Twitter, Disabled People, and Benefit Fraud?


If you’ve been on Twitter today chances are you’ve heard about Nadine Dorries suggestion that disabled people who use Twitter should be reported to the DWP for benefit fraud.

For those that don’t know, Nadine Dorries is a conservative MP.  She appeared on Towerblock of Commons earlier this year and it’s safe to say she was controversial then and continues to be now.

In the blog entry linked above she suggests that MPs shouldn’t blog.  Which clearly makes her a hypocrite, being an MP who is blogging.  And she also comments about people who tweet a lot.  Her suggestion is that some people are obsessed with tweeting and that we will soon hear about “obsessive tweeters” needing to go to rehab.

I’m not going to deny that the possibility exists that someone could get addicted to twitter.  Because people can get addicted to anything.  However she then takes it further saying

Is there such a thing as Twitter addiction? How can anyone live a normal life who can do that? Surely these people cannot be in employment because if they are, how can they work? if they aren’t then it’s time they got a job which involves being sat at a key board because there’s nothing much up with their fingers, brain or attention span!!

and then

if it’s someone you know is on benefits, contact the DWP

The obvious implication there is that anyone who is disabled, on benefits and on twitter is clearly able to work and must be committing benefit fraud.

You can’t say that just because someone can tweet they can work.

There are disabled tweeters out there, who do so from bed.  Those for whom twitter is the only form of social contact they have because they can’t go out.  People like me use twitter so show that being disabled isn’t a terrible thing. And people who can type on a phone or a computer but can’t do much else.  You can’t generalise that being able to tweet means you can work.  Unless your name is Nadine Dorries, that is!

Tweeting can help people to learn that they aren’t alone.  The Disability Snow hashtag from earlier this year was a great example of that.  A lot of people were affected by that and it helped to group people together who were having problems. If they couldn’t help people out in real life they could support each other online.  Personally being able to reach out to others on Twitter was a great help during the 10 days I couldn’t go out.

There’s also been times I’ve posted on twitter about something that’s happened to me and people have come back and said “me too have you tried…” and that’s useful.  I’ve been able to do that for others as well.

And there’s the Disability Voices blog itself.  The entire team use twitter and it’s how we all met.  If not for twitter this wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be doing what we do.

Obviously Nadine Dorries is not just talking about disabled tweeters, she’s talking about all benefit claimants on twitter as fraudsters.  Perhaps she’s missed the fact we’re in a recession.  Someone I know is able-bodied and  just got a job after being unemployed for two years.  She’d had so many interviews she’d decided she wasn’t any good at them. Ms Dorries would suggest that people like that shouldn’t be on twitter.  Apparently all they too need to do is get off the ‘net and a job will appear.

All of the Disability Voices team are opposed to the view that all benefit claimants on twitter are fraudsters and would like to use our experiences to show this is not the case.

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About Writer In A Wheelchair

Emma describes herself as mouthy and independent, something she's very proud of as it helps her to campaign on disability issues which she is very passionate about. She loves knitting, sailing, swimming and reading. One day she'll be paid to be a writer a goal she's determined to make happen. In the meantime she writes and rambles in many places online including her blog, http://writerinawheelchair.co.uk
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25 Responses to Twitter, Disabled People, and Benefit Fraud?

  1. samedifference1 says:

    Fantastic and very true post. Thanks!

  2. Christine says:

    Nadine Dorries is a disgrace. Twitter, and other social networking sites, can be a lifeline to people who are frequently extremely isolated in “real life”. The idea that being able to tweet means you could get and hold down a job is so ludicrously ignorant it scarcely deserves refuting. What a prejudiced pile of bollocks.

  3. trickygirl says:

    Thank you for this – as someone with mental health difficulties who cannot work, Twitter is a lifeline for me, particularly (as you rightly point out) during times when I cannot go out.

    Twitter has also put me in contact with people who have had similar experiences and advocacy/support groups who have helped me find out about my rights.

    Nadine Dorries really ought to think before she speaks….

  4. Pamela says:

    I hope you’ll understand if I don’t link to my twitter account (just in case).

