This post is in response to last night’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4. However, you should be able to follow this post even if you haven’ t seen it. It is also in response to the ‘daily post’ as it is the antithesis of my ‘happy ever after’. Read on to find out what my happy ever after actually is!
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) currently costs the UK economy 12 biliion and is paid to 2 million adults. The government wants to save two billion pounds by taking half a million people off the benefit. ‘Dave’ says anyone who has had to fill in the forms knows they need changing. He’s only half right. Anyone with a dependant adult who can do nothing or almost nothing for themselves is relieved that they can simply tick a few boxes, instead of revisiting the hell of the current form making them list everything the person could not do and why, causing emotional harm to the person who fills in the form. For anyone else whose severity of disability falls in between two check boxes or fears they are unlikely to qualify, their fears are overwhelming and varied. It is all of this which has given rise to the documentary.
Esther McVey, the current Minster for Disabled people, says DLA did not take account people whose disabilites weren’t physical. However, I have read a blog by a blind person who gets money towards aids and mobility now who fears they will get nothing from PIP, read a news article about a woman with profound and multiple learning difficulties who was assessed as fit for work, and read a carers opinion that while the understanding of mental health problems was limited on the DLA form, on the current work capability assessment forms it is even worse. Who is to say the PIP form will be any different? Also a major difference between the two benefits is that DLA focused on ‘self-care’ where appropriate wheras PIP focuses largely on people being ‘cared for’ therefore ruling out hundreds of people. I guess this is the governments aim, but it puts understanding of how disability affects people back by 20 or 30 years. Esther Mcvey the minister for disabled people argues we need a benefit which is “fair, clear and sustainable”. Few would argue with that. However, the Goverments arbritary restrictions on how far a person can walk being the condition for the mobility part of the benefit causes problems for thousands of people who can walk it but it would take them a long time, cause them to be excessively tired, or be in excruiating pain, or a combination of all three for some, including me. Add in the thorny issue of public transport which also affects thousands and you have problems galore, as adepitan explained in the documentary.
Paralympians explain it got them to the paralympics but also they have the same difficulties as other disabiled people. They are neither superhuman nor more able, argues Natasha Baker. Likewise Sophie Christiansen worries she will lose her car, and asks “what does 200 metres tell anyone?”
The DWP’s statement says that the 200 metres has to be completed in a timely, safe, and reliable way. In my opinion this may well be the saving grace for many like Christansen and Baker. However, this caveat was only re-introduced thanks to a successful campaign by disability activists after the government tried to remove it.
Re-assessment is another issue. People were previosly on benefit for life if their condiction wouldn’t improve but now will be tested regularly. Lawrence clarke argues that he is asking for the support he needs to take control of his life and how is reassessing him saving money.
Esther Mcvey says 50 percent of people don’t have medical evidence to back their claim, however if goverment wanted evidence they’ed only have to ask to see the form I submitted when applying for income benefit or ask to see my MASSIVE medical notes.
However, is this type of documentary helpful in raising awareness of the issues both to disabled people themselves, and the general public, or is it simply scaremongering, ramping up people’s anxiety unnecessarily before they’ve even seen the final form?
There are more concrete worries as well because the company being paid almost £400 m to assess people has a “controversial track record”. I have to say, that is some understatement. ATOS are the French IT company who asses people’s eligibility for income replacement benefit called Employment and Support Allowance if someone is unable to work. However, ‘widespread protests’ by disabled people and a cost of appeals against desicions of £50M a year; 40 percent appeal and 40 of those desicions are overturned. None of this is likely to fill disabled people with confidence. Even the ‘Public Accounts Commitee’ have roundly criticised both ATOS and the DWP. ATOS however deny everything and say less than half a percent of appeals are now due to mistakes in their reports. Esther McVey disagrees too saying ATOS keep within the government’s “strict rules” and disabled people are entitled to give their opinions on the process of assessment. Sorry… but is the disability minister even listening?
There are further questions over whether ATOS are fully prepared and qualified to carry out the new assessments. Many, apparently, will be undertaken by physios. Sorry, but a physio does not have the medical training to understand the problems my surgery caused and continues to cause, or the way one thing impacts on another.
A former marine casts doubt over the thoroughness of the assessment process and says the nurse was shocked at the sight of his prosthetic. It doesn’t bode well! He did however win his appeal.
Barroness Tanni Grey-Tompson says changing DLA itself was preferable, but the goverment wanted sonething that didn’t sound so big and expensive! People are either superheroes or scroungers, regardless of fraud figures, she says. I have to say I agree with her! By enlarge, the government have the mainstream media on their side in helping to perpetuate these myths in my opinion. Barroness Grey-Thompson says she “doesn’t want to see disabled people ghettoised and locked away” as all progress made by disabled people will be lost.
“DLA has allowed disabled people to live independently in a society that’s not really built for them” says Adepitan. For me this is the crux of the issue, and in my opinion something you only fully understand once you are in that situation yourself. Only time will tell if some of the worst fears are realised.
Today’s daily prompt asked me if I am living my “happy ever after” and if not, what would need to change for this to happen. In an ideal world I’d be married to mr right, be able to cope with a least one bairn and potentially be working! oh and be living in a supportive, understanding society!!
Realistically, I’d settle for the cuts being more widely spread, and for the current reforms of both DLA and the NHS to be revoked. Instead, DLA would be reformed from within with a different, capable contractor at the helm. As for the NHS, current attempts to privatise it would cease and money would be saved by the implementation of effective, preventitive measures, and more front line staff would be employed not less, all saving the government pots of money in the long-run. The end.