The Welfare State: One system fits all?

Successive Governments have wrestled with the same challenges – How to provide money and support  to those who need it, who are unable to work through no fault of their own and encourage those who can work, back to work. It sounds simple if you say it like that. This current Government seem to believe it is simple. I wholeheartedly believe they still think that the most vulnerable in our society are being looked after. There are horror stories emerging all the time, whether it be people losing their appeals, others who are under such unbearable stress from assessments or appeals that their bodies simply give up, or they are so desperate they take their own lives. You need only type ‘ATOS’ into google to see that this is the case. ATOS are the French IT company charged with deciding who is, and who is not capable of working. There are also numerous support groups on the web where those at any stage of the process can share their stories or support others. ‘ATOS miracles’ is one such Facebook group, so called because some who really cannot work are being found fit for work by ATOS, thereby a miracle has happened, or at least they’d have you believe that anyway…

Even among the numerous stories, there are some that really stand out. A teenager who has always had full entitlement to care of mobility benefits at the highest rate all through childhood, whose family now has to negotiate the adult system on their behalf, really cannot work, and will never be able to work, and yet, has to be re-assessed. On paper, it really doesn’t sound fair, to Jessica, her family or the system. A waste of their time, energy, and needless stress, and a waste of taxpayers money. Perhaps the family do not realise this yet, but reassessments will happen anyway under PIP (Personal Independence payment) every few years. This is the benefit that has replaced Disability Living Allowance, which used to compensate people for the numerous extra costs associated with disability. Believe me, being this disabled is expensive!! I used to have DLA indefinitely, in theory, for life, but this has now changed, and will be the same in this case. The theory goes that it is impossible to police the system if there is one rule for some and another rule for the rest, and yet there will be such a waste of money. In the case of Incapacity Benefit and Income Support and now Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) there used to be a solution, for the likes of Jessica, called the Youth Supplement, given to only the most disabled youngsters. However, this has now been axed, the latest loophole to seemingly go in order to streamline the system. Sounds fair, but was it? I have borrowed the explanation from my friend Sue Marsh, who despite chronic illness and acute, constant pain, campaigns tirelessly for change on behalf of sick and disabled people everywhere. You can read the rest of the post here.

It was called the “Youth Premium” It only related to children who were born so profoundly disabled that they would never work as adults. Forget your Work Capability Assessments and your Scroungers, these children would never take part in society like you or I. Many would never talk, self feed, walk, play, laugh, fall in love. But they could still lead independent lives. Because we were a society that believed they should have a right to if they chose to.The Youth Premium treated these children as though they had paid National Insurance. For a cost of just 11 million pounds, on becoming adults, these children were treated as though they had “contributed” through work and because of that, they were entitled to contributory benefits, they did not have to be means tested.Such a simple thing, but what did it mean in practise? What did it mean to the people behind the numbers? The lives being toyed with? It meant they were entitled to live independently if they chose to. They were entitled to benefits in their own name, not as a means tested part of their family. Often, such profoundly disabled children had considerable compensation to see them through lives damaged beyond recognition by accidents. This compensation was just that. Money for an expensive future of care, adaptations to homes, aids to independence. For a lifetime, this money would have to pay for support just to make their lives as manageable as society could achieve.No more. Any money would be part of the means test. They would have to run down reserves of cash or savings before the state would step in. Compensation is not income. Nor should it be. From the passing of the welfare bill, any security or savings put aside by families terrified what life would hold once parents or siblings had passed, would have to slowly seep away, leaving insecurity and hunger a shadow away before these few profoundly disabled neighbours and daughters and brothers could rely on any help or support from the state.

A bleak picture indeed. One only hopes the state is then in a position to step in. If it has to be a case of one assessment system fits all then surely it should be a case of one assessment for all support combined. Then if there has to be stress, it need only happen once. Now there are repeat assessments that doesn’t seem likely. Benefits Britain 1949 on Channel 4 tonight at 9 is looking at how we who are unable to work through illness or disability should be supported. Perhaps, finally, someone will come up with some answers.

Why are disabled people fighting the cuts?

Jane explains what’s at stake much better than I can. I started allowing care to be put in too lste to apply to the ILF but perhaps I would have agreed more readily had I been given a taste of the kind of independence people with ILF have had. To hsve had it, and no for it to be snatched away is Indeed cruel. Independence is expensive so no one wants to vouch for it, all they see is pound signs. Many will be reduced to the kind of kife I often have. Bored because energy or support or money is not there to di what they want to do. Please pray about ilf if you pray, and fight with us before it’s too late.

Jane Young

Since the Coalition Government came to power, it has become increasingly clear that through a combination of austerity policies and ideological cuts (or ‘reforms’) the independence which disabled people have fought for over several decades is under real threat. These threats include, but are not limited to: the replacement of DLA by the ironically-named Personal Independence Payment, the scrapping of the Severe Disability Premium under Universal Credit, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and the pressures on local authority adult social care services which are increasingly under-funded and over-stretched. These latter two threats go hand in hand, and both are in the news today.

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Welfare State: The terrified get more terrified as PIP looms large

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.

Pat’s Petition…

Hello everyone, just a quick post to say, if you haven’t already, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE (with a cherry on top!) sign the following petition asking parliament to debate, and hopefully rethink one of the most damaging benefits changes; the abolition of Disability Living Allowance DLA.

Please sign petition http://bit.ly/vjspX6  and get #PatsPetition trending

I couldn’t begin to tell you all the extra costs I have because of my disability and medical condition and cannot do without this money, as is the same for thousands of others, who many not get the same money from the new benefit in the Spring, causing untold damage to our quality of life, with many more of us shut in.

You only have till 10 am! So so what are you waiting for??