Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Case #3: Objective Lies Are Not Better Than Subjective Truth

I did not go to war and die for a government that believes the poor, sick and disabled are better able to pay for deficits and recessions than the Treasury can. I mean every word of it; I've never been to war, let alone died in one.

So why should I help them? They would have me rotting in a mental institution (if not for them being cut back) or dying of hunger on the street. My mother fears for what will happen to me when she is gone. Parents of Autistic children and adults across the land share her dread. I don't think that far ahead.

The Department of Work and Pensions has asked the National Autistic Society to help them fine-tune the draft assessment criteria for the Personal Independence Payment that will replace Disability Living Allowance in 2013. This will result in the caseload or expenditure being reduced by 20%. Given how ministers have been shamefully unclear about this, saying different things to different people, I think they will cut which ever brings the highest savings. The NAS believes the DWP are doing this in response to concerns expressed by the NAS. I think they are fooling themselves in believing any kind of concession has been secured and they have been naive to believe what Maria Miller has probably told them. It was always the intention of the DWP to test the draft criteria because that is what they always do with all draft criteria for benefits. Still they've been sending out e-mails asking for people who may be interested in doing trial assessments to get in touch by this time next week.

They will then hand a list to the DWP who will select from it how they like and contact people to arrange assessments. The public service contractor with no experience in diagnostics, disability or medicine that has been selected to run this is G4S. The assessments will run for one hour. My DLA assessment ran for three and a half hours the first time and two hours the second, so alarm bells are ringing for me already about the accuracy of the test and the quality of the personnel being used. This is what is meant by a 'more objective assessment'.

Most people don't know what subjective and objective mean, so they assume subjective is something to be suspicious about and is opinion-based and objective is more factual and evidence-based. No. That isn't what they mean and isn't how they are being utilised here. Something that is objective tends to be simple, empirical and observational. Subjective is complex, theoretical but most importantly: advanced and insightful. Data entry is a job that is inherently objective; a child or PE teacher could do it. The person who has to interpret that data is more qualified, on higher pay and talented even though their job is subjective: they are relying on years of experience and study to make determinations. When the Coalition said they were going to make assessments more objective and scoffed at the subjectiveness of what is currently in place, they were playing to prejudices among populists and anti-intellectuals in their political base and the wider population. It's why the Work Capability Assessment for ESA does not require an actual medical practitioner to run it, but it would be madness to overrule the experience and education of doctors and nurses in hospitals and replace their diagnostic methods with anything like 'an objective assessment'.

If I volunteer and get selected for a trial assessment, I'll be assisting in one of the most malicious attacks being committed in the Welfare Reform bill. On the other hand I'll have something to write about and will have scared the daylights out of a G4S employee with tales of my day-to-day living. But at this point I'm inclined to believe that giving the DWP data to help them tune the criteria will simply allow them to do it to serve their intentions, not alter what those intentions are. If they see a lot of Autistics being paid less benefits, they will be delighted, not shocked.

1 comment:

  1. I was looking out the window this morning and the street was deadly quiet. And I wondered, 'Where is everybody?' And I thought maybe they've disappeared. Of course, this gratified me very much, that everyone should disappear because then I would be able to realise my ambition to travel. I would have to teach myself to sail a boat to Europe but that's infinitely better than passing through a passport control, or being a fellow passenger, or having to deal with other humans at all. I'm getting too old for all this. I wonder if it will be like this till the end. I wonder if this is the end and what I saw at the window was merely a reflection.

    Thanks you for all your work, Arec. I think the blogging/comment/reporting of welfare reform needs to be integrated somehow but I have no ideas about how to do that.

    It was a bit of a shock to find out that Unum and the Guardian are working together - I hope that doesn't mean RedMiner has given up in disgust, though I would fully understand why he would want to do that.