Archive for August, 2013

Reaping the benefit: Plan C for Care

August 20, 2013

Reaping the benefit: Plan C for Care.
The Joseph Rowntree Trust has asked a number of key thinkers to contemplate how to end poverty. They didnt ask me, but if they had, this is what I might have begun to say.
Allegedly, there are green shoots. Oh yeah? Not if youre disabled and on benefits or live anywhere but the south East. The government offers people who want to buy houses, some financial support to do so. But isnt that just like the sub-prime mortgage racket which caused the recession in the first place?
Most people want to have enough money to feed their family, to keep a roof over their head and enjoy a few humble creature comforts like a weeks holiday once a year, a telly, to buy school uniform for the kids, to pay to replace the fridge if it dies, and the occasional pint of beer down the pub. Research launched yesterday reveals that it costs roughly £140k to bring up a child today. How much extra does it cost if that child is disabled?
Poverty is a reality for many more disabled people now in Camerons Britain. The bedroom tax, the Work Capability Assessment, the attack on independent living, the molestation and ripping apart of vital services that support people to live in the community thanks to cuts forced by the government austerity measures, alongside a still shrunken jobs front plunges more and more disabled people into poverty every day.
Meanwhile, disabled people continue to be portrayed as scroungers and malingerers. The welfare bill is believed by those who dont support it, to be a bottomless pit into which public money is poured unendingly. Disability Living Allowance is made out to be an unfair perk not available to non-disabled people. But DLA is not a means tested, employment or skills based benefit. Like Child Benefit and the cost of bringing up children, its there to meet the additional costs of being a disabled person in an ablest world.
This society, aided and abetted by an anti-rules government, continues to resists making reasonable adjustments, portraying these as over-zealous regulatory attacks. Society values individual freedom, celebrity, and a do what you want mentality as long as you make money and dont want support from anyone else.
Why cant we think of what we spend on Social care, health and welfare as economic stimulators not drains on the public purse? What would that do to change negative attitudes towards those who provide and those who receive care and support? If we give everyone the support they need to live full lives, we open the door to a huge amount of consumer and economic activity. WE also save lots of money because this good care leads to better health and well-being and reduces the numbers of people needing expensive health care. How many beds could we free up in hospitals if when their in-patient treatment is complete, people could go back to their homes with the support to help them thrive?
When we free our people from imprisonment in their homes or institutions, we help them become active members of the community. With the right support, many are able to work (if there are the jobs and their impairment issues can be addressed through reasonable adjustments and access to work). The additional costs of being a disabled person can be met by a Disabled Citizens Income. If the tax system supports those who can’t work full time to have enough to live on, this can also help. But you know, at the end of the day, if there are people in our communities who need additional support to live in some kind of dignity amongst us, shouldnt the state reach out to help? This, I believe is an indication of a civilized society. We need a non-means tested user choice way of meeting these additional costs. Seeing social care, health and welfare as economic stimulants in them, rebrands these areas as positive things to be involved in. Caring and support are important jobs in our society. If we paid carers, support workers, health workers and others, a decent living wage, with good working conditions where they are respected for the important work they do, surely more people will want to do this work?
If we provide the support disabled people need to live as equals in our society, we will generate many more jobs for people to do. Disabled people are able to do these jobs too.
I get Access to Work and DLA. I have the equivalent probably of about 25 hours a week support at £15 an hour before tax. When I was a very senior officer in local government, I had a full time support worker, and along with the DLA could afford to buy additional support for daily living which I funded out of my salary. Many disabled people with more complex or higher care needs could probably employ more than 1 or 2 full time equivalent workers.
Workers on the London Living Wage are more likely to spend their money in local shops, stimulating neighborhood economies. Unlike rich bankers and the high-paid, they are less likely to invest it in pensions, off-shore savings, cars, property and posh holidays.
We cant solve the problems Disabled people face in our society unless we can mirror the solutions across all impairment groups and all diverse groups within our community. The link between poverty and impairment has been well-made in recent Joseph Rowntree reports. Poverty has a deeper effect if you are also from another marginalized group as well as being a disabled person. A recent report by Equalities UK and Scope produced useful evidence about higher levels of impairment amongst BME communities and thus higher levels of poverty. There is a higher incidence of impairment amongst the LGBT community which aside from HIV status is anecdotally attributed to the effects of homophobia on health and well-being. The impact of impairment plus sex, race, sexual orientation, gender assignment, faith, age and class cannot be ignored when charting the incidence of poverty, its effects and solutions.
Im no economist, Ive only got a CSE Grade 3 in Maths. Plans A and B arent working heres plan C for Care. Lets invest in social care, welfare and health to build a better Britain.