Monday, October 05, 2009

I see your true colours

First published 8th Jan 2008



With the Conservative party announcing their ideas about welfare reform in the past couple of days once again it feels like open season for those of us in receipt of such benefits. Whilst Peter Hain insists Labour will cut the number of those claiming incapacity benefits by 20, 000 a year, and apologises for his administrative failings which would, if I, or any other benefit claimant were to make those kind of 'failings' on our forms, undoubtedly result in an investigation for fraud, David Cameron has announced plans to cut the numbers of those claiming incapacity benefit by 200, 000.

Now, you can call me a
realist old cynic if you like, but I can't help feeling these numbers have just been plucked out of the air to appease the mythical middle Britain, rather than having any genuine bearing on true welfare reform. As one of the 500,000 under 35's David Cameron doesn't believe can be too ill to work, I thought a better way of looking at the situation would be to examine what would be needed for those in my position to work.

Now, I happen to have been fortunate enough to have been finally diagnosed and have seen a specialist in bendy people in Leeds, but that doesn't mean I don't need to see a consultant rheumatologist closer to home on a regular basis. So first of all, Mr Brown, whilst you happen to be on the subject of NHS funding, I'd like to be able to see my consultant again please. Once just wasn't enough. A nurse specialist, however nice, isn't the same, and at my last appointment where, because I have a complex condition she needed to seek advice from the consultant, she was sorry to tell me that although I should be seen again in six months, the government's lack of understanding of chronic conditions means they've cut funding to the point it'll be a minimum of 12 months. Those of us with chronic conditions are I assume the same people you're all so desperate to kick off incapacity benefit, so unless your plan is to cut the benefits bill by ensuring none of us can provide the name of a doctor treating us at hospital in supporting evidence to our claims, then I'd suggest that one of the most important things for getting people into, and keeping them in work is putting much needed funding into those areas of the NHS really most affected. The dull, day to day routine stuff. As opposed to whatever you came up with as a headline grabber whilst eating your breakfast.

Social care. That old joke chestnut. Direct payments are such a good idea, really they are, but not if the councils ration care. Then increase charges. Social workers removing vital support packages from individuals or families in their efforts to meet budgets ultimately impacts on the welfare bill. At
£48.65 a week Carer's allowance is a national shame, particularly as carers are estimated save the economy £87 billion a year , but it's much cheaper to pay that, and perhaps a bit of income support than it is to fund support packages properly. It's just a little cheap to want the same people to go back to work. Those of us with disabilities who live alone find it just as hard to manage without any help, so not providing the most basic of support, in the form of personal care, food preparation, washing, dressing, cleaning, by getting social workers to insist they can't see the 'need' for it, whilst suggesting a return to work seems a bit steep. No matter how much you all insist these cuts reforms won't apply to anyone with a genuine inability to work, living on the constant knife edge of fear that being a genuine benefit claimant brings, you'll excuse me if I simply don't believe you.

Equipment. It would be nice, if you'd like us all to go out to work, if you could see your way to providing suitable equipment. Claiming that people are too disabled to use equipment such as bath lifts may seem the height of illogicality, but you'll have to trust me on this one, it's a common excuse used by social services occupational therapists when refusing people the vital equipment they need. Health and Safety you see. Might fall, injure yourself and then sue the council who provided said equipment. Thus conveniently saving themselves a great deal of money. Especially when rationing care packages at the same time. Turning the basics of life into an even bigger battle than they need to be puts unnecessary barriers in the way of work, and that's before we start to look at wheelchairs. Not exactly luxury items these things now are they?

YTS, that license to print money New Deal. I'd love to know how much cash has been poured down the drain on this one. I'm a graduate. I'm also disabled. I would love to do a second degree if it enabled me to support myself on a part time basis from home, though I haven't been able to find any way to fund that so far. Benefits advisors telling me that I shouldn't bother because being genuinely disabled means the state will keep me on benefits for the rest of my life really doesn't count as good careers advice as far as I'm concerned. Neither does New Deal for disabled people, which as far as I can make out exists only to attempt to get disabled people to sign up with the many, many, many, competing jobs brokers. That's how the get their funding you see. Which, if they did something worthwhile would be great, but in my experience all they offer try to pressure one into is the lowest level NVQ's, in useless subjects, and at the last interview I attended wanted me to be a full time support worker. That's right, for people with learning difficulties. A physically very demanding job. Why? Well, they had plenty of those jobs to fill, and no understanding of how to go about supporting the needs of genuinely disabled people. Some fed up media studies graduate who, as he said couldn't find anything better to do after university, didn't know where to start with someone aware enough of how job brokers worked to refuse to sign up with them, but overall it is an effective way of massaging the employment figures. Even if it's not an effective way of getting disabled people into the workplace.

Access to work. Once again, nice idea, shame about the reality. Anyone sensing a pattern here? I won't bang on about access to work, partly because it upsets me too much, their delays both in assessment and provision of equipment being a significant factor in my having lost the job I fought so hard to get, and instead I shall refer you to Mary's more recent experiences with them.

Tax credits, council tax benefit, housing benefit, Disability Living Allowance, free prescriptions, the list goes on. Its impossible, even with the laughably named 'better off' calculation to get an accurate financial picture of whether someone will actually be better off in work or not. Particularly when, despite it being non means tested, in reality it's all too common that entering the workplace is used as an excuse to remove an individuals DLA.

There are more, but I shan't go on, I'm depressing myself if not everyone else. What I will say is this. Mr Brown, and Mr Cameron, the leaders of our main political parties, both men who coincidentally are fathers of disabled children. Shame on you for using that when it suits you, and choosing to ignore the true reality of most disabled people's lives when it doesn't.






6 comments:

Fire Byrd said...

I really don't know how you keep on top of this it makes my blood boil that you and my other disabled friends have to go through such ridiculous hoops just to be treated as a reasonable member of society and not some scrounger.
xx

LceeL said...

I wish I wish I wish I could make you more comfortable and keep you safe and warm. Someday. When I win the lottery. Until then, though, do you suppose you could look over your blogroll over there on the right hand side of this screen I'm looking at and not seeing anything At ALL under the letter 'L'?

No One said...

bendy

i love you

and i feel sorry for the genuine people

but i know 1st hand there are a lot of people abusing the system, and therefore i support the conservatives on this

sorry

No One said...

but you make some good points, write to frank field and john redwood - MP's who do listen to common sense and will spread messages like this around

Scribbler said...

And that's the problem - how to stop money going to the undeserving, conscience-free people who abuse the system and make sure it goes to people who need it. If someone somehow could stop the money going to the cheats, surely there'd be enough to go around you and eveyone else, not to mention some to spare.

that_woman said...

I am with previous commenters on this,we all know of people who mock the system,the big question is how do we stop them so as to free up funds for those who are genuinely in need of help ?
http://middlingyears.blogspot.com/2009/10/how-do-we-fix-this.html