The chronically sick and disabled – whither now?

Here comes the new boss,
Same as the old boss.

We will get screwed again… (with apologies to The Who)


Someone asked me what we can do, in the light of yesterday’s budget. Well, emigrate, would be my best suggestion. Not feasible for most of us, though, we can’t afford the medical bills.

Tempting though it might be, I don’t think lying on the floor, drumming your heels and screaming will help overmuch either.

As for introducing new DLA medical assessments by 2013, well, really, they couldn’t be any worse than those administered by Atos. If the assessments are honest, then I don’t have a problem. Which, in reality, probably means we’re screwed, because medical examinations haven’t been honest for a while, as a look through the comments on this blog will amply demonstrate, and I see no likelihood of that changing any time soon. But what really pisses me off is that, once again, we have spectre of massive DLA fraud.

Several years ago the DWP launched a purge on DLA fraud. They screwed  up the lives of thousands of perfectly innocent people, needlessly reassessing them and, after a year or two, they gave up. Why? Because the level of DLA fraud that the Daily Mail, and now Osborne and his merry band of retards, are always bitching about simply doesn’t exist. There is some fraud – there always will be, as no system is perfect – but what they found was dozens of fraudsters, not thousands, or even hundreds. Hell, as it turned out there were probably more MPs fiddling their expenses.

The whole exercise wasted more money than it saved.

But consider, there is a widespread belief that the Thatcher government encouraged GPs to hive off long-term unemployed people onto Invalidity Benefit, as it was then, to keep the unemployment figures down (yeah, we saw how well that worked, with over 3,000,000 on the dole). And many of them would have gone on to claim DLA, and will still be on IB now. If it’s true.

OK, that would have massaged the unemployment figures, but financially, it would have been a disaster – Invalidity Benefit was worth far more than Unemployment Benefit (I can’t remember the exact figures), even more with DLA. I don’t believe it happened, because it simply doesn’t make sense, and because it would be impossible to keep secret.

There’s a belief, too, that those of us with indefinite DLA awards are immune to the review process. I’m not convinced but, even if it is true now, there’s no guarantee that it will remain true – there’s nothing at all to stop these buggers moving the goalposts if they feel like it.

I have a sneaky feeling that indefinite awards, being the most potentially costly if we don’t co-operate by dying early, will be among the first to be reviewed. Yes, I know I’m a cynical bugger – doesn’t mean I’m wrong though.

There is one thing in our favour – reassessing everyone on DLA will cost many millions of pounds and will be painfully slow – this despicable  bunch of tossers may well be out off office before it gets properly under way. It’s debatable whether it’s actually affordable, anyway.

However, it’s the Tories we’re talking about – Cleggy and co are just a bad joke –  and they, in my view, would have no hesitation spending hundreds of millions to save hundreds of thousands, simply because they are ideologically opposed to disability benefits. They have the seriously deranged idea that everyone should work for their money. On the rare occasion they actually intersect with the real world, they might actually notice that this isn’t always possible – I wouldn’t put money on it though.

And then there is one issue that Osborne has totally ignored – survival. For many people, DLA goes straight into the household budget – I know mine does – so how many could survive, financially, the loss of DLA? Hell, I live alone and I couldn’t. I wouldn’t starve but, on the other hand, I couldn’t afford things like new glasses, or batteries for my scooter, or any other of those myriad household  and personal expenses that come along periodically.

I don’t think any of us should feel too secure right now.

Any poor sods on IB or ESA, though, are going to be far worse off than those of us just getting DLA (one of the few advantages of getting older is that I’m out of the IB system (although they say they will reassess my IB entitlement next year – should be interesting).

Osborne, like Labour’s James Purnell, has this bee in his bonnet about getting the chronically sick and disabled back to work, which does rather make me question his sanity. We’re in a recession, you dumb bastard – there are no jobs! And if things go down the pan as a result of the budget, it’ll be a full-blown depression, lacking only an Oklahoma-style dust-bowl around Milton Keynes to complete the picture.

If Osborne was honest – yeah, right – he’d admit that he has not the slightest desire to get the chronically sick and disabled into work, not least because there isn’t any. It’s simply a ruse to move them off expensive IB and ESA and on to Job Seekers’ Allowance, which is much lower.

That was Labour’s plan and, as I said, back in December last year, the Tories plans are exactly the same

It gives me no pleasure at all to say I told you so.

Anyone who has a “fringe” condition – one that isn’t 100% accepted by the medical profession, like ME/CFS, or FMS – or a condition that’s not been properly diagnosed (or, like me, hasn’t seen a consultant in years, because there is nothing to be done and it would be a waste of resources), would be well advised to get into the system. Between now and 2013, you want as much medical support as you can possibly get.

In fact, that probably goes for all of us.


11 thoughts on “The chronically sick and disabled – whither now?

