Thanks to the BBC News this morning I have spent the day in such a strop I had to have a lie down on returning home from work. According to the new people are claiming Incapacity Benefit because they are too fat, tired or spotty to work. I must say this comes as news to me, whilst I have no doubt absurd and frivolous claims are made on these grounds I'm at a loss as to how they'd be successful.
To be eligible for Incapacity Benefit one has to attain a certain number of points. Fifteen points for physical ill health and ten for mental ill health. Not that one would have realised that from watching the BBC news who were happy to give the completely false impression that one can just write 'I'm too spotty to work' on a form and receive benefit. It is also worth pointing out that one is expected to list all ones illnesses on the form so that acne etc could be mentioned and recorded but might not be the cause of incapacity. This information is widely available so one wonders why the BBC couldn't be bothered to check it out -unbiased my arse.
To start a claim one requires their GP to sign them off work. If GP's are signing people off for conditions like acne then shouldn't action be taken against them? Once signed off a form needs to be completed then a medical with a DWP doctor. Again if DWP doctors are agreeing that people with acne are too sick to work then why is the DWP continuing to employ them? What action is being taken against them for this obviously sloppy and slightly suspicious work?
I am particularly surprised because of my recent caseload I've had people receiving chemotherapy declared fit for work, people die of terminal cancer after being declared fit for work and in one case that just about sums up the total waste generated by the current system a woman who was declared unfit for work by two DWP doctors examining her for different benefits and fit for work by the one examining her for Incapacity Benefit. In addition her employers doctor, her own doctor and an independent consultant who examined her as part of ongoing legal action against her employer all declared her unfit for work as indeed did the appeal tribunal. One might also wish to the consider the cost to the public of genuine claimants being forced to appeal bad decisions. Whilst my wage does not come from the public purse most welfare rights representation is publicly funded, add to that the cost of appeal tribunal admin staff and the doctors and lawyers who sit on the tribunal and it adds up to a tidy sum.
Obviously the system is open to abuse, which would be greatly reduced by giving claimants a proper medical rather than being barely glanced at by a DWP doctor who hides behind a computer screen making up answers to the questions they've asked you. However make no mistake the determined workshy fraudster will not be put off by any of this -if life on the sick gets too rough they'll simply move on to another benefit.
I'm not disputing that the system needs reformed, there is ample evidence to suggest that it does. I'd start by removing every inbuilt disincentive to work from not only Incapacity Benefit but unemployment benefit and the rest. I would also question what on earth is going on in schools that leads so many young people to think that the best they can hope for after leaving is a life on benefits. I'm also not convinced that people with addictions should be treated the same as those who are unfit through bad luck. I do not say that to be judgemental, I have enormous sympathy for those caught up in the cycle of addiction but I'm not convinced the present set up is doing them any favours. Oh and should any DWP doctors be reading please note that just because someone turns up drunk for a medical doesn't mean that they are an alcoholic and unless they have other problems associated with alcoholism they're probably at it. Alcoholism is the new back pain scam. Travel by bus more -the lads are very open about it.
In truth the system is a lottery, not helped by being poorly organised and badly structured. Sadly the people who pay the price tend to be the genuine claimants. The cheats know the system far too well to lose a single penny.