God help us all!
December 19, 2010
Not a week goes by without a fresh onslaught against disabled people at the hands of a Government who appear hell bent upon making the Orwellian nightmare into a reality. Big Brothers Cameron and Clegg have unleashed their bloody thirsty pack of rabid mongels – some simply pleased to be given the opportunity to climb the greasy pole; others who are like the pathetic playground bully, want to hurt those who can’t fight back.
The huge talking point in recent weeks has been the release of the consultation document on replacing the Disability Living Allowance with the absurd Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I say ‘absurd’ because everything about it adds up to smashing disabled people’s ability to be independent. For legal reasons DPAC must be careful not to stray into personal attacks – therefore I will merely state that during my reading of this document, Captain Ska’s song “Liar, Liar” was pulsing through my head.
Before I look at the consultation document itself I’d like to invite you to read the petition at:
Adding insult to injury
In the Ministerial forward Maria Miller states:
“The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives.” I want to suggest we ought to keep this statement firmly in our minds as we consider all the implications behind their proposals. She goes goes on to say, “We have been absolutely clear that our welfare reform plans are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable situations, including disabled people.”
What is absolutely clear is that this is “doublespeak” – it means the Government will discharge any responsibility for the well-being of the majority of disabled people.
The document is full of questionable assertions which are impossible to challenge if you’re a lay person. Here is a flavour of what I mean:
“For example, many people incorrectly believe that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is an income-replacement benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability.”
This comes from their own research … the words ‘they would say that wouldn’t they?’ spring to mind.
“The introduction of legislation, for example the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010, to protect the interests of disabled people and prevent discrimination has helped many disabled people lead more independent lives.
What kind of evidence is there to support this claim?
“People are unclear about whether or not they are likely to qualify and there is evidence that people awarded DLA do not fully understand what the benefit is for. For example, some view the benefit as a form of compensation for being disabled, some don’t view themselves as disabled and others incorrectly believe that their DLA payments will stop if they return to work.”
The fact the current system is too complex, I would argue, is down to the administration of it not the basic framework of the benefit itself. Again, like poor workers blaming their tools, the DWP are shifting the blame for ‘not understanding the benefit’ onto claimants and away from the zealot gatekeepers at the DWP.
“Evidence suggests that DLA can also act as a barrier to work 6, when it should enable people to lead independent lives, including having or getting a job. DLA is widely perceived to be an out-of-work benefit and receiving it appears to reduce the likelihood of being in employment, even after allowing for the impact of health conditions or impairments. There is evidence that people who receive DLA have lower work expectations.”
As I said it is difficult to challenge the nature of this evidence because of how it was collected, but I suspect many disabled people and their organisations would suggest this doesn’t reflect their knowledge or experience.
The sleight of hand
In my opinion there’s evidence of sleight of hand to go with the ‘doublespeak’; the crucial one being the description of the principle behind the payment of DLA and future PIP.
First of all Miller states:
“We are steadfast in our support for the principles of DLA, as a non-means-tested cash benefit contributing to the extra costs incurred by disabled people.”
However in the very next paragraph she writes:
“Personal Independence Payment will maintain the key principles of DLA, providing cash support to help overcome the barriers which prevent disabled people from participating fully in everyday life, but it will be delivered in a fairer, more consistent and sustainable manner.”
Within the consultation document itself we find another articulation:
“We need a benefit that helps contribute to the extra costs of living independently, in a way that is right for each individual.”
(Emphasis added in each quotation – BWF)
Providing a cash contribution to offset extra costs arising from living with an impairment, helping to remove disabling barriers to participation in every day life, and contributing to the extra costs of living independently, don’t necessary add up to mean the same thing.
How dare these arrogant people at the DWP talk about confusion with the existing DLA when their own document is a dog’s dinner? The question is whether or not this “muddle” is deliberate or just the work of people who are “not fit for purpose”? Either way, the methodology is utterly flawed.
The document states: “The benefit will continue to take account of the social model” – excuse me? The existing benefit tilts it head at acknowledging ‘disabling barriers’ but in no way could the processes currently in place be regarded as working within a ‘social model’ perspective! Let’s not beat about the bush, it is possible to talk about ‘disabling barriers’ whilst enacting policies and practices which are firmly based upon ‘the individual model of disability’ – local authorities and charities do it all the time. Often both disabled and non disabled people are guilty of crude reductionism when talking about “disabling barriers” and the basic analysis that flows from the social model of disability. Within the original social model disability was understood to be social restrictions that were placed on top of the impact of having an impairment.
The model therefore focused upon the ways in which the structures, systems and social enviroments within western capitalist society excluded oer marginalised people with impairments in mainstream society. I would argue these social restrictions are primarily organised at the macro level of society, but they are experienced often as ‘disabling barriers’ at the micro level. This said, I would argue that not all social restrictions take the form of a barrier to participation – a defined social activity. The social model makes a clear distinction between the nature and degree of an impairment, and the imposed social restrictions. Attitudes towards impairments might result in disabling barriers, but they can also produce social restrictions in terms of negative evaluations of disabled people’s lifestyles which go beyond being prevented from taking part in an activity.
