Friday, 14 January 2011

A Modest Proposal: Walking a mile in disabling shoes.

This is what I hope will be the first of many blogs. I'm launching it today in support of the One Month Before Heartbreak blogswarm.

A Modest Proposal: Walking a mile in disabling shoes.

The current government are keen to reduce spending on certain allowances and benefits, the current qualification for which depends upon the claimant having impairments, disabilities, diseases or conditions of such seriousness that they are prevented from leading a “normal” life. They must face considerable challenges in such areas as washing, dressing, eating, cooking, walking, working or taking part in “everyday social activities”. If you have a temporary back-ache or a bad day/week/month at work you would certainly NOT be able to get “free money” from The State.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a seriously limiting physical and/or mental condition you are expected to complete a series of extensive, in-depth forms and provide copious amounts of evidence (from doctors, specialists, physiotherapists, counsellors, carers and/or those who provide you with physical assistance) to support your claim. You are also, in most cases,  required to attend a face-to-face “independent assessment” with an approved assessor who may or may not have any understanding of the condition which causes you problems. All these forms, the evidence you’ve provided, the evidence your own medical practioners have provided and the assessor’s conclusion then go to a “Decision Maker” who decides whether or not you fit into their interpretations of the statutory guidelines. Then you’re told whether or not you can receive payments, at what level and for how long.

If you are turned down and feel you have a strong enough case (and have the energy to fight another battle), you can then launch into the appeals process. Most people win their appeals, if they have professional representation from, for example, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

So, as I said at the top, this government are taking steps to increase the qualifying criteria for all benefits in respect of long-term sickness or disability. They are also planning to abolish some allowances (DLA, ILF) and replace them them with one named (Personal Independence Payments) and (perhaps) one as yet un-named allowance. I honestly don’t think that the majority of MPs are anywhere near qualified to tinker around with these things, so I’ve got a suggestion to make.

For the next year every MP, Minister and Government Advisor should be fitted with equipment which mimics the effects of a disabling condition.

One day in the next couple of weeks they should all turn up at Westminster to be issued with their disability at random. The equipment exists. I’ve seen it used in programmes on television and in films. Splints which restrict movement in particular limbs to mimic the effect of physical impairments. Special glasses to replicate various sight impairments. Ear-plugs or intentionally-badly-adjusted hearing aids for hearing impairments. Thick gloves would cover loss of sensation or dexterity. All sorts of clever tricks! Electric shock generators set to random to give a hint of how some conditions plague suffers with pain. I don’t think that there’s anything which would safely replicate the “like a cold ice-pick” or “like a red-hot knitting needle” or “a burning, tearing sensation” that some musculo-skeletal or nerve-pressure conditions treat us to. We could just use ice-picks and knitting needles... perhaps better not! And I’m not sure how you’d replicate amnesia or lack of reasoning capability. (Pick your own joke here ;-))

The rules of the “game” would also include: no simply paying someone out of your generous public salary and expenses or your private wealth to carry things, cook for you, dress you, help you move around, drive, read, write or any other “normal everyday activity”. They only get to keep a free travel-pass if they qualify for a Local Authority one already for reasons of age or existing disability. And no cheating!

If they feel their “disability” limits their mobility so much that they need a wheelchair, white-stick, walking aid, special software etc., they should check the criteria for getting a Local Health Authority issue one or aids or adaptions courtesy of the Local Authority. Then, if they find they wouldn’t qualify or would have to wait too long for the assessment, buy (or hire) a suitable equipment out of their salary which could then be returned, sold or donated at the end of their participation.

When it all gets a bit too much for them they can ask for exemption, for which they qualify by: filling in the application forms for ESA, DLA, Access to Work and also being checking to see whether their “disability” would qualify them for any support according to the rules of their local authority. They would be given the forms to fill in there and then. A random small proportion of them would be given a copy of one of the free guides published by CAB, DIAL or other relevent advice organisation but not the detailed guides that HMSO publish. They are excused from attempting to claim Independent Living Fund support because that’s been closed to new claimants since June this year.

The decisions to grant or deny their claims should be made by DWP staff in training or competency testing. I’m sure they do competency testing... don’t they? If I could make our elected representatives carry out this experiment while living entirely on randomly assigned wage levels (including minimum wage or Jobseekers Allowance) in ratios proportionate to the sources of income of the general public then I would but that would be really wandering into a dream world!

