Sunday, February 03, 2008

Let It Snow

... but, if it's going to snow, could it at least have the courtesy to do it properly?

Like many other people with chronic illnesses, my condition is affected by the weather. Snow in particular poses a problem, the combination of low pressure and low temperature giving me a double whammy of Bad.

So when we had an hour or so of snowfall in the late afternoon/early evening of Friday, I was practically a human barometer. I started work feeling my normal self, but at about 4pm I started feeling rotten and shortly after 5pm I was curled up on the floor flinching from the light and trying not to be sick.

Thing is. I would never go so far as to wish it didn't snow. Snow is fun for lots of people and it looks pretty, too. Even if you don't want to go out in it at all, there's a lot of satisfaction to be had in curling up on the sofa with a thick jumper, a hot water bottle and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, gazing out of the window and thinking "ooh, I'm glad I'm not out in that."

That's not what we got on Friday though. We just got big fluffy flakes that melted almost as soon as they'd landed. What's the point in that? Proper snow or none at all, that's what I say. None of these half-measures.

In other news, it's been hard to miss the story about the investment banker David Freud who spent three weeks examining the UK welfare system and published a report which was "highly influential" on new reforms to the system. These reforms have been outlined by James Purnell, a man who has been Work and Pensions secretary for all of a week. Perhaps the reforms are more substantially the work of the previous Work and Pensions secretary... one Mr Peter Hain, who left the position without giving notice, and only did the job part-time anyway, between his other occupations of being the Welsh secretary, and trying to persuade everyone that his failure to disclose donations (for his failed attempt to become deputy leader of the Labour Party) WAS due to incompetence, rather than wilful fraud.

Bearing those track-records in mind, it's hardly surprising that Mr Freud's report contains a disturbing amount of inaccurate information, as well as a certain amount of the 'I don't believe it so it can't possibly be true' philosophy (why is it so unthinkable that at any given point, 500,000 (about 2%) of the 25 million people under 35 in this country are incapacitated in some way?).

I don't want to bang on about this one today - most of my opinion on the demonisation of Incapacity Benefit claimants in the media and their use as a political football can be found in this post - but really, this guy is incredible. Let's just take one example:

"He told the Daily Telegraph it was "ludicrous" medical checks were carried out by a claimant's own GP," because "they're frightened of legal action."

Well, yes, it would be, if this were the case, which it isn't.

A claimant's own GP IS required to fill out a report on a claimant, on the basis that they are likely to be at the centre of a claimant's medical treatment. However, reports are also requested from: the claimant themselves; other medical professionals treating the claimant; and from the "person who knows the claimant best" which could be a carer or friend or relative. An independent medical professional employed by the DWP decides if all the various reports support each other, and quite often, the claimant is then required to travel to another town in order to attend an appointment with an independent DWP doctor who makes yet another report. The whole lot then passes to a panel of bureaucrats who make a decision on whether benefit should be awarded. I cannot spot anywhere in this process which allows for legal action to be taken against the GP unless they were to knowingly provide inaccurate medical information.

If the esteemed *anker has ANY evidence to back up his belief that there are 185,000 claimants working illegally, and a further 1.5 million claiming fraudulently, then he owes it to all of us to pass that information on to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline, either online or by calling 0800 854 440.

Simply making life even more difficult for people trying to cope with a long-term illness is not going to help anybody.

PS, I'm feeling physically rubbish, but in myself, I've perked up a lot in the last couple of days. Not quite as nauseatingly happy as I was a couple of weeks ago, but I'm working on it.


Supermouse said...

I heard the comment in passing, but it was so depressing, I ran away from further reading.

Another one to show Pol if he starts pushing for me to get DLA again.

Yes, I qualify. No, I don't want it. Not with all the attendant stress. Not unless we're both starving.

Mary said...

Amazingly, the *anker doesn't seem to mind about DLA. His big thing is Incapacity Benefit and what he persists in referring to as "Unemployment Benefit" which is what Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support were known as Way Back When.

DLA is wonderful IF you get it. I would consider applying for it again, in the sense of, filling out the form and so on. But if I was turned down again, I wouldn't appeal, even if I was 110% sure of my position, because that is the bit that's more stress than it's worth. I consider myself very lucky that I have so much practical support from those close to me, that I am able to get by without it, albeit not as easily or independently as I would like.

Anonymous said...

Woo for the snow, such as we had...
I still think that a couple of journos asking the nice man a couple of questions about how he's got the government's own processes wrong (in a report *for* them, no less) would go down a treat.