Letter: Caring for disabled

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The Independent Online
Sir: Henry Gordon (letter, 22 January) presents himself in the debate on welfare reform as an expert, correcting popular misconceptions, but his rhetoric implies a different agenda - the division again into the deserving and undeserving poor.

Mr Gordon's "maiden lady" looking after an aged and infirm parent is seen as deserving, but presumably a married woman, who is also sacrificing career, occupational pension and probably health, isn't.

It is true that the recipient of invalid care allowance (ICA) need not live in the same house as the person cared for (though usually does). She must be caring for more than 35 hours a week for someone who is severely disabled - at an enormous saving to the state.

I am a married carer and have looked after my daughter for 20 years. I have claimed ICA, but am no longer eligible because I work 11 hours a week as an hourly-paid teacher; my carer's role takes up my other hours. I am not eligible to claim job-seeker's allowance during the 20 weeks of the year when I do not work, because I am a carer.

The suggestion that many successful claimants for disability living allowance are merely suffering from backache or mild asthma is ludicrous. It's hard enough to convince the DSS that my severely disabled daughter (cerebral palsy and epilepsy) is eligible. Has Mr Gordon ever wondered why people in wheelchairs demonstrate? For the same reason that this exhausted mother is writing this letter: because they know that regulations designed to exclude the dishonest will be applied unfairly to them. We appear to be living in a world where the reduction of the tax bills for middle and high income groups is the main priority, not support for those who need it. Disabled people could supply medical evidence in abundance. The DSS will not accept it, preferring to rely on its own cynical retired GPs and a 10-minute assessment of complex conditions.

Mr Gordon presents himself as a realist. There is more that one kind of reality. This is mine.


London N5