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We disabled people aren’t shirkers

Posted on October 18th, 2010 by Kathie

Alice Maynard is the chair of Scope and the founder and managing director of Future Inclusion Ltd

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a good education, and I run my own business. Yet every day the fact that I am a disabled person means that I am stereotyped and have assumptions made about me. People will often speak to my personal assistant about me, rather than to me, and I need to work twice as hard to prove that I am capable.

And on top of all this, disabled people are now living with the sudden obsession with “benefit scroungers” that can result in total strangers questioning whether you are “disabled enough”. This is creating a potentially dangerous view of disability, implying that it is a lifestyle choice for those simply too lazy to work. This undermines all those legitimately claiming benefits who would love to be able to work, but simply can’t.

Disabled people’s lives are relentless. The things that everyone else takes for granted – getting dressed, cooking dinner, jumping on a bus – can become major hurdles if, like me, you’re in a wheelchair. Financial support like disability living allowance (DLA) is a small recognition that at least some of these hurdles can be overcome with a little extra money. Yet DLA, which is not an out-of-work benefit, is now threatened with a cut of over 20% by 2013.

I use the care component of my DLA to contribute to things like the cost of pre-prepared vegetables. If I lost this I might require a support worker to come to my home for an hour a day, at about £10 an hour, to prepare my food. The maths pretty quickly shows that diced carrots are by far the cheapest option to keep me independent and healthy. Put pressure on this allowance and all the creative ways in which we manage our impairments start to break down.

Likewise, the mobility component of my DLA has just paid for an automatic wheelchair lock in my van, so that in the winter, when my body doesn’t function in the cold, my PA can drive and I can carry on going to work. In fact, a Scope/ComRes poll found that 82% of disabled people believe their dependency on the welfare system could actually increase as a result of spending cuts.

On Monday in Burnley and Aberdeen the government begins trialling its plans to reassess all those claiming incapacity benefits, using the work capability assessment – a test that asks questions such as, “Can you turn a tap on?” (to which my answer would be: “It depends on the tap”). Through this assessment alone disabled people will lose £5bn in the next five years. Our charity works with Helen, a wheelchair user who would love to work but had to give up her job in 2004 because of the daily fluctuations in her levels of fatigue and pain. She worries about medical assessments because her symptoms are invisible and difficult to prove. Another young person, James, is blind, deaf and can’t walk or talk, yet has been deemed “fit for work” by the new system, entitling him to only £53 per week.

I welcome plans that genuinely support more disabled people into employment. But the government’s plans will not achieve this. By moving disabled people off employment and support allowance there will be no structures in place to help them overcome the many barriers there are to employment – not only physical accessibility, but also employer attitudes. The government will merely be moving disabled people from one benefit to another, and abandoning them to a lifetime of joblessness.

There is still time for the government to get it right. It can meet its legal duties to carry out an impact assessment of the cuts; it can abandon its plans to use the flawed work capability assessment; and it can commit to ensuring that disabled people receive the tailored support they need to move into work. These are not expensive commitments, but they will go a long way to helping disabled people participate in our society and contribute to our economy.

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4 Responses to “We disabled people aren’t shirkers”

KosalaminodarefaDecember 11th, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Hello . My initial reiocatn was it kind of makes sense on a basic level but residential care is by its nature a greater level of support . Does this mean that anyone is residential care is unable to go out in an independent manner . Most can walk and would be of great advantage for them to have mobility scooters y. I know certainly of 2 individuals in residential care with respiratory problems who use scooters to enable their mobility around the home as well as going out short distances . I think the mistake here is to assume residential care = end of active life in society . My experience in working in such envirions ( nurse before illness ) is those who get out out by whichever means are most happy . Mobility components are also used for having carers accompany the person on trips . I have to pay for the carers time and any admission costs . Getting some were is not the whole picture I am currently living independently with care support . The thought that i may need 24 hour support, not care as residential care in itself is not 24 hour care . Individuals vary in their level of independence . So classifying between residential care , nursing home care , and EMI care may clarify matters . Though managing a family members needs on spending time in other places ( family homes) can feel overwhelming and adding a taxi being a cost that can not be met , may be a tipping factor for families and individuals adding to social exclusion with its implications to that individuals needs . Ultimately my DLA mobility component is used for a scooter now . I still need taxi’s , which I pay a premium because I need a wheelchair vehicle . I can’t use community transport often as my illness is unpredictable . I also tire quickly so need transport I can adapt to my needs . I have to do things when I can . I also need to use taxis home from appointments and for hospital appointments . Without my DLA my income was not sufficient to pay my rent top up and get back from hospital ( A&E admission ) None of my family drive . This caused me considerable distress and worry which aggravates my condition . If I need 3 calls a day morning , lunch , tea and bed call , My local authority will not fund all the hours . So I could end up in residential care but want and need to get out in a suitable vehicle . Without my DLA mobility this would not be possible . Would this be flouting my human rights ?So by removing this you could be trapping people in their own homes , increasing the risk of depression and increasing the effects of pre existing conditons . The money is not for families but by removing it you are reducing equality and increasing the gap between those who have and those who don’t . families may not be able to afford fuel for trips out , be embarrassed about this so avoid visiting and taking the person out . Christmas day in residential homes will be a lot bussier . Josie

ChienDecember 13th, 2012 at 8:02 am

he would be coming to exianme me at 10AM on Xmas Eve, when he arrived i was in my chair, he asked me some questions and when my wife tried to explain what effect my ailments were making to her ( she is my carer) she was told to be quiet i am asking your husband’ and this was said on more than one occasion, he duly asked for me to stand up from my chair, my wife stood up to help, which was quite normal and he told her not to help, i did manage it but with quite a lot of pain and near breathless, he then told me to bend over as far as i could which i did try but was unable to move more that a couple of degrees, walk forward 3 paces and then it was right you can sit now’ he filled in his forms asking me very little, after about 15 minutes he went and that was the last we heard until about 2 weeks later when we received a letter from the DWP which stated that i no longer qualified for DLA due to the doctors report saying basically there was nothing wrong with me, i did NOT need any help in getting in and out of bed, i was able to shower my self, and i could walk at least 800 mtrs, all this after i was asked just how do i manage when we do the family shopping, to which my answer was and i quote when we go to the superstore if there is NO electric trolley’s available then i will wait in the car until my wife comes out’ and yet he says i am able to walk 800mtrs just where does he come up with this figure, where i live my car is parked around 60 yds away and whenever we go out it takes meanywhere between 3 5 mins to get there i have to stop at least once and i always have to use my GTN spray, but he says i am capable of work, then o.k. give me back my HGV 1 licence and lets just see who is right and who is wrong, as far as the powers that be are concerned what there Independant Drs say is Gospel and we have to just sit back and take it, what recourse have we got, What right have they to tell ME what i can and can’t do when i have been ill for over 10 years and over that time i have developed other illnesses that will be with me for the rest of my life, as i now have to take Warfarin every day permanently because i have Atrial Fibrillation which i didn’t have 1o years ago, i am on Morphine for pain relief because i cannot bend due to spinal arthritis, these are just a couple ofd my ailments but i take each day approx 17 tablets and 2 sprays plus my GTN, so who is trying to play the system here, Certainly not me, so why is it that i am being penalised by the same system that tells everybody just how fair they are, i don’t know just who they are kidding but certainly NOT me ..

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