Well-being vs political ideology

For those who watched Panorama (BBC 1) or Dispatches (Channel 4), both programmes dealing with the Coalition’s attempts to cut the welfare bill, it must have raised disturbing thoughts about how we treat those among us who are suffering from forms of illness that we would not wish on our worst enemy. While accepting that the media will not miss an opportunity for ‘sensationalism’ in their reporting of any subject, nor be amiss to ‘editing’ to make their point,  the two programmes provided ‘troubled’ viewing.

It would seem obvious that medical expertise is being disregarded in order to achieve a political target to cut the disability benefit bill. It would also seem obvious that ‘targets’, per se, are a factor in the procedure that Atos have put in place and that these are a result of ‘conditions’ imposed in their contract that means Atos must do all in their power to achieve the result that the Coalition are attempting to achieve.

That a supporter of the Official Opposition, albeit one with medical qualifications, is selected to be a ‘mole’ to highlight failings in a government programme can be questioned, yet the employment by Atos of a person with medical qualifications that are not recognized in this country is employed to induct an applicant to the process can also be questioned. On the other hand, the fact that a qualified doctor is being forced to ignore his own professional diagnosis of someone’s condition in order to meet ‘guidelines’ set by ‘government’ also raises serious questions in respect of the validity of the ‘workability’ examination.

If someone who has no ability other than to use one finger to press a button can be classified as fit for work, then there is something drastically wrong with the assessment – and also with the person who devised that ‘test’. To digress slightly, I am aware of someone who has been called in for an assessment. In what follows, it is not my intention to be patronizing and the person concerned agreed that I could cite his case. This person is a man of 54, of limited ‘intelligence’ in that he is not someone who could be classified of average knowledge, had been a lorry driver while working, has difficulty communicating in that he finds it almost impossible putting together any reasonable argument in support of what opinion he may have on any given matter, who has suffered the effects of an unpleasant divorce (the details of which I know, but understandably will not divulge) that had a profound effect on his life, who as a result of past experiences has no confidence in himself nor his ability to perform any task, who suffers from fits of deep depression, who suffers from sciatica, who suffers from emphysema and cannot undertake any extended physical exertion for more than about ten minutes – has been called in for an examination. He has been certified by his GP as unfit for work, yet pound to a penny his assessment will find him fit for work. This fear has had such an effect on this man that he is almost unconsolable with worry that he may lose his disability benefit; a benefit – and the only benefit be receives – that provides him with £94 per week. I shall be accompanying him when he attends his assessment as, on his behalf, I have a number of questions to ask the ‘assessor’ – and, as you can imagine, there will be questions!

It may well be that the blame for some of those suffering from ill-health can be laid at their door through their own previous actions and choices, where their life-style is concerned – but that is beside the point as surely treatment of their condition should be the first priority. In any event, as politicians have been so intent on deciding how we should live our lives – and appear intent on so continuing – perhaps the cause of our growing ‘ill-health’ can be laid at their door; but once again I digress. Yet again it is necessary to pose the question that if we in this country have a problem with the well-being of our own then perhaps we should attend to that problem first, prior to attempting to rectify the same problem in other countries. Not all of us have the capability to be ‘captains of industry’, to be politicians (albeit ineffective); some of us are destined to do what may be classified as ‘mundane’ jobs – and where would society be without those performing ‘mundane’ jobs?

For those who fall ‘ill’ in later life, through the result of their choice of lifestyle, the resultant cost could be offset by the introduction of a compulsory health insurance scheme. For those who fall ill, through inherited genetic reasons, or what may be termed the ‘lottery of life’, then surely society has a duty to care for them? The question then arises which ‘society’ – the society of the country in general, or the society of those in which they live? As the care that those suffering ‘ill-health’ must be  funded by the communities in which they live, then should not those communities be responsible for the cost involved? Would it not then result in those communities, in the effort to reduce their own obligation to fund said care, devising methods that might reduce their ‘obligations’, whilst devising means whereby their obligations  can be minimized or negated entirely? (with apologies for introducing direct democracy and devolution of power…….)

Just ‘ food for thought’……….

 


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14 Responses

  1. Anoneumouse says:

    “compulsory health insurance scheme”

    isn’t that the Swiss way

  2. Anoneumouse says:

    David, I do understand and I do not have particular problem, I just wanted to point out that we already have a compulsory health insurance scheme, which is levied in the guise of National Insurance and Stamp Taxes.

