Philip Davies appears to have Thinking Disabilities


June 17, 2011 by Rhi

You’d have to be a complete newsphobe to have missed the furore over the comment made today by Philip Davies (MP for Shipley) regarding people with learning disabilities.

Just in case, I’ll fill you in. In a debate in the House of Commons this morning, during the second reading of the Employment Opportunites bill, Mr Davies spoke out in support of the changes, citing the following experience as a reason for abolishing the National Minimum wage:

I went to visit a charity called Mind in Bradford a few years ago. One of the great scandals that the Labour party would like to sweep under the carpet is that in this country only about 16%—I stand to be corrected on the figure—of people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities have a job. The others are unemployed, but why is that? I spoke to people at Mind who were using the service offered by that charity, and they were completely up front with me about things. They described what would happen when someone with mental health problems went for a job and other people without these problems had also applied. They asked me, “Who would you take on?” They accepted that it was inevitable that the employer would take on the person who had no mental health problems, as all would have to be paid the same rate. Given that some of those people with a learning disability cannot, by definition, be as productive in their work as someone who does not have a disability of that nature, and given that the employer would have to pay the two people the same, it was inevitable that the employer would take on the person who was going to be more productive and less of a risk. The situation was doing the people with learning difficulties a huge disservice.

As I said at the start of my remarks, the national minimum wage has been of great benefit to lots of low-paid people. However, if the Labour party is not even prepared to accept that the minimum wage is making it harder for some of those vulnerable people to get on the first rung of the jobs ladder, we will never get anywhere in trying to help these people into employment.

Source: Parliament UK

My immediate reaction is “Huh?”. In a debate around a bill which doesn’t have the support of the government, it seems that Mr Davies has probably not made himself very popular with the proposer. I mean, here’s someone’s big chance to be heard on the BBC Parliament channel, and some upstart has come blundering in with some wholly inappropriate, and factually inaccurate tosh, and effectively blown it out of the water.

Mr Davies is apparently under the impression that people with “learning disabilities” are, without exception, less productive than those without. That’s a pretty impressive assumption. Surely it depends on the job? If we assume the Hon gentleman was thinking of those in society who’s disabilities inhibit their cognitive processes, then surely their productivity is entirely dependant on the tasks they’re being asked to perform?

The World Health Organisation defines a learning disability thus:

‘a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind’. Somebody with a learning disability is said also to have ‘significant impairment of intellectual functioning’ and ‘significant impairment of adaptive/social functioning’

Source: Bild

However, especially in an education environment, certain conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia are also considered to be learning disabilities. These can vary greatly in their severity, and therefore in their effect on an individuals day to day life.

I’m sure Mr Davies thought he was onto a winner with his comments. I’m certain that he thought this would be one which the opposers of the bill would be unable to come back on. It would probably have helped if he had a better grasp of legislation in this country. By singling out disable people as benefitting from the abolition of the National Minimum Wage, he is inadvertently advocating the illegal practice of discriminating against disabled people in direct contradiction of the Equalities Act 2010. If a person is qualified to do a job, then their disability should not be a bar to them being considered for it. Of course, silent discrimination exists. But the way to combat that should punish those who seek to discriminate, not the disabled people who are already subject to it.

I know many people with learning disabilities, ranging from dyslexia, to that associated with more severe conditions like Downs Syndrome. All are valuable members of society, and I would be horrified to think that I, as someone with no disability, would be able to command a higher wage based purely on my good fortune at not being “afflicted”. A learning disability is what is says – it affects learning. Not doing. And I suspect that the ease with which Mr Davies so spectacularly grasped completely the wrong end of the stick today, a lack of conventional intellect is no bar to sitting as Member of Parliament.


8 thoughts on “Philip Davies appears to have Thinking Disabilities

  1. Lee says:

    I totally agree with what Mr. Davies is saying.

    I’m 49 years old, have Asperger’s syndrome and have never had a job.

    I need to be able to offer an employer something so that he will at least just consider giving me a job; and I reckon that his being able to pay me less than statutory minimum wage might just do it.

