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Posted by Philip on 1 August 2012, 5:40 pm in , , ,

Family supporter payments: use the 80-20 rule

Since the Government accepted the Court of Appeal ruling that their policy to not pay family members to support disabled relatives was, in fact, discriminatory under the Human Rights Act, an advisory group has been set up to work out how much to pay them.

I wonder how much taxpayers' money that will cost.

Were bureaucrats and politicians to act in a sensible and pragmatic manner, they would use the 80-20 rule. Wikipedia explains that "the Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."

The advisory group is deciding the impact of "natural support" on family relationships where disability support is involved. I would suggest that, on average, the minimising effect of the need for paid support should be 20% on account of being related.

In other words, I think it would be reasonable for a relative, currently paid nothing, to be paid 80% of what a non-relative would be paid, to acknowledge the "natural support" component.

So, say I paid my partner to support me on a Sunday to avoid having a paid support worker spoiling our sleep in. He might make me coffee and breakfast anyway, because he likes me. But he probably wouldn't have to help me dress, clean up after me in the bathroom, make the bed, wash the dishes after breakfast and prepare my lunch and dinner — every week — however enamoured he is.

Similarly, a parent would normally supervise a child eating, dressing, getting to school, completing homework and going to bed. But he wouldn't have to bathe her, dress him, feed her, wipe his bum or change her continence pad, watch his every move and stay home when she's sick. She wouldn't have to take him to school every day, have a monitor by her bed to check she didn't choke at night and accompany him everywhere to guide behaviour.

No way of measuring the effect of family status or disability on a relationship will ever be completely accurate or perfectly fair.

However, using the law of averages and the Pareto principle, I think it would be safe and efficient to assume that the effect of disability generally impacts 80% of a "natural" relationship, or, again from the other perspective, that a family member could be expected to accept that 20% of disability support may overlap the family relationship.

This may be a simple and timely way for government to justify a claim of reasonable accommodation under the Human Rights Act, rather than spend months and who knows how much public money coming up with yet another complex policy.