Media Reporting – Disability Research


Emma L Briant, Nick Watson and Greg Philo (September 2013) ‘Reporting Disability in the Age of Austerity: the changing face of media representation of disability and disabled people in the United Kingdom and the creation of new folk devils‘ in Disability and Society, Vol 28, No 6.

‘Bad News for Disabled People’



Polly Toynbee 23 August 2012 – The Guardian

“A Glasgow University study of media reporting shows a sharp increase in the use of “scrounger”, “cheat” and “skiver” in relation to disability”




Katherine Quarmby 8 May 2011 – The Guardian

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics are being peddled – such as claiming that 75% of people on incapacity benefit are faking it, when the real figure is likely to be less than 1%. Such lies have an effect – focus group research from Glasgow Media Group confirms that the general public believes that 50-70% of those on disability benefits are fraudulent (they also found that there has been a tripling in the use of words such as “scrounger” in the last five years in media reports).”





24 November 2011 – BBC News 

“She said such articles were having an effect and pointed to research by the Glasgow Media Group which claimed there had been a significant increase in the use of pejorative language to describe disabled people in the media. The use of terms such as “scrounger”, “cheat”‘ and “skiver” was found in 18% of articles in 2010/11 compared with 12% in 2004/5.”



Ian Birrell, 4 December 2011 – The Observer

“Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in articles about “cheats”, “scroungers” and “skivers” in the media. Not just tabloids, but broadsheets and broadcasters. A recent Glasgow Media Group study revealed a near-tripling of these words in papers, alongside a reduction in reports on discrimination and sympathetic stories about disabled people. Focus groups found people suggesting seven in 10 claimants were fraudulent; in reality, levels of fraud for disability benefits are 0.5%, much lower than for other benefits – and less than the level of errors made by officials.”


“The findings of this research will strike a deep chord with disabled people who have to live with the daily reality of offensive, hate-filled and false media coverage – coverage that is becoming more offensive in rhythm with the savage impact of government spending cuts on disabled people.

“The researchers at Glasgow University have done a great service by analysing the disturbing way in which bad government policy finds its reflection in pejorative language and an increasing portrayal of disabled people as ‘undeserving’.

“The disabled people questioned in the study said they felt threatened by the changes in the way disability is being (mis)reported and by the planned cuts to benefits – with these two assaults combining and reinforcing each other. This points to the action that needs to be taken: a stop to cuts that threaten more isolation and poverty and a stop to media coverage that stigmatises and breeds fear.”

Anne Kane, Policy Manager at Inclusion London who commissioned the report, October 2011