Caught on camera? “Do I have to be a virtual recluse to be considered disabled ‘enough’?”

Smile! You’ve been caught on camera…… 😖

3 days ago, there was a report in the news and in all the tabloids about a 50 year old woman who claimed to be ‘profoundly disabledbut was caught partying in a hen weekend in Ibiza after a Facebook post showed her dancing unaided in a club.

In May, a forklift driver who had falsely pocketed more than £50,000 after telling authorities he could barely walk was filmed climbing flights of stairs at work.

In September, a 70 year old man who claimed he needed virtually 24 hour care was caught on camera whizzing down a zipwire. He avoided jail, along with his fraud investigator wife who helped him make dodgy claims. He claimed he required care seven days a week to help bathe, dress, cook and even get in and out of bed.

It seems to have been a very busy year for so called ‘benefit fraudsters’ and whilst I would in no way whatsoever condone these cheats (these benefits are so difficult to get for us ‘really disabled’ people so I applaud these cheats getting their just deserts) but the one theme that stood out for me was that they’d all been caught literally ‘on camera’?

My initial thought was how stupid are these people to post their activities in the first place and flaunt what they’re doing but secondly, how do these posts/photos reach the eyes and ears of the Criminal Justice System and then to the Department of Work and Pensions?

Back in July, the then Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey refuted accusations that her department routinely scans social media pages to deny benefit claims. When asked by Labour MP Anna Turley “if it is now official DWP policy to scan claimants Facebook and other social media pages for evidence of spending patterns, such as meals or days out with the family, which are then being used to turn down illness or disability related benefits?

Ms McVey responded saying she did not believe it was DWP policy, adding “we wouldn’t do it” but added: “when fraud investigations have happened with people who might say they are not working or unable to work — what they’ve posted themselves on their Facebook page has proven very much not to be the case.

It’s even been claimed that some Sainsbury’s supermarkets now share CCTV footage with the DWP “if requested to do so and even the latest push for more inclusive shopping – ‘Purple Tuesday’ didn’t go down very well with many people for the same reasons.

So is it any wonder that disabled people are afraid of how they’re being perceived?

How do genuinely disabled people feel about this level of scrutiny when it comes to having as full a life as possible?

Is it possible to have a busy, active and entertaining life if you are disabled?

Some disabled people say they are fearful of taking more exercise in case they have their support cut or they are seen as ‘too active’

A recent report by the disability sports organisation Activity Alliance found that four-fifths of disabled people they surveyed would like to be more active, but nearly half of those feared losing their benefits if they took more exercise.

TV broadcaster Mik Scarlett, who has been a full-time wheelchair user since childhood, himself spent 18 months fighting to get a PIP award roughly equivalent to his previous DLA. He runs an online yoga blog, and is frequently contacted by other disabled people fearful of trying yoga in case it causes them to lose their benefits.

But what a Catch 22 type of situation to be in if you rely on disability benefits to be active, to pay for travel, specialist equipment or paid-for exercise?

So what should we do?

Do we have to shun the outside world and stay indoors all the time so as to not alert suspicion? Or can we be as active as we are able to and hope that we avoid any scrutiny?

And where do we stand where social media is concerned?

Are we allowed to use it for the reason it was invented, ie. to keep in touch with friends and family? Or is it now becoming an unsafe place where posts and photos might be picked apart in order to deny us our benefits? Why shouldn’t I share the fact that I’m doing something outside the house?

So do I have to be a virtual recluse to be considered disabled ‘enough’?

Benefit fraud is a serious issue and is responsible for £1.10 in every £100 awarded and I would never condone it but surely we need to be careful that the scrutiny and surveillance of disabled benefit recipients doesn’t get to a level where we are afraid to poke our faces outside the door?

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