Like many other people I was incensed by the above programme. It was a shoddy piece of journalism, focused on furthering the government agenda and not on protecting the claimants in this country. I dread to imagine how much more difficult the lives of disability claimants have become since the programme aired, especially those without visible disabilities. I shot off a complaint to the BBC as soon as I'd watched the programme and today I received a response. It may be a stock one sent to dozens of complainants with a few alterations but I'll share it anyway:
Dear Miss Brown
Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC Two’s ‘The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys’ on 27 October.
I understand you felt the programme was biased against the welfare state.
We believe that 'The Future State of Welfare' was a balanced look at the benefits debate in the UK. The programme dealt with a difficult and important subject - and the strong opinions held about the issues raised by the current proposals for reform. The impact of current policy and proposed reforms was shown through John's interviews with individuals who have experience of the system both here in the UK and in the USA. The programme featured interviews with various individuals who claim different types of benefits, and gave them an opportunity to set out their views on the proposed reforms. John conducted these interviews with sympathy and sensitivity and enabling those affected to show how they felt the proposed reforms would impact upon their individual situations.
With regard to recent changes to incapacity benefit and the assessment of recipients to determine whether or not they are entitled to receive the benefit, the programme made it clear that requests to film the assessment process had been refused. However, the programme acknowledged that the process of assessment could be distressing for those involved. When John spoke with Yvonne Power, who ultimately won her post-assessment appeal and was granted ESA, she clearly outlined how upsetting she had found the assessment process.
Both the BBC and John Humphrys consider the programme to be a success - it challenged preconceptions while remaining a balanced and accurate analysis of both emerging policy and public opinion in this highly contentious area.
Nevertheless, we’ve registered your comments on our audience log for the benefit of programme makers, commissioning executives, and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape future decisions and they ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are made available to BBC staff across the Corporation.
Thanks again for contacting us.
In my complaint I pointed out that figures on the number of Atos Healthcare judgements overturned on appeal were not highlighted. I judged this to be a vital omission because inclusion would've highlighted the illegitimacy of the system currently reassessing people for benefits. Wouldn't it have been in the public interest for the BBC to point out that these appeals are costly and the correct judgement should be reached in the first instance and not the second? Also, a few case-studies of people sent for these hideous assessments would not have gone amiss.
The BBC will maintain they're right until Chairman of the BBC Trust and former Chairman of the Conservative Party, Chris Patten, tells them otherwise. Welcome to the new legitimate victimisation of our vulnerable citizens.