Clairwil has written an excellent post on the subject, so I suggest you all go there and read that before reading any further here. Go on, off you go. Then come back here and read the rest.
Right, as you all know now, to claim for Incapacity Benefit you need to be signed as unfit for work by your GP, and then, in something called the Personal Capability Assessment attain a certain amount of points to qualify, 15 for physical health problems, 10 for mental health. The All work test I'm linking you to is several years out of date, but hasn't changed that much. For interest I decided to score myself on the test again, and deliberately put myself into lower categories for many of the questions, such as this one, bending and kneeling, where of course being absurdly bendy, I can both bend and kneel, but also being absurdly unstable around the joints, can't do it, or get up again without dislocating, in my case often multiple joints. Despite my deliberate underestimating of how badly I'm affected and therefore lower points score, I still managed to end up with 99 points. Unfortunately I don't think that means I get 6.6 people's worth of Incapacity Benefit.
|6.||Bending and kneeling.||(a)||Cannot bend to touch his knees and straighten up again.||15|
|(b)||Cannot either, bend or kneel, or bend and kneel, as if to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and straighten up again.||15|
|(c)||Sometimes cannot either, bend or kneel, or bend and kneel, as if to pick up a piece of paper from the floor and straighten up again.||3|
|(d)||No problem with bending or kneeling.||0|
Actually, as I've mentioned before I don't receive Incapacity Benefit, and so don't even count as one of the official statistics, like many people I instead receive Income Support. However, ignoring that and the large numbers of people like me who are not counted as part of the official statistics for Incapacity Benefit, now is a very frightening time to be genuinely sick or disabled in the UK.
As Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary announced on Monday, the old style PCA test will be replaced by a new work capability assessment along with the new Employment and Support Allowance. All of this of course was previously announced as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2007. According to Mr Hain the new test will concentrate more upon what sick and disabled people can do rather than what they cannot do, apparently abandoning tests such as being able to walk more than 400m or climb 12 steps without the aid of a bannister instead looking at issues like manual dexterity, speech, vision and hearing, as well as ability to cope under pressure and interact with other people. (source BBC news online)
Now, call me a huge cynic if you will, but that's pretty much exactly what the current PCA test looks at, with the exception of the first two questions they appear to be removing. We all know the benefits system is a contradiction in terms long overdue for reform, but really, what use is it declaring someone as fit for work if their mobility is so poor they can't actually get out of their home to to get work or move around a workplace even, and shucks, it's not like anyone's naive enough to think the government will suddenly start providing everyone who needs them with appropriate power chairs, are they?
Unless of course all this is purely to make it appear to the general public that the government is addressing the issue of welfare reform, whilst they terrify the vast majority of genuinely sick and disabled claimants, already living under difficult enough circumstances, many of whom would welcome anything that meant a realistic opportunity to work, unlike the government's much hyped New Deal for Disabled People's scheme, which as I've written about before seems nothing more than a money making exercise for those able to set themselves up as job brokers. It would, for once be nice to hear some realistic suggestions from at least once of the three main political parties, two of which are led by men with disabled children of their own. However, money and power make comfortable cushions from reality and until such time the disability charities get out of bed with the government, and politicians, regardless of allegiance wake up and realise that to effect true welfare reform they need to consult those living within the system, the disabled and chronically unwell, those able to provide some realistic solutions to the situation, I fear no licence will be needed to take aim at the most vulnerable.