I’ve just been listening to a 30 minute BBC radio programme [in-depth reporting! Allows both sides of a story to be properly explored! Save (and expand) Radio NZ!] on how Britain’s reforming their sickness benefit – and turfing around 3/4 of people off it.
For those who want my summary:
Britain has a problem with 2.6 million people (7% of working population) signed off as long-term sick. So they’re going to go through all the beneficiaries and see if they really are sick.
They’ve employed a private company to administer an arbitrary yes/no oral test as to whether someone is able to work. The former IT company has transformed into the 2nd largest employer of medical staff in the UK after the Health Service due to the test, with 2000 doctors and nurses who are pressured to keep the average number refused up to the pre-determined national average.
If you can do the weekly shop, you’re fit to work – even if by “weekly shop” you mean you sit in the car whilst your partner shops.
If you can walk an hour a day, you’re fit to work – even if that hour a day’s walking is the exercise prescribed by your doctor to get over your triple heart by-pass and help your current stomach cancer, and takes absolutely everything out of you (and you don’t even get very far).
If you can turn a tap and pick up a pound coin today, you’re fit to work – even if you’ve got Parkinson’s and your motor skills differ markedly from day-to-day.
All these people are pushed onto the unemployment benefit, dropping them from ~$195/week to ~$140/week. But they’re not concerned about the loss of money, as hard as it is. It’s the fact that they no longer get support for their illnesses, or help for adapting their illness to a workplace that worries them. With 7.8% unemployment in the UK, what employer is going to give them a job without support? But still, they must keep applying for jobs or risk having their unemployment benefit cut…
With the Welfare Working Group beavering away here, hopefully they won’t take on too much of the injustice that’s brewing in the UK. Although the idea of giving counselling and education/skills to sickness beneficiaries so that those able to may eventually return to work at some point sounds good (and no doubt good for their long-term health). But then that costs money (which would be paid back in future taxes no doubt), and National’s short-termism is always looking for cuts.