A groundbreaking writer who dedicates his time to holding the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to account is facing an uncertain future.
Holding the DWP to account
John Pring is the founder of the Disability News Service (DNS). He launched the site in April 2009, and has broken the mould when it comes to reporting on disability and the welfare state. As Pring noted in an article:
Over the last nine or so years… [it] has broken scores of important stories. Many have been about the austerity-related assault on disability benefits and other support and services.
Pring was the first to report on the UN investigation into the UK government, which concluded it had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. He has conducted countless investigations, been the first to report major stories, and been a tireless advocate for the disabled rights movement.
But now, all of that is under threat.
DNS: needing your support
DNS does not charge people to view its content. But after eating up most of Pring’s life savings, DNS can no longer continue without more funding. He told The Canary:
For years, I resisted asking the people who read my stories to support DNS financially, mostly because so many of my stories are about the extreme levels of poverty facing disabled people.
So the site will now have an optional ‘donate‘ button at the bottom of each article, where people can contribute what they feel. Pring makes it clear that he is not a charity; nor, as he says, does he want people to donate who “cannot afford to do so”:
But what I hope is that people will only give what they can afford…
I decided eventually that the appeal had to be done because, if things had continued in the same way for another few months, DNS would almost certainly have had to close. I decided it was worth fighting for and risking the embarrassment of asking for money publicly.
Breaking the mould
Pring’s work is vital; not least because he often reports on issues that the mainstream press may not touch; or breaks them before they do. Pring told The Canary:
Many of these are stories that the mainstream media does not have the resources or the inclination to cover, and when they do, they usually omit to seek the voices of disabled people. They focus instead on the non-user-led organisations that claim to speak on their behalf. As a disabled person, that is incredibly frustrating.
I also think that large sections of the mainstream media – not all of it, but certainly a substantial proportion – are institutionally disablist. They still treat disabled people as tragic, ‘vulnerable’ figures to be pitied, or as scapegoats for the financial crisis.
It’s the fact that Pring not only focuses on disabled people, but also ensures their voices are heard, which makes his work so important. And he’s determined that his work can continue. He told The Canary:
I think the DNS archive shows the need for independent, investigative reporting on disability…
I know there are many important stories still to be told, so it would be incredibly frustrating to have to close DNS now.
But DNS will only survive if people actively get involved. So if you value independent and rigorous coverage of disabled people’s fight for their rights, make sure you support Pring, and DNS, if you can.
Featured image via DNS and UK government – Wikimedia
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