Incapacity Benefit is a horrible, cruel and devilish benefit.
It isn't a benefit in need of reform, it is a benefit that needs to be abolished and replace with a new system that is more appropriate to the needs of those who live with ill health or with a disability.
It is a negative benefit, because it underlines what a person can't do rather than what s/he can do.
Many people will be faced with a situation where illness or disability prevents them from continuing with their former careers. If a person loses a job in these circumstances that person will be entitled to incapacity benefit, but once one becomes entitled to IB they are placed into a category that says they are incapable of doing ANY work, not just their former work.
IB makes people ill.
Most of us have heard of the placebo effect, where taking a sugar pill makes patients better because they believe that something is being done to make them better.
The opposite of placebo happens too.
If you concentrate on the downside of an illness, mope about how bad things are and count your curses rather than your blessings, then you will become more ill than you need to be. By its negative emphasis on incapacity by encouraging people to look at the downside, IB can make people more ill than they need to be.
IB discourages people from attempting to improve their own health. There is a very unfunny joke that says that if Jesus went to Merthyr curing the lame and the sick he would be crucified by the benefits claimants. Unfunny it may be, but it makes a point:
If you lose your job because of ill health you are entitled to IB, you will be paid a bit more than those who are on job-seekers allowance. If you get better you lose your entitlement to IB and have to go onto the lower benefit. With little prospect of gaining a new job in the IB hot-spot areas you will, in effect, be punished for getting better.
There was a recent case in Pembrokeshire of a man who had suffered a genuine serious illness claiming benefits. His doctor told him to exercise in order to restore his health. He was filmed exercising and prosecuted for benefit fraud. The man might have been better off if he had ignored his doctor's advice and hadn't bothered with the health improving exercise regime.
Incapacity Benefit replaces the benefits of getting better!
The worst thing about IB is the fact that it is a benefit that is so often abused, not by those who claim it but by governments.
From Thatcher through Major, Blair and Brown, governments have urged people to accept this negative health benefit rather than unemployment benefits because the sick and disabled don't count in official unemployment totals. It is a good benefit for massaging true unemployment figures.
It is also a good benefit for vicious political rhetoric that points the finger at the sick and disabled who receive it and show them up to be examples of those who are too lazy to get of their backsides and help themselves.
Is there an easer group to kick than those that benefits policies have brought so low?
The latest Government Green Paper aimed at “tackling” Incapacity Benefit is at least the fourth attempt by the Labour Government to deal with the problem. We had a similar Green Paper almost two years to the day ago!
The latest proposals are just finger pointing rhetoric again, rather than a real attempt to deal with a real problem.
It will fail because finger pointing exercises are bound to fail.
The fact is that the majority of people on IB are genuinely ill.
Look at the IB hot spots and compare their life expectancy rates! People die younger in these areas because of poor health!
Much has been made over the past few weeks about the fact that Glasgow East has both the lowest life expectancy in the UK and the highest rate of IB claims – the people of Glasgow East are not dying young in order to fiddle the social, they are dying young because of genuine poor health!
Of course something must be done for the 3 million people who receive this sickening benefit.
People suffering from poor health need help to fulfil their full potential.
Comprehensive health improvement campaigns that are not linked to benefit reduction are needed in the most deprived areas.
Good employment prospects need to be made available for those wishing to leave health based benefits.
But no government will provide the real answer to the real problem, because the real answers are not cheep and they don't appeal to Sun, Express and Daily Mail readers.
It is so much easier to leave the poor, the sick and the disabled on the scrapheap, to point fingers and to call names!