Thank you for your response of 23rd April to our request for clarification as to whether the inquiry will be addressing the issue of the portrayal of disabled people by the press. .
In it you said: " The Inquiry is grateful to your organisation for the work that has already gone into the Inclusion London submission. The submission has now been read in as evidence and published on the Inquiry's website, here - http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/about/published-submissions/." The Inquiry has now completed oral hearings for Module 1, which covered the relationship between the press and the public and Module 2 which dealt with the press and the police. The Inquiry will shortly begin hearings for Module 3 of the Inquiry which will deal with the relationship between the press and politicians. Therefore the opportunity to hear further evidence in relation to Modules 1 and 2 is very limited.’
We are extremely disappointed by this response. We believe the issue of press coverage of disabled people is of such importance and relevance, across all the themes and modules of the inquiry, that we are formally requesting that the inquiry re-considers its position and allocates time, as you have rightly done, with women's groups, Muslim groups and transgender groups, to hear oral evidence from disabled people, and their organisations.
We cannot stress enough the importance of the issue and the impact the grossly misleading and inaccurate reporting of disabled people is having on disabled people’s lives. Our concerns about press coverage of disabled people, also includes concerns regarding the relationship between the press and politicians (including their Special Advisers). As stated in Inclusion London’s original submission:
"We are increasingly concerned …about the way Ministers appear to be briefing the press and using DWP statistics. More and more reports are emerging of Ministers, such as Ian Duncan Smith, providing quotes to certain sections of the press, using selective and not representative government statistics, that end up as the headlines detailed above which in turn feed the lie of disability benefit fraud.
We are not alone in our concern regarding the relationship between Government and the press over the coverage of disability issues. On the 27 July 2011 Anne Begg Chair of Work and Pensions Committee wrote to Employment Minister Chris Grayling expressing the committee’s serious concern at the most recent misrepresentation of DWP statistics in sections of the media stating ‘that more care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media’ and ‘in the way it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment’.
We are extremely concerned that the Government appears to be using whatever means it can to justify cuts of £9 billion of basic entitlements from disabled people. Cuts that will push hundreds of thousands of disabled people further into poverty, exclusion and isolation – a situation that is already resulting in disabled people taking their own lives.
These sustained levels of unfair, biased and outrageously inaccurate reporting are having a direct impact on disabled people’s lives. Disabled people, and their organisations, are reporting more and more hostility, harassment and violence against disabled people and as a result many hundreds of thousands of disabled people are living in fear ; something also borne out by the five years of reporting of disability hate crime by the writer, Katharine Quarmby (nominated for the Paul Foot award for campaigning journalism this year) who noted in her recent book, ‘Scapegoat: why we are failing disabled people’:
"When the Treasury website invited comments from the general public on how to reduce welfare spending, the comments about disabled people (which were not moderated) were vicious. One argued that all disabled people should be sterilised. Another said: ‘depression is not a disability, neither is stupidity’. Many suggested that disabled people got too many perks and were particularly exercised about disabled car-parking spaces. Another suggested that disabled people should be used as weapons of war:" (Thanks, too, to John Pring, for reporting on this.)
Those responsible for such comments are emboldened or incited by negative media reporting to express such views - with consequences for individual disabled people.
In the light of the above we believe it is imperative the Leveson inquiry specifically addresses this issue and that disabled people and their organisations are called to give oral evidence not just on their experiences but their ideas and views on how to redress the balance and improve the quality and accuracy of reporting on disability and disabled people.
If the inquiry does not plan to examine this issue we would be grateful if you could give us information as to how one can appeal this decision and further details what the inquiry has done and will be doing to respond to this issue beyond reading submissions and publishing them.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Tracey Lazard: CEO Inclusion London
Katharine Quarmby: Journalist
John Pring: Disability News Service
Disabled People Against Cuts
Jaspal Dhani: CEO United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council
Stephen Brookes: Coordinator - Disability Hate Crime Network
 Disability News service 18 November 2011
 Demos report: Destination Unknown 2010
 See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-15645206 on the double suicide of Mark and Helen Mullins