I have had a number of parents with disabled children come to see me in my surgery. Almost all have come to complain about the difficulty they encounter in trying to claim the benefits that they and their children are entitled to.
Many of these parents look after their children into adulthood and some of the disabilities are severe. When I meet many of these parents and children, I am moved by how they triumph in the face of adversity. I always know when they leave that they are better parents than me.
The Times reported yesterday, that the parent of a disabled child has to fill 273 pages of forms and answer 1,118 questions when claiming benefits.
Entitlements to parents of disabled children need to be simplified.
If doing this means that there may be a margin of error, and if safeguards are built in to ensure that the margin comes down on the side of the claimant - then I am sure that the cost of cutting such a complex and bureaucratic method of paying benefits will more than offset that margin. The government will be quids in, and parents and disabled children will be happier people.
I’m sure I’m right.
So, why aren’t we doing it then?
What possible reason could the government have to employ thousands of people pushing pens and shuffling forms?
To make the employment figures look good?
Well, we know, employment figures aren’t all they seem.
Now don’t scream at me if I get this slightly out, because I am typing this in bed at 1am on my lap top, and I will check the figures with the members' library when I get a chance in the morning and amend it. However, if you add the figures for those claiming incapacity and unemployment benefit in 1997 together as one figure, and compare that with those claiming incapacity and unemployment benefit combined as one figure today, the figure is virtually the same.
But, and it’s a big but, the government have created over half a million additional civil service positions in order that a worsening unemployment situation doesn’t look so bad. And these half a million people need jobs to do – so complicating benefits, child tax credits, and pensions creates the work required to keep half a million extra people busy. That makes sense doesn’t it?
Remember what I said yesterday, about each political decision and vote affecting a life? Well, the life affected in an adverse way, is more often than not, that of a vulnerable person who needs help the most.
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