I wonder how they’d feel about abolishing benefits and allowances or restricting their availability once they had some experience of attempting to walk a mile in disabling shoes?


Carl said...

Nice post. "Walk a mile in my shoes" That is if you can walk at all and/or without crippling pain.

Keep blogging - I'll keep reading.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

What a great first blog, thank you! It's scheduled on the main OMBH blog for 1100 today. Best wishes, BG Xx

Hyperkittiy said...

Hey Sis! Dunno if it will let me post here, but here goes. I hear you. Way back when they did one of the "Live on Welfare for a week" the damned folk couldn't even do that! Seems to me that UK politicians are getting more and more out of touch with ordinary life and see it from ivory towers where they never need to take public transport so don't give a s##t about either public transport times or costs, OR violence on the streets!
I have to say the state of things back in '04 for Disabled folk was a big reason for leaving the UK. Can't say it is better here in the US, cos it is worse as I have no welfare cos not worked enough years yet, but at least it is warm. Hugs! Zan

YarnySue said...

Wonderful blog - I'd like to see them walk a mile with my DS's disability.

They really have no understanding of what living with a disability entails for somebody who doesn't have a fortune stashed away. If they do have any understanding, they certainly have no empathy.

Why not reclaim money from the banks/bankers and people who are evading tax? Why penalise genuinely disabled people who only want to live with a decent quality of life in spite of their disability? Surely this is a basic human right.

RockHorse said...

@Carl: Thank you! You're pretty good yourself! (example of British understatement...)

@BG: Thank you so much for including me :-) Your own blog greatly inspired to write my own and TBoB's OMBH blogswarm gave me the metaphorical kick-up-the-jacksie

@Zan: my darling Sis, thank you! Apart from your support always meaning so much to me, it's great to have a perspective from the USA. Might you write something for this blogswarm over the weekend? Especially with the perspective of experience of UK and USA living as a person with disabilities?

@YarnySue: Right on! And thank you!

RockHorse said...

I'm a little overwhelmed and greatly delighted to find that people have read and enjoyed what I've written. Especially that people have taken the time to comment!

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart :-)

I'll keep on keeping on!

Sue said...


Anyone who can live a mobile life without pain and doesn't have a 'there but for the grace of God' thought when they read about the cuts has no empathy.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

My son is autistic and in receipt of DLA, which my husband and I spend on his behalf in order to give him opportunities to socialise, learn more about the world around him within the safety net of family life, and just in general have a higher quality of life than we would be able to give him without it. I'm afraid that he'll be cut because his disability is not "bad" enough to qualify. He's doing well right now -- who's to say that isn't *because* of the extra money DLA gives us?

This is so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a great post, that would be a wondefull idea. People think we sit all day at home as if its a holiday they dont realise getting through each day is more than a job in itself. Do keep blogging!

MuggersBuddle said...

Fantastic post. I only hope we could make it a reality, and come up with a mechanism for getting them to understand what it's like to have a serious mental health condition, like bipolar, depression or schizophrenia. This govt and the last should hang their heads in shame.

RockHorse said...

@ Sue: Thank you :-)

@ Anonymous (the first): Thank you so much for your comment. You see, that's exactly the sort of thing that DLA should do - enable people. We need to make that clear to the general public and to the Government of the day. And we need, perhaps, to add a supplementary page when we fill in the endless forms explaining how the financial assistance improves our lives and how things go backwards if it's not provided.

@ Anonymous (the second): Thank you and oh so true. I'll keep blogging - I see the point of it now :-)

@ MuggersBuddle: Thank you - me too! I couldn't work out how to include mental health or brain injury. I've seen some lab-based electro-wotsit-caps that play with the brain/mind to a small extent but they were far from portable... Worth working on! And yes, shouldn't they just!


HORAKHTI said...

A very well written and thought out blog!

Well done :-D xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Walk a mile, interesting concept, more like walk at all. or bend, or use your hands, or dress, or cook, or even open tablet seals to take your medication.
wanta drink? cant order from anyone indoors, cant make one yourself, so just go thirsty and be quiet. hungry? tough, gotta wait.