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Hello and welcome to a brand new series of Inside Out. Here's what's
coming up tonight. Boozy Britain. Are our teenagers drinking
themselves to an early death? really scary and tragically, every
year, we sometimes fail to keep somebody alive. Radio 1's Scott
Mills has his last tipple, and turns all teetotal on us. Cheers!
Just the one? Just the one! And is the government crackdown on
disability benefits ONLY hitting the fraudsters? I mean there are
some people, yeah, that's mucking around. But a lot of people aren't
and we're the ones that seem to be suffering. Or do the new medical
assessments let down the needy? are so worried about what's
happening to people. They become destitute in many cases. I'm John
Cuthill and this is Inside Out First tonight, if you've been
battling the January sales, chances are, you'll need a stiff drink. But
that's together with the 500 other pints each adult has on average
throughout the year. And it's doing our livers no good at all. But we
can all give up, can't we? That's the challenge we set Radio One's
Scott Mills. BBC Radio One. Ten minutes from BBC Radio 1Xtra live
in London. As I come off air, the team wants to know why I've gone
all Peter Andre, with cameras following my every move. I am doing
a film, for the BBC. I am today giving up alcohol for a month.
what are you going to do? Are you just going to go out and? Drink.
And then not drink for a month. Over Christmas? And New Year?
Don't look at the film crew as if to say don't come round on
Christmas day because you'll have a little sherry. Could you not come
round on Christmas day? Yeah, do spirits count, or what? Well, I'm
not allowed to drink. Tonight's my last one. Are you coming out for a
bevvy? Hi, guys. Mohitos. Oh, my, gosh! Help yourself. Thank you.
Thank you so much. I know how this looks but I want you all to know
that we don't go out and drink cocktails every night. Yes! Wooh!
Now, I don't know what that is. I've done my share of drinking, but
don't drink half as much as I used to. Current government guidelines
say blokes shouldn't go over three to four units a day, women two to
three. But they're looking to tighten those to rein in the
estimated ten million of us who regulary go well over these amounts.
This is my mate, Chris, who is on my show on Radio One. We were just
talking earlier. He's actually got experience of one of his mates, how
old is he? 24. 24, and what's happened to him? He's just, his
stomach's pretty screwed up from booze. It's kind of wierd because
he's quite a close mate of mine and it's just a bit wierd because I
don't think he drinks much more than I do. Right. Last week he was
in hospital all week and this has been going on for six months now.
He's got to do tablets everyday. But the worst thing is, we all go
out, to be honest, get quite drunk. He can't really do that as much as
he used to be able to. So he feels left out. Yeah, it is a massive
social thing. It's rubbish, it's rubbish. So I wanted to see for
myself just how drink is affecting young people. At the age of 21,
Matt Maden from Bournemouth woke up from an alcohol induced coma. Years
of excessive drinking had finally caught up with him. I started
dabbling I suppose, experimenting with drink from a very early age.
From about 10/12 onwards. I would maybe have the odd glass of wine at
Christmas and that would be about it. Then my life sort of changed.
From the age of 15 my life revolved around social events. For example,
at a party I could drink, say, eight cans of lager and get drunk
on one occasion and then a year down the line it would take maybe
double that. Little did I know that alcohol in the end would actually
turn on me and that in effect it would start to control me. It went
from one point where I actually could control it and it gave me
confidence. But towards the end, it started to control me. Every month
Matt has to go to Kings College Hospital in London, for check ups.
His liver is shot to pieces and his only hope is a new one. When you
come and see me it's already too late because you've already really
damaged your liver. The problem is, if you had heart disease, for
example. Every time you get a little bit of damage from the
furred up blood vessels in your heart, you feel pain. You feel
shortness of breath, you know something's wrong. The trouble with
your liver is it keeps grinding away doing all this stuff and then
suddenly stops. Then you get very jaundiced, you get very sick, you
get fluid. But by that stage, you've knocked out 98% of your
liver. Kings has the biggest liver transplant centre in Europe.
