Today Esther McVey announced some really good news, especially if you were awarded a lifetime award of Disability Living Allowance many years ago.
Disability Living Allowance came into existence nearly 20 years ago as a way of acknowledging that being a disabled person in an able-bodied world incurred extra costs. And it does, in all sorts of bizarre ways that don’t occur to those deliciously accomplished Adonis’s, the able-bodied. Or the “Squandering your health without the assistance of a crystal ball” as I like to call them.
Now I could start with the big things, like how the hell do I get to the GP surgery, or the Blue Circle of Health and Excellence Centre as it is probably now known. I could get a bus. Except I cant. There are only three a week, one on a Tuesday and two on Fridays, which overlap. And they are not accessible, they are exempt as they are mini-buses. I’m pretty sure they are Leyland Dafs to be honest, with three spiralling vertiginous steps that would test a mountain goat.
So the not very cheap or cheerful bus is not an option. Taxi maybe? Rarer than mountain goats to be honest, and it’s odd but no matter how sexy I try to sound on the phone, I can’t convince them to travel 18 miles to take me to a GP surgery 6 miles away. Thats proof enough, if you needed it, that the country is going to the dogs… It’s not like I am going south of the river. OK, there is no chance of a return fare, but there is also no chance of the taxi driving back to base only to turn round, collect me and return me home. River or no river.
Maybe I could ask the neighbours – I’m sure they would love a trip to the Happy Privateer Pub and Health Centre, they could read very old copies of Cumbrian Life and plan their escape to Yorkshire whilst they wait for me. Except the neighbours consist of, get this, working people. Or disabled people. Or People who can’t leave their child/dementia suffering Mother/milking mountain goats and take me. And to be honest, they don’t want to.
So instead I buy a car, and pray that I can drive to the Seventh Circle of Health, Total Rehabilitation and Diagnostic Centre, and that I can drive back again. It’s that or lie on the floor and fester until the Grim Reaper arrives. Now how does a dribbling cripple buy a car? Well cheaply is the main criteria. Cheap with a big boot to fit the NHS “one size fits all” home gym and workout machine, aka Fat Bastard, wheelchair. It’s a futile aid, as I can’t self-propel without dislocating various parts of my upper body, but trading up to a powerchair means getting a hoist fitted in the car – neither thing I can afford.
But what about Motability, the scheme where all dribbling crips get a car? Well to be honest, its timing. To get a motability vehicle you have to be very disabled and almost always put up a lump sum. I don’t have lump sums, just sore lumps. And you have to have a decent award length. And a bit of planning… because usually I only get my award a few days into my award, which leaves less time to get a car. Obviously if the DWP gave me an indefinite award then I could get properly organised…
Then there is kitchen roll. Disabled people use a disproportionate amount of kitchen roll. And crockery. If ever there was a reason not to allow a crippy mate into your kitchen it’s this – your insurance will go up. Crips like me are disaster magnets. We are our own event horizon. We are the envelope that got pushed through the shredder by mistake. Trust me, you can’t trust me. I could cause carnage in a vacuum.
Then there are heating bills. I could jump up and down to keep warm. This would work by me jumping up, coming down, and going to hospital, where I am assured it is warm. Or I could put another jumper on, except I can’t, without help. I suppose I could ask the neighbours to help except…
Ferrules. Damn you ferrules, you 50 Shades of Grey Rubber. You are the bane of my life. Slippery when wet, sticky when dry, squeaky on shiny floors and sodding expensive given that you leeched out of a tree. I am assured by people who take these things seriously you can get non slippery, non squeaky, pretty ones that cushion your wrists. In fact there are entire factories with real live designers just designing better ways to part you from your allowance. All I have to do is look on the internet…
Ah the internet. What a joy. If you can type. Or use specially trained speech software. And maybe see or hear what you have written. Of course it’s not free… neither is the assistive technology that is required if you are a crip. Its gets a bit more expensive when you factor in the crip capability of being able to demolish any item with a simple sneeze. Of course I could go to the library, which is opposite the Privatised Parts and Reclamation, Health and Reprogramming Centre, but we have already established that this could be hit and miss. Also the library doesn’t do assistive software/hardware/stop the spotty kid reading your screen. And there is only one parking bay for dribblers/staggerers/wobblers/wheelies.
Anyway, I digress. Disability costs money, just like ordinary life, but quite a bit more, for many more reasons than I could tell you about here. You’d be bored by the minutiae. That’s if you have read this far.
Problem is, it’s now going to start costing a lot more money, and there will be less money given out.
It works like this. Rent goes up but Housing benefit goes down. Council tax goes up, council tax benefit goes down. There is a bedroom tax, there are no houses to move to and all these things affect disabled people just like normal people. Esther and Iain and David would have you believe that disabled people will be protected – they won’t. Instead they are being forced into workfare. Still I suppose it gets us in the workplace, just as Scope always wanted. And there will be more of us on buses and trains – dribbling and muttering and talking to the voices inside our heads. Won’t that be fun and inspiring for society!
Oh and begging, that’s the other thing there will be more of. We know it’s illegal, but apparently prisons have heating and meals and clean sheets. And why would we be begging? Because the Government have decided to remove DLA, the allowance that allows travel even if it is more expensive, the allowance that pays for the internet and allows internet shopping, the allowance that replaces crockery with melamine, the allowance that pays for social services and private carers to ensure we don’t end up in homes costing £2000 a week or taking all our clothes off in town, the allowance that gets us to work and keeps us in work.
And they are replacing it at much lower financial levels for the same degree of disability. Or put another way, they are taking the money and leaving the disability and its associated costs.
There has been a lot of rhetoric about the fact that most people on DLA have indefinite awards and may not need the level of financial assistance they get. This could be true, technology is a marvellous thing and there have been wonderful advances in medical science. Maybe we should be checking that people haven’t had joint replacements, or died, or been treated with a wonder drug, or a miracle course of physiotherapy that they forgot to mention.
But the Government are not testing the indefinite awards who may be better/worse/the same/dead. No, they are testing primarily the people, who, like me, are tested every one or two years anyway. The very people, who by both definition and testing, are most likely to be on the correct level of allowance. Thus leaving the people who they are targeting safe on DLA for another 3 years.
If there are frauds and liars (or just people who are on the wrong levels of benefit) hidden in amongst the great untested, then they have just let out a huge sigh of relief. Meanwhile the proven and regularly tested, genuinely disabled will be put through a system that penalises having aids and adaptations, that expects recovery or adapting to your condition, and that considers being able to stagger 21 metres as not being disabled enough. And reduces their allowance, for many, down to zero.
Apparently they can already put a man on the moon... now how long will it take to insert a brain into a Minister?