I was going to write only one post a week on disability and welfare, because the concentration and typing do make me worse, in terms of pain and fatigue. But Ms Odone’s article in the Telegraph today has annoyed me so much that I have to write something, otherwise I will just end up ranting to every poor person I talk to this evening.
“But a social worker on the sofa is of little use to an unemployed alcoholic who’s been claiming disability benefits for years – or a single mother who has had three children by the time she’s 20, never held a job, and is now crippled with depression.” Now I would have said one of the most important things is to listen before you act. If you don’t know whats going on, how can you know what will help?
I was also very intrigued by the different conclusions made from what defines a troubled family. For Ms Odone, its clearly the state that is the problem. Ms Williams, writing in the Guardian, reaches the opposite conclusion – that the problem is poverty. I look at the seven criteria and see: poverty, poverty, poverty, low education, health problem, health problem, and poverty. Health problems, especially mental health, can be made worse and are more likely when a person is in poverty.
Ms Odone says that it is possible to get more on unemployment benefit than in a job. This is also misleading, given that a person on a low income also receives benefits. Whilst the income itself might not match that of full out-of-work benefits, the combination of a low-paid job and in-work benefits is better.
Ms Odone comments on millions being lost to disability fraud. Which is true. But she has taken it out of context, and the context is a society where many people have debilitating conditions that make their lives more expensive. It is a natural consequence of any test that there will be some false positive (fraud) and some false negative (those wrongly denied help). With false positives at 0.5%, it is vastly more important to the welfare of millions of people that the government starts focussing on bringing down the flase negative rate.
Finally, Ms Odone argues that the cap on benefits is already getting people back into work. My previous post explains why this is misleading to the point of being untrue.