Disability, the Establishment and the Press

By: A,C,

The reporting of the this story at The Guardian is about a senior civil servant Andrew McDonald who developed Parkinson’s, and then subsequently got cancer. In the period that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s he became a volunteer chairman at Scope, the charity for the disabled.

He has now come forward stating that the DWP have created a “hostile environment” for claimants of PIP and DLA. McDonald is quoted by The Guardian as saying:

“the assessment process undergone by hundreds of thousands of chronically ill and disabled people each year as crude, unprofessional and Kafka-esque in its complexity.

“I was shocked by the way this was being administered against the interests of some of the most disadvantaged people in the country,” he said. “PIP is beset by profound administrative failures which work to the disadvantage of disabled people.”

Andrew McDonald had the Establishment route into the Senior Civil Service. Educated at Eton, Oxford, Bristol, spells in Universities abroad, and was Chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has quite the CV and career behind him.

Whether one is in a solid Establishment job, or on the street homeless, one cannot guarantee health.

The difference for the most of us without such glowing references and influence is that we have little or no voice.  Mr McDonald and the Guardian are not telling us anything new in this article. However, it is presented in a way that is intended – in my opinion – to state that even the most influential and powerful are being affected by the UK Government’s “hostile environment” and how unfair it is.

Welcome to the world of disability, in trying to apply for benefits and being disbelieved by so–called professionals.

As I have often stated, disease, accident, genetics are all a lottery of sorts, with folk likely to have a 1 in 3 chance of Cancer.  That still leaves a lot of other stuff that can disable you or not.

The Guardian further reported McDonald as saying :

“This third review assessment in March, however, he was awarded two points – a decision which suggested his health was improving. “I was flabbergasted: I had two progressively degenerative conditions and my Parkinson’s had become worse since the turn of the year,” said McDonald. “It’s now described by my neurologist as ‘very severe’.”

The assessor – an occupational therapist – had little understanding of Parkinson’s, he said. “She did a common test of twisting the forearm at the elbow. She concluded from this I have full power in my upper limbs. It’s nonsense. Daily, it is a nuisance to me that I am weak as a kitten in my upper body. ”

The system failed to account for the way Parkinson’s fluctuates dramatically, through the day and over time, he said. “I got dressed today without too much trouble, though my cufflinks eluded me. Two days ago, it took me 90 minutes because of the tremor in my hands, my lack of strength. Putting on jackets is a nightmare.”

I do sympathise with Mr McDonald,  and I am on the one hand, glad that he has used his education, position and knowledge of how to get some impact into the press, but on the other a bit downhearted that the inhuman policies of this Government are now being reported as “ even they” get ill. We all do unfortunately, and compassion for Mr McDonald should be extended in his degenerative and terminal situation by a system that is inhumane and discriminatory..

For those who love poring over statistics, the Scottish Government has released figures regarding disability in every sphere of life.

Mr McDonald is maybe now well aware as to why charities like ours exist, having been the Chairman of the very large national charity Scope.

The sub–text of the report he received in his application to the DWP was that as he was doing that volunteer job, so he could well manage a job anywhere, and his alleged improvement in the assessment was his own fault.

The Guardian quotes “Although the government has promised that people with long-term degenerative diseases should no longer be given annual PIP assessments, this does not apply to claimants, such as McDonald, who received lower-level awards.”

Aberdeen Action on Disability exists because there was need for people to share exchange and understand the information put out by local & national government regarding disability & benefits. That has developed over the years into the service we provide.

Our advisors have lengthy experience in helping those who are faced with the sudden changes in their life due to a health crisis. The prospect of filling out a challenging DWP booklet is very challenging if one cannot think straight due to therapy or the symptoms themselves. If we cannot solve the problem, we know people who have the skills and knowledge that will help.

However like all charities, we need support through simple donations. We also need to continually raise cash from sponsors, or indeed large grants from those philanthropists or foundations who understand our mission.   Unfortunately funding is always in short supply, and in order for our charity to pay the utilities, rent, communications, wages etc, we need help from anyone prepared to donate. Austerity has meant the end of our core funding.  One would almost think that the Government planned it to be this way.

So please – donate now.

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