Thursday, 17 February 2011

60,000 Scots cheats to lose sickness benefits…

Sadly this was a front page headline in the Herald on Saturday 11 February.

It has become wearisome in the extreme over recent years to observe the growth in pejorative tabloid headlines directed at benefit claimants. But to see the Herald stoop so low is particularly galling.

On Saturday, 60,000 people who find themselves falling on the 'wrong side' of new medical tests on work capability awoke to find themselves classed as ‘cheats’. They are nothing of the kind. They are people who have previously been judged to be eligible for incapacity benefit - normally following in depth medical examination but who are now being judged by different criteria. It is the system which has changed, not them.

In reality of course, the new DWP Work Capability Assessment has already thrown up thousands of injustices and will continue to do so, relying as they do on assumptions that each day is the same for someone who is sick or disabled and resting far too heavily on the presumption that the labour market is fair to those with limitations on work capability, access issues or hidden disabilities.

There is a sensible and hopefully positive debate to be had about how state, employers, health professionals  unions and others can work together to stop people falling out of the workplace through Ill health and how adjustments can be made to support people into work. Neither knee-jerk attacks on benefits nor ill-judged newspaper headlines will help.

Dave Moxham

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