It takes a very special sort of mind to look at the UK benefits system and decide what it really needs is another layer of bureaucracy but isn't that just like our wonderful government? I am of course referring to the sinister remarks in their Adult Care Green Paper.
Their latest wheeze is to stop paying Attendance Allowance directly in cash to elderly disabled people but instead transfer it directly to social services who will carry out an assessment and decide what care to supply. The wording of the green paper makes continual reference to disability benefits making it very likely that the care component of Disability Living Allowance will end up being paid to social services in the same way.
This means someone like my friend's mum who receives most of her personal care from her daughter and uses her Attendance Allowance to top up her meagre pension, pay a cleaner to call in weekly and take a taxi over to her friend's house once a week will have her income reduced by £47.10 per week and be forced to rely on the 'help' available from social services. She did used to receive care from social services which involved someone sticking a ready meal in a mircrowave around tea time and occasionally remembering to put it in front of her or get her cutlery from the drawer before banging the door on their way out. If you wonder about the quality of social care, imagine a seventy-four year old woman, paralysed down her right side sitting in her living room wondering how on earth she's going to remove the film lid from her ready meal now that her 'carer' has left*. You may appreciate why they decided to struggle on without 'help' from social work -who incredibly had the nerve to charge for this 'service'.
It's obvious social services are struggling to care for the people they do have on their books, how do they intend to cope with an extra 3.82 million in England alone? No doubt this is where the government's proposed National Care Service comes in. Yes just what the country needs another government body to oversee services -well the FSA did make such a rip roaring success of overseeing the banks didn't they? Still how like the government to look at a load of disabled folk and see well paid non jobs for their chums rather than some people in need of practical help.
This proposal makes no earthly sense. It will not save money but divert money away from the poorest and most vulnerable to a new and unnecessary tier of an already vast and failing bureaucracy. It will not improve services for the elderly and severely disabled, if anything it will make them a good deal worse by denying them the opportunity to buy in their own assistance privately where state provision is inadequate. Though God help us all if they decide to incorporate 'choice' into each claimant's personal care budget, the paperwork alone that will generate is likely to create fifty new claimants a week and kill at least two people annually. Not to mention the 'do it cheapest fuck the quality' bids the private sector will submit to get on the gravy train.
Every other cash benefit is paid out on the assumption that the claimant knows how to spend it, so why are the disabled being singled out for the 'we know best' treatment. Is that not just a bit patronising? Why substitute a system that, imperfect as it is, at least relies on clearly defined criteria that can be challenged by the claimant or their carer if they're unhappy, for one which puts them at the mercy of a social worker's judgement? There is of course a lot of discussion, mostly ill informed, on the benefits system but never once have I heard anyone demanding we cut benefits and use the proceeds to employ more civil servants and set up a new government body.
As benefits go Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance are our best. They're not means tested but rather paid out on the basis that people with disabilities incur more expenses in the course of trying to live a normal life, like a sort of citizens income for the disabled. At present this money is paid out by the government and mostly paid back out into the economy by the claimant where it is of wider benefit. Who benefits from moving it from one government department to another? Both benefits are massively underclaimed as it is, tying them to inviting a social worker into your home is only going to lead to further underclaiming, in particular by the elderly.
It's a nasty proposal, another civil service job creation scheme at the expense of the worst off. Do not let the bastards away with it. I appreciate cuts in public spending are needed because we've gone mad and bought a few banks but I can think of a few more deserving targets than pensioners and disabled folk. Speaking of which take aim at your MP here , join the campaign against this madness here and spare a moment to read one perspective on just how helpful these benefits are to the people who need them.
* The answer is attempt to open it, fail , accidentially knock it on to the floor and wait for your daughter to drop in after work and cook you something proper.