In my opinion the ‘disabling barriers’ approach found within the consultation document has nothing to do with the social model approach – it risks imposing an over-determinist approach through the construction of lists of ‘disabling barriers’ existing at the mirco level of social interaction that certain types of disabled people may or may not expected to encounter. Why do I say this?
“The new benefit will have two components, linked to a range of activities that will be considered in the new assessment. One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).”
If this were to happen, it would adopt a similar methodology to that found in the oppressive ESA assessment process. Disabled people would become the Pavlov dog’s of the 21st Century – no wonder they’ve cooked up a dog’s dinner, eh?
Another obnoxious and hypocritical part of this document – again proof of the Government’s disingenous nature – is the bankrupt idea that support should go to those “who face the greatest need”. Why do they insult us with this nonsense? How do you square ‘greatest need’ with enabling disabled people to fully participate within society?
What defines “need” within the the context of the ‘principles of the social model of disability’, Ms Miller? Why can’t this gutless “normies” be honest and call it “rationalisation” because every disabled person knows what the phrase “who face the greatest need” means; snot off the end of their noses for some and sweet FA for everybody else!
Once again the DWP relies on its own reseach to justify its claims:
“As it is difficult to measure costs objectively on an individual basis, DLA currently looks at ‘care’ and ‘mobility’ as proxies for the extra costs disabled people are likely to incur, giving priority to the people with the greatest care and mobility needs. Although these are important issues and reflect some disabled people’s biggest challenges, they do not necessarily remain the best proxies for cost. In fact, there is currently conflicting evidence on the factors that affect the extra costs that disabled people face in the 21st Century.”
Source: Review of the existing research on the extra costs of disability, 2005, DWP Working Paper 21. Review of the international evidence on the cost of disability, 2008, DWP Research Report 542.
The Consultation Questions
There are 22 questions within the document however I will only comment on a selected number.
1. What are the problems or barriers that prevent disabled people participating in society and leading independent, full and active lives?
3. What are the main extra costs that disabled people face?
Are these questions for real? How can they seriously expect a
meaningful response from people concerned with welfare reform by
the 14th February, 2011. Colin Barnes wrote a whole book that merely
touched the surface! Let’s be clear: this is a political honey trap. It is
not possible to produce a complex matrix which takes into account,
for example, a myriad of impairments and illnesses, the range of
personal experiences that relate to these. All the systems,
structures, social environments, cultures and attitudes that are
involved in disabled people’s social interactions (recognising too all
the equality strands) vis-à-vis participation within society.
The DLA focused upon personal care and mobility because they are the mainstay of human activity. If the DWP are claiming these are considered outdated, why haven’t they made more public their “evidence”? Come on Miller, either put your money where your mouth is – produce the goods – or sling yer hook!
4. The new benefit will have two rates for each component:
• Will having two rates per component make the benefit easier to understand and administer, while ensuring appropriate levels of support?
• What, if any, disadvantages or problems could having two rates per component cause?
Why is there a consultation process if the DWP have pre-determined
the framework of the new benefit?
6. How do we prioritise support to those people least able to live full and active lives? Which activities are most essential for everyday life?
Surely this is not the same remit as meeting ‘the extra costs of living independently’? Miller appears to moving the goalposts again with this question. Remember the Independent Living Fund; trying to be clever isn’t smart – we can see right through your shallowness!
8. Should the assessment of a disabled person’s ability take into account any aids and adaptations they use?
Depends on whether or not the DWP want to demonstrate their complete ignorance of the role aids and adaptations play in the lives
of disabled people – how many different ways does this Government want to penalise us?
11. An important part of the new process is likely to be a face-to-face discussion with a healthcare professional.
• What benefits or difficulties might this bring?
• Are there any circumstances in which it may be inappropriate to require a face-to-face meeting with a healthcare professional – either in an individual’s own home or another location?
Many disabled people know more about their medical conditions than
healthcare professionals – so why attempt to “medicalise” everyone’s experiences? So much for the ‘principles of the social model’!
Question 12 asks how the reviews be carried out? For example:
• Should there be different types of review depending on the needs of the individual and their impairment/condition?
Doesn’t this sit oddly with Question 11?
I could go on and on raising issues with question after question, but the end result would be the same: it’s all a pile of ill considered poo!
I have tried to stay focused and avoid flying into a rage, but it has proved difficult. There’s not a polite way to describe this consultation document and I would dearly love to personally return it to Maria Miller but doing to her what she and her Government are attempting to do to disabled people is clearly not the answer.
As soon as the festive season is over we must do all we can to turn the heat up on the Government and disablist lackeys at the DWP.