Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Invalidity Benefit

Another day, another 'Labour gets tough on' announcement. While Chick Yog is horrified, Poll Pot expresses the eternal truth - that it's necessary to horrify the Yogs of this world in order to appeal to the poor dumb voters :

They were headlines to die for, everything that James Purnell had planned. "Labour blitz on dole scroungers" said the Sun, with "Get clean or lose your benefits, junkies told" from the Daily Mail.
I think I've read those headlines every few years for the last 30 years - no matter who's in power. I've got no problems with attempting to attack - probably the operative word - those for whom the benefit lifestyle is a comfortable alternative to work. What's going to be the usual shambles is the implementation.

Just pretend that some miracle occurred and numbers of smackheads and alkies, say, had their benefits removed. Let's say they turn to crime to fund their lifestyle - I know it's a far-fetched idea, but bear with me. Where are the 'extra' prison places for these people ? Because if the policy was actually implemented they'd certainly be needed.

You'd need some, too, for the able-bodied claimants - the modern equivalent of the Elizabethan 'sturdy beggar'. There are plenty of chaps 'on the sick' who do a bit of work here, a bit there - and there are a fair few places where the informal economy of cash work touches the informal economy of crime. Not all of these guys are going to buckle down to stacking shelves either.

If there's any effect, it'll be on the "honest disabled". Putting the job of getting claimants back to work into private hands, with a bounty for success, means that the private agencies will go for the low-hanging fruit - harassing some poor honest-but-fragile soul who they might just be able to bully back into an (unsuitable ?) job while avoiding the confident, confrontational criminal type or professional bludger up the road.

As usual, Poll Pot's comments are better than her actual piece :

The part of this plan which should strike fear into the hearts of any left-leaning person is the outsourcing of this to private companies. The private sector is excellent at making a profit, and only good at looking after people if this coincides with making money. People on incapacity benefit are the most vulnerable in society. It is those people with chronic persistent pain, mental illness and severe physical/learning disabilities.

Many of these needs are complex in nature. One physical condition may have led to another, they may suffer from depression as a result of chronic pain, their condition may deteriorate under stress or be exacerbated by work environments. Many conditions are cyclical in nature, one day or for three months someone may be relatively okay - the next day or the next year they may be terrible. On a good day you might pass an assessment but that does not make you employable to any private sector company. They want full-time or full commitment, not to come in just when you feel okay.

So what will happen? Well, the people who are faking it (and considering you get £60 a week and the stigma of being labelled disabled I think it will be considerably less than the tabloids may wish us to think) will just change their lies accordingly to pass the new assessment, whilst those genuinely ill will be bullied into unsuitable positions by private sector companies motivated by the bottom line.

While we'd disagree about the numbers of bludgers and their vulnerability, he has a point. And not just one for any left-leaning person, but for anyone who believes in fairness.