Friday, January 11, 2008

Obligatory Incapacity Benefit Post

My birthday improved no end over the two days after the actual day. Also, Steve and I have decided that we'll probably not make a big thing about his birthday in February, and just have an "official" birthday for the two of us some time in late spring/early summer.

Every disability blogger and their dog is doing a post about the current government/media demonisation of disabled people. I thought about it but wasn't sure if I could rustle up a whole coherent post about it. Here's the main points I would like The Great British Taxpayer to bear in mind:

1) Not every disabled person is on benefits. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest the possibility that there may be more disabled people who are not on Incapacity Benefit, than there are people on Incapacity Benefit who do not have a disability.

2) Not every person on benefits is a fraudster. I accept there will be some fraud, but that doesn't mean every claimant is a con-artist, just like one City businessman doing a phenomenal tax fiddle doesn't imply that every taxpayer in the country has dodgy accounts.

3) If you really know a person who is fraudulently claiming Incapacity Benefit - you actually know for a fact that they no longer have or never had the specific problems which they claim stop them from working, or you know that they are doing undeclared paid work - then report them. Please. You'll be doing us all a favour. The National Benefit Fraud Hotline is 0800 854 440...

3a) ... but please bear in mind that you do not have access to their medical history and that "disability" does not equate to "uses a wheelchair all the time". That there is a difference between managing to do something once a week (with a wheelbarrow full of medication, and time to both prepare and recover from the effort) and being capable of doing it several times a day every day. That some people have hidden conditions and look perfectly fit and able right up to the (unpredictable) point where they really don't. And that many people are using all their resources to cope with the basics of day-to-day living (bathing, dressing, cleaning, cooking, eating, attending dozens of medical appointments) and just don't have any spare for putting 37 hours of work each week on top of that.

You will look like a prat if you report Bob because you saw him walk to the corner and post a letter with no difficulty, but it turns out that the reason Bob is deemed unable to hold down a job is because TV screens, monitors and florescent lighting all trigger fits for him.

4) I've yet to meet the disabled person who says to me "I don't really want a job, I'm perfectly happy on benefit." What I have heard time and time again, are big long lists of types of support - not unreasonable things either - that a person needs to have in place in order to do a job, which no agency, scheme or individual seems prepared to supply. Simple things like "If I start work at 9am, then I need the carer who comes to help me wash and dress in the mornings to turn up at my house earlier than that, and they won't." Essential assistance and medical treatment for disabled people tends to be based around them being unemployed.

To be blunt though, I'm glad I'm out of it and hoping I can stay out - it looks like "getting tough" on disabled benefit claimants is going to be a big thing for the next election.


Clara Belle said...

I know this isn't really the same thing but for a while I was claiming job seekers while I had 2 part time jobs, I was honest about how many hours I was working and I got completely screwed over.
The overall impression I got of claiming benefits is it's easier to lie than to be honest. The whole benefit system is set up to make it as difficult as possible for honest people to claim and so demoralising you're more likely to do whatever you can to get yourself off it.

Mary said...

I don't know much about JSA, but as far as I'm aware, all you have to do to claim it is confirm that you have less than £1,500 savings and an income of less than (can't remember), and once a week turn up and tell someone that yes, you are actively seeking employment. I can see how it would be easier to claim JSA by simply lying on these points, although of course if you get caught out, you're screwed.

The big thing that makes JSA different to IB is that IB only have a passing interest in your savings and income. The focus of the application process is much more about the practical difficulties you have which prevent you from working. If you thought admitting to no savings and income was demoralising, imagine describing in detail how and why you can't dress yourself.

Whatever you say then has to be backed up by at least one doctor (usually your GP). If it isn't, you are turned down flat.

Often you then have to see another doctor as well - one of 'their' doctors - who must concur with the medical opinions advanced by your own doctor. You'd have to be a pretty determined fraudster to get two medical professionals agreeing with your story.

Anonymous said...

I'd also say that the IB system appears capable of working out if someone's being fraudulent in their claim, provided everyone does what they are supposed to (eg see posts about Mary's IB claim last year: supporting personal statements, forms correctly filled in, but something - incorrectly this time - missing from the doctor's notes = claim bounced).
There *will* be people who abuse the system, in any system. Some of those people will be caught, some won't. The ones I've heard/read about getting caught all seem to be people who were genuinely on IB and recovered/got better and didn't let the benefits people know.

Supermouse said...

I qualify for DLA right now and have all last year, and I haven't applied because it's just too much stress. I'm managing, just, to get by with day to day self care and a little left over, but not with a DLA claim as well. Since my husband works and we're not starving, it'll probably stay like that.

Anonymous said...

What nobody seems to recognise is that the whole welfare system is geared towards the middle-upper earners.
I was so heartened to learn that Sir Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger etc. etc. etc. have just nipped down to the post office to cash their £200 winter heating allowance. (not means tested). At the same time everyone with children under 16 get the Family allowance. (child benefit) and again not means tested.
Here i was mistakenly thinking that the welfare system was for people in poverty and unable to get out of it through no fault of their own.