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’……….