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What is fair in relation to cuts in public expenditure? I am bemused that the government, and the media/public, seem to think cutting disability benefits is fairer than … well, pretty much anything else, it seems!

I got up today to yet another media blitz about the government seeking to crackdown on those with disabilities, incapacity benefit (IB) this time. Some of the headlines make me wince. Are there really people claiming indefinite IB for blisters and warts? If so, who are the doctors signing this off and why is there no time limit on such claims? How poor can the vetting process for IB be?

Yes, if true, we need to look at such claims but instead, the government wants everyone (currently on IB and DLA), including those with chronic persistent disabilities as well as those with blisters and warts, to perform in a ‘beauty’ parade to prove themselves deserving of assistance.

The government’s ongoing PR campaign suggests fraud, purports those with disabilities to be ‘too wealthy for’ or ‘undeserving of’ financial assistance, creatively imagines paid employment to be available to the disabled on the same basis as it is to everyone else. What tosh this is … and yet, the public seem to be buying it! Why? Widespread ignorance is my guess.

I think there is a commonly held perception that essential health related costs are, somehow, paid for by the NHS or local social services (SS) or, if privately funded, are minor in frequency and amount. Mea culpa! I have to confess that I kinda held this view myself before I got really ill.

Most of us are blissfully disability unaware until it is too late. Sadly that’s because many disabled people - now including me – just don’t get seen out and about much. We are invisible … and there are a whole bundle of minority, ability and discriminatory reasons for that which will not be eliminated by budget cuts!

A consequence of this invisibility is that most people are unaware of, and disinterested in, disability issues. This makes the non-disabled majority worryingly susceptible to the government’s PR campaign – they don’t know us, don’t want to hear the bad news and want cost cuts to fall on anyone but … I know – sigh – it’s a me, me, me society out there! Boo hoo.

Sadly, it is only when we have, or someone close to us has, a disability or a disabling illness that we really get to grips with the associated costs and barriers to just ‘living’ for those with disabilities. At this point, we are stuffed … just too damn busy trying to cope to get out there and shout about the unfairness of it all!

Financing a severe disability, and holding down a full time job, costs an absolute fortune. For us, and I am only able to speak personally, in London, my private care agency charges £24 per hour; domestic help, £10 per hour; physiotherapy £80 per hour: my electric wheelchair £12,000 (nine years ago); my wheelchair adapted vehicle £43,000; all my home adaptations and other equipment are privately funded (c.£200k to date). My incidental costs are higher – travel and utility bills, huge holiday costs, high insurance and servicing costs – OMG, it goes on and on! Many of the costs are repetitive, few one-off. The NHS/SS give me NOTHING to cover these costs … and I don’t even think they should.

I get DLA - an amount that is about 25% of our annual care/domestic costs, so like having basic rate tax relief and that’s OK. Others are much worse off. Most people with severe disabilities cannot hope to hold down a job that is able to finance such costs and the mortgage, the kids, the bills etc. Priority should rightly go to those who cannot work if we have to choose between income earning and non-income earning disabled people.

But I still find it odd that this is the choice to be made. And yet, here we are. The government has managed to generate a political zeitgeist containing more ill will towards disability claimants – in particular income earning disabled people (?) - than towards bankers and MP’s. Nice trick … for some, just not for those with a disability!

I am all about ‘sharing the pain’ but when the capital and income earning majority of the population feel relieved to have escaped from ‘the pain’ so lightly, how has it become FAIR to see the slashing of support to those with genuine disabilities – income earning or not – as something to welcome? I am both incredulous and astounded. How did this happen?

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