There are many people with M.E. who are not in receipt of benefits. There are different reasons, though the most common is that M.E. is not a well understood illness. When someone writes on their ESA or DLA form, or even their blue badge application that they have M.E., the assessor doesn't understand what that means. Unless the applicant has had help from someone who understands both the benefits system and M.E., they are usually screwed. As such they are turning to alternative measures to try and scrape enough up to live by. The Funky Orchard is just one such example, I will let her tell you her story herself though, as it is a little different.
I have just set up an online clothing business called The Funky Orchard.
I could not receive ESA because my husbands earnings were too high. The DWP were supposed to be crediting my NI, but did not. So when my husband left, and I reapplied for ESA properly, I could not get it due to the fact that I did not have enough NI.
At first I was very scared. I was living on my savings, extremely aware that they would run out within a year or two. I didn't know what to do, or who to ask for advice. Then one day I was looking for a specific item of clothing online and suddenly thought "This is so hard to find, yet so many people would like it. Why don't I sell them myself!?!"
Soooo, I have thrown my savings into buying stock. Beautiful stock.
I aim to stock the clothing that is hard to find on the high street, yet so many people seem to yearn after. Alternative styles; goth, punk, hippy. In particular I am hoping to stock more larger sizes, as plus sized clothing is even harder to find.
At the moment I have some absolutely awesome items in stock. For example, we have Sari Skirts; skirts that have been made from sari fabric. They are in a variety of colours, as you can see from the picture of our stock cupboard. They are double layered, the fabric behind being a totally different colour to the fabric in front, giving an amazing iridescent affect when the skirt moves.
We also have some fantastic medieval styled tunics. They're perfect for people who like the pagan, or goth look, can be worn as a top or a dress, and for either casual or smart occasions.
I need to clarify a few things from the beginning of her statement. NI = National Insurance. She was unable to claim Employment & Support Allowance Income Based because it is means tested; her savings were just above the threshold allowed. As such her only option was to claim Employment & Support Allowance Contributions Based, but because the DWP had stopped paying her National Insurance Credits without informing her, she could not claim this either. She can now pay NI herself for six months, and try to claim again. Meanwhile, hopefully The Funky Orchard will provide enough to live on. So please! Please support her; spread the word, and see if there are any items that you would like to buy for yourself or for someone else with Christmas coming.