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Independents' Day

A life without benefits

Patients refused disability allowance should be offered counselling to help them focus on what they can do - not what they have lost, says Dr Stuart Berry

A friend commented recently that she had walked past a billboard saying "One legged Man Refused Disability living allowance". She initially felt sorry for the chap: why shouldn't he be able to claim when he has been left disabled by an accident? But this was quickly followed by some thoughts about what jobs remained open to him.

A quick Google-search of news stories tells me that "Of the first 47,400 Incapacity Benefit claimants to be found fit to work following reassessment, 27% (12,900) – had been on the benefit for more than ten years, and 3,900 – 8%of the total – had been on it for over 15 years." (source: Daily Mail)

It's great that obvious benefits cheats that make the newspaper headlines are no longer benefiting from fraudulent ways - but what about the cases that are not so clear cut ? or at least in the grey borderland between blooming obvious and dubious?

Should we be encouraging the now one-legged forklift truck driver to pursue the claim against the Disability Living Allowance rejection ? Is he likely to get the decision overturned ? Or will this just mean he spends longer in the "sick-role".

Patients who are rejected from the Disability Living Allowance should be automatically offered counselling and advice about the reasons for their rejection and how that opinion has been reached. If this was done it would be possible to offer a sort of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to the patient so that they are able to start thinking more positively about what sorts of jobs they could do instead of focusing on what they have lost.

Rejection from Disability Living Allowance can lead to patients considering suicide as they feel they cannot ever find a job or income that will allow them to carry on. Offering a fast track into CBT or interview with an Occupational Therapist could prove more beneficial to the patient and their families in the long term.

I do feel sorry for the chap who lost his leg. That must be awful - having to come to terms with the disability and possible flashbacks to the accident. It also reminds me of one of my sister's friends at university who had a false leg. This didn't stop him from pursuing a career as a lawyer and living life to the full on his travels around the globe. Many people didn't realise he had a false leg until he turned up at a fancy dress party dressed as "Jake the Peg" a la Rolf Harris.

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