Giving Me The PIP. The Politics of Disability

Politics.It’s everywhere.You wait around for a General Election and then two come along in quick succession.

So how do you vote? Follow your family, stick with your tribe? is anything that goes on in Westminster relevant to the daily grind anyway?

Yesterday I was minding my own business, parenting and such like, when politics came up and slapped me hard across the face. I took my son to an assessment to see if he qualifies for PIP.

I’ll explain.Once there was a boy who was little eccentric and rather old fashioned. He muddled along with friends in the school system until Secondary School, or “living hell” as he preferred to call it. Becoming extremely angry with violent outbursts in school, he would tear his clothes swear at teachers and have to be physically restrained.My boy became suicidal, self harming and desperately,desperately sad. Eventually he was removed from school, provided with a tutor for 18 months, and placed in a Special School for children with autistic spectrum disorders.

The boy had secretly been harbouring Asperger’s, and his otherwise remarkable (and modest) mother simply hadn’t noticed it.

The care needs at the time, related to the Asperger’s and his depression,were significant. As a result we received Disability Living Allowance. This was easy to apply for (hollow laugh) and only required the filling in of a colossal form with appended information from all his healthcare team and his educational statement.

When politicians get a bit bored, they look around for something to fix.When they want to impress the voters, they like to show you they are saving you money

For this reason (Insert Fanfare) The PIP or Personal Independence Payment was born! See how it removes the word ‘disability’ from its title replacing it with the hipper “independence’. Marvel as all the disabled people who we all know are ruthlessly draining the countries finances (unlike for example, large coffee chains or internet delivery warehouses) are sorted into “properly disabled” and “scroungers”

Anybody needing assessment will now be assessed by form, frequently followed by a one to one assessment in person, carried out by ATOS. At 16 all current recipients of DLA are also reassessed.

I find myself then, far from home with a young adult on the autistic spectrum, who fears change, gets stressed about meeting new people and has significant sensory issues, related to noise,crowded areas and being assessed.

I have never been anywhere quite like this centre. It is large and clean, and that is truly the only positive thing I can give you.

The chairs are in rows in front of a screen displaying colourful, friendly logos about what the assessment will contain. Despite all this there is the same smell of fear and despair you find in a vets waiting room.

Periodically someone comes and calls out a name, very quietly from the back of the room. It is packed with people waiting with ‘companions’ and we wait for 45 minutes for our turn, at which point we are taken upstairs to a room. There is a stairlift, but we are told that we need to be able to get down the stairs independently in case of fire.

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Access wise so far then, we have the difficulty of getting there, the strain of hearing or understanding your name, and the inaccessibility of fire exits. Forgive me if that seems a little peculiar for a place likely to be assessing people with needs, but it is what it is.

Upstairs we meet a perfectly pleasant Health Professional. I do not know what her specialism is, but I suspect it has something to do with form filling and typing. In 45 minutes she questions Aspie boy who is by now, in an extremely agitated state, takes most questions literally and looks more distressed than I have seen him in some time. I have to discuss in front of my mentally fragile young person, the suicidal ideation he suffered, the lack of school support, the Psychiatric input, my locking away of knives and drugs. All this to a stranger we had just met. This does not appear to aid his mental state.

The assessor is supportive and impressed with how far he has come, but has no idea if he will be eligible, having to send the report to the DWP to use as an assessment tool. We have leave to appeal if it doesn’t go our way.

You may glean that I have some problems with this process, how astute of you!

I absolutely believe that governments should be held accountable for how tax payers money is spent. I do think we should minimise fraudulent claims, and encourage independence as far as possible.I suspect that there may be better ways of doing this.

For example, what if the DWP used medical information provided by medics who know the person well? How about school or Psychiatric reports? Does reinventing the wheel and adding another layer of assessment really save money? How much do the centres cost to run, clean, heat staff and light?Is this money offset against the colossal savings made by removing the fraudulent claimsters? Should centres be accessible? Do the Authorities realise that being disabled is not a choice? It does not discriminate. It could be YOU!

I found the whole situation shocking. It felt like a processing plant. It was dehumanising, to see people coming in with crutches and walking frames ready to be assessed to see if they really needed them. It infantilises people, and discredits the existing medical and social care professionals. It breeds the idea of disabled scroungers living off the stage in the public mind, and discourages inclusion as a result.

I want to believe this was not the intention of Government when it was introduced.I truly want to believe that everyone in our society is valued equally. I strongly advice you not to become sick or carelessly acquire a disability.

Please consider this when you vote, but most of all, please vote!

 

 

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