Why doesn’t Iain Duncan Smith trust a doctor’s decision?
I am one of the 70% of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) recipients with a lifetime award that Iain Duncan Smith set his sights on this week. He intends to introduce more rigorous, regular assessments for the replacement PIP benefit and abolish lifetime entitlements such as mine.
I have cerebral palsy and currently get the highest rate of both the care and mobility parts of DLA. The latter pays for my wheelchair-accessible vehicle from Motability that gets me to and from my comedy gigs and enables me to stay in work. Furthermore both my local authority and the Independent Living Fund (which Mr Duncan-Smith is also scrapping) require me to contribute the care component towards the budget that pays for my social care support. Put simply, I heavily depend on this benefit to maintain my independence and live my life.
I was awarded my lifetime entitlement to DLA around 15 years ago, before which my eligibility was regularly reviewed every couple of years. Part of my last review involved me lying on a bed, butt naked, whilst a doctor gave me a full, thorough medical examination. So I shudder to think exactly what more stringent, rigorous forms of assessment than this Mr Duncan-Smith has got in mind for me!
After this examination, the doctor agreed that, barring the odd Lourdes-style miracle, my impairment would never substantially improve and I would need the vital support that DLA provides for the rest of my life. So why does Mr Duncan-Smith seem intent on not taking this trained medical professional’s word for it and scrapping my lifetime entitlement?
Well he’s actually doing this in the name of efficiency and saving money. But how exactly is it efficient to keep paying a company like Atos to regularly reassess my impairment? Especially when a qualified, independent, state-appointed doctor has already said that it will never improve? And by making me repeatedly take time off work to be reassessed, what about the money lost in terms of my earnings and the resulting income tax? Or for that matter Atos itself and the 40% of their work capability assessment cases which go to costly tribunals and get overturned in the claimant’s favour?
To paraphrase Douglas Adams, this is obviously some strange usage of the term ‘efficiency’ that I was previously unaware of.
I daresay by now some of you are thinking that my chosen line of argument is all very well for people like myself and other genuine, bonefide, blue badge carrying disabled people; but what about all those despicable benefit scroungers and Andy Pipkin-style fakers that we keep hearing about? Mr Duncan Smith himself states the system is “riddled with abuse and fraud”. The only problem is that statistics from his own Government department directly contradict him.
The DWP estimate levels of fraud for DLA at around 0.5%, ironically one of the lowest along with Incapacity Benefit. So where does Mr Duncan-Smith get his figure of a 30% rise in claimants in the last few years from, if not from fraudulent claims? Well there are many factors he neglects to mention, such as more disabled children surviving due to medical advances, the aging population and more people with mental health issues and learning difficulties realising their entitlement.
On this last factor, he blames judges for “widening the definition of disability” to many people who the public would not regard as disabled. However there are two potential courses of action to redress this: either educate the public around the support needs of people with diverse impairments, or change your definition of disability to take their support away and save a few bob! It’s not hard to guess which course Mr Duncan-Smith favours.
In any case, since when did we base social policy for minority groups on ill-informed public opinion? Oh yes… since 5 May 2010.
The sad thing is I applauded Mr Duncan-Smith when he first declared he would reform support for disabled people into efficient, universal services. There are obvious savings and improvements to be made by combining and streamlining support currently fractured across health, social care, education, employment and benefits. The hope was he’d work with disabled people and their organisations to radically overhaul the current system in a way that works for all of us. But instead he appears to have chosen to ignore our views and focus exclusively on saving money, whatever the consequences.Tagged in: benefits, cerebral palsy, disability, Disability Living Allowance, DLA, health, Iain Duncan Smith, Independent Living Fund, ncapacity Benefit, social care
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