    What you ‘seem’ to be proposing is NIC’s plus compulsory BUPA or the Dignitas option

    • david says:

      “I just wanted to point out that we already have a compulsory health insurance scheme, which is levied in the guise of National Insurance”

      Were that tax spent on the purpose for which it was originally intended, then it would mitigate the financial problem we have -but it has not. Perhaps it needs to be mandated that a tax raised is ‘reserved’ for that which it is raised?

      In the attempt to lessen taxation – and to impose a degree of responsibility on the individual for that which may be required in later life – what is wrong with personal health insurance? Why should ‘all pay for all’? Should we not pay for that which we may or may not individually need?

      so we change the system – what is wrong with that?

      As for Dignitas – availing oneself of that service is a personal decision and nothing to do with the state – if one wished to ‘save’ to so partake then so do.

      • Anoneumouse says:

        “As for Dignitas – availing oneself of that service is a personal decision and nothing to do with the state – if one wished to ‘save’ to so partake then so do.”

        Now that is the Swiss way :)

  3. Peter C says:

    This is a very difficult one which has become extremely complicated over time, thanks to the ever changing political winds, a desire to get people off the unemployment role by any means and sundry other political incompetences.

    I am sure we all know people that are deserving or undeserving of disability benefit, and several in-between. I know many personally: the chap who was badly burned in an industrial accident who was called time and time again for assessment even though he had lost several fingers and the remaining fingers on both hands were fused into odd twists and shapes making it nigh impossible for him to grip anything, the chap with a life long bad back that moonlighted as a gardener come handyman and really, really irritated me when I saw him crossing my land one morning having somehow managed to half drag, half carry a discarded railway sleeper a mile across local fields without difficulty, the chap who had an admittedly severe heart attack, was signed off as unfit to work for life and 18 months later was successfully running a market stall, the chap who regularly played golf with my father who openly bragged that he would only be better off working if the job paid £25,000 a year plus and who’s disability was mysteriously cured when he was in fact offered a managerial position at £30,000 a year. I could go on with a huge list, but I won’t.

    Mixed in those cases are people that are capable of reduced work, or are capable of work they haven’t been trained for, manual workers that can no longer lift and carry but would be perfectly capable of, say, call centre or clerical work, people that would be quite capable of part time work and all kinds of variation in-between. As I say, it is not simple and government incompetence that made living on benefit an acceptable life-style choice combined with government incompetence that destroyed much of British manufacturing and the jobs it provided has only made it far worse than it should be. Add to that the lack of jobs and little possibility of any in the future in many areas and it is easy to see how government after government has failed to sort it out and the whole thing has become ruled by de-humanised bureaucratic shambles. Then there are those that have destroyed their health through sport, drink or drugs, what to do about them?

    Local solutions might very well be the best way to tackle these problems, but I know what my neighbours would vote for, thinking workhouse and Dickens will give you some idea of what. If you think about some places where unemployment/disability is the main ‘employer’ where are local funds going to come from?

    I sometimes think no solution is possible, short of bloody revolution. Welfare has become so pervasive in our society that the pain of curing our abuse of it so that only the genuine in need takes it beyond the ability of any government to provide. Almost every public sector worker is, after all, basically a welfare recipient, their jobs consume GDP and resources, not create them. Some are essential, some desirable but the majority are neither. IDS and his single, national benefit that he is supposed to be creating and will simply replace all existing benefits by either tax credits or tax allowances (where the tax office pays you the balance of any entitlement if it is less than your current income) is not in itself a cure. Although as I understand it everyone will be required to make monthly returns as to income and status which should either make it completely unworkable or people will simply stop making benefit claims and starve, or join the black economy or something, God only knows, I certainly don’t.

    It’s a bit like the Eurozone really, government has made such a dog’s dinner of it, it is FUBAR.

    Now I’m depressed ;-)

  4. Andy Baxter says:

    Powerful piece David, emotive on all sorts of levels for and against.

    I wish you every success in supporting the man you talk about.

    I for one am a true believer in the power of individual ownership,of self determination and being allowed to benefit from and keep most of the fruits of my own labour and intellect but I also feel a deep moral obligation to aid and support those less able either by accident or as you put it through the’lottery of life’ I also believe that I should have the opportunity to aid such in ways that alow me felxibility to meet my own day to day needs: either by volunteering time, skills labour, or giving charitable donations but as we have now just being taxed and faux charities getting a slice where I have no say or the government decides to spend it on whatever flavour of the month it decidesjust turns me off to being as charitable as I’d want to be.

