Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/755/16272
TV review: Britain on Benefits
I assumed the Channel 4 documentary - Britain on Benefits - would be peddling the same old government lies to mask its failures on unemployment. Instead, wheelchair basketballer and former Paralympian Ade Adepitan gave a refreshing challenge to the government's cuts to welfare and disabled people.
Ade used the hugely popular and successful Paralympics to defend the right to disability benefit. He and the other athletes featured in the documentary, alongside the vast majority of Paralympians, have spent the majority of their lives on Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Without DLA they wouldn't be able to compete in the Olympics, or even continue their daily lives.
Callously, to cut £2 billion, the government wants to kick over 500,000 people off DLA. From April, the Con-Dems will replace DLA with PIP (Personal Independence Payment). DLA isn't perfect but it takes into account mobility and care, whereas PIP only assesses mobility and daily living.
71% of people claiming DLA are on it for life, because there is no possibility that their disability will improve. Recognising this ends with the introduction of PIP.
Ade criticised private vultures Atos which has a £390 million contract to administer the PIP.
Aaron Moon, a former soldier, who lost his leg in Afghanistan, was assessed by Atos when he applied for DLA. An Atos nurse read out Aaron's injuries to him, including his amputation. The nurse then asked Aaron to point his toes and feet down on his amputated leg. Aaron retorted: "I've not got a leg, I can't do that." When he took off his prosthetic leg, the nurse was surprised!
After all this, Aaron was denied DLA, and was only granted DLA in an appeal. 40% of people found fit for work by Atos via the hated Work Capability Assessment have appealed the decision, and around 40% of them have won on appeal. Atos claims that only 0.3% of appeals were due to an inaccuracy in their reports. But appeals over mistakes by Atos cost over £50 million a year. And disabled people have died while waiting for their appeals.
Everyone interviewed by Ade said they were worried about the introduction of PIP, and couldn't be Paralympic athletes and wouldn't be able to work, volunteer, or even survive without DLA. If Atos had assessed the Paralympic athletes, they probably would have found them fit to work, and ineligible for the Paralympics!
While Britain on Benefits effectively exposed attacks on disabled people, disappointingly Ade and the other people he interviewed continually agreed on the need for cuts, giving ground to the Tories' arguments.
Britain on Benefits is available until 26 March on 4od - http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od#3487846
In The Socialist 7 March 2013:
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