I find myself wanting to say more about PC David Rathband as an example of how society should react when a decent person falls victim of an accident or misfortune. In a sense, I’d like just to be able to express my concern and empathy with his situation and shut up, knowing a system will form around him and help as it should. I hope this will be the case, but know this is not the general case. I also wish I’d been on sniper cover duty and been able to squeeze gently and remove Moat before the disaster. Sadly, no one was.
David is only one example of many people exposed to futile ‘wars’ going on around the world, including officers serving in police and armed forces and civilian victims. People are dying, being maimed and living in chronic circumstances of deprivation, bullying and misery for all minds of ‘reasons’. Many get no help at all, whether its about Gaza, Iraq, Somalia or our own people victim of miserable crooks and those dying in Mexico’s drug-war.
Help is available to David – would that he was not in need of any. My understanding is that he is still a serving officer and being paid as such, with standard pension entitlement that would allow for a medical addition to his pension and early retirement. I hope this is not what happens, unless this is what he wants. A friend of mine found himself in a similar position due to a genetic condition that rendered him blind at a similar age. He has successfully struggled through. He would give up all his achievements to have his sight back. Things were made far more difficult for him than they needed to be and he knows others have been much less “fortunate”.
Gadget has made much of the fact that David has only “qualified” for the lowest rate of Disability Living Allowance, a benefit often confused in the media with what has replaced invalidity benefit. DLA is not means tested and you can get this if you are working. Being blind does not “qualify” anyone for DLA in itself, though after much complaint and appeal the lower rate is now generally allowed. David’s case ‘merely’ illuminates the struggle genuine claimants have in regard to benefits, and how poor the amounts on offer often are.
I doubt many would disagree, in principle, that David should be able to live comfortably without working if he chooses to do so. We’d say the same of some unfortunate soldier blinded by an IED after 12 months service at maybe 20. The soldier, incidentally, is not likely to be in as “favourable” a position. Some poor kid maimed as a civilian, as “collateral damage” in these “wars” even less so and so on (victims of our ‘evil poor’ crime and so on). The world’s genuinely disabled are not generally well treated.
In fact, our benefits system, properly marshalled, should work quite well for David Rathband. His fall back should be his police pension and enhancements for injury on duty and the criminal injuries compensation scheme (there is something similar in the Armed Services). Police officers are better protected than most in this respect.
My guess, and the reality should be entirely David’s decision, hopefully supported properly, is that continuing to work as a police officer is likely to help David’s recovery and future life. His force can make this possible and make use of the ‘benefits’ available through ‘access to work’ provisions I have outlined. These are not almost trivial amounts like the lower rate of DLA – an amount not trivial at all to those who can only rely on benefits, even at less than £20 a week. David can expect provision from the State in excess of £30,00 a year, but only if he can work – this much dependant on whether his force do the right thing, or he can find other work – though remember his fall back will exceed what someone similarly disabled and reliant on benefits will get by a long way. Not all the ‘other disabled’ are exploitative scum, and sticking David up against those who are is not helpful, other than to expose the abuse of our system.
David’s case is not about appeal to get full rate DLA. If he was to succeed, this would open this rate up to all similarly disabled. I wish we could do this, but an extra £40 a week is not what he needs. What such an appeal would demonstrate (it would almost certainly fail because of the costs of paying at least a million others similarly disabled) is merely how badly we treat those less well placed than the officer. Think just what the phrase ‘less well placed’ when describing an officer blinded by a mad criminal (one civilian in the incident is dead).
The route is to press Northumbria Police to retain David and find a suitable job he can do with ‘access to work’ help. Most of the disabled cannot expect anything like this, though in principle (but rarely in practice) the help is there. My friend gets it and knows how “lucky” he is, and the many obstacles that were put in the way (including former colleagues who treated a highly intelligent, experienced man as a ‘basket case’ because he was blind, or did nothing to help – let’s not forget the stars who did). David, of course, is only “lucky” in comparison with many people left to rot in a poor system.
