Thursday, 27 January 2011

Entitlement To Benefits Is Very Far From Consistent

After just shy of 30 yeras working in our esteemed NHS it has been apparent from very early on that entitlement to state support / benefit / call-it-what-you-will is far from absolute and very far from consistent. The trend seems to be that in times of plenty anyone with any level of physical or mental disability is encouraged to "go on benefit" rather than sign on for un-employment to keep the jobless stats down, and the same applies when there is a strong political imperative to do the same. As soon as cash gets tight, and especially under certain regimes (not all Tory) the push has been to "weed out scroungers" and push the "workshy" back into the labour market to keep the benefit bill down. No prizes for guessing which way the wind is blowing right now.

As a case in point Ned is fifty years old and until a couple of years ago was fighting fit and worked elsewhere as a lumberjack. Then Ned got chickenpox, which he had evaded as a child. Sadly his infection was complicated by encephalitis, a rare but well known complication. This fused his brain. Specifically that part that deals with short term recall. From that time on, though physically fit, Ned can't retain or process information. Last year he was assessed incapable of work for that very reason.

This year he has been reviewed. When asked if he can perform the standard physical tasks of the peronal capability assessment, Ned answers that he can, and freely demonstrates the same. So now Ned is again "fit for work". The only reason Ned made it to the assessment in the first place, and home again afterwards, is because his sister who is also his carer, made sure he did. Even if Ned found work, cleaning or asssembling or whatever, another employee would have to be tasked with watching and directing him every minute of his shift to keep him on task. His short term memory is shot without hope of recovery, but the latest assessor didn't think to ask, or disregarded the information. Now Ned, through his sister, is appealing the decision. I look forward to receiving the request for medical evidence to support his application, and I foresee a great many more "Neds" needing the same in the coming months.

As ever "Ned" exists as an abstracted representation of a genuine scenario encountered here this week. Names and details have been changed enough to preserve confidentiality.

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