I’d like to start by apologising to this article’s readers. Sadly the feel of trepidation that you will inevitably sense running through these words is very real. For, I am here to write about the benefit changes that are persecuting and suffocating the most vulnerable in our society.
I’d also like to state that I have absolutely no idea how to cut 12 billion from the welfare budget by the financial year of 2017 – 18. Nor do I, unlike many, believe that we should cut foreign aid or stop helping refugees fleeing for their lives. In fact I firmly believe that our willingness to aid those effected by heinous circumstances is what makes us great. In a time of austerity however, we should protect our countries most vulnerable residents as a matter of course.
Let me be clear this isn’t just another article in which a disabled person or scrounger, as our government would have you believe, complains about the possibility of losing his benefits. I write this article because these changes will impact on our society’s already fragile understanding of what it means to be disabled.
Personal Independence Payment PIP
PIP is currently being phased in around the UK to replace DLA Payments. As I understand it, if you are in receipt of DLA you will be invited to undertake an assessment. During which someone whom you have never met, has a hour to decide whether you are ‘disabled enough’ to receive the government’s latest incarnation of the care and mobility benefit. Let me clarify a few things the ‘invitation’ is compulsory and although they send out an assessment form prior to the ‘informal discussion’ which is designed to lessen the need for this humiliating ordeal, almost everyone will be required to attend.
Evidently they ask questions and test your ability to undertake everyday tasks such as preparing food and moving around, the most archaic view and test of a disability and apparently the most key of factors in any decision. They use a scoring system to categorise your abilities. “You need to score between 8 and 12 for each of the daily living and mobility activities to be qualify for the allowance” “anything below 8 is not accepted and you will not get the allowance” So, as a very independent disabled person who lives on his own, I have every confidence that I will be defined as ‘not disabled’ enough to receive Personal Independence Payments.
Fundamentally I am registered as self-employed as a creator of two fledgling businesses. I also work part time. I am anything but lazy. The same can be said for almost all of my disabled counterparts. Yet, I use my DLA payments for living costs as do almost all disabled people. If however, I do what I have done my whole life and strive to show my independence I will lose that financial support and furthermore part of my identity.
These payments are worth so much more than money, they are the government’s acknowledgement of my disability. If I’m viewed as not having an impairment then am I no longer disabled? Where’s the boundary? Does this mean I can no longer access disabled parking spaces, viewing platforms at festivals, get help with adjustments, wheelchairs or access to health services? If you stop and think, I’m not making a quantum leap here, these are entirely possible outcomes of an assessment of my disability. Furthermore, how does society now view me? I am I simply a guy in a chair? Please don’t misinterpret my words, to be seen as equal would be amazing. However, society needs educating on its increasing disabled population, not simply more of a reason to ignore it.
Now you may say, Matt you’re an intelligent and able fella, you’ll manage without the money. To which I would politely say that, given time I’d agree. However, I’m not sure that I should become a victim of my own stubbornness. You will also be aware that there is a mobility component to this benefit. Well If I summarise how haphazard and unjust this assessment system is, then I would choose this video to do so.
If after watching this video and understanding that every disabled person will have days where their condition is worse than what is ‘normal’, you still believe that this benefit is a waste of taxpayers’ money, then I will leave you with some food for thought.
Firstly no disabled person chooses to be so and in fact would do anything to be ‘normal’. Secondly, I will provide just two examples of wasted tax payers money as a defence of disabled people receiving this benefit. Mike Betts, head of not-for-profit company Motability Operations, took home bonuses totalling £911,915 in the year to September 2013, as well as a £125,000 payment in lieu of pension. This was on top of his basic salary of £501,900. Can I just highlight that this is the only charity or organisation of any kind that provides disabled people with mobility vehicles. It has no completion whatsoever. So why on earth was that scale of bonus sanctioned?
I like most people but practically those with disabilities, am not overly fond of Iain Duncan Smith, head of the DWP which sanctions the benefits on which those of us who are ‘truly disabled’ are assisted by. He may have been instrumental in orchestrating the rise in the national living wage. According to the Telegraph this made him an “unlikely poster boy for compassionate conservatism and a champion for workers”. Yet it would appear even poster boy’s make embarrassing mistakes. Like charging over 1,000 pounds to a parliamentary credit card and subsequently having it suspended. Made doubly embarrassing, no doubt, as he had previously stated that “I am going to start testing prepaid cards onto which we will make benefit payments so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family, finally helping I believe to break the cycle of poverty for families on the margins.” Is that not a quote about living within your means?
Although I have finished the article with what may indeed be perceived as petulant jibes at those we pay to represent us, the points in this post are as concerning as they are valid. Millions of disabled people are having their lives impaired by these benefit changes. The Independent Living Fund has already been demolished, the money from which has been placed in the un-ring fenced care of local councils and our chancellor seems to see us a surge on society. And finally, of those currently elected, only two recognisable MP’s have disabilities.
I would not normally directly ask this but I urge you to share this blog as much as you can as I fear the opinions and well-being of disabled people in this matter are not being considered or represented.
Thank you for reading.
Article Written by Matthew Emo, Founder of Devilishly Disabled.