    I suffer from agoraphobia, I find it nearly impossible to leave the house alone. This means that I can spend days, weeks and occasionally months without seeing anyone except my husband. Earlier this year we got the internet for the first time in several years (we’ve moved house & been homeless, so couldn’t afford it for a while) I now use twitter reguarly to talk to other people about shared interests. I’m able to find out about things and take part in discussions with people I’d have never met otherwise.

    Working, even from home, would involve all sorts of pressures that I simply cannot cope with at the moment – interviews, deadlines, keeping to a regular schedule and producing workI was comfortable with submitting to a boss. Twitter allows me to drop in and out of conversations – there’s no awkward ‘I don’t have anything worth saying’ moments, because I can ‘lurk’ until I feel comfortable again. I can also leave twitter or shut my computer down if I get overwhelmed. If anything, twitter is keeping me connected to people and making me consider attending events and meeting up with people that I wouldn’t have even thought of before.

    In addition, there are plenty of people on ‘disability benefits’ who are not out of work. The current government seems happy to ignore this fact.

    There is a disturbing tendancy for some of the public and politicians to want to control the minutiae of the lives of people who live on benefits. You only have to follow the hashtags of programmes that feature benefit claimants to hear all sorts of ridiculous and demeaning things – “that person shouldn’t have a pet, or children, or a TV, or a mobile phone etc.” They seem to expect people on benefits to live in abject misery until they stop being old, sick, disabled or unemployed and if they can’t, tough.

    Those seeking work are expected to do nothing else until they have a job. Instead of a 30-45hr week they are expected to spend every waking minute job searching, every day.

    The daft thing is, if any of these people fell sick, became disabled or was made redundant, they would expect the state to help them or maybe they’d rely on a financial or familial support that we don’t all have access to.

  5. The benefits office sadly feel the same way, during the medical examination, one is asked, “can you use a mobile phone? Can you hold a pen? Do you use a computer?” Therefore one can work, currently going through a tribunal myself due to such idiotic questions, disabling me from adequately expressing my symptoms/condition.
    It doesn’t matter that I’m studying from home to enable me to get a good job at the end where I could possibly earn enough money working from home to come off benefits all together. Having a young child at home too, I couldn’t work from home now, as the benefits office would only help support my income if I was actively in a job, i.e going to place of work. It’s ridiculous.
    Awesome post, I’ve just subscribed 🙂

  6. grizzly1uk says:

    Again thank you for this, I was furious when I read her blog, I to am unable to leave the house and twitter is virtually my only contact with the outside world, as for her comment about attention span, that is why I use twitter because messages are short and sweet and I dont have to concentrate to hard,( which with the amount of meds I take is difficult). It also gives me a way to express myself, and talk to like minded people which I cannot do face to face. Again, thank you thank you, it is great to know it wasnt just me who was affected by this biggoted womans comments.

    • morrgganna says:

      It amazes me we have these nadines in the world in this day and age, you have to ignore that type of ignorance because she is very uneducated and small minded person she better hope nothing happens to her, but if you think about she is the most disabled in the brain. People like that hate there lives and like to BULLY others. Best of luck to her disability because it s BIGGY!!!

  7. Torinir says:

    Well said. It’s a shame that there are backward thinking people like her in positions of power.

  8. Well said. I could not believe the presumptive arrogance of that blog post.
    The fact that people like Nadine Dorries are in Parliament is very worrying.

    Its a ‘tar them all with the same brush’ attitude that shows no empathy with those people who cannot get out. She obviously has no idea about the millions of isolated people who use social media for the basic human need of interacting with other people.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If I was to comment on what this person implied it would be this:

    “What is your f_cking problem. You’re only approving comments that agree with this bullsh_t! Just because someone can tweet doesn’t mean they are intelligent. Some little kid with half a brain could tweet. All you have to do is type and click “Tweet”. You are seriously messed up. Of course, you have an opinion, and yes, you have a right to send it across.

    You’re probably some messed up idiot living with your parents because you can’t get a real job to pay for rent. Go on, have you alphabet spaghetti, eat all your vegetables or mummy won’t let you get down from the table. Have you still got your bib on? Thought so. Oh dear, you missed your mouth.”

    I just think that strongly.

