Thursday, 21 June 2012

The benefits system is blameless ...

Another of the large popular newspapers is becoming aware of the problems with the benefits system and the changes therein. This is an item on their website, a video, so presumably not an article that was published in the newspaper. It's very powerful.

Julie, suffering from Fibromyalgia and three herniated disks, has also developed a sleep disorder and depression due to the pain. She won her tribunal on the 27th of February, then received a letter on March 20th informing her that she would lose her benefit on April 30th due to the changes; she is living with a partner who is earning £800 a month, so they lose £400 a month because she's been claiming for a year already. They put her through the tribunal for nothing, wasting her time, causing her a great deal of stress, and wasting tax payers money. She took an overdose at New Year because of the stress. She states that it's humiliating going through the motions.

"This is just .. the red tape, knowing I've got to go to court again. The lack of help and understanding I've had from certain areas of Job Centre Plus, especially the appeals section. Given duff information, being spoken down to, just not knowing if I'm ever going to get money again. If that happens, what do I do then? I'm struggling really hard to go on, and fighting all the time, but that's all you can do really."

Richard is a carer for his wife, who suffers from asthma and arthritis. She has been found fit for work despite being unable to use her hands. As such they have been placed on joint Job Seekers Allowance, presumably replacing sickness benefits and carers allowance. Despite raising their grandchild they receive only £105 a week on which to live. They were docked a months pay when Richard missed two appointments with the Job Centre due to medical emergencies with his wife. In the clip he shows that his electricity metre has only £3.99 left on it, which he says will last until Saturday. He won't be paid for another week and a half. Opening a cupboard he shows that he has a few tins of beans, explaining that it has to feed three people until they're paid, but states that they're lucky as some people don't even have that.

"It's a fine art to survive on the bare minimum. Once these sanctions come into place and they take that away from you, you've got no chance. I'm at boiling point. I'm at going postal point, you know. Honestly, it's up to that point now, where I want to scream and shout at the top of my voice and nobody's listening. I'm a positive person. I always try to look on the bright side. I've always made the best of what I've got, you know, and to be in the situation where I'm losing control of my marbles, so to speak, is not something I'm used to, and it's not something I enjoy doing."

David Cameron stated "If you're vulnerable and in need we will look after you. If you hit hard times we'll give you unprecedented support."

He lied.

"A DWP customer recently attempted suicide. This was said to be the result of receiving a letter telling him his Employment and Support Allowance was going to stop."

"A DWP spokes person said "It remains rare to find incidents of self harm where the benefits system is said to be a factor, but we are not complacent when it comes to ensuring that our staff can provide the right support and help to those affected. We ensure our staff are highly trained and ready to help people, however vulnerable they may be and whatever pressures they face. We have worked hard and continue to do so, to improve the way the Work Capability Assessment works for those with mental health issues." "
I disagree. It is not hard to find incidents of self harm where the benefits system is a factor. It is simply a fact that the Department for Work and Pensions is not aware of it. My doctor was very aware of the stress this system was causing me last year. He saw the self harm injuries inflicted upon myself as a result of panic attacks I suffered when trying to complete forms for Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. I personally know dozens of people under going this stressful process. I know that many of them simply cannot cope with it. I am certain that many of them, too, have self harmed. Self harm is not something that is easy to discuss with ones friends, or personal professionals, let alone disjointed professionals such as our MPs or an Atos assessor. When being assessed for ESA or DLA, why would we think to mention that we wish to commit suicide because of the process we are undergoing at that very moment?

It aggravates me that the DWP representative states that they "have worked hard and continue to do so, to improve the way the Work Capability Assessment works for those with mental health issues." They completely fail to appreciate that it is their Work Capability Assessment that is causing many people mental health issues. I had no problem with depression at the time I started to apply for Employment and Support Allowance. I have been struggling with it ever since.

And I know I am not alone.

I think it is time that we told them. I think the government is delusional. They have their heads in the sand. I am well aware that they suffer from a bad case of 'only hearing what they want to', but if we do not all speak up, then they simply cannot hear us. We cannot complain about their ignorance if we do not fight it. So let us all be brave. If you have self harmed, or you have considered or attempted suicide as a result of the stress caused by the Work Capability Assessment process, or anything related, please please write to your MP and tell them.

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