Monday, 23 September 2013

PIP: MP's ignorance spreads misinformation

Disability News Service just reported that two influential Liberal Democrats have disputed the government's official impact assessment of the new disability benefit PIP (Personal Independence Payment) which is replacing DLA (Disability Living Allowance), saying DLA reform fears are exaggerated.

The impact assessment estimates that 600,000 disabled people will lose the benefit altogether.

But Lord German, the party’s work and pensions spokesman in the Lords is quoted to have said
My guess is we won’t see much difference in shape at the end of it. My suspicion is that it will be nothing like the numbers of changes that people are anticipating. I don’t think these estimates can in any way be made to be accurate.
Meanwhile Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat MP, concentrated on the controversy surrounding the criteria for the mobility component of PIP, which I have already extensively covered on this blog.
In essence the original version of PIP had two major problems.

1) Being able to complete any given task “safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period” (SRRR) was only guidance and not set in the regulations themselves

2) The criteria to receive high rate mobility was changed from 50m to 20m without consultation

Disability campaigners were able to obtain the concession that SRRR should be in the regulations and not merely guidance.
Furthermore a new consultation took place regarding the change from 50m to 20m.

Stephen Lloyd is quoted to have been "furious" about the change from 50 to 20m which "came out of nowhere".
However he mistakenly believes that the SRRR concession means that people unable to walk 50m with SRRR would still receive high rate mobility and is quoted as saying that he
“cannot envisage” how a current DLA claimant could lose their Motability vehicle if they were able to walk up to 50 metres but could not meet the SRRR test.
“As a regulation, that will ensure that the vast majority of people who are entitled to a Motability car on the basis of mobility will keep their car.”
He is therefore also "furious" that disability campaigners are still asking that the mobility limit return to 50m.

When I read this article and the views of these two politicians I was literally speechless.

Lord German's "guess" is apparently of more certainty than the government's official impact assessment. Why this is, no one knows. But I am sure disabled people across the country will be heaving sighs of relief.
Personally I will await the publication of the extensive research he must have undertaken in order to make such an important claim affecting several million disabled people. I am assuming he HAS undertaken this research of course...

Stephen Lloyd's comments are even more worrying. This is an MP who votes on disability policy. Yet he is clearly uninformed.
I refer him to the government's own consultation and example 2, p10, of someone who fails to obtain high rate mobility. This person can walk 20m but cannot walk 50m SRRR. Contrary to what Stephen Lloyd blithely and blissfully believes, she is only entitled to standard rate mobility.
Sabeen is able to stand and move short distances unaided, usually between 30 and 40 metres. On a good day she can move as far as 50 metres but she can rarely ever go further than this because of severe breathlessness. She can, however, repeat shorter distances with a short break in between.

Assessment Result:
She can repeatedly walk distances of more than 20 metres but less than 50 metres. Aids or appliances do not help her to walk further in a reliable way, so the most appropriate descriptor is C. Based on this Sabeen would receive entitlement to the standard rate of the PIP Mobility component.
This is why disability groups are still campaigning.
Anyone who can walk 20m but cannot walk 50m SRRR will lose high rate mobility. Such people would be unable to leave the house without a wheelchair. If they are unable to self propel they will be electric wheelchair users. These are the people who, if the government does not change its mind, will be losing their benefit or their motability car.

And yes, Stephen Lloyd, I am "furious" about this.
And the fact that you are so ill informed that you are oblivious to our plight and spreading "comforting" misinformation makes me even more "furious".

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Nothing to get up for?

As I have previously indicated on this blog, after 14 years of progressive illness and disability, I had to finally give up my career almost 3 years ago. I regard it as one of the hardest things I have ever done and, to be honest, something I am still coming to terms with.

Society has a very poor view of benefit claimants. Admittedly when any individual person sees or hears about me and my story, they always say "oh, we don't mean people like you". But it still grates and makes me feel angry or inexplicably guilty to see headlines about benefit scroungers, or 75% of disabled people really being fit for work (retractions later made), or 1 million disabled people dropping their claims through fear of assessment (claim later officially reprimanded by the office of statistics).
You only have to look at this recent tirade from an MP about badger protesters to see the sort of contempt and prejudice we may face.
I thought most of them were in the habit of lying in bed until the pubs open, or until the postman arrives with the benefit cheque (or do such things get paid straight into their accounts these days?)
Either way, since they are all malingerers and scroungers there is no real incentive to leap out of bed as soon as the dawn chorus strikes up.
Even if you ignore these false statistics and prejudice, the press and government is full of language such as people "festering" or "abandoned on benefits", being "written off" and people needing a "purpose".

So where does that leave someone like me, who already can't work and can only expect to get sicker health wise and more "disabled" as it is understood in general language.

Am I festering? Is my life now meaningless? Do I have nothing to get up for?

My response is no and I resent the implication that I stay in bed all day out of laziness or that going to the pub is my only goal in life.

After all, do working people only get out of bed on work days? Do they stay in bed all day during holidays and weekends, unable to find the will to get up because they don't have to go to work?
Do pensioners suddenly stop living when they reach retirement? Do we likewise consider that they also "fester"?

I'm not saying there isn't some readjustment. Work is a huge part of your life and losing it leaves a great big gaping hole, even more so if it is a "career" rather than a "job".
When you lose it due to illness, then you are obviously also having to deal with serious ill health at the same time. This readjustment does take some time, both physically and emotionally.

However being unable to work need not prevent you from finding things to do within your capabilities and which are worth getting up for. These new hobbies or activities may be a very long way off employability and may even seem "low level" or "small" compared to what you used to do (most of mine are done from bed!), but they can still be enjoyable and fulfilling nonetheless.
Some may simply provide personal enjoyment, but others may have a wider impact and contribute in a positive way to society.
For instance for a while I helped out on an online support group for people newly diagnosed with lupus, as this was something I could still do while bedbound.

Most of all it doesn't stop you being a valued human being to your friends and family. Maintaining these relationships is both vital and rewarding. It can also be difficult and challenging if you are very ill. Remaining (or becoming) a dependable and valuable parent/daughter/son/sibling/aunt/uncle or friend/godparent can be very large goals in themselves.
For example personally I am mostly housebound and bedbound (a situation I've improved by replacing my sofa with a daybed). I therefore invite my friends family to visit me instead rather than me go to them. Luckily they are able to do so very often and on a regular basis.
The main issue is that these visits are extremely tiring for me, and usually even physically painful. So they are something I prepare for and time carefully. The rewards though are indisputable, not just for me but for my friends and family. It is without doubt, as it should be, a two way gain.

In summary, while I may mostly be housebound and miss both my work and all the other more active hobbies I used to do such as sport and music, my day is still full of things to do as and when my health permits, however "small" they may be (just intermittently writing this blog when well enough is one of them). Some of these things simply bring personal satisfaction, while others I hope are having a positive impact on other people's lives, be it my friends and family or further afield.

A life can be good, fulfilling, rewarding and worthwhile without paid work if absolutely necessary. While I agree people should work to support themselves financially if they can, to keep implying that those who can't sit sadly around all day, contribute nothing and are worthless is both insulting and untrue.