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Disability Bitch can't run and can't hide

12th August 2010

• Disability Bitch is published every Thursday on bbc.co.uk/ouch
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Readers, this week I awoke to someone on the radio telling me that the government plans to send bounty hunters after benefits claimants. I checked, it wasn't a dream. I don't mind admitting that I crawled out of bed more nervously than usual, and cautiously peeked out of my window for strange men with huge nets preparing to drag me kicking and screaming to the DWP.
Rambo
Out of the cinema and into your living room
Luckily, there were no hunters, streetfighters or mercenaries to be seen. Nevertheless I haven't opened my curtains since. You can't be too careful these days.

Once I'd injected my daily dose of caffeine - I get it prescribed on the NHS, did you hear that, tabloid editors? - I dug a bit deeper into these news reports.

It seems the scary and evocative term 'Bounty Hunter' is being used to describe a new government initiative to weed out benefit fraud. They're partnering with private finance agencies more used to doing things like credit reference checks, and asking them to analyse the spending patterns of benefit claimants to see if they're consistent with someone receiving only a pitifully low government handout.

No nets, then? No rifles? That's a bit dull for government sponsored operatives who sound like they belong in a high octane thriller movie.

Rest assured, these companies are to be paid by results so they've got an incentive to check up on all of us. Don't worry about me, though, I've cancelled my weekly caviar order and told my No-Legged Friend not to book the three week holiday hike up Mount Everest we've been planning for months. Can't catch me!

It's time to go 'off grid', crips. I'm going to keep radio silence for the foreseeable future, stop using my Nectar card and mobile phone, and only pay for goods in cash. I've done a sweep of my house with a bug detector I got off eBay, and thankfully all seems fine so far.
CCTV camera and video cassettes
Let's be straight. I HATE BENEFIT FRAUD! I do, I really do, people who claim benefit when they're not entitled to it give us all a bad name. Y'know, names like Scroungers, Cheats and Layabouts. And now the rhetoric has stepped up a-pace.

Let's dwell on this term 'Bounty Hunter' that the media are using. It makes a change that it's the officials being given catchy names and not the claimants, and I'm actually a bit jealous of this. But John Humphreys - my second favourite journalist called John, after Jon Snow - was heard to mutter to welfare minister Chris Grayling on Radio 4, that the term was being bandied about by "your lot" - i.e. the government. If that's true and it's not just the newspapers then ... what's next?

Grayling spent the next several minutes distancing himself from the term.

In the interests of co-operation, I'd like to help government and the media to really ramp up the benefit debate to fever pitch. Perhaps a few action heroes in armed combat over benefit fraud is indeed the way forward. Perhaps they should make a propaganda movie like the anti Hitler efforts that kept Britain's pecker up during the war. How about the following:
Disability Bitch on a segway
1. The B Team - One year ago, an imperfect crip unit was sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers for hire. If you're suspected of benefit fraud, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The B Team. It worked for The A Team, which is set to be one of the hit movies of 2010. B is for benefits though it could be Bandit if you like.

2. Credit Record Inception - Your bank account is the scene of the crime. To be honest, I'd be more open to the idea of trained individuals rifling through my bank details if they were all as hunky as Leonardo DiCaprio in this Summer's blockbuster movie Inception, where he steals thoughts from the minds of unsuspecting individuals. Think about it, DWP.

3. The Expendables - Oh, wait, that's an actual film? With Sylvester Stallone in it. But I'd assumed it was about benefit claimants. In my head, I've imagine a whole script based around a group of undeserving work-shy scroungers who drink champagne and live off the state, and are hunted down by a group of tenacious good guys who, against the odds, kick them off benefits and find them worthwhile employment.

C'mon readers, I'm sure you have better suggestions. Let's help the politicians out with a bit of creative thuggery. They were only too happy to take the public's ideas on budget cuts, so I'm sure they won't object. Tell me in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

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This week on Facebook, I announced that I was writing this column while sitting on a gym ball. My 2600 Facebook friends all gasped in disbelief, and then mocked me when I gave up after 10 minutes. If you'd like this and other unique insights into my new physiotherapy regime, feel free to become my virtual friend here.

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