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Disability Bitch has reform-itis

20th January 2011

• Disability Bitch is published every Thursday.

Readers, I can't take any more: my head's spinning and I haven't had a decent night's sleep in months.
DB sipping a cocktail her hospital bed
For once, these aren't new symptoms of my old 'troubles'; if they were I'd go and bother the NHS until somebody cured me. They are, however, ails I share with almost every other disabled person I know, at least those who glance at the national press once in a while.

Forget swine flu, this epidemic seems to be sweeping the country in a fast and furious fashion with long lasting lifestyle implications.

I've taken the liberty of giving this mysterious condition a name: Government-Reform-Itis.

Key signs of the disease include a dizzying sensation that every public service you've ever used is being reformed in some way or other, insomnia due to long nights spent attempting to make sense of many consultation documents on disability support initiatives, all combined with a constant need to be online in the hope that a virtual friend might be able to explain what's going on because you sure as hell don't know.

Aargh. I HATE INFORMATION OVERLOAD. But let's be honest: reform isn't always bad. I'd be the first to acknowledge that some government disability services could do with more than a gentle tweak - perhaps a benefit application form that doesn't require the intellect of Stephen Hawking to decipher? - but right now there's just too much of it about.
Even Stephen Hawking might struggle deciphering benefit application forms
Yesterday I was contemplating my response to the government's Disability Living Allowance reform proposals while also mulling over changes to Access to Work and how they might alter my employment prospects.

This led me to consider what is going to become of disabled people who are unable to work when the government's plans to replace Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with the proposed Universal Credit system comes into fruition. And that was before I'd even remembered that Housing Benefit is being radically overhauled and local council cuts like pulling of the Supporting People ringfencing will affect different people, differently, depending on where they live. Get it?

I decided to write it all up on a flip chart on my wall, and, just as I was finishing, my No-Legged Friend popped in the room.
Andrew Lansley
"You've missed something," he said, "the Independent Living Fund is closing, and no one knows what they're replacing it with yet."

It's a good job I haven't managed to procreate, because I'd have to add child benefit cuts to my list of reforms to misunderstand and be anxious about in a non-specific but all-encompassing way.

The truth is that not all changes that happen will be bad for all disabled people, and some of them might even be beneficial, but it's difficult to tell at the moment because, since the general election, it has been one long avalanche of disability reform.

As if to further mock my frazzled brain, the government chose this week to unveil its plans to overhaul the NHS: the crux of these changes are that GPs will get more direct control over spending NHS money but a postcode lottery of healthcare is feared, something that Andrew Lansley, the Health Minister, vigorously denied on Channel 4 News on Tuesday evening.
Would you trust this man? A doctor with a stethoscope
Now, I'm not saying my GP's a poor manager, but last time I visited him, he was kicking the radiator in his surgery because he couldn't switch it on, all the plants on his desk were dead, and I almost had to have a flu vaccine (which I didn't want) because he couldn't work out how to tell his computer that I'd declined it.

Just as I was adding 'NHS reform' to my wallchart, my No Legged Friend wandered back into the room, brandishing a newspaper. "Bitch," he said, "I've been reading about all this NHS stuff. How's this going to affect people like me with no lower limbs and a neurological condition?"

"I can't help you," I said, and then my brain exploded.

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