Unfortunately, business is booming. With more and more patients in
their twenties. It's actually really upsetting coming here and
seeing what people look like. I actually couldn't look left and
right then, it was too horrific. But he was saying this is just the
tip of the iceberg and we probably are facing an epidemic and there's
just not enough organs. You're 24 now? Yeah. How much do you reckon
you drink a week? You know how much I drink a week, that's it. But I
don't think I'll be drinking the amount I drink now in 15 years time.
I think it's something that will eventually wear out and I'll be
fine. But experts say that any period of excessive drinking can
cause health problems. I tried giving up, remember? And that
didn't really. Didn't work. He'll come in and be, "Oh, I'm giving up
booze." Then the next day he'll have gone out and had a pint. Do
you drink every day? I don't drink every day but I tend to say I'm
going to give up booze when I am hungover and that's probably not
the best time to decide to give up booze. Never drinking again. It's
because people are drinking more heavily and in more eratic patterns.
And clearly drinking more alcohol. And it's a very complex argument.
It's about availability, pricing, all those other things. There's no
question that culturally, as a country, we don't treat alcohol
with respect. And we don't use it in a sensible way. I'd never call
it an epidemic because an epidemic is something that happens to you.
Getting drunk is something you do to yourself. You didn't catch it
from anybody. You made a decision to go out and get very drunk.
it's so widespread with young people. It is. So, why are we
drinking to excess? Whether we're young or older, there is a cultural
problem we've got to get over. I think with young people a lot of it
is due to low self esteem, low confidence. We have an odd
relationship with alcohol. We define a good night out by getting
drunk. Pretty much every young person in my view, from what I see,
is out there every weekend to get smashed. So you're a Radio One DJ
and you know better than me. How do we persuade young people that not
drinking is as cool as drinking? Meanwhile, my last night of
drinking is going well. I've had two cocktails in about 15 minutes.
Which is quite good going. I'm not sure what to drink next. They don't
do cocktails in here, surprisingly! In our local, it's time to fess up
to what we really drink. Big night out? Probably... This is really
hard to say. If any of my mates are watching I feel like I need to
round up a little bit, isn't that sad? I'd probably have four or five
pints. And although these regulars say they rarely drink at home, they
do meet here about four times a week. Probably a couple of pints a
night. Five, six of these a night. I try to drink about 15 pints on a
Thursday night but only get through about five. Do you know what,
thought? I don't think it's so bad if you're not drinking every night.
But that's probably wrong. Yeah, that is wrong. There's a bit of
fluid there. As Matt knows only too well. So what I can hear is really
you're not getting a lot of air into the base of your lungs. And
that's because you've still got fluid here. You've had to have it
drained once from this side and you couldn't breathe properly. There's
still some there even though the shunt is actually doing a lot of
the work. That's just a sign of the fact your liver's still damaged.
And with his liver barely working, other crucial organs are struggling
his stomach, heart and lungs. He's had a little plastic tube, a shunt,
put into his liver. To release the pressure from all the veins in his
stomach. They pop and he bleeds. He has bled three or four times. They
are life threatening bleeds. You can literally bleed to death in 30
minutes. He's had that three or four times already. I'm in my 30's
and don't consider myself a big drinker these days. But now seems
like the right time and place to get my liver checked. So, what josh
is doing, Scott, is he's putting the probe between your ribs. That's
where your liver is, inside. Then fire off pulses and see how bendy
your liver is. So, do I want a bendy liver? You want a bendy liver.
And what kind of period of time would you have to be drinking
heavily for, for that to happen? Well, we used to be told it takes
10/20 years. We are now seeing patients who are in their twenties
with hard knobbly livers. Cirrosis. Life threatening complications.
