James Purnell, fuckwit, er, Work & Pensions Secretary, said, on the Today program this morning, that a white paper being published today will create a system where “virtually everyone has to do something in return for their benefits”. Only the most severely disabled will not have to do some kind of work for their money. The plans, if they survive parliament, will come into force in 2010. This is, they say, putting an end to the “money for nothing culture”. Are they insane? My Incapacity Benefit is way below the official poverty level, at £95.90 a week – who would live on that if they really didn’t have to? It is NOT money for nothing – it’s money because I am not able to work and earn my own money – if I was able to, and earn a lot more money, even on the minimum wage, do they seriously think I wouldn’t?
Purnell, revealing how insanely out of touch with the real world he is, said “These reforms will transform peoples’ lives.” Bloody right they will – very much for the worse. Just watch the suicide rate soar. Bankers get billions of of pounds of taxpayers money, and still pay themselves huge bonuses, while the most vulnerable members of society are persecuted. Where’s the justice in that? He also went on to say “…our reforms put the individual, and their needs, at the heart of the welfare system.” No, they won’t. Do not believe for one moment that this is for your benefit. Purnell is motivated by one thing, and one thing only – reducing the Incapacity Benefit bill. Most people forced into work will end up on the dole, and that, for someone with no hope of being able to work, is totally unacceptable.
This is the killer, though:-
“We will give people the support they need and in return we will have higher expectations on people to take up that support. I believe it is wrong to have a welfare system which doesn’t encourage people to prepare for or get back to work. In future virtually everyone will be expected to do something in return for their benefits.”
How is forcing people, too ill or disabled to work, into some sort of make-work scheme – because, let’s face it, that’s all there’s going to be – in any way whatsoever “support”. If we were able to work we wouldn’t be on fucking benefit in the first place – what part of this does this asshole Purnell have trouble understanding?
Disregarding the insanity and immorality of such a policy – not to mention the sheer impossibility of it – where’s the work? We’re deep in recession, there simply aren’t enough jobs for the able-bodied, thousands more jobs are lost every week, so what are the sick and disabled supposed to do, and who, in their right mind, would employ someone, like me, who hasn’t been able to work in any meaningful way since 1982, and at all since 1986?
Let’s not forget, either, that single parents are also going to be forced into non-existent jobs, yet childcare is either ruinously expensive or simply unavailable – how the hell is that going to work?
Let’s consider my situation, because that’s what I know about – I’m sitting here, starting to type this at 09.00, in my jim-jams, waiting to feel well enough to get washed, shaved and dressed, which may happen in the next hour; I’m taking a course of Amoxyl for respiratory and intestinal infections, and I feel like shit – and this is a good day.
I spend a couple of hours each day blogging, but that’s not work, and despite a reasonable typing speed, other factors mean it can take me a couple of hours to type, say, 1,000 words, but one thing I can’t do is go out to work.
On the days I’m able to get out (and, until I get out of bed in the morning, I have no idea what I’m going to be capable of, so making any sort of plans is impossible), I’m not ready to leave home until around 11.00 – anyone expecting me to start work at 08.00 or 09.00 is going to be gravely disappointed. Using public transport is something I only do in exceptional circumstances, like when I have no money for taxis (going to the doctor, 5 minutes away, is a £7 return trip – taxis are ferociously expensive). There are several reasons for this – I’m not able to stand for extended periods, so having to wait for a bus isn’t possible. If I do get a bus – the local service actually stops right outside – it’s fraught with danger. Since its inception the bus route has been extended twice, but the permitted time hasn’t been changed. The result, despite notices exhorting passengers to remain seated until the bus has stopped, is that drivers drive like maniacs, hurtling away from stops when the passengers are barely onboard, never mind seated – using buses is dangerous for those of us who use crutches, as I do, due to a lack of spare hands to hang on with.
Taxis are out – unless an employer pays. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. If I used taxis for everything I have to do – instead of scrounging lifts – my taxi bill would be around £60 a week. If I had to use them every day, that would probably triple. Who pays, because it’s sure as hell not going to be me.
