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Monday, 12 March 2012

The Government's REAL attitude towards sickness and disability

This is a small, but very significant demonstration of the Government’s philosophy behind its Welfare Reforms.

This picture appears in the following DWP publication specifically about cancer sufferers.
Thankfully I am not one, but I was struck by the sad face on the left and started to wonder why sad?  I think there are only two possible interpretations:

1.       All claimants are on the fiddle and this one knows they have just been found out or
2.       This claimant knows the assessment is wrong and they will now have their benefit stopped and will have to fight for a year to get it back.

So I posed the question to Dr Bill Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Advisor to the DWP who was the chap who finally signed off the document for publication.

Initially he tried to blame someone else (the “experts” he uses for advice in imagery) and pointed out that they would “never portray individuals with health conditions or disabilities as 'benefit scroungers' . . . . “, but he would say that wouldn’t he?

He also tried to suggest that it was not significant and I had misread his intentions by not considering the image with the associated text.  So I pointed out:

·      The document contains 8 images with 17 faces portrayed.  
·      He had been diligent enough to consider racial representation in these images, so they were clearly checked in some detail. 
·      Of the 17 faces, the one I have highlighted is the ONLY one with a sad expression.  It was not therefore an accident or oversight, but done this way for a reason. 

In response he suggested a third interpretation as follows:

The picture merely reinforces the text in that the person is being told that she needs to look for work, whereas she could or should be in the Support Group and therefore not required to look for work (although our proposals would obviously mean that she could if she wanted to and felt well enough to work). So, she looks sad because she thinks she is being made to look for work when she, in fact, doesn’t need to.”
Make what you can of this. It seems to confirm option 2 above and at best represents an unforgivable communication cock-up.
The DWP character is smiling, so the news he is conveying is presumably good (at least from his own point of view), so why would the claimant look sad - only because the news is not good from their point of view of course.  No suggestion in the text that the speech bubble could be wrong.
I have worked in several organisations that publish brochures on a massive scale, so I know how much thought goes into the design and how much care goes into checking the final version before publication.  At very least, the risk of misinterpretation would have been identified and the image changed accordingly to avoid it.  No, it is clear here that a very specific message and the thinking behind it were intended. This is no accident, but reveals an attitude many have long suspected and is now undeniable.

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