Some of those people have only been drinking seriously for four, five,
six years. It may be that we are beginning to see that you can screw
up your liver quite quickly if you go for it. In the end this and
other tests show I do have a springy liver, which begs the
question, is it worth me giving up drinking at all? If you were to
give up drinking for an amount of time, even weeks, could your liver
improve? Even with really bad damage, you can improve by stopping
drinking. By stopping poisoning your liver. In someone like you,
who I assume is fit and healthy, we might not be able to pick up any
differences, but without any doubt, your liver will be grateful. Even
though Matt has not had a drink in four and a half years, his future
is still really incertain. The grim fact is for Matt, when I meet him
and say we've listed him for transplantation, we quote a one in
five chance that you'll never get to having a transplant. There's a
one in five chance you'll die on the waiting list. Bleeding
complications. The coma that comes out of liver disease. Serious
infections are a real problem in patients with this, your immune
system doesn't work properly. And of course, this fluid. The
shortness of breath and fluid accumulating in the belly, those
are horrible things and really life threatening. We're one week into my
no drinking experiment. It's easy at the moment because there have
been no Christmas parties. I've stayed in all week. However, as the
weeks go by I know that I've got things planned where I could easily
crack and have a drink. So, let's see what happens. It's now been
three weeks since I had a drink. I've lost weight, I'm sleeping
better. But generally I'm doing all right. It's OK. But that's not
what's happening on the street. It's Christmas week and everybody's
going for it. Pubs and clubs, obviously they're still busy, but
the supermarkets in the High Street are doing a roaring trade in cheap
booze so young people tank up before hitting the town. As well as
the long term damage to our health, there's also the cost to the NHS to
consider. 2.7 billion a year in mopping up the casualties of a
night out. And they reckon 50 billion per year to the economy. In
Guildford's A&E yound drinkers make up a large number of the
emergencies. There was an intoxicated female, 15-year-old. I
assume these people get alcohol from, from parents, from friends,
or older friends. I think that's the problem with parents these days.
They're both out working, nobody's bringing up the kids. So, alcohol
brings them up, doesn't it? What's your name? I'm Mark, one of the A&E
doctors. Don't want to talk to me, huh? The very busiest times, it's
probably the case that the majority of people coming in have had
Domestic violence. There are mental health problems as possible
consequences of alcohol. So a dangerous drug from our point of
view. Getting patched-up, a 20-year-old
student. It is going to hurt a bit. I fell over getting into a taxi and
cut my leg. I've never been in A&E before. The funny thing is I have
been more drunk than this. It was unfortunate today that I fell over.
I saw some data a short while ago which suggested an adult could get
through their weekly recommended level of alcohol for �4 or �5.
And a teenager could drink so much that their life is at risk, for
just �7. We met this guy called Matt who his
26 and he is on the waiting-list for a liver transplant. Surely
these policies are just tinkering around the edges? The thought that
a 26-year-old can drink so much, that is a huge amount of alcohol,
to be on liver transplant waiting list is an incredible tragedy. It
is a tragedy to me as a parent that someone of 26 thinks so little
about themselves that they can drink that much. There's also a
thing there about culture changing and personal responsibility so we
will be publishing a plan on what we're going to do about alcohol in
the next few months. It is a licensing and a justice issue. It
is a health issue. It is an education issue. It is something we
have to tackle all together but we also need people like yourself. You
have reach into an audience that I need to talk to. How do I persuade
young people that when they go out on a Friday night, I don't want to
stop people having fun, but they have to take responsibility for
keeping safe. So we've spoken to the government.
What would you do about it? I think we've got to look at the minimum
price per unit of alcohol. Because those cheap drinks are designed for
people to get drunk on. Not for normal drinkers. And if we brought
in a minimum price for alcohol we know that that would reduce the
level of harmful drinking in the country.
I'm at my Christmas do with my mates and it is hard, there's no
drinking. I'm on water. Cheers. It has been a drink free December
for me which has been an interesting experiment. I've been
able to give up so I'm one of the lucky ones, I guess. But it is New
year's Eve, I'm about to go out so I'm going to have a cheeky half.
Cheers. The people we are talking to are young people drinking huge
amounts of alcohol and that is a complex thing but I think part of
it is ease of access to alcohol. Part of it is how cheap it is. Part
of it is the culture that we create where it is good to go out and get
hammered. And there's something wrong with telling young people or
making young people feel that the only way they can have fun is to go
out and get totally blitzed. I did not grow up like that. I like
alcohol in moderation but it is not something where I choose to get
blitzed. Meanwhile Matt lives day-to-day
with his phone constantly by his side hoping to get the call from
his transplant team which could save his life.
