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
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
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?
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.