PIP and Reality

By: A.C.

It was with a wry smile I saw the inevitable but expected review by the UK Government on the definition of what disability is, as regards the qualification for PIP reported in by Frances Ryan in the Guardian. The article is also linked on our Facebook Page.

She reports the UK Government idea that using aids for disability might not be taken into account when being assessed. The UK Government consultation on this review ends on the 29th January 2016. It is a hefty document, but readable. You can email them at pip.consultationfeedback@dwp.gsi.gov.uk .

An interesting summing–up of the review is contained in a locum doctor’s web magazine. Locums and allied health professionals, of course, work for the contractors who manage & run the assessment companies. So how they see it is quite interesting.

The author of this illuminating piece for Health Professionals writes:

“In April 2013, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for claimants of working age. Like DLA, PIP is intended to provide a contribution towards the extra costs caused by long-term health conditions and disabilities. It is not an income replacement benefit. It is not means tested, contributory or taxable and is payable to people who are both in and out of work. Most people have a face-to-face consultation with an independent health professional to determine whether they are eligible for PIP. The assessment looks at an individual’s ability to complete ten daily living activities and two mobility activities.”

The Guardian author rightly takes the angle that the government is again attacking the disabled, alleging that anyone using for example an aid, special bed, or other device to aid them in their daily life is actually a fraudster.

“From the start of the Conservatives’ “reform” of disability benefits, the narrative has been to present vast numbers of disabled and chronically ill people as either faking shirkers or passive victims with the wrong attitude. This latest consultation is simply another – perhaps more blatant – tactic to shift responsibility away from the state. After all, the easiest way for a government to shred social security for disabled people is to present the argument that many are not actually disabled.”

In a slight digression of perceiving reality, I have been watching a fascinating programme on TV called “The Brain with David Eagleham”.

This highly interesting programme goes into why nothing that we perceive is ‘real’, because the brain simply makes sense of all the sensory input and forms our experience. For example there was the case presented of a blind man, who had his sight restored in a very successful operation by very skilled surgeons. However, the man did not see as expected as his brain had never received that sensory input and it was therefore unused to dealing with what the eyes could see, and his experience is that of a sight–impaired person who sees shadows.

Why do I digress? As regular readers will know, I often recall the words, actions and campaigning spirit of my mother who had polio. She often maintained vociferously to local MP’s, councillors and anyone who would listen long enough, that being disabled was not a lifestyle choice. Being paralysed as a result of a virus was her own reality, and her own opinion was that the able–bodied who were the ‘Powers that Be’ would never understand what disability meant – unless illness, accident or tragedy struck them or their family. It was a harsh, unforgiving piece of Realpolitik, which is actually very compassionate, because her attitude went straight to the heart of the problem.

I can still remember my mother shrugging her shoulders, back in the 80’s, when she received a letter from the then DHSS, requesting her attendance at a Board, to see if she still had Polio. It was very quickly established on her attendance, that the lifelong paralysis had not been miraculously cured. She answered all the questions and ‘performed’ for the satisfaction of the Board with great dignity.

I suppose there will always be those who do not understand, appreciate or know what the reality of being disabled is like. Their opinion forms part of their ‘reality’ in suspecting that all people with disabilities are ‘faking it’. However, as these self –important politicians and their lackeys get older, or have their own children, then the possibility of infection, accident, disease & genetic problems will always be there.

Then they might just understand why the disabled need rights, campaigning groups and legislation to protect them.

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