I know I can't change the past. It is what I do today and for the
future, you know. I try and be a bit more selfless as opposed to
being selfish. I reckon they are more millions of
people who are part of the way through the journey that Matt has
described. How many kids do you know who drink socially and then
use it for confidence? That's really common. All he has done is
kept going up that pathway and I think there are millions of people
like that. Details of the BBC help line on
alcohol coming up at the end of the show.
Next, it was designed to weed out benefit cheats, but it is causing
real problems for some of those people who desperately need it.
The test to see if you're fit enough to work is causing real
concerns for some welfare charities. There are all sorts of cases that
have hit the headlines. This is Clare Jones, tandem skydiver and
disability benefit cheat. This is Paul Appleby, unable to
walk without two sticks and largely confined to a wheelchair.
This man was filmed on the golf course after claiming he could
barely walk a few yards. And only some caught on camera.
This footage of a Manchester dance contest was captured by fraud
investigators. Mr Reid told benefits officials he could barely
walk due to crippling arthritis. The government crackdown is part of
the huge drive to get people off sickness benefits and back to work.
Ending the something for nothing culture. Promised made, promise
delivered. But while cheats are being
prosecuted, some major charities are raising concerns that many
claimants are being declared fit for work when they have genuine
disabilities. We fully appreciate that the
benefits bill is a huge one for the country and that the issue has to
be addressed. We have seen quite a lot in the media recently about
people having yachts, but that is not our experience. We are seeing
people would real health problems and disabilities and their benefits
being stopped. The problems came to light when a
new benefit called the employment support allowance was introduced to
replace the old incapacity benefit. In order to get it, the majority of
people have to have an independent medical assessment and score at
least 15 points to qualify. This is all about taking some of
the 1.6 million people we're going to be reassessing and helping them
make something more of their lives. We are faced with a binary choice -
either we leave people on benefits for the rest of the lives or we try
to help them back into work. It may be different what they did before,
maybe somebody with a back problem who can no longer do a manual job
could do something else. Tony Hind, a plumber from Gosport,
did not need to be reassessed as he never claimed sickness benefits
before. But when he developed severe back problems he decided to
go on benefits to tide him over until the got better.
I couldn't bend and I was literally climbing up the stairs on all fours.
I could not lift toilets, basins, baths. Boilers, radiators. Couldn't
do it. So in the end in January I went to the doctor and I had the
physio, scans, which all proved I had three prolapsed discs.
Unable to continue working, Tony applied for employment support
allowance. That meant going for an independent medical. He was not
impressed with the things he was asked.
A lot of questions about nothing, really. How were you able to take
your dog for a walk! I told them the park was four minutes from me.
Just because you have a bad back, it doesn't mean you can't walk. It
was painful when I was walking, I was limping. People used to ask me
how I was, they could see I was in a lot of pain. Tony answered his
medical questions as best he could but failed to get enough points to
qualify. He's not alone. Portsmouth CAB says in the last year around 20
people a month have asked for their help saying that their assessments
were wrong. What the clients are reporting back to us is that the
way the assessment is administered is very much a sort of yes or no
answer. And actually it is not as simple as that. If you think of
someone who has had a stroke and the left side of their body is
affected and they are asked questions about mobility. The
answer for the right hand side of the body would be very different to
the left-hand side of the body. And how do you express that in a simple
format in a reply to questions on a form?
When Pauline Bennett from Portsmouth retired from work for
medical reasons and she hoped that the benefits system would help her
out. I have night blindness, tunnel
vision, so I cannot see anything from the top and bottom. My
eyesight won't be getting any better, it will get worse. I had to
retire from the Post Office because it was getting too dangerous for me.