    I even believe that people who by lifestyle choice become a burden to a limited degree need that suppoort albeit temporarily until they can find a better way and as I said at Harrogate I don’t object to paying tax, to fund such issues, I see it as a privilege as long as its fair and I get a say in how it is spent:

    there is no easy panacea for the ills of the welfare state, that it needs reform is beyond question but its deeper and covers everything from not just reform of the welfare state but the NHS, the taxation system right down to the mess we are trying to sort re our constituion and sovereignty and initiating DD.

    get that right and I truly believe all else will follow for local people will become enthused, become more interested and passionate about their communities and with that the explosion of good feeling and good will combined with perhaps national and county level input cannot fail to have an impact on improving the lot of all.

    Having worked in finance for many years I remember well the old LAPR Life Assurance Premium Relief that people obtained on purchasing Life Assurance, basically a tax rebate on your premium. it is one suggestion albeit not the only one but a powerful one where people can fund their health and insurance needs and obtain a simple easily calculable and easily administered tax rebate by the company offering the product that in my view incentivises people to take care of their own needs.

    • Peter C says:

      “… incentivises people to take care of their own needs.” I certainly agree, Andy. The biggest problem and source of many of our social and political ills today lie in the determination of every post war government to stop or discourage people from doing just that. Thatcher did start to roll back the rot, personal pensions, home ownership and so on, but it was only a start and that was quickly undermined by the political class and Establishment elites. Brown gets mush justified opprobrium for destroying the viability of private pensions but it was Lawson who first changed the rules to redirect much of the day to day ‘profit’ back to the government via tax and back to employers via contribution holidays.

      The more successful welfare systems have always maintained an element of personal contribution that engenders a sense of personal responsibility, only Britain outside of the USSR as far as I can see followed the full state provision route to overall failure. Yet the sad truth is that even for countries like Germany where their version of the welfare state has been much more successful the cracks are starting to show with less provision at higher cost. Welfare under the social democratic or social liberal model will always be unsustainable, especially so when government is involved.

      Until government can be shrunk so that it is a legislative facilitator and not a doer or provider nothing will change and because the ability to splurge monetary largesse is the most treasured ‘right’ of government in their eyes only the restart button of bloody revolution is likely to have any chance of accomplishing the necessary small and emasculated government.

      • david says:

        To respond to you and Andy B:

        Good points raised in both articles by PC: The Swiss have a compulsory health insurance scheme with differing layers of provision. Perhaps if introduced here one could opt out of NI constributions?

        In the UK, our politicians spend untold £millions on maintaining their sacred cow – aka the National Health Service. It is generally acknowledged that Switzerland probably has the most successful system of health care, one based on an insurance system and choice. It is obligatory to have health insurance, but anyone has the right to choose from whom they get it as there is no state monopoly. The provider could be an insurance company connected to your line of work, it could be a trade union-run insurance co-operative, or even a private company. This obviously means that there is competition to provide the best possible health care for the lowest possible price. In turn these insurance companies have some choice over which doctors and hospitals they use, resulting in a further downward pressure on costs as those doctors and hospitals have to compete to offer the best facilities and treatment at the lowest possible price. Those Swiss citizens who are classified as poor receive credits which enable them too to select which insurance provider they wish.

        Andy B is quite correct when he writes that communal responsibility raises standards – it raises standards in behaviour, work, education – in fact everything.

        Peter C is also correct that politicians should be facilitators only and not become involved in provision. Given their head, local people will soon sort matters out.

  5. Nick says:

    I am continually frustrated by the state’s desperation to cut the welfare bill yet not look at itself as the place to start cutting.

    Yes, we are paying out tens of thousands to people who might not deserve it but weare also paying millions in salaries for people we do not need when local provision of systems already in place (and duplicated frequently) would be far better.

    Start strimming at the top and keep going.

  6. Robin says:

    Almost hate to say it , but scrap the whole benefits system , and the taxes that pay for it , and have charities with local boards of voluntary assesors to interview claimants .
    Where to get the money ? Would we willingly pay if we weren`t taxed ?

    • david says:

      On the charity front, that is how benefits started – mind you the charities involved were charities in the strict sense of the word…….

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