It is no secret that I am concerned at how Personal Independence Payments are regarded as the one and only solution for anyone with any form of impairment, which can indeed mean anyone. The rights to welfare agenda is based on a tragedy model of disability, where payment is offered as a pity motivated compensation to a situation that the middle class fear. Because it is offered to ease the conscience of the middle class, the idea of challenging who has a significant level of need to require the benefit, as well as its actual effectiveness in providing real benefit, is shunned.
I would argue that it is not about who should or should not receive the benefit, which is a random amount that bears no relation to specific needs, but rather how can we properly provide people with the support they require when they require it. While for some people, this would remain in the form of a monthly amount of money paid to them for specific extra costs, for others it is about the provision of specific services when and where they need them.
If we take the issue of travel anxiety, I would firstly never underestimate the relative impact this may have on someone’s life and ability to function. But providing them an unrestricted random amount of extra income for the rest of their lives because it is the right thing to do really going help them to improve how they manage their condition? I believe while PIP is sold in terms of meeting extra impairment costs, it soon simply becomes extra income that does very little to meet impairment needs. Its removal when an impairment situation has improved is therefore seen as a dent in their income despite no impairment costs.
The better solution for travel anxiety would, therefore, be more to offer an intensive course of counselling to identify the specific triggers of a panic attack and develop a bank of personally developed coping strategies. The anxiety may never be ‘cured’ but it will be better managed. If there are then any specific extra costs as a result of using the coping strategies, these can be considered and funding made available.
I believe meeting specific extra costs in comparison to someone’s peers as opposed to a PIP for all strategy is the only way to be fair to everyone, as opposed to making people with minor impairments the winners of the benefit system as the cost of people with significant and severe needs, who are slowly been pushed off the political agenda. But we live in an era of greed where people are only willing to see their need to be identified as disabled as something that as absolute as opposed to relative.
And it is the misunderstanding of disability that is worrying. As increasingly minor impairments are reasons to be labelled as a disabled person, with all the rights and funding attached to that, the perceived severity of other impairments is increased and the battle from minor impairments for unnecessary resources slowly and steadily is fueling the eugenics agenda few people will admit exists.
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