Then there’s the killer – I am not able to go out to work, not ever, not under any circumstances – it’s physically impossible, and yet I am not what this poxy government would class as severely disabled. No, scratch that – I am severely disabled, and with an illness with only one prognosis, an early and painful death, but I work very hard, at considerable physical cost, at trying to live as normal a life as possible which, to be fair, isn’t very normal, but it’s way better than just giving up and waiting to die. If push comes to shove, though, I’ll simply stop trying, because there will be absolutely no point.
Ok, that’s the practicalities out of the way – what about the morality? It is actually against the law for a disability benefit claimant to undertake any activity that may make them worse – that’s a condition of the benefit claim. How, then, will making the sick and disabled work for their poverty-level benefits not make them worse? It’d certainly make me a hell of a lot worse.
And what work would we do? Breaking rocks? Picking oakum? What? Any job worth having already has an incumbent, not to mention a queue of able-bodied workers, many with families, who want that job and who in any sane society would take precedence. Sweeping the streets, then? Nope, someone already does that. Whatever jobs the sick & disabled are capable of doing (my skills are considerable, but out of date and physically impossible, for the most part) – and they, realistically, are few – someone is already doing them, and the growing roster of the unemployed has first dibs.
Then there’s pay. If I were able to work, the minimum wage would get me about £240 a week for a full-time job, before deductions. No fucking way am I going to do that – even if I could – for £95.90 a week in Incapacity Benefit (the government’s avowed aim is that almost no-one gets benefits for nothing), and to expect me to do so is insane and utterly immoral.
DLA mobility, by the way, is payable whether you work or not, it’s money for transportation.
Of course, many people unable to work because of illness or disability do have the ability to do a job – but no-one will employ them because they have poor sick leave records, which was, initially, the case with me – before I developed ME and was signed off permanently, I’d never worked a full year in my life, and in my final working year, 1981, I had 6 months sick leave for the second year in succession because of my COPD. I was unemployable, which angered me at the time but, with hindsight, I wouldn’t have employed someone like me, no matter how good they were. And I was very good at my job, which was why I survived for so long, but there are limits.
A GP, interviewed on Radio 2 a short while ago, said that the government’s pernicious scheme was a good thing, as it would enable sick and disabled people who wanted to work to do so. Maybe, but how will it work? And how many such people are there, really?
Wanting to work if someone will have you is one thing, being able to work effectively is something else – I’d love to work for an employer who would pay me, say, £12,000 a year for working 3 hours a day (my travel costs would be the same for a few hours or a whole day), allow me to take off the entire flu season – a time when I simply will not, on medical advice, use public transport (did I mention that my immune system sucks?) – and allow me, perhaps, another month or two sick leave over what remains of the year. A ludicrous idea, obviously, and but that’s the only way I’d be able to work,
Will the government bribe employers to take on these people? Possibly, but that would be highly unethical while there is a single unemployed person available who can do that job without bribery. And wouldn’t such bribery, whether in cash or tax breaks, simply ramp up the costs they claim to want to reduce?
Of course, I think we all know who the first victims of this scheme are going to be – the mentally ill, because (a) they’re a soft target, and (b) they are at least physically able to work – and that’s all that will matter to the DWP storm troopers. That their mental health will be wrecked, possibly beyond all hope of recovery, will count for nothing.
These are just proposals right now, and have to go through the parliamentary process (though Labour have sidestepped this system in the past, and may well do so again – cast you mind back, and remember, over the past 11 years, how many new laws have been announced while parliament wasn’t in session – there are a few). But let’s assume they’ll put this abortion of a bill to parliament, then that’s when it can be killed in the Commons. I urge all of you to write to your MP, expressing your displeasure at these proposals, and urging him/her to vote against this appalling bill. Do it now.
Oh, and it goes without saying that Jeremy Vine, twat extraordinaire, is going to give us all a kicking during his show today. You think it’ll be a balanced debate? Don’t know why you’d think that – Vine is the BBC’s Daily Mail equivalent.