My New Year's resolution for 2012 was to become disabled.
Nothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades - fibromyalgia or M.E.
There's lots of money to be made from being disabled - your money - taxpayers' money, as it happens.
And it is far easier to be disabled these days than was ever the case.
Also, I am nothing if not a creature of fashion, a cool and with-it hipster, daddy-o who is always up to date with the latest trends.
And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has double in the past ten years.
And who can blame them? Not only do you get money from the Government and don't have to go to work - but if you play your cards right you might get one of those badges which lets you park wherever you want. Right in front of the cashpoint for example. And you can use those enormous toilets with levers and handgrips and emergency buzzers they have in all public places, without feeling too guilty about it.
The latest figures regarding incapacity allowance came out this week. It is now estimated that 80 per cent of people who are claiming sickness benefit are actually fit to work. What's more, almost a million people have been on Invalidity Benefit for more than a decade.
When you suggest that this is a public scandal, the disabled charities get very cross and accuse you of victimising the infirm.
But I'm not. I'm victimising the people who are pretending to be infirm in order to claim money from the state.
Or at least I'm trying to. I don't suppose it will have much effect. Just water off their supposedly bad backs.
Then the Left-wingers will say - hang on a minute, you fat old fascist, more money is lost to the country as a result of tax avoidance by the very rich than is wasted through sickness benefits.
Well, maybe it is. And the Government should deal with that with a bit more vigour than they do right now.
But it still doesn't make fraudulently claiming sickness benefit OK, does it?
That's like saying we shouldn't get worked up about crime such as rape because murder is far worse.
It's a silly argument.
More than anything, though, the people fraudulently claiming sickness benefit are doing a disservice to those who really deserve it. The people who are truly disabled or ill. It has become easier to claim these benefits, partly as a consequence of the disablement charities who, out of their own self-interest, insist that an ever-greater proportion of the population is disabled.
I think we should all pretend to be disabled for a month or so, claim benefits and hope this persuades the authorities to sort out the mess.
Dear Rod Liddle,
Do, please, pretend to be disabled for a month or so. In particular, try and pretend you have M.E. or Fibromylagia. First of all you have to convince a doctor that you have such a condition. Your month is already gone. In fact, you've lost at least six months, in many people's cases it takes years before they actually know what it is that is wrong with them, crippling them with pain, leaving them in bed in a dark room, staring into nothingness every day because doing anything else is unbearable.
Assuming for the sake of argument that you miraculously get your diagnosis within that month, you then have the joy of applying for benefits. The first week you can claim statutory sick pay from work. Your doctor will then start signing you off work with 'fit notes'. Again, your month is gone, but again, for the sake of argument ... The fit notes come to the attention of the DWP, as they are paying your sick pay. They don't particularly like paying sick pay, so they send you out the ESA50. It's a form in which you explain exactly what is wrong with you, in minute humiliating detail. I think describing my bowel movements was probably my least favourite.
The ESA50 takes the DWP at least two months to process, if you're lucky. So AGAIN, you have lost your month. Extremely few people are accepted as being truly ill from the ESA50 alone, even if they have accompanying medical notes and letters from their GP and specialists. They are sent for a medical assessment with Atos Healthcare. Atos, unfortunately, are infamous for fabricating evidence, and having their assessments turned over on appeal. The medical assessments are extremely stressful. In most cases people become more ill because of the stress caused by this whole process, making them far less likely to be able to work any time soon; a catch 22 situation if you will. The usual result of this whole process is that each individual is placed in the 'Work Group ESA'. Very few make it through to the Support Group. Some are put back on Job Seekers Allowance. And for most, once they reach the Work Group, it is recognised by their support worker that they are indeed not fit for work, and told that there are no jobs available for anyone anyway, let alone the sick or disabled. For those put in the Work Group and Support Group, the whole process starts over again in three months time.
Are you actually aware of how much money people on sickness benefit are able to claim? Please follow me with the figures here. I was 22 when I became ill. I was earning £15,000pa, starting out in a marketing career. I would be earning £30,000+ by now. If I was claiming ESA at the moment I would be receiving approximately £90 a week on ESA. That amounts to £4680pa. Very very few people are also able to claim Disability Living Allowance. The middle rate DLA, for sake of argument, is approximately £50 per week. That is another £2600pa. The total per year is just over £7000. Please explain to me why people like myself, on a flourishing career path would choose to pretend to be ill, with a pay cut in my case of £7000 at the very least?
I would like to point out that I have both M.E. and FM, and do not receive any benefits. So therefore I would ask of you, why would I pretend to have these invented illnesses? Simply for the blue badge? I can promise you that I do not pretend to be in pain nearly constantly. I do not pretend that I frequently cannot stand up. I do not pretend to be constantly nauseous, or have headaches. I do not lie in a quiet, dark room for most of the day because I want to make people believe I am ill.
In regards to benefit fraud, are you aware that ESA and DLA fraud are actually the lowest forms of benefit fraud? The Invalidity Benefit and Incapacity Allowance to which you refer, do not even exist. Has it actually occurred to you that if disability statistics are rising, that it may actually be because the population is rising too? Given the inaccuracy of the rest of your article though, I am hesitant to believe that fact simply from your say so.
So yes, I would absolutely love to watch you be disabled for a month. I would like for you to be in pain, be unable to sit up for more than twenty minutes, let alone stand up, unable to cope with bright light or fluctuating sound, to constantly feel too sick to eat, to react to foods today that you did not react to yesterday .. you get the picture. I would also like to see you put away every single one of your mod cons, freeze your bank account, and actually try to live on the £67 a week you would receive as statutory sick pay for that month, paying for your rent / mortgage, all your bills, and your food on it.
Not a fan.
[I am aware that my facts are not entirely correct regarding statutory sick pay. At the time of writing brain fog was attacking me and I couldn't make head nor tail of the governments website. The first weeks statutory sick pay is actually based on ones own salary. Given that this fella works for one of the top newspapers I am guessing that his sick pay would be higher than most of us can imagine. As such I am sticking with the £67 per week figure, as basic ESA, JSA, and assessment allowance are all this amount. So yes, I would like to see him survive on that.]