The last few weeks the Bethany scandal has uncovered and confirmed the bitter truth about the shallowness of the one-size -fits- all delusional policies that for the past 30 years have been proclaimed as being the answer to carers heartfelt prayers.
The clock has been turned back over half a century, starting from the 1980s. Despite a lack of sound evidence, a one-size -fits- all policy decreed that specialist and structured service support could be withdrawn from all levels of learning disabilities however profound, and all attendees at day centre could be found paid employment.
Was it successful? The success of this one-size -fits- all delusion can only be measured by the outcomes. Day centres and special needs units were closed by the dozen, the overwhelming number of former attendees remained jobless, carers found their formerly stable lives thrown into turmoil, and the little power they had experienced as a united force was demolished.
Thousands of families were channelled into a second one-size -fits- all delusion – the Direct Payments option.
Many welcomed this option, and why shouldn’t they when the terms on offer in the early days were so inviting? In the absence of ‘traditional services,’ others were pushed into enlisting whether they liked it or not.
When the Government seeks to change policies it can will be generous only as long as it is necessary. Universal Credit policy was introduced in 2013. since when different priorities have been determined. In July 2015, it was on record that 760,000 people for a whole range of reasons were claiming direct payments. Some will have already been assessed, others will eventually be assessed. They face an uncertain future to which the contents of an article in the Sunday Times 18th November, offers little reassurance.
Emily who since birth has been unable to speak, walk, or eat for herself and is now 19 has been bought up by her grandmother, Jean.
Last month Jean, 68, was told their joint income was to be slashed from the £720 a week, needed to pay for Emily’s 24 hour care and transport, to £342. Jean fears that she faces the prospect of having to sell her bungalow.
She says that “Emily can’t speak or eat. We feed her using a syringe to pump food into her stomach via a tube. She’s doubly incontinent and can’t walk, as I have told the universal credit officials”.
Despite such warnings, staff from the Department for Work and Pensions made Emily attend a ”work capability assessment “ at the local job centre in Retford, then sent staff to “review” her at her Day Centre. She was awarded £58 per week, but benefits worth
£520 per week were taken away. They were left with £342 per week, less than half of what they had been getting ,also with extra mortgage and transport costs.
After the Sunday Times intervened a civil servant offered Jean an extra £150 pounds per week.
Jean says “ even with the extra £150 are benefits are down by £200 a week under universal credits. I think we will still lose our home”
This situation would appear to be a consequence of moving from childhood to adult status. How ironic it is that once into adulthood, the Universal Credit allowances which claims to aim at “Rights”, ”Independence”, and “Choice” for all, should bring home the reality that the cash flow in the adult world just isn’t as accessible as it was sold to be in the earlier days.
This poses the question: has Emily exposed the flaws of the second one-size -fits- all delusion of Direct Payments, as effectively as Bethany did the first?