Iain Duncan Smith and other government spokespersons have repeatedly claimed, with regard to the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) planned changes to disability benefit, that the changes result from detailed consultations with disability campaigners and groups.
This is patent nonsense, and I read tonight about one of the DWP’s measures that couldn’t be a clearer demonstration of this government’s complete disregard for the wellbeing of disabled people, its complete lack of concern for or understanding of the realities of living with a disability, and its complete contempt for the ‘consultation’ process.
Let me make clear: I am not disabled (not yet, at least). But it doesn’t take a great deal of thought or sense to have at least some idea of the kind of challenges a disabled person faces, or the kind of support that he or she needs in order to live with a measure of dignity and independence.
Apparently, though, such thought and sense is beyond the wit – or more likely the interest – of Iain Duncan Smith and his party. In its response to a consultation (in other words, the DWP heard the concerns of interested parties and still thought the following made sense), the DWP clarified the following:
- To score the required 12 points to get enhanced rate mobility for physical health problems, a claimant has to show that they are unable to move 20 metres even using aids and/or with assistance.
- The basis for this distance is that “20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home such as the ability to move between rooms.” while
“50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence such as the ability to get from a car park to the supermarket.”
The enhanced mobility rate is the higher level of payment provided to those with the greatest difficulty walking – but, crucially, you have to receive the enhanced rate in order to qualify for the Motability scheme that allows you to purchase a vehicle (adapted if necessary) on special terms.
Now re-read those quotes from the DWP’s response. Yes, it says what you think it says:
If you’re disabled, you need to be able to walk at least 50m to be able even to get from the car park to a shop; but you probably won’t be able to get to the car-park in the first place, because if you can walk that far we’re going to take your enhanced-rate allowance – and therefore your access to an affordable vehicle – away from you. Even if you can’t walk that far, but can manage more than the 20m we think you need to get around indoors, we’ll still take it away.
However, if you can only walk far enough to get around the house and not far enough to even think about walking from a car-park to a shop – we’ll give you the enhanced allowance!
The cruelty and callousness of this government makes me want to spit. I hope it does the same to you, and that like me you’ll be writing to your MP, signing any petition on the matter that you hear about – and if necessary coming out onto the streets to demonstrate against the whole, callous, illogical, twisted mess of the changes that Duncan Smith and his DWP want to inflict on people who face enough challenges at the best of times.
Out with him and all of his ilk.
(If you can bear to read more, please take a look at the article I read earlier)