  10. Richard says:

    As a former nurse this woman doesn’t show much compassion. The compassionate Tory does not spring to mind when thinking of Nadine Dorries.

    How about turning it round and suggesting MPs who “fiddled” their expenses should come under the full examination of the law instead of getting away with paying back the amounts they “mistakenly” claimed.

    Here are some links about the alleged behaviour of this MP. Shocking stuff.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5330904/MPs-expenses-Tory-MP-Nadine-Dorries-admits-she-only-spends-weekends-and-holidays-in-her-main-home.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/7853181/MPs-expenses-Nadine-Dorries-pays-50000-of-allowances-to-close-friend.html

  11. Alice says:

    Wonderful post. I had a look at her blog post, and comments aren’t enabled. If she’s going to be that polemic, she should at least be prepared to argue with her critics.

    I was hospitalised for several weeks this year, and completely unable to work. The effort of sending a Tweet is no more than the effort it takes to compose a text message. Would she say the same about people who sent fifty odd texts each day? Or e-mails? Should we report mobile phone users for benefit fraud, too?

    Also, I work in the library sector and we’re actually encouraged to use Twitter for work related purposes. It’s not the same as Facebook, and has legitimate business uses! Sarah Brown has over a million followers on her Twitter, and seems to get on with her working day just fine…

  12. Pingback: Twitter, Disabled People, and Benefit Fraud? | Disability Voices « Better Disability

  13. tilsit says:

    I’m a new recruit to Twitter and a disabled person, recently embroiled in a battle with the DWP who had received a “tipoff” I was working, despite having severely poor mobility and had 33 admissions to hospital in four years.

    My computer is my lifeline to the world. I live alone with most of my friends dotted round the UK and the rest of the world and rely on carers and assistance with a little help from my (much older) sister. I set up my own weblog to post details of my condition to help others going through the same health pathways.

    I am becoming more and more frightened of what this “Coalition” is trying to achieve in beating and marginalising the disabled until they surrender. I have had a four year battle with the wonderful A4e to get £200 funding to do a distance learning course.

    And now they let loose people like Nadine Dorries and her fellow-Ugly Sister Baroness Warsi to spout things that cause upset and unrest. I despair!

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  17. Michael says:

    We have these people in America, too-people who are OBSESSED with the idea that someone, somewhere, is getting away with something.

    “Yes, of course, you’re right-there are people disabling themselves so they can get on the gravy train of enjoyment that is being disabled in 2010. ”

    I need not add that is said with deep, mocking sarcasm.

  18. Robert says:

    I’ve been to Union meetings and political meetings in which people will say things like using the internet is a way of telling how disabled a person is. I’ve been told that writing a blog or writing on a forum show that in this day and age working on the internet is and can be a means of getting 100% of the disabled community back to work. I did not know I was part of a community, it must be a hidden community then.

    I was asked by the Atos doctor can you type and I said about three words a minute, he then looked up and said to some companies that would be acceptable for you to become a secretary, I smiled back and said would that be working for ATOS or working for a doctor then, he said some firms are so desperate to employ the disabled they would be willing to accept your not able to type very fast. I said do you know any and he said and I quote nope, but it does not mean they are not out there.

    The fact is right now it has little to do with getting people back to work, I know of a number of disabled people who are on JSA benefits, they do not even have to go to the job center anymore, just phone up saying yes we are looking for work, no we have found none.

    In the end this is all about cutting benefits imagine if we are all on JSA, Labour and the Tories will say look this country has no disabilities we are a just country that looks after it’s sick. yes on sodding rubbish benefits.

  19. morrgganna says:

    Shame on you nadine after everything you have done you have a lot of BALLS!!

  20. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Americans With Disabilities Act, and prior Supreme Court cases, require that the new fund set up to compensate Plaintiff Steering Committee attorneys, that withhold 6% of settlements, as ordered by Judge Barbier, http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/OilSpill/OilSpill.htm BE JUSTIFICATION for these attorneys to provide EXTENDED representation and advocacy to disabled claimants! Please bring this to the attention of others

  21. Bird says:

    That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard!! Poor Nadine. Doesn’t she have any friends to run this garbage by first? It sure would save her some embarrassment.

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