Describing disabled people as ‘not worth the full wage,’ Lord Freud just now finds himself embroiled in bitter political arguments and is facing calls from the opposite side of the House of Commons for him to step down from Cabinet. The Conservative Peer and Welfare Secretary was recorded making such remarks at the recent party conference in Birmingham where he, thinking out load, suggested that disabled people aught to be allowed to work for as little as £2 per hours which equates to around a third of the minimum wage.
Disability groups and opponents of the government’s welfare reforms bill have spoken out in the strongest terms saying Lord Freud’s comments are degrading and humiliating to disabled people. Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said:‘We are dismayed at the comments attributed to a government minister that disabled people could be paid at below the minimum wage because they are “not worth the full wage”. ‘Suggesting that some people should be paid at below the minimum wage — the level that society has decided is the very minimum that anyone should expect — is deeply saddening and ill-informed.’
Lord Freud has since unreservedly apologised for his comments and his supporters have suggested that the comments were taken out of context. However, you would be forgiven for not being able to imagine a scenario where such opinions might have a place. Its difficult to imagine Lord Freud, or anybody in public life, making similar comments or judgments about another minority group. For anyone to state that women for example, or LGBT people might not worth as much as white male workers, is simply unthinkable. Although, when it comes to disability, ministers and media seem to have an open ticket to say whatever they like.
Lord Freud’s comment stands as a reminder of this government’s contempt for disabled people and is a kick in the teeth to the thousands of educated and skilled disabled people unable to find work. The way this government have attacked, and spoken about disabled people over the last 5 years, is an embarrassment to us all. Possibly the most talked about and scrutinised group over the last term of government, disabled people are the least represented in politics and the media. One could count on the one hand the numbers of disabled MPs, both past and present in the House of Commons, and number of frontline journalists in positions of influence.
It might take a shift in the tectonic plates below Westminster, but until the government take a whole new approach, disabled people will remain marginalized from the workforce. All the major disability charities have recorded that disabled people are ready and willing to work but can’t get jobs due on to barriers and ongoing discrimination in the employment forum. Ironically some studies have shown disabled employees to have lower rates of sickness and absenteeism than their able-bodied co-workers.
Instead of suggesting that disabled people are of less value than others, legislators should be ensuring that employers, particularly larger ones, hire a fair proportion of disabled staff. There needs to be some sort of positive discrimination in favour of disabled people to enable people access employment more easily. Statistics show that the current equality legislation, when it comes to disability, is ineffective so unemployment rates in the disabled community remain high. The government needs to change their approach and start talking more positively about disability. They could start by changing their thinking today and asking Lord Freud to do the right thing, and step down from government.
On a weekend away in Scotland, more often then not, one usually ends up traipsing round the nearest town or village to where you are staying in the rain. Last Saturday was no exception and waking up to a stormy day in Pittenweem we made for St Andrews for a mosey round the shops and some shelter from elements. To my joy and delight we stumbled across a shop selling books and second hand records who happened to have the largest selection of old jazz records I had seen in a long time. That was it; I was there for the afternoon.
Call me old fashioned but I love records and my home is full of vinyl. For me, the physical act of looking though records, and to a lesser extent CDs, in a shop is something that I would miss if it weren’t available. Although the larger music retailers have almost disappears, or changed beyond recognition to accommodate new technology, thankfully several independent record shops are still there and are clinging onto existence. Although, it does make one wonder about the future of the LP record and whether or not they will eventually be confined to history and only seen on display in a museum.
The way people access music nowadays has, off course, moved on a million miles from when I was a teenager. People tend to access or look for particular tracks on the Internet rather than a whole LP. This has, for some, has signaled the beginnings of the end for the album, a collection of songs usually 6 – 10 tracks, to be played in a particular order or sequence. I certainly have my personal top 10 albums, and there are national classic albums of all time that have been chosen by music producers and the markets for their collectives and arrangement of songs.
The proliferation of music on the Internet is a wonderful thing although it has changed music in some ways for the better but, at the same time, certain things have been lost. Thankfully, according to figures published by the British Phonographic Society, 2013 saw the biggest rise in record sales in 15 years. The BBC produced a similar report stating that mostly people in the 18 –24 year old age bracket are fuelling the rise. Younger people are discovering for the first time the joy of vinyl and record producers have seized the opportunity to make another buck. According to the report they enjoy the experience of going into a shop, talking to staff and other and looking through the latest selection.
Although digital music has taken over, it seems that there will always be a market and a place for vinyl. This is underlined by figures that state that record sales have been growing since as far back at 2004. In the same way the dawn of the e-book has not meant the demise of books and the high street bookshop, records will continues to have a place in retail and hopefully the market will continue to grow.