I was tripping over chairs and boxes. Being run over by metal
cages. I had to go to ATOS to do my medical, to see how I was. And they
classed me as permanently unfit for work. With just a small pension,
Pauline needed benefits to get by. But for her assessment to get
employment support allowance it was ATOS Healthcare had carried it out.
The very same company who declared her unfit for work at the Post
Office. And guess what? This time they said she was fit for work.
I could not believe it, to be honest. They gave me 9 points and I
could not understand it. It was almost as if I had got better
without realising it! Without the required 15 points,
Pauline did not qualify for the full �90 a week benefit. But she
was not giving up. So I appealed. They then refused the appeal again
and I had to go to a tribunal. And finally they agreed that I deserve
the 15 points and that I could not see well enough to go to work. But
it has taken since April for it to be sorted out. So why was Pauline
declared unfit the first time but not the second? Well ATOS
Healthcare told us they had different types of medical
assessments with different objectives and criteria. The
occupational health assessment is there to test someone's capability
for a specific job or role. But the ESA assessment has been developed
by the government to see if someone is capable of work in general. But
of course it was Pauline's ESA assessment that was wrong. That was
the one that was overturned at appeal. So are these independent
medicals fit for purpose? Well, Tony also appealed to a
tribunal and like Pauline, his assessment was overturned. Six
months after his ESA medical, he finally got the full 15 points.
It proved what I was saying all along. I think they're trying to
get people off benefits, off these sickness benefits, but it is people
maybe that need to come off and people who are genuine. They should
not treat everyone the same. There are people who do go through what I
went through and for them to turn around and disbelieve you and
disbelieve your doctor, it is totally out of order.
The government says it has listened to the critics and has recently
brought in changes to improve the medical assessments.
None of the decisions that have been taken since we introduced
these changes in the summer have yet come to appeal. So all the
examples that you and others have come across where something appears
to have gone wrong in the process, that is all a part of changes we
introduced last summer. And I'm confident that when we see the
impact of those changes, working their way through the system, that
we will see we have made a big improvement in the quality of
decision-making. Despite these assurances, the CAB say even now
they are taking on new cases of people who are falling foul of the
assessments. People like Andrew Pay, an
epileptic who has spent most of his life out of work because he says
employers will not take him on because of his fits. He's also
asthmatic and suffers from depression and has anxiety attacks.
And his assessment score? No points at all. None at all, I
cannot believe it. None at all. what went on in the test? What did
they ask? If I could raise a hand above my head, if I could make a
cup of tea. If I could walk 100 metres and things like that. And of
course I can. Of course I can. I was trying to explain to her, I
said it is not physical, it's mental. It is in my head. I can't
show it. They wanted me to have a seizure in front of them before
they would accept it. And I can't do that. Is it quite upsetting?
Very upsetting, very emotional. It is. It gets to me. And in terms of
your day-to-day living, how much difference does it make? Big, I
can't treat my daughter to an ice cream or anything like that. I
can't afford it. Sorry. While Andrew waits for an appeal,
the CAB say it is people like him with long-term health conditions
who are suffering the most from the benefits clampdown.
Some of the changes we have put in place are specifically designed to
provide extra protection to people with mental health challenges. They
must be the most difficult cases to deal with appropriately. We have to
really understand the nature of that person's situation and make
sure we get it right. We introduced changes that have led to an
increase in the number of people with mental health conditions who
are now receiving long-term unconditional support. So this is
all about trying to do all we can to make sure we get the decisions
right for people. So the government says things are
getting better. And that the improvements are working their way
through the system. But with the appeals process costing between �50
and �80 million, all that has come at a high price in terms of time,
in terms of money, and stress. Basically, I have been unfit for
work. I have retired. I've been assessed as fit for work and now
I've been told again that I'm not fit for work. All it has done, it
has given me stress and panic and worry. And it has cost money and
time. I'm sure they could have spent that on someone else. Do you
feel let down? Very. Upset, very. Because all these years, and then
they decide, oh, you are well. It is wrong. That is just about it for
now but don't forget, if you've got any comments to make, you can email
me. I'll see you next week. For details of organisations that
can offer advice and support on alcohol, go online to