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Video: why we need the NHS and why we need DLA

This is the third in our series of interviews with people in the northwest region who are regular users of the NHS and who are dealing firsthand with fallout from welfare reform and council cuts (particularly in social care).

In the video below, Maureen A_, who lives in Cheshire, talks about welfare reform and her concerns about reassessment for disability living allowance. She also talks about the central role that the NHS has played in her life. Maureen has had severe arthritis since she was ten. She has limited use of her hands and can only walk short distances with her cane. When she's out, she relies on her wheelchair and someone to push it.

Maureen is especially concerned about reforms to disability living allowance. She was given a DLA life award (an indefinite award) when she was 17, but will be reassessed - all recipients will be reassessed as the personal independence payment replaces DLA. Her DLA is vital - it funds the adapted car that she uses to drive to work. Maureen has worked as a bookkeeper and payroll clerk since she was 16 (she talks about her training and employment in the video) – fulltime for 16 years, and then parttime as her arthritis worsened. She wants the government to understand that a lot of people on DLA work and pay taxes.

Her local council funds carers to help her wash, dress and shop. Maureen says her advantage is that she has her husband Paul to help if she needs support outside of her allotted care hours. “Not everyone has that [access to extra help].”


Paul's own struggle has been with the ESA work capability assessment.

About five years ago, Paul made a suicide attempt. He suffers from depression and then was faced with a major change at work which - after nearly 40 years with one employer - he struggled to cope with. He likes work, but he finds stress very difficult.

Still, Atos found him fit for work last year. He is still fuming about his work capability assessment.

"There was no sympathy at all. They even got my date of birth and my medication wrong. They said I went out shopping and visiting my brother - none of which was true. I can't go out of the door on my own.”

Paul was a clerical worker for nearly 40 years. He took his work seriously and he did it well. The work he's proudest of was inputting results from medical screening tests into a database. "You got all the results in and they had to be put into the computer. You couldn't afford to make a mistake, because lives were at risk." He enjoyed the responsibility and the routine of it. "I'm a plodder," Paul says. "Put a job in front of me like that and I'll do it."

The difficulties started when the job and surroundings changed. Paul's job was relocated to Preston and he was moved to another section in his office.

"I had to learn a new system and I just couldn't grasp it in the time allowed for training." Panic set in, to go with the depression. On the second morning after he started the training - "I woke up and had a dreadful panic attack. I could not go out of the front door. So I came in here (the lounge) and I took an overdose."  

Regarding the work capability assessment - Maureen told him to appeal the decision. He did in the end and he won. He says that he wouldn't have appealed without Maureen's encouragement, though. He found the process too stressful. He wonders how many people drop out after the first round. “They probably think a lot of people haven't got the stomach to appeal.”

Post change: Transcribed video added 19 June 2012.

Key changes affecting and concerning Maureen and Paul:

  1. Work Capability Assessment (for Employment and Support Allowance)
  2. Disability Living Allowance reassessment
  3. NHS reform – effects to be seen. Maureen is a regular user of NHS services and has had many operations to relieve the symptoms of her arthritis over the years. Good proximity to specialist care is important to her. She and Paul also rely on medication – about 12 prescriptions a month on average. They are both concerned that charges will be introduced for expensive medication that the NHS pays for at the moment.

Kate Belgrave blogs on the experience of public service users facing cuts.


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