Latest news on disability and welfare is the announcement that Worcester Council is considering putting a cap on care for the disabled. Many have lauded this as a necessary reduction in expenditure during a time of austerity. Existangst, commenting on the Guardian’s piece, said, “There has to be a cap on funding, which can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds for those with the severest disability. It is simple economics. There is only so much money to go around.” Greenbirdy commented that, “A balance does need to be struck, between the needs and wants of the disabled, and the costs imposed on society and a one rule fits all is simply wrong.”
These commentators did not think that it is okay to let people live in substandard conditions. They simply thought that there should be a cap on spending to help these people. What they are missing here is a basic understanding of the cost of being disabled. Someone has to pay for us. If we could pay for ourselves, through work, then believe me we would. But for those of us who can’t – who pays?
An important question here is – who is it fair to ask to pay? And the answer is, ask those who have the luck to be wealthy. Those who have the luck to be healthy enough to earn more than they need (according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that is £37 000 a year for a couple with two children). Those who are lucky enough to have a well-paid job. Those who have the academic ability, or the flair, or the natural talent, or the simple good fortune to be the one the employer happened to feel like choosing that day.
I am not questioning your right to keep your hard-earned money. I’m suggesting that some of it is not ‘hard-earned’ – its luck. It is not ‘fair’ for you to keep benefits accrued through luck, whilst others suffer poverty under luck. The only way to make life fair(er) is to ask the lucky to assist the unlucky – those who through misfortune are not able to pay their own way.
But regardless of what is fair – what is right? Is it right for Britain to agree with these statements:
The disabled are a burden to society.
The disabled are too expensive.
The disabled are of no use to society.
The disabled are expensive parasites, scroungers and unproductive.
The economic burden of the disabled is too great to bear.
The disabled are faking it because they don’t want to work.
What kind of society do we want to be? What sort of culture do we want to create? Through the UN, we as a species have decided there are some basic principles we want to uphold. These include protecting the sick and disabled, whatever the cost. This is what Beveridge fought for, during a World War and Depression, when he set up the NHS. Do you want to lost the NHS too? Would you set a cap on how much treatment a person may receive in his or her lifetime? I’m sorry, you’ve had one cancer operation and course of chemo/radiotherapy, it’s too expensive to save your life a second time? I know you’ve got septicaemia and we could save you if we gave you intra-venous antibiotics, but we’ve already paid too much for your health care? You’ve been on life-support for four weeks now, we’re going to turn it off and let you die?
Article 10: States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others
Article 19: States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;
b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;
c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.
Article 28 2c) To ensure access by persons with disabilities and their families living in situations of poverty to assistance from the State with disability-related expenses, including adequate training, counselling, financial assistance and respite care.
The Guardian article, by disability campaigner Sue Marsh, is: Disabled people have a right to live independently, Worcester Council. The Guardian, 13th July 2012, Comment is Free