Why might DLA help with your blisters?

Black and white cartoon of a man sitting on a sofa, with a woman tending to his foot, with the slogan "It's a bad blister, but a bit of Disability Living Allowance should make it better", with the signature "PUGH" in the top left-hand cornerThis cartoon accompanies a Daily Mail piece which was published today, alleging that people are rushing to claim Disability Living Allowance in the last weeks before it is phased out. Bernadette Meaden has a comprehensive response, which spells out what DLA is for:

Disability Living Allowance is awarded to people who cannot, to a greater or lesser degree, perform everyday activities without support. They may have difficulty getting dressed or bathing, or making a meal. They may have varying degrees of difficulty with mobility, meaning they can’t be involved in society without support. They will probably be experiencing unpleasant symptoms or pain on a regular basis. To suggest that DLA is available for something as trivial as a blister, even as a ‘joke’ in this context, is irresponsible.

I suspect that an important reason why people are rushing to claim DLA before it’s phased out is that these people might have found the form-filling too stressful or upsetting, since it consists of pages and pages of what your impairment takes from you, and may have put it off because they could just about scrape by without it, even if they were nothing like independent. At present, only lifelong DLA recipients are spared re-assessment until after the next General Election, so these are all likely to be people with lifelong impairments.

However, the same newspaper has used the same jibe about “blisters” before, with regard to the former Incapacity Benefit, and while usually blisters on your feet are a sign that your shoes are the wrong size, people really claiming DLA or ESA on grounds related to blisters most likely have something like epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a hereditary skin disorder which makes the skin fragile, and prone to injury and blistering at very low levels of friction or pressure (Melissa Smith, who has EB, responded to this at the time). This is, as the reader might imagine, very painful, and often leads to the sufferer having to use a wheelchair, to be restricted in what they can do or where they can go (for example, using public transport may be a major injury risk), to be prone to infections and frequent hospitalisations, and to spend hours daily doing what the man in this cartoon is doing: having their blisters (and other injuries) tended to, popped and dressed, to stop them growing and getting infected. They will have been doing this since they were a baby.

You can do a Google image search with the name of the disease to see what it does to people, or you could read this article from the Guardian by a woman who has a fairly severe form of it. Only two days ago the Mail printed this story about children with EB — there are lots of tear-inducing pictures of children with their injured and bandaged skin. None of adults scrounging off benefits because of their blisters, of course. (HT: Same Difference.)

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