Aditya Chakrabortty knows his subject well, and readers of This Blog are encouraged to read the full article, in which he explains how ‘Moira’ has a history of self-harm and, after a humiliating tribunal hearing that was adjourned to await medical evidence on a subject that has nothing to do with her claim, said she would cut herself “good” afterwards.
That is exactly what the Conservatives have wanted, ever since Iain Duncan Smith started his homicidal “reforms” back in 2010.
They want benefit claimants to hurt themselves; in particular, they want people with long-term illnesses and disabilities to die. ‘Moira’ is marked for death.
If I put it that way, is it easier for the reluctant to understand?
That our benefits system is broken is no longer up for debate. Ministers are told universal credit is a fiasco and MPs weep over starving families in one of the richest societies in human history. Even rightwing tabloids run grim updates on how men with terminal cancer are declared fit to work just weeks before they die.
Such cases are described as shameful. As failures. They are lined up like so many one-offs – not representative of fair-play Britain. But Pike and her colleagues know different. They see a system that routinely snatches money out of the hands of people who need and are entitled to it and bullies claimants with contempt.
That’s Moira’s experience, too. Her trouble started when she found herself feeling steadily worse – and so did as she was told and rang the Department for Work and Pensions. Her recent back operation hadn’t worked, the arthritis in her spine, hips and knees was getting worse and the heavy-duty painkillers were wrecking her kidneys. She was summoned for a reassessment in Southend, a 70-mile round trip from her home in London – tricky for a woman who cannot walk more than 10 steps without crutches. Claimants such as Moira are entitled to a home assessment, but Pike told me they are often dispatched “miles away”. She was still told off for being late, says Moira. After the examination, she lost her personal independence payment.
I have seen a copy of the report by the nurse employed by a private firm, which notes that Moira “has a bath mostly every day”. Wrong, she tells Pike. Her depression means that she needs to be “motivated” to bathe – or else “I’ll run a bath and it’ll sit there for four days.” More tears, this time of shame.
The nurse says she has three meals a day. “Lying ass,” shouts Moira, who says she doesn’t eat more than once a day. The report claims: “She is able to get on and off the toilet without difficulty.” Moira’s own form says, “I have great difficulty getting up off the toilet as the joint in my right hip gets stuck.”
The nurse concludes: “Since her last assessment two years ago, this lady’s restrictions have considerably improved.” Yet Moira’s own GP has written to the tribunal, “I would feel that her general overall condition has got worse.” None of these contradictions surprises Pike. Moira, she says, is simply the latest victim of “a lack of care and a culture of money-saving”.
Moira never went looking for welfare advice; she was just starving.
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