Friday, 12 November 2010

Daily Mail Reporter can't read

Daily Mail Reporter is by far and away the paper's most productive journalist, either that or his is just the default name added to stories lifted wholesale from wire services and other publications. Unfortunately he's not very good at something that's generally considered to be a crucial skill for reporters - the ability to read.

The headline on DMR's latest piece is quite clear:

Grieving mother had disability allowance stopped on Remembrance Day… because she got compensation for the death of soldier son
The mother of the youngest British soldier killed in Afghanistan condemned government officials yesterday for using a death-in-service payment to stop her full disability allowance.

For some time now the Mail has been branding anyone living on benefits a workshy scrounger. But despite the fact that the soldier's mother:

"... is unable to work because she suffers from a degenerative and incurable tissue disease called Hypermobility syndrome..."
...the Mail is very much on her side on this one. Unfortunately DMR's literacy problem means the headline and story have both missed the point entirely. Slap-bang in the middle of the page is a copy of the letter sent to the soldier's mother by her local Job Centre. Anyone who is able to read can see that it says:

"I am writing to tell you that from 6.11.10 we have decided to suspend your income support."
Don't get me wrong, it's certainly harsh that Mrs Aldridge could lose benefits because she received a compensation payout following the death of her son. As she says herself, given the choice she'd much rather have her son than any amount of money.

But the letter is quite clear - she's losing her income support, not her "disability allowance". Which makes perfect sense, as disability living allowance is not means-tested. It is paid to "disabled children and adults who need someone to help look after them, or have walking difficulties", regardless of how much money they have. If she's unable to work because of her disability, Mrs Aldridge is probably also eligible for either the employment and support allowance or incapacity benefit, depending on when she started claiming. Income support, on the other hand, is paid to people who have a low income and, crucially in this case, less than £16,000 of savings.

So the headline is wrong, the intro is wrong, and the reference to the woman's disability is irrelevant. Which wouldn't be so much of an issue if it didn't all occur in a story in which the Mail accuses the authorities of being bungling idiots who can't get anything right.

The Mail have now amended their headline and intro to reflect reality. It'll be interesting to see if they also delete the numerous comments underneath the article pointing out the reporter's lazy error.

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