Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Is the capping of benefit payments another nail in the Tory coffin?

When I heard Iain Duncan-Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announce, yet again, that he was going to cap the amount of money paid to benefit claimants at £26,000, I was roused to blog about it.

The view taken is that all benefit claimants are scroungers on the state, and that the easy solution to their problems is to just reduce their income to such a level that magically they will be forced back into work.

This view is so naive that it is laughable. What about
  • The disabled who need more benefit because they have a disability
  • The mentally ill who cannot work because they are unwell.
  • Mothers of large families, in particular those who are single parents.
  • Amputees who need special equipment to enjoy normal lives (such as is possible)
  • The old and infirm - perhaps the government should  reduce their benefit to such an extent that they cannot afford heating and then die of cold.
  • Victims of abuse in childhood, where the abuser was an employee of the state. They cannot work because they have no trust in any other human being sufficient to have an employer/employee relationship
The quote I heard from Iain Duncan-Smith seemed to suggest that if you reduced income then magically a benefit claimant would spring into action, and suddenly get a job. What if he hasn't worked for 5 years - the long term unemployed? They are generally ignored by the back to work government schemes because they stand the least chance of all of getting a job.

What will happen if Iain Duncan Smith gets his way - well probably whole sections of the community will be unable to afford to buy food and starve to death - would they get a DSS paid funeral? Interesting point. I suppose that will just serve them right for not getting off their fat backsides and getting a job.

At the moment the House of Lords has whole heartedly rejected the idea in a revolt. Despite this Duncan-Smith seems determined to find a political way to push ahead with the proposals. The coalition government thinks the public are behind the proposed welfare reform changes.

An article in the Guardian entitled "there is an appetite for welfare reform" quoted public opinion from research in Britain.

"Other work we've done on "fairness" for the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that this view is partly underpinned by the belief that fairness means not just people having the same opportunities but people not getting more out of a system than they have put in.

The same study identified a view that in some ways Britain has become "too fair", with common concerns being that benefit payments don't encourage hard work and that there are unfair advantages for some in the housing and even employment system. "

Sn, despite the fact that the House of Lords are against the idea, and that it seems a crazy notion to push through, like all outrageous policies in the name of "austerity" to "get the country back on its financial feet" it will probably be pushed through because they believe it is right and fair. Like many other examples of Tory policy where they have not listened to public opinion and have become latterly disaster areas eg. Poll Tax, Child Support Agency etc. This policy will probably be called a misthought badly judged policy which in future has to be reversed.

And just a final thought. What are you going to tell the one legged war veteran who cannot work, but will have his benefits reduced to an unacceptable level? "Never mind old chap, thank you for nearly sacrificing your life for Blighty and losing your leg. You will just have to manage on less - or you could easily spring back into work as a window cleaner may be - oh no you can't can you because you only have one leg....hmm....."

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Are breast implants a genuine cry for psychological help?

A comparison between the feelings of a victim of abuse, whom I represent, and the angst of women who have had PIP breast implants, which may have gone wrong is, at first sight, inappropriate.

One firstly has to distinguish between breast implants which have been inserted in order to augment the size of existing breasts for cosmetic purposes, and women who, for example, have had mastectomies arising from breast cancer. I suspect that people have immediately assumed that breast implants have mostly been paid for by those who want bigger breasts rather than being given on the National Health to those who need them for medical reasons, and, presumably, have been provided free of charge on the NHS. There are also those who, for psychological reasons need breast implants because, for example, they are suffering from a mental disorder caused by their feelings about the size of their breasts. Mastectomy patients, however must deserve the most sympathy of all.

One has to ask the question of what responsibility the Plastic Surgeon who chose PIP breast implants at a cheap price should bear. Whilst the manufacturers were the villains of the piece in that they used industrial grade silicone the question is were or should the plastic surgeons have been aware that they were using substandard products? If so they would be liable in negligence. Proving knowledge of something many years ago would be difficult. Other plastic surgeons now say with the advantage of hindsight, of course, that they would not use PIP implants because they seemed poor quality.

The actual argument the lawyers involved are using is under the Sale of Goods Act. The plastic surgeon was a supplier of goods of unmerchantable quality which were unfit for purpose. As such therefore they are liable for damage caused in breach of the implied duties of sale. Simply a much more effective argument than negligence, and all that entails.

The lawyers are advising the government not to replace the implants on the NHS in the hope that they will be able to recover from the plastic surgeon, for the simple reason that under the Sale of Goods Act only the buyer has a right of action, and the government were not the buyers. I don't think David Cameron has had any implants to my knowledge - or has he?

So how do the victims of abuse compare with breast implant victims? Well all victims of abuse have low self esteem because abuse causes a lack of trust in other human beings. Some breast implant patients have the operation done because the size of their breasts has caused such low esteem, lack of confidence, and indeed mental illness that having larger breast will help restore that self esteem, and enable the patient to cope with life more easily. If psychiatrists authorise the operation  for psychiatric reasons alone, then low self esteem must lie at the root of the problem. Sadly, there is no quick cosmetic surgery fix for the victim of abuse. His/her damage is arguably incurable. Certainly, if there was a cosmetic surgery solution, you can bet that they would all go for it.

It is somewhat trite, however, to even attempt to draw similarities between the two types of victim, and I do so merely in a tenuous and somewhat insincere fashion. Indeed, even for the breast augmentation patient, larger breast will not cure a deep rooted inferiority complex, no doubt caused by other factors - even abuse in childhood. Some form of counselling is more likely to help.

Moreover a breast cancer patient would expect to be able to have breast implants put in on the NHS free of charge, and to have substandard implants replaced under National Health for the same reason. Indeed the public would gladly agree for such free treatment gladly. So let us not judge too quickly in ignorance.