Good Morning, this is Captain Dizzy speaking and I just want to inform you that we've lost an engine and people should get into the brace position as we are about to crash land. OK, it's a bit over-dramatic but you do need to brace yourself because I am actually about to praise a Government policy. Right, are you ready? Good, then I shall, as they say, begin.
I've blogged before about the problem of those on incapacity benefit. Specifically the number of people that get permanently signed off work but who can actually work. My irritation actually comes from personal experience because I know of someone who was signed off and the reason was because they were unable to work doing what they had done for decades in their chosen profession.
Not allowing this person to do that job for medical reasons was a sound decision. Signing them off onto incapacity benefit was not because they were not actually incapacitated. There were many hundreds of other jobs that they could do but the position of incapacity benefit has always been based upon, or at least it appears to be based upon, signing someone off on the basis of what their skills of current employment are.
Yesterday, Alan Johnson said that changes would occur so that instead of having 'sick notes', you would have a 'well note' that would outline what you could do, rather than simply saying 'this person can do sweet FA'. Now, if you get yourself over the absurd and silly name of a 'well note' you can see that a policy like this could actually be quite beneficial in terms of reducing some of the unnecessary claimants to the incapacity benefit pot.
Of course, there will be those opposed to such things who will see it as evil and right wing i.e. it targets the poor disabled person. But the reality is that unless you're seriously psychotic; an unfortunate born with severe deformities; quadriplegic; have advanced motor neurone disease; or perhaps riddled with bone cancer so much that moving is agony without the morphine, then there is going to be work that you can do. In the last case it's even possible you could work in bed (my mother did before she died).
Now you may think that the work offered belittles your ability. In fact you'd be amazed how many people see the idea of working on a supermarket till as low, but the truth is you'll get more money doing that than you will on benefit and you get yourself out meeting people as well. As someone who spent six years stacking shelves and sitting on tills because I wanted to work rather than sit on the dole like so many other druggie/junkie types I knew at the time, I can at least say I've done it.
Having said this, and having praised an idea by the Government my cynicism does still know no bounds. In principle the idea would have a positive effect on outlining whether someone really is unable to work. I'm thinking here of an adult born with thalidomide deformities like a quarter arm and a finger sticking out of their shoulder. That sort of person is practically and genuinely limited by what they can do. However, someone who was say a bricklayer who can no longer walk can go and work somewhere else, doing something else, and so they should.
The real question of course is whether the Government's announcements are anymore than announcements. If past history is anything to go by we'll probably see the policy re-announced a few times between now and the next election like so many others have been.