Doctors lose power to diagnose | The Jackal

27 Sep 2012

Doctors lose power to diagnose

Today, National reported on a speech given by Paula Bennett:

Not that long after I became the Minister for Social Development, a distraught woman told me a story about her son.

Her son was about 19, he had Asperger’s syndrome, but she described him as handsome (as only mums do) and very physically fit.

He had worked since leaving school, but left after a couple of years to visit his father in Australia.

On his return she found that he had lost all motivation.

He was smoking marijuana and drifting about, doing nothing.

To sort him out she sent him to Work and Income.

In her words she thought he would get the ‘kick in the pants’ he needed and help to get a job.

She thought this would be a turning point in her son’s life.

But she came home to her son on the couch, marijuana smoke everywhere, watching TV and looking deflated.

He had been told he didn’t need to get a job - they wouldn’t be putting him forward or helping him find one - because he was entitled to an Invalid’s Benefit, and they’d start it straight away.

He told her he had no hope left because even the government didn’t think he could do anything, he felt worthless, so what was the point in trying?

That’s the message our system has been sending to people with disability or illness.

Remember, Work and Income staff had just followed the rules and made sure he got his entitlement.

This seems highly unlikely... But let's asume that there was an 19 year old male who has Asperger’s syndrome, smokes pot and has a mum who contacted the Minister of Social Development about WINZ giving her son an Invalid Benefit sometime in 2008.

Actually let's not asume she isn't lying because she is: There's usually a stand down period for people who apply for the Invalid Benefit and in 2008 there was no automatic acceptance for a person who had been working. Somebody applying for an Invalid Benefit also had to produce medical evidence of their incapacity and then be examined by a doctor appointed by WINZ.

Once you get through the Minister's waffling, it appears that Paula Bennett is proposing to use the same process as ACC to move invalid and sickness beneficiaries onto the unemployment benefit in order to save the government money. In other words WINZ case managers will decide if a person is fit for work and Doctors will lose their power to diagnose patients. The applicant can appeal, but this process has recently been exposed as a complete farce by the media, which highlighted the lengths to which corrupt specialists go to in order to decline legitimate claimants.

Despite Labour introducing a stricter application criteria, between June 2004 and 2007 the number of people receiving the invalids benefit increased by 10%. This is because when ACC got into financial trouble it was instructed by the then government to remove as many claimants as it could. National when it gained power then implemented further measures to ensure a reduction in long-term ACC claimants, which increased the amount of invalid beneficiaries by 11% to 88,134 in 2011. Many of these people had no other choice but to apply for the Invalid Benefit when their ACC payments were cancelled.

In the long run National's policy to reduce the amount of invalid and sickness beneficiaries by simply moving them onto the unemployment benefit will cost the country more and cause further hardship and suffering for the unwell. This is because without proper rehabilitation back into employment, people will spend more time on welfare. But instead of creating jobs and ensuring people are able to fulfill them, National is only concerned with blaming the victims.

Bennett's shortsightedness is therefore not morally justifiable nor beneficial to the economy.