Cast Off

Disabled is a funny old word. What exactly is disabled? Nuts and bolts? What’s the difference between disabled, and a bad arm, bad leg, depression, etc? Well, one measure is whether you’re in receipt of the relevant benefit, and the UK’s main disability benefit is called PIP, Personal Independence Payment. It’s a form of Newspeak. They cut people’s bus services, then tell them they’re independent. Go figure! But I must not get bogged down. In theory, parliament sets the rules, and they are implemented by the benefits agency, the DWP (Department of Work & Pensions).

At least, that’s the theory. When the DWP makes a decision, people often appeal that decision because they feel it is wrong. Almost 3/4 of these appeals are successful. As far as I can tell, if the DWP were implementing the rules properly, then that figure would be in the region of 0. Okay, it’s never going to be that low. Every case is a judgement call, so you’re bound to get some of them wrong.

And, believe it of not, I do support their aim. With any benefits system, disability, immigration, whatever, you’ve got to have some sort of test. A high jump, where if you jump over the crossbar, you qualify for the benefit, and if you don’t, it’s I’m sorry… Political parties will disagree exactly how high that crossbar should be, but they all agree that thee should be one. Otherwise you’re either giving the benefit to everyone or to no-one.

I was debating with somebody once about whereabouts that crossbar should be. Quite reasonably, she suggested that expert medical opinion should play a part. Quite often, they ignore medical opinion and…did I mention how many people appeal and win through?

But there’s the rub. I have only had one appointment with a doctor in almost four years since the stroke. Even that one appointment, three months after discharge, the main purpose was to tell me that I was on my own, that no further help was available. Further? I was left wondering what help I’d been given in the first place! It left me thinking that if I were a consultant, earning magebucks per year, it might really harm my job satisfaction to have a dozen years of healing experience under my belf, and to be stuck with telling people all the time that I couldn‘t, or rather, did not have the resources to, help them. If it weren’t for the fact that I was earning megabucks.

Of course, I have had contact with the NHS over that time. I take meds every day so need to restock those regularly, for starters. And I’m quite happy to get blood tests – I’ve learned myself what the results mean. And, bear in mind that my wife is a diabetic nurse. But as for visits to the local surgery, I try to keep those to a minimum. For one, I was on meds prescribed by these guys when I had the stroke, so how preventative was that? Okay, be reasonable, it might well have happened anyway. True, it might, but isn’t it suspicious that every one of my meds was changed while I was in hospital? Almost as though I was on the wrong meds to start with! Even since the stroke, I was told by a receptionist there that she wouldn’t help me to get some form printed off – at the time, getting to the surgery was just about my limit, so I was not best pleased that my journey had been fruitless. That particular episode resulted in a complaint, but I doubt I was taken seriously. So when wife asks me if I want to go to their Christmas party, it’s always a curt, No, thanks.

Taking medical advice on board is fine, but a lot of disabled people are cast off by the system, to sink or swim for themselves. They don’t see doctors for long periods – disabilities are generally long-term, so this could be years. And, they likely won’t have seen their hospital doctors since they were discharged.

Author: Stroke Survivor UK

Formerly, designed and developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged pre-50! I have returned to developing from home, but some of my time is also spent volunteering with the UK charities Age UK (www.ageuk.org.uk) and the [UK] Stroke Association (www.stroke.org.uk).

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