26 MARCH 1954, Page 5

An Expense of Shame A Committee under Lord Piercy has

begun to investigate one of the more pathetic anomalies of the Welfare State. It is this: the National Health Service is now more or less NMPPed to cure the sick, if they are curable, and to support invalids if they are not curable; but it is totally unequipped to help invalids to support themselves. There is, at the present u the practically no provision for medically rehabilitating' w e disabled—those who could do a job and support themselves if they were given the right treatment on the right job. A moralist could call it wicked that an indefinite number of h„ninati beings should be obliged to become dependants of the Mate or of their relatives many years before they need. An economist could well call it wasteful. Each bed in an institution costs from £8 to £11 a week; in the mines alone it is estimated that £15 million is lost yearly simply through the absenteeism of rheumatic miners. In the-case of rheumatism, the waste is Piarticularly great and particularly unnecessary. For one thing, 91ere are two to three million sufferers; for another, the disease is highly responsive to early treatment. It is reckoned that, those early treatment and treatment ' on the job,' up to half who are now completely dependent could have become c,pmpletely independent. The cause of the anomaly seems to Ile mainly in the multitude of boards, Ministries, and local authoritiesinvolved. The Health Service Boards have neither the authority nor the staff to rehabilitate thein patients; the 7Ministry of Labour undertakes to rehabilitate only those who, the the outset, are capable of working a forty-hour week; Llie insurance schemes operate so as to penalise the firms who would be willing to employ the disabled on a part-time basis, and to penalise the potential worker, who forfeits all national assistance if he earns more than £1 a week; the education authorities are under no obligation to report or watch over the progress of disabled children when they leave school. And between these many millstones, the crippled, the mutilated, the a of and even the completely curable are ground into a state v miserable and unnecessary dependence.