyer Tom Rhys Pryce was far more widely covered than the killing of Balbir Matharu, an Asian builder. Blair’s point was valid but his questioning of why the dreadful murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman became such a big story led to predictable howls of protest from the tabloids. Blair was forced to quickly apologise to Holly and Jessica’s parents.

A study by Shift, the government campaign to tackle stigma in mental health, found much good reporting of mental health issues in the media. Common mental health problems such as depression can be well covered, with sensitive, balanced and thoughtful coverage. However stories about severe mental health tend to be more stigmatising in their use of language.
One example of a tabloid misjudging its readers is a headline from 2003 about boxer Frank Bruno. It read Bonkers Bruno locked up. According to Shift’s report, negative reaction to the headline was so rapid and intense, it was changed in later editions to Sad Bruno in mental home.

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