    I doubt I would be any worse off than actually being paid a proper wage because of the complex interactions between the various benefits I receive and the amount of money I have to pay to social services for my care. In effect a wages subsidy would be in operation.

    I desperately want to work, and need to work, so that I can fully contribute to, and participate in, society; and strive to become the best person I’m capable of becoming – and the minimum wage legislation is hindering me in my search for employment.

    • There’s two things I want to say, Lee.

      One, the minimum wage is not the reason for unemployment. It’s because there are more jobs than there are people at the moment.

      Two – The minimum wage is not what is hindering you. What is hindering you is lack of understanding of your condition. If you are able to do a job, then your Asperger’s should not be a factor in anything, and you should be able to command the same wage as any other person. The problem is that employers – and particularly the middle management of a company (who are the ones who will interview for entry level jobs) have no understanding, and receive no information, on how people with conditions like Aspergers, can be supported in the workplace. The suggestions by Mr Davies that those with learning disabilities should work for less than those without, is illegal, under the terms of the Equalities Act.

      I hope you can find work soon, it’s not easy at the moment. I know two or three people who I studied with at university, who also have Asperger’s, and they have been lucky to find jobs with employers who recognise them as people, and haven’t been put off by the fact that they are slightly different to other employees, but not any less able.

      • Lee says:

        People like myself with Asperger’s face the highest rates of unemployment of any disabled group, calculated to be as high as 95%. Like you mention it isn’t because we are lacking in any way, it’s due entirely to the attitudes and prejudices of other people. If a potential employer is in effect being bribed by not having to pay the minimum wage, maybe he’ll not be quite so prejudiced and actually give someone a chance.

  2. Lee, I still think it’s completely wrong that the person who is acting illegally (ie the employer) is benefiting from their prejudice, whilst the innocent person (ie you) is the one being punished.

    The employer will be just as prejudiced, and will in effect feel vindicated in that prejudice, because the Government will have backed up his/her view that disabled people are less able, by saying it’s OK to pay them less money.

    • Lee says:

      In truth I’m being punished now by being left to rot for thirty years and treated either as a criminal or a retard by the government.

      No employer or private enterprise has ever treated me like this.

  3. What do you mean treated like a criminal?

    And how will a Government MP saying that you are a) less productive and b) not worthy of the same level of pay, help to change public perception?

    Personally, I still think there is a lot of stigma attached to learning difficulties – even those at the milder end of the scale like dyslexia. People are scared to ask about what they entail in case they offend. I’m not one of those people who think that it shouldn’t/doesn’t make any difference – because of course it does. But I don’t think the differences between you and I should mean that you have to work for less money than me. Asperger’s doesn’t mean that you would be any less able to do a job like, for example, data inputting or proofreading, than I would. You might not be able to do something in customer service, perhaps. But then I don’t have much experience of that on my CV, so even there the difference between us really does come down to you having Asperger’s and me not. And that’s no reason to assume that you wouldn’t be able to do a job to the same level as I would.

    As I say, I was at uni with people with Asperger’s, and by and large was intellectually outstripped by them in every way. There’s no way I could say I am worth more per hour than they are – because it’s actually not true.

    • Lee says:

      I’m treated like a criminal at the jobcentre because every time I sign on I have to account for my movements for the previous fourteen days…and of course I’ve been sent on two prolonged periods of workfare…or community service if you prefer to call it that. That’s real exploitation, believe me.

      You’ve identified several jobs that I could do, and actually did do when I was doing voluntary work for twelve years, many years ago now. The problem is now though, is that I can’t even do voluntary work because I can’t provide references.

      By the way, your last paragraph is very telling; academically, like most people with Asperger’s syndrome I’m very bright – I think this is one of the main reason people will not employ us, they consider us to be a threat.

      • Yep, I know what you mean. I’ve had to sign back on recently, and you’re right – the having to account for your every movement is very disheartening. Being treated like a feckin’ idiot, as though you don’t know what is involved in looking for work.

        And I’d agree about the feeling threatened by intelligence – it’s very true. Middle aged middle managers don’t like the idea of having a young upstart who might make them look bad without even trying. I’ve been shafted myself by previous employers in exactly the same circumstances.

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