Antur Waunfawr and Menter Fachwen are two world leading projects that enable people who live with learning disabilities to play a full and valuable role in their local communities. They provide things such as cafés and recycling services that enable some people with quite serious disabilities to work. It's fair to say that the work that some of the disabled workforce do is not commercial and that most of them still receive government benefits in order to enable them to have a basic standard of living. However the people with, sometimes, quite severe disabilities that work in Antur Waunfawr and Menter Fachwen do work and they do help provide a valuable service for their communities.
In comparison, the suggestion that almost a quarter of a million people in Wales and two and a half million people in the UK are too incapacitated to play any role in society is clearly absolutely wrong. It shouldn't be so, it doesn’t need to be so and it is absolutely immoral that it is so!
However the blame for incapacity should not be laid upon the so called incapacitated, it should be laid fairly and squarely on the present government and its Conservative predecessor who created incapacity as a means of reducing true unemployment figures.
The whole system that leads to incapacity is flawed. Lets take, for example, a registered nurse who develops epilepsy. Clearly s/he can't carry on with that job. Nobody wants a nurse who might have a fit just when s/he's about to stick an injection in your bum! So job lost on the grounds of ill health, automatic claim for short-term incapacity granted for six months. No help or advice is given within that first six month period to consider what else s/he can do other than nursing. At the end of the six months long-term incapacity kicks in.
Once you receive long-term incapacity benefit (ICB), the authorities (not you) have said that you are incapable of any work. If you apply for a job that you think that you could do, despite your illness, the application is a declaration that you are fit for work, so you may loose money by applying for a job that you might not get. Who in their right mind is going to take that risk?
You can't even apply for training in a new occupation whilst on ICB, because if you're able to train you're able to work, so if you train you loose out!
So when a deaf, epileptic, former nurse who can lip-read finds out that there is not a single Welsh language lipreading tutor in the whole of Wales, but is told that his family will be impoverished if he dares to go on a lipreading tutor's course, can you blame him for saying no to the opportunity? Can you blame him for being absolutely pissed off and disgusted that such an employment opportunity should be denied to him by bureaucratic intransigence and unfair financial risks?
Lets suppose you do take the risk of applying for a job, because you are so pissed off with not working and you really do want a job. The Mail, the Telegraph, Tory blogs, David Cameron and even Peter Hain have gone on so much about the lead swinging, work shy, lazy, scrounging, swindlers who claim ICB. So who in the hell will even give you an interview, never mind a job, when your CV says claiming ICB for the last 4 years? No sensible employer would want to employ the caricature of the ICB claimant that is rife in journalistic and political circles. Given the choice between an eastern European desperate for work to help his family back home and a lazy git who has fiddled the country for the last four years and will probably fiddle your business too, who would you employ?
The current system of dealing with illness / disability and employment is flawed - it is in desperate need of change in order to enable those who can contribute to society through mainstream employment to do so and in order to ensure that those who are unable to get out of benefits, for what ever reason, are encouraged and enabled to fulfil some sort of valued role in their communities.
If Wales can be inovative and lead the world by providing a valued role in society for those who would have been condemned to the back wards of the assylum thirty years ago, suerly we can do better for our 250,000 incapacitaed than resorting to blame and fiscal punishment!