Government surrender in benefits battle

A government U-turn, in the face of court judgment, means almost 165,000 people will benefit from higher disability benefits. Conservative politicians had tried to prevent people with psychological distress from receiving higher rates of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But the judges said ‘no’.

u-turn

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary.

The UK government had been thought likely to challenge the court ruling, and had said it would cost an extra £3.7bn to reverse the changes it had made.

Now though, like a coward in the face of enemy fire, it has deserted its position and run for cover. Figuratively raising the white flag of surrender, new work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has ruled out fresh legal action. She did so in a written statement to parliament.

U-turn on PIP welcomed

Disability campaigners have welcomed the U-turn. Just as I do.

It all started early last year, when new regulations said that people who could not travel independently on the grounds of psychological distress, as opposed to other conditions, were not entitled to the enhanced mobility rate of Personal Independence Payment.

Ministers dismissed criticism from an independent tribunal before the High Court ruled that they were “blatantly discriminatory”.

In her statement to the House of Commons, Ms McVey said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “will now take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.” She added that all payments would be backdated to the date in each individual claim.

“Although I and my department accept the High Court’s judgement, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein.

Identify claimants entitled to more

“Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions,” she said.

The DWP must now identify people who may be entitled to more as a result of the court judgement.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said ministers had been wrong to “ignore” the view of an independent tribunal and to try and “defend the indefensible”.

Disability charity Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson described the original proposals as discriminatory.

He said: “This announcement is a victory for the many disabled people who have been unable to access support they are entitled to. The regulations introduced last March made crude and unfair distinctions between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.”

Fine, now let’s see how quickly the DWP translates its defeat into action that helps people. I suspect higher payments may be a long time coming.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Disability rights? Assisted suicide question in court again

suicide

People on both sides of the assisted suicide/right to die with dignity debate are in court again this week. And both claim to be working for the good of people with disabilities including multiple sclerosis.

On one side are Noel Conway, supported by Dignity in Dying activists, is seeking a ruling from the High Court that would give terminally ill people in the UK the right to die.

Opposi.ng them are the government’s Ministry of Justice and Not Dead Yet UK (NDYUK) campaigners. The case is expected to last four days,

Mr Conway, 67, has motor neurone disease. He wants a doctor to be allowed to prescribe a lethal dose when his health deteriorates further.

He said he wanted to say goodbye to loved ones “at the right time, not to be in a zombie-like condition suffering both physically and psychologically”.

Under British law, any doctor who helps him to die could face up to 14 years in prison.

Mr Conway was too weak to attend court, his barrister, Richard Gordon QC, said his client faces a stark choice. This is either to seek to bring about his own death now while still physically able to do so, or await death with no control over how and when it comes.

Mr Gordon said the change to the law that Mr Conway wanted would apply only to adults who are terminally ill with less than six months to live and who have a settled wish to die.

Mr Conway, of Shrewsbury, told the BBC: “I will be quadriplegic. I could be virtually catatonic and conceivably be in a locked-in syndrome – that to me would be a living hell. That prospect is one I cannot accept.”

He is a retired college lecturer, and used to be fit and active but motor neurone disease is gradually destroying all strength in his muscles. He cannot walk and increasingly relies on a ventilator to help him breathe. As his disease progresses, he fears becoming entombed in his body.

Safeguards ‘never enough’

NDYUK’s position is set out on its website. It says: “Not Dead Yet UK maintains any imposed safeguards will never be watertight enough to successfully protect all ill and disabled people from a change to the Suicide Act. The Act currently provides much needed protection to disabled and terminally ill people by prohibiting anyone from assisting another person to kill themselves. Even if only one person dies against their wishes as a result of a change to the law that is one death too many and completely unacceptable.

“We argue that disabled and terminally ill people are just as entitled to this protection as everyone else; to single out one group of society as different to the rest is a dangerous move and will be open to misinterpretation. Legalising Assisted Suicide for disabled and terminally ill people would again set us aside from the rest of society. We would effectively be second class citizens again, with suicide seen as a valid choice for us while non-disabled people would be encouraged to live.”

Baroness (Jane) Campbell of Surbiton is a disability rights campaigner and a co-founder of NDYUK. She says changing the law would send all the wrong signals.

“We have successfully seen off attempts to change the law on Assisted Suicide in Parliament. Now we must change tactics to ensure the courts continue to uphold our equal right to life. The law must not be weakened via the back door,” she said.

The last major challenge to the law was turned down by the Supreme Court three years ago. At that time, it ruled that courts can interpret the law but that it is for parliament to change them.

Assisted suicide should be a choice

I set out my own views on this issue in this blog on December 17 last year. I said:

Where do I stand? You may well ask!

Well, my religion’s tenet is ‘if it harms none, do as you will’ and so my beliefs don’t tend to fit in with mainstream faiths. That being the case, I cannot accept the religious argument. Choosing to end your own life with your family’s understanding, is not hurting anyone else.

Switzerland has amply demonstrated that the ‘slippery slope’ is not inevitable. They have ample checks, medical and otherwise.

Asking medical professionals to get involved would not be as awkward as may be imagined. There are plenty now that would like to help people with unendurable and never-ending pain to close their lives with dignity. Anyway, it would only be voluntary not compulsory.

Now, far be it from me to cast doubts on the ‘alternative’ argument but the so-called ‘end of life’ treatments are purely palliative in nature. They relieve some symptoms to reduce pain etc but do little, if anything, for quality of life.

Now, at present, at just a year younger than Andrew, nothing could be further from my mind. Despite having lived with MS for 16½ years, live is good, and is for living. I can’t imagine ever making the same decision that Andrew Barclay made but I think we should all have the legal right to make it.

And that includes Noel Conway.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.