Sick & Disabled? You’re screwed…

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.

8 thoughts on “Sick & Disabled? You’re screwed…

  1. Couldn’t agree more, Ron. Another thing they don’t take into consideration is the fluctuation of conditions like ME. Some weeks I’d probably be fine to work, but others I can just about get out of bed if I do it slowly and a stage at a time.

    What they should be concentrating on is people who are fit for work and on JSA, but not making any real attempts to find work. I used to work for the DWP, and you could tell instantly which people were genuinely looking for work, and which ones rang the job line just so that it would get noted on their records!

    I’m actually unable to get any benefits at all. My husband works, so I can’t get income-based ones. I gave up work in stages, going down to part time, then fewer hours, until I gave up altogether, so I don’t have enough recent NI contributions for Incap (or whatever they call it this week), even though I’d worked for 30 odd years before I had to give up work. And I’ve been refused DLA so many times, they have a rubber stamp with my name on! I’m too ill to take it to appeal.

    In short, I think the whole benefit system stinks! (I think we have that in common!)

  2. Hi Kate,

    Just a thought, but can you enlist the help of a local benefits advice service and, perhaps, an advocacy service? If you have them locally, both services are generally free and, while you’d have to attend a tribunal (and most rejected claims are overturned on appeal), you’d have someone to speak for you. And there must be some mechanism for dealing with claimants who are housebound, so you may not have to travel at all.

    I’ll never understand this government’s obsession with fraud. Every time they’ve tackled it, it’s just not there – at least not on the scale they claim it is.

    So they’ve given up trying to prove fraud, and they’re simply targetting everybody! Sadly, for people with ME, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for Purnell and his cronies, as it’s almost impossible to prove.

    A definitive test is long overdue – as is someone suing the DWP for mendaciously classing it as a “psycho-social” condition. Beyond my budget, unfortunately.

  3. Hi Ron

    I’ve had m.e. for twelve years and the fight to get dla over the years lead me to a nervous breakdown 3 years ago. My gp thankfully got the crisis team in to support me otherwise I wouldn’t have survived it.

    I totally agree with you about the unfair system. The government has created a culture of disbelief in there spinning of government policies. Where people no longer understand the plight of the mentally or physically ill unless they’ve no limbs! I feel that there policies and the spinning of them will lead, and is leading to increase deaths through suicides. I don’t think the government aren’t displeased about this effect. They will brain wash the public eventually to not care what happens to people who they see are an economic burden. The ill will become the witch-hunted of the future.

    I have several friends who have become physically impaired with fibromyalgia and I know other m.e. sufferers. Like me, we all were ambitious, busy people who were inclined to over-work until they got ill. All of us still have a mental zest for life but are physically incapable of doing even basic functions and would not choose to be so incapacitated.

    I wish there was a pill that would replicate the symptoms of chronic long-term conditions and that m.p. s would experience the trauma of living with disability. They may focus a little more on support and understanding than persecution then.

    • Hi Gergy,

      As for brainwashing the public, that campaign is well under way. There are a couple of links in this post you might find interesting if you haven’t read those posts already.

      There’s a theory that only intelligent people get ME, which strikes me as a tad elitist, but I suspect there may be some truth in it. If so, then politicians are probably immune!

      Not surprised you had a breakdown either; I suspect a lot of people with ME do. It took me 10 years just to get a diagnosis; a decade of being told I was a hypochondriac, a liar, depressed, hyperventilating – anything but investigate what was wrong with me – which eventually cost me my marriage and my sanity. And then, no-one believed I was having a breakdown!! Fortunately – for want of a better word – my ex wife had been seriously mentally ill and I managed to get hold of her shrink. He, eventually, wrote to my GP practice essentially saying that they had caused my breakdown through their disbelief and lack of interest. Not that it changed their attitude one iota.

      A few months after my diagnosis, at the ME clinic at the Royal Liverpool hospital, they shut down the clinic on the grounds that, hey, no-one dies from ME, and we need the money. Since when, of course, people have started dying from ME, and I have little doubt that the suicide rate is pretty high too.

  4. Hi Ron

    I like the comment about mps not being intelligent therefore wouldn’t get m.e. Nice one!

    It is disgusting that you didn’t get a diagnosis for so long! It seems common though which is disappointing because an early diagnosis with the right advice can help the chances of recovery.
    It is not helped by the ridiculous guidelines of nice to view m.e. as a mental health problem. The sooner this stupid disposition is overturned the better.

    A year after being ill my gp agitatedly said ‘ of course you haven’t got m.e., who told you that?’ . Thank goodness she moved to another practise and the next gp diagnosed it. I think this contributed to my lack of any recovery today.

    I read your opinions about being over-weight. It is becoming a cultural football, kicking anyone who’s over-weight. It is worrying when my sister had anorexia some years ago and was dangerously underweight, was being told by people how great she looked!! When I had my breakdown I was being sick all the time and struggled to eat. I lost a few stone and became underweight I am sure people saw it as a good look! Now my weight has gone the other way I have had unflattering comments. Could be hurtful if I cared but my weight gain is not causing me any mental problems. In fact it keeps me a bit warmer in the winter, which I need as I get chilled easily. If I was too poorly (physically) to get some food I’m not going to starve as I can use my fat reserves. Did you know that some fat people could live for months on just water! So if the government messes up the economy big time and the supermarket structure goes belly-up, its the big bellies that will survive!

    The unhelpful attitude towards body fat on people seems to hit the young the hardest. It gives them life-long self-esteem problems. I know adults that won’t eat in front of people because people judged them when they were fat children to be greedy. They don’t go to gp’s as they know the first issue will be there weight and they’ll be made to feel inferior and not respected. They’ll be spoken to like a child about their weight.

    By the way, I found your site when looking for reviews on a telescope I was thinking about getting. Your review was excellent, I bought the scrope and am really pleased with it. Cheers

    I think the biggest insecurities I have about having a unobvious disability are people s reluctance to listen to you and believe you. Not just gp’s but people around. With m.e. there is so much disbelief. I think that’s what hurts the most as I want to be seen a me and not misjudged. The only way that can happen is if people aren’t lazy and jump to conclusions, but do a bit of research.

    • Hi again Gergy,

      Did you know that many experts believe that ME/CFS amplifies the body’s natural tendency to gain or lose weight? I was grossly under weight until I reached my 20s, when I slowly started to gain weight. It was never a problem, though, until I developed ME/CFS, when I ballooned. Of course, steroids for my COPD don’t help either and so far, despite a diet of well under 1,000 calories a day for a few years, my weight has barely changed (well, not downwards anyway!). Trouble is, when you diet for too long, your body goes into starvation mode and hangs on grimly to every calorie it gets. At the moment I’m eating normally again, to try and trick my system into sensing that the “crisis” has passed. Then when I start dieting again, I should lose weight. That’s the theory, anyway.

      I’ve long since stopped worrying about what people think – screw ’em. The biggest problems come from newspapers, like the Daily Mail, who actually do know better, but sensationalist lies sell more papers.


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