It’s a new day and the Minister for Work and Pensions has made another pronouncement – let’s save ourselves some money and assess disabled people on what they can do and not whether or not they are fit for work.
Now, at first glance, this looks like it could actually be a workable idea. If a disabled person is restricted in what they can do by their impairment, why not try a system that looks at what they can do rather than writing them off completely.
What’s wrong with that? Most people can do something can’t they? Why not have a benefits system that celebrates and rewards what a person can do and ensures they are not penalised for what they can’t. What’s wrong with that?
It won’t work, that’s what’s wrong with that.
But why won’t it work I hear you ask. Surely, assessing people on what they can do is a great idea. Surely, looking at the restrictions imposed on a disabled person by their impairment is a brilliant way of making use of their talents. Surely this will give disabled people the reassurance they need that their individual circumstances will be taken into account.
It’s a great idea for people whose impairments are static and unchanging. It’s a great idea for someone who has an impairment which remains the same from day to day. It’s a great idea for someone who knows what restrictions they will face from the moment they wake up in the morning until the moment they go to sleep at night. Unfortunately, it’s not great for most disabled people.
Many people have fluctuating conditions. What someone with remitting, relapsing Multiple Sclerosis can do today is unlikely to be what they can do tomorrow. What someone with depression can do today is not the same as they could do yesterday. The level of pain and restriction experienced by someone with arthritis changes with the weather. It’s not possible to predict what a disabled person can and can’t do reliably.
I have a suggestion to make Mr Duncan Smith.
Stop messing around with disabled people’s lives. Stop trying to make disabled people feel worthless. Stop telling disabled people you’re withdrawing what little support we may have. Stop telling the world disabled people are scroungers and liars and thieves. Just stop it.
Why not look, instead, at what you could do to support disabled people and make them feel they are valued and appreciated. Why not encourage employers to look at the roles they have in their workplace that could be done by someone who is restricted to their home for some reason relating to their impairment. Why not help employers adapt workplaces so they are accessible for disabled people. Why not ensure disabled people have the funding they need to buy the equipment which will enable them to work. Why not put more resources into Access to Work rather than cut it. Why not ask disabled people what they need. Why not let disabled people take the lead, you may be surprised by what you find.
Disabled people want to to work. Why not help them, don’t hinder them.
Our lives are in your hands Mr Duncan Smith, don’t let us down.