  1. Hi Ron,

    Hows you keeping. Like yourself I live along and was written off on the DLA as indefinate about 3 years ago. I see doctors every 6 months and have to go to hospital 6 monthly plus Operations 5 yearly. I have IBS arthritus and spondilitus so falling apart but there are alot of people worse off than me. If I lost the DLA and my car, it then is obvious you would or could loose IB as well. I live in the north peninnes. No shops and buses about once an hour. But when you cannot carry weights and use a walking stick life changes dramatically as many of your readers know. My car is my life line as all my family live at the other end of the country.
    The housing benefit could be interesting if they assess you on needs. I have a 2 bed bungalow, private rented but they say I only need a one bed. So I assume at the moment my HB will be cut. As for Discretionary housing benefit labour changed the rules in 2008. Councils now may take into consideration DLA as income and may take into consideration that some of it is used for care or vehicle. Note the word MAY. Durham take every penny of DLA as income so it is rare to get DHB. So beware this one will run and run. Take care Maurice

  2. Good post as always, Ron.

    I’m in two minds about this

    Remember, I’m on neither IB nor DLA, nor Jobseeker’s Allowance, so my experience with how these benefits work is all second hand.

    My partner claimed contribution based Job Seeker’s allowance for a while between jobs maybe 8 – 10 years since, and we went for a week’s holiday. The no-mark clerk interviewing her kicked off with “And how, pray, are you affording this holiday?”
    “Err my husband’s paying for it.” After some hassle, they eventually recognised it wasn’t means-tested. If they can’t work out something simple like that, how the heck does anyone on a complicated benefit get on.

    TBH, I agree with the principle if you can work, you should. I also agree that people need help and encouragement to get back to work.

    I think there’s probably a lot of people people I’d choose to help and encourage back to work *before* those on DLA/IB.

    I’d also be interested in where all the jobs are we’re helping people back into…

    • Hi Steve.

      Moral of the story – don’t put up with uppity clerks.

      I agree with the principle if you can work, you should.

      Me too – the problem lies with who gets to decide if someone is capable of work.

      I can work at my computer 6-8 hours a day. It could be argued that I can, therefore, go out to work. But it’s not that simple. That 6-8 hours is spread over the 18 hours I’m awake. But, what I do today, I probably won’t be able to do tomorrow – because I did it today. And, until I try, I have no idea, each day, what I’m going to be capable of – very often it’s bugger all. It’s further complicated by the fact that it can take me 2-3 hours just to be able to get out of bed. Plus, I’m housebound roughly 95% of the time. If I want more, I need to jack up my meds to levels which are unsustainable in the long term (and which have recently put me in hospital).

      So, superficially – which pretty well sums up Atos medical exams – I might be deemed capable of work. But taking everything into account, I most certainly am not. The trouble is, Atos don’t enquire that deeply. (My DLA medical, back in 1986, took three hours and put me in bed for most of the week – that was thorough.)

      A lot of disabled people are in a similar position, and what we really don’t need, in 2013, is a bunch of otherwise unemployable doctors, working for Atos with their half-arsed checklists (which, trust me, are no substitute for experience), screwing up our lives.

      Yes, there will be some fraud, there can’t not be, but there is fraud on both sides – there is no other way to describe some of the decisions that are being made – it goes way beyond mere incompetence. In these pages, there is a guy who has severe COPD, no legs, and a stoma, and was on the same level DLA as me. He felt, like me, that he needed middle care so, unlike me (the risk is too great), he reapplied. Not only didn’t he get middle care, he lost his higher mobility, and thus his Motability car. I can’t see that as being anything but deliberate. If it truly was incompetence, then it was on a level bordering on criminal.

      From what I’ve been told while I’ve been writing this blog – and I see just the tiniest tip of the iceberg – the amount of money saved by denying perfectly legitimate DLA claims – never mind ESA and, previously, IB – probably more than offsets whatever level of fraud there might be.

      For the 2013 review, though, I think those of us with incurable and/or progressive illnesses, the deaf, the blind, amputees, and the chronically mentally ill, should be excluded. The first 4 groups because they’re not going to recover, or even improve – hell, I’m not even sure I’ll be here in 2013, and if I am I sure as hell don’t need someone nudging me closer to the drop – and the mentally ill because they are the least able to tolerate the stresses of the review process – it will, almost certainly, make them worse.

      However, I’m pretty sure there must be enough dodgy knees and bad backs, plus assorted aches and pains than can neither be easily proved or disproved, to keep the review board busy for years.

      I’m just glad my DLA doesn’t depend on my ME/CFS, because that’s one group that’s going to be seriously screwed and, despite what I’ve just said, I think the mentally ill will be seen as a soft target.


  3. “the amount of money saved by denying perfectly legitimate DLA claims – never mind ESA and, previously, IB – probably more than offsets whatever level of fraud there might be.”

    Never mind the tens of thousands of people who *should* be claiming but don’t, because they’re put off by the aggressive approach of those “helping” to assess the claim, so depend on their families – those fortunate to have them – or just struggle in complete misery.