My friend, incidentally, once applied to ‘disability friendly GMP’. He found some of Gadget’s HRM-wallahs expressing all kinds of sympathy (we know where that crops up in the dictionary), and, of course, no job. I think the Acting Chief Constable should demonstrate that silly hair has nothing to do with competence and decency and outline a route for David to stay in the job and take advantage of the substantial help from ‘access to work’. You don’t need HRM qualifications Ms. Sim, just decency and to give up a bit of time. I have outlined what could, and should in my opinion, happen.
There are other possibilities in this such as why Pc Rathband (and no doubt other colleagues) were left as exposed as members of the public and the victims of Moat following his threats in prison (Gadget’s ‘we get thousands of such threats’ cuts no ice with me) and his killing. One could see a tedious compensation claim by the officer on why there was no speedy and robust risk assessment leaving him exposed, and then from other officers stressed by their force’s lack of duty of care, exemplified by the horror that befell David Rathband, causing them later ‘PTSD’ on the grounds they were similarly exposed and just lucky.
I agree entirely with Gadget on the need to curb excesses by benefit cheats and theft by senior police officers through obscene salaries and expenses. These have nothing to do with David’s case and are a crude distraction from it. He deserves the best offer Northumbria Police can make, and if an offer is not ‘in the post’, the whole HRM department should be sacked. This latter might not be a bad thing anyway. IG is always right that the managerial clown act is as embarrassing as a circus that maltreats its animals.
A decent offer to David Rathband does not make him a special case, or the police one generally. The disabled generally will continue to get a bad deal, and only a few will get the help that makes sense. Treating David decently would only continue the current practice and be a good example for the wider change needed, but that won’t happen because ‘we can’t fund it’. There will be a probable financial gain for Northumbria Police by keeping him in duties he will fulfil as well as anyone else (and probably better) and not having to pay his pension early. ‘Access to work’ will fund most of the rest, and the ‘net exchequer costs’ here may be low as a job/s are created in providing the assistance, leading to savings elsewhere in the benefits system, with people including David paying more tax.
We should, of course, be doing this for everyone. This thought should not stop it happening for David Rathband. Nor should we think a few benefit or salary-bonus-expense thieves are preventing it. A wider and more fatal managerial and moral void in our society is dong much worse. We are pathetic in our public argument, and sound off against easy targets. That doesn’t mean we should not target the thieves. Let’s face it though, we are letting them make decisions we should be taking. They will continue to protect their own interests.
David should get his help as soon as he wants it. It sounds overdue. What may stop it is not some £33,000 alleged benefits cheat, but the thought that giving this decent guy what he deserves (our best) will lead to others wanting and deserving the same treatment. As with much in our society, the powers that be will be scared that they may be establishing a principle of decent treatment for all that becomes standard practice. They have long preferred liberal bullshit that can’t work in practice and thus cost anything.
Decent cops should work out they are already a ‘special case’ with much better benefits and conditions of service than most. They are not in a perfect situation and most of us in this country are still better placed than those elsewhere. Things are about to get much worse, and we won’t help ourselves if we keep up the dismal standard of public dialogue-in-ignorance which has a left, right and pathetic middle-muddle tuned to noise rather than facts.
We can ‘do right by’ David Rathband and should get on with it. Much as we might want to turn the clock back and put an earlier end to Moat, we can’t and much the same can be said about our failure to create a decent society in which such stuff and worse does not happen. We should strive to ensure David gets the best of what is available, but if he is worth this, he will know others are too and we should not stop at his single case. I have been asked far too often whether my mate is ‘really blind’ or just involved in some benefits’ scam (once would have been too often). He is one of the brightest and best people I have ever met, and was nearly screwed by our system. The truth about our benefits system is that it is rationed, often doesn’t work effectively, isn’t available to those of us who pay in when we have need of it and needs a lot of change. The ‘evil poor’ are not responsible, however much we need to change them. We need new answers across our society, but instead turn to old and failed ones. Our sad policing is not a special case in this, just a typical example.
There is the right help available for David Rathband. Only piss-wittering, crap management can get in the way – the very stuff that gets in the way of proper problem-definition and action across our society. Don’t cry on about the scandal of DLA in ignorance. Write to Northumbria Police, your MP and so on about the gist of the available solution and insist on it. Ask the Home Secretary why she hasn’t already done this with Northumbria and to resign if she can’t get a letter out tomorrow.