The reason that more addicts will be getting High Rate Care (HRC) than blind people is because to get the higher rate care you have to need assistance 24 hours a day. Alcoholics will often need support during the night in case they end up so drunk they pass out and vomit. If someone passes out on their back and vomits they will aspirate their vomit and die so someone needs to be present to roll them into the recovery position if needed. Whereas blind people - unless they have additional medical complications - will typically sleep through the night. If they do have additional medical complications then they'll be the reason why they get HRC rather than the blindness. So that's why we have a system where more addicts get HRC than blind people.
The claim that Miller was trying to make in a roundabout way without actually saying so was that the welfare reforms are only going be targeting people with socially unacceptable impairments, by which I mean conditions that tabloid readers don't like, like alcoholism. She was trying claim, indirectly, that people with socially acceptable conditions will fare OK under welfare reform, that they'll protect the "most vulnerable."
I have osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). I've broken about 50 bones. OI is presumably one of the conditions Miller thinks the public finds socially acceptable so I would be one of the people that Miller was alluding to when she said that the most vulnerable would be protected. I get Disability Living Allowance. I get the high rate mobility (HRM) component and middle rate care (MRC) component.
I get HRM because I'm virtually unable to walk. I can walk a very short distance but only very slowly and with extreme pain and difficulty. My aforementioned osteogenesis means that a good many of my joints have been shattered so have extremely limited movement. The rest of my joints are held in place by tendons and ligaments of such poor quality that my 4kg cat can dislocate my knee by sitting on it. Because my tendons and ligaments don't do a good job of holding me up I fall over very easily, which is really not very safe in someone with brittle bones. Between the pain, the difficulty, the slowness and the danger involved in walking I'd be pretty much housebound without a wheelchair. I couldn't even walk as far as the bus stop at the top of my street (and it's a short street) before my knees had swollen up so much that I couldn't bend them for the rest of the day. My consultant orthopod has told me to walk less than the little bit I already do around the house because I'm causing permanent damage to my joints. I'm wearing them out and I'm only 32.
I then get MRC because I need constant supervision due to injuring easily. Activities during which I’ve broken bones include walking1, sleeping2 and eating3. So the government can't scrimp on my supervision by telling me to cut out risky activities cos, you know, eating and sleeping are essential for survival.
You'd think I'd be one of the people the government would consider "vulnerable," right?
Flicking through the draft criteria for DLA's replacement, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), it looks like in future I won't be getting a penny.
The mobility component will no longer be assessed on your ability to "walk", it will be assessed on your ability to "mobilise". The difference being that they'll consider your ability to get around using a wheelchair. And if you can get around using a wheelchair your benefit will be denied.
If you could use a wheelchair if only you owned one you'll be assessed using an "imaginary wheelchair". And if you can use said imaginary wheelchair you will be denied the benefit that would allow you to buy an actual wheelchair made of proper materials and not just Miller's fanciful thoughts.
Then there's the "Daily Living" component which will be assessed on the following criteria:
- Planning and buying food and drink;
- Preparing and cooking food;
- Taking nutrition;
- Managing medication and monitoring health conditions;
- Managing prescribed therapies other than medication;
- Washing, bathing and grooming;
- Managing toilet needs or incontinence;
- Dressing and undressing; and
- Communicating with others.
Notice how "needs supervision for safety reasons" has gone? Presumably so those addicts will lose the entitlement to supervision so they drown in their own vomit. But it'll also not only affect people like me who injure easily for physical reasons, it'll no doubt affect a huge number of people who currently get DLA due to mental health problems or conditions like epilepsy.
In short: I'm fucked. DLA is the benefit to cover some of the extra costs of disability. It doesn't cover many of those costs anyway and it looks like in 2013 I'm set to lose that little bit of money that allows me some semblance of independence and life.
Miller claims the system needs reforming because it's not helping the right people. I'm loathe to define myself as "needy" or "vulnerable" but thanks to these reforms I will become both. And please remember this post the next time you hear someone from the government claim that welfare reform is about "weeding out the scroungers" while "protecting the most vulnerable."
Edited to add: Over at The Broken of Britain there's a post detailing how to make your objections to the new PIP assessment criteria known. You can also write to your MP making your objections known.
1 December 2008 I tore a tendon out of a metatarsal which pulled the tip of the bone off with it. This injury was the result of simply walking normally.
2 In the early hours of 01/01/2000 I slept in an awkward position. I got woken up by blinding pain at about 4am. The awkward sleeping position had crushed not just one but several vertebrae.
3 As a child I caught my forearm on the edge of the table while eating dinner. This light tap caused my forearm to snap (I only have one forearm bone now where the radius and ulna have been broken so many times they’ve fused together).