Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Yesterday the Mail published this article about a family headed by one Stephanie Fennessy-Sharp. At the same time it seems(I'm not so sure despite the date given for when it was published) they also published another article reporting that Stephanie and her partner Ian Sharp appeared on the morning television show Daybreak to respond to tosh printed about them in the newspapers, like what the Mail published.

The articles both have the same author, but there are huge differences in how the family and their circumstances are reported. When the Mail journalist is given the freedom to write pretty much as they wish, Stephanie is 'a shameless mother of ten' who 'admits to fiddling the system'. But when the hack is bound by the need to actually report content from Daybreak, the couple give some much-needed context that was missing from the other Mail piece.

Ian Sharp suffers migraine headaches that are severe enough to keep him out of work. When they first appeared, he collapsed in the workplace next to a welding machine. When they occur they last for three or four days, he estimates they come every three weeks or so but it's unlikely they are predictable or it would be a manageable problem which Incapacity Benefit conditionality would exclude him from being eligible.That's what the Mail piece reporting the exchange on Daybreak said. What they reported on the family directly was considerably different, it mentions little of this.

The Mail characterisation of him and his condition was: "Partner Ian, 56, is 'on the sick' and hasn't worked in 20 years - despite only suffering headaches once every three weeks"

The Mail also claimed that Stephanie chose not to work because she's better of on benefits. Along with describing her as 'fiddling the system', this would be libel if not for the use of weasel words. For some time now the tabloids have been trying to decouple 'fiddle' from 'fraud' because voices like the Spartacus group, Black Triangle and coalitions of disability and poverty charities have been highlighting the actual benefit fraud figures. So newspapers like the Mail want to make it so the goalposts move from 'fraud is fiddling the system' to 'fiddling the system is as bad as fraud'.

On Daybreak she made it clear "the plan for the last eighteen months is that I want to go back to work", in contrast to the Mail portrayal which is that she is choosing not to. The couple also explain the circumstances in regards to Housing Benefit. Although the Mail has both these articles up, it seems redundant having both of them considering they both were apparently published at the same time. One is vile in it's distortion, the other that reports their Daybreak appearance merely unfair and attempting to demonise them for every response that they give.

Daybreak was bad to the couple as Newsnight was bad to Shanene Thorpe, but the Mail is shameless.


  1. I note you were highlighting the lack of coverage of the "conditionality" criteria under UC that ,at the whim of the Sof S ,may change.Have a look at the following,in it you will notice,to me a horrifying thing-Councils incentivised(ie bribed)when people deemed not even having to currently comply with any conditionality ie Carers,ESA recipients work continuously for 13 weeks.Ignoring that the former may well work and the linking of sickness,caring responsibilities as one indicative as "behavioural problem" to be sorted,not a good sign.

  2. And rather puts Burstow's recent utterations re Carers (or actually a restating of existing rights) in a different light-