    • Of course, DLA has nothing to do with ability to work – got a bit carried away there – but otherwise I thinks it’s valid.

      I read recently that for cancer sufferers – one group for whom statistics have been collected – about a quarter of a million aren’t claiming benefits they’re entitled to, and I have little doubt a lot of them don’t claim because they can’t face the hassle on top of everything else.

      I have no problem with people having to rigorously prove their case – I had to – but the system has become absurdly adversarial. And they seem to go out of their way to disallow claims for no good reason.

      It’s worth saying, though, that when it comes to claiming benefits, people are often their own worst enemies – go into the process with a hostile attitude, you’ll be met with hostility. There does need to be more help, too, especially for people who are barely literate – it’s impossible to make a solid case if you can’t read or write adequately.

  4. Well I’ve no idea who would employ me as I’ve turned 60 – having left work because I was too ill to struggle on any more. I suppose there’s always the option of becoming an MP!


  5. I have long-term depression, epilepsy (made worse by the antidepressants, but the alternative is not to take them and be suicidal)and inability to cope with change. I am easily made anxious and self-harm when i cant cope. because of the epilepsy i can’t drive and last time i had to be assessed i was so anxious i could barely talk. i have 3 moods: completely lacking motivation, anxiety or panic). i live in a city with probably the worst bus service in the UK, find paperwork or phone-calls almost impossible to deal with a lot of the time. even if there were jobs available that i could get to, my self-esteem is so low that i can’t convince myself i’m worth employing, so what hope have i got of convincing a potential employer?
    i get DLA at middle and lower rate because of night seizures which can leave me confused, unable to cope, and daytime seizures (often triggered by music) which make it hard to remember anything. i want to work, and do do some voluntary work where the manager is understanding if i can’t come in or can’t do a full shift. I got sacked from my last job (ironically with DWP) because there was no prospect of me being able to return to work. not much has changed, but i’m terrified that this same DWP which sacked me because i wasn’t able to work will now try to force me back into work.

  6. Yep, all perfectly good reasons why folk can’t work. I’ve probably mentioned my typist before.

    Years ago, when there used to be things like typing pools, I moved office. In our smaller building we couldn’t have a typing pool, but we were offered a typist.

    He arrived. He was completely blind, white stick, no dog. He was helped into the office, so he knew where things were, and we were all a bit bemused. Went to say hello to him, he said “You’re probably going to wonder how this works…” and he explained how he worked, and how we’d work with him.

    He was fast, effective, and liked to go for a beer. Before him, I’d never have believed that someone completely blind could hold down an office job.
    He refused to register as disabled, for what it’s worth, as he said it was just a tick box so our employer could look good.

    This stuff has to be judged on its individual merits, and as Ron’s pointed out, there isn’t a tick list to do it. Is it worth spending money on? For sure, if it’s going to help someone get back to work… but why try and drive someone back to work who can’t…

    Unless, of course, it’s as Ron suspects and I fear it’s just about the costs.

  7. Hi. Ron.
    A short history,I’m 62 I have worked in construction for the last 44 years,the last 22 self-employed.My last visit to the GP’s prior to my illness was 15years ago according to my GP.I must admit prior to my illness I may have fallen for the propoganda put out by the Government,DWP and the Daily Mail etc.Having to go through the esa debacle has opened my eyes to the difficulties the sick and disabled have to face.In sept 2009 I had a esa wca, I have generalized osteoarthritis and bi lateral shoulder impingement but at the time of the assessment it was undiagnosed.I was due to see a specialist in november.
    The WCA was a farce,I received 0 points and the medical report was unbelievable.However I am no mug and decided to fight the claim to a conclusion.Over a period of 9 months I got Atos to admit the report was unreliable,the DWP lapsed my appeal and returned the report to Atos as not fit for purpose,putting me back in the assessment phase(11 months in this in total)The Independent Tier found for me and Atos paid £100 compensation.I then had to fill in a new ESA50 and attend another WCA in July2010
    I attended on the 12th sat afternoon, on the 17th thurs I received a letter telling me I had been awarded 21points the letter was dated tues 15th.As the 13th was a sunday which I don’t think the DWP work,my assessment was forwarded scrutinised,a decision made all in one day the 14th.This is almost impossible in the working pattern of the DWP.
    I had previously been told by an ESA expert I was the only person in the country to have my set of circumstances and there were no regulations to cover my position.
    To me it seems like they have fixed it that I passed to get me off their back.
    The point I am trying to make is they cheated to dissallow my claim and it appears they cheated to allow my claim.
    There are many many people who are worse off than me who have been awarded 0 points and failed the WCA.I basically don’t know where to go from here it appears they can do what they want when they want.A week later the DWP complaints in Scotland awarded me £50 compensation.I am not gloating I am just stating the facts as they are.
    I won because I was able to fight,now I would like to have my case help others who have to face Atos assessments.
    Any advice,suggestions etc on how to proceed would be welcome………. Stan

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