Kafka at the DWP


I've written before about the arbitrary and cruel judgments made by DWP frontline staff in relation to ESA claimants, particularly the mentally ill. And Guy Standing, in his excellent books about the precarious lives of the "new underclass", describes how the process of claiming benefits creates huge amounts of unproductive "work". Benefit claimants have to "earn" their benefits by what amounts to jumping through hoops. But I confess that - not being a claimant myself - I lacked real understanding of just how insane and tortuous the JSA & ESA system is.

Today, I read a powerful blogpost by Lizzie Cornish, a 61-year old woman who has found herself without a job and - because of women's rising state pension age - also without a pension. She describes her personal experience of claiming JSA and ESA. The story she tells is worthy of Kafka.

Lizzie (who is involved with the WASPI campaign) blocked me on Twitter long ago, so I have not been able to obtain her permission to quote from her post. But I think her story needs a wider audience, and maybe I can help in some small way to amplify her voice. So I make no apology for telling it here - in her own words.

This is a lightly edited excerpt. The whole post can be found here.
___________________________________________________________________________________
This is my story.... 
I have been a Carer to Nanny, my now ex-mother-in-law, (who is 101 years old) for the past 15 years, she moving here to live with me after our divorce. My time as her Carer ended a few months ago..and thus, I suddenly found myself thrown into the gutter, spat on by my once Beloved Country, turned from Carer to Scrounger within weeks. 
I was given the normal 8 weeks 'grace' period after you stop being a Carer, when you are given Income Support which includes the amount given as Carer's Allowance. During this time, I searched frantically for a job, filled in SO many applications online, endless forms, endless questions, endless (ridiculous) psychology tests, sending so much information about myself off to total strangers, not hearing a WORD back from most. I sent out DOZENS of applications.... 
The ONLY job I was offered was a Zero Hours one which legally gave me NO protection at all, for I could have been phoned up in the morning to find I was not needed for that day, for that week, even, were times quiet. This would have meant that any Working Tax Credit would be thrown awry too, along with Council Tax Rebate. Thus, endless phone calls, more forms to fill in, more and more confusion and stress. 
When my Income Support ran out, I applied for JSA. THIS is what some of the Pensions Ministers have said we should go on, feeling that this is RIGHT for us to endure for SIX YEARS until we reach their new pension age given to us! (You can only claim JSA for 6 months anyway) 
HERE is what EVERYONE applying for JSA or ESA is put through...and please, do NOT tell me this is RIGHT for ANYONE, let alone for 60+ year old women who have raised their families, cared for their elderly relatives and paid over FOUR DECADES of NI contributions! 
THE FORM 
*I* did NOT fit into their boxes, for you have to have had a 'real' job within the previous 6 months. I was a Carer, thus, I had no boss, no address, nothing that fitted their boxes...and my last 'real' job was in 2011, which would have ruled me out of getting JSA. Nanny needed me at home full time by then. She's registered blind (macula degeneration) and just could not be left for whole days or many hours. 
So, I rang them up and we did the form over the phone....it took AGES..and it also took AGES to get THROUGH in the first place, having to talk to a bloody ROBOT who kept asking questions and giving examples of the answers I could come out with! 
Well, I finally reached a REAL person and the form was filled in, they too finding difficulty in where to put me, but they sorted it eventually. God alone knows how many questions I answered...dozens and dozens...my life going into boxes yet again, tick, cross, cross, tick, yes, no, no, yes, no, no, no......... 
Then, I was given an appointment for an interview at my local Jobcentre. This was on a Friday. I went. Whilst waiting, I sat next to a lady who had just had her ESA stopped. She was in a terrible state. She was registered partially sighted, had a very bad leg, making it so hard for her to walk and countless other illnesses. She looked really poorly.... 
My name was called. I went to talk to the lady who called me. She was kind, The System was not. I HAD to attend a training course for 2 days, 6 hours each day, on the following Monday & Tuesday, elsewhere in town, at a course called 'Eat That Frog' (GEEZUS!!)...this was, apparently, an 'employability' course, where I'd learn how to do Interviews, etc..... 
I took a deep breath, resisted the urge to say "You CANNOT be SERIOUS?!" and explained that I was almost 61 years old (I now am) and thus, I KNEW how to do interviews. MY problem was GETTING an interview in the first place, as my age meant I couldn't even make it past the internet version of the 'paper sift'...and there are many jobs I simply CANNOT do now either, due to age/health, etc. 
I then asked how much this course was costing. The lady told me I'd probably self-combust if I knew...and she diverted my attention to my signature, asking me sign on a small screen so the computer would 'recognize' me next time, when I had to 'sign on'. My signing on day was the day after the course days...Wednesday. 
She told me it took about 4 signatures for the machine to recognize me. TWELVE signatures later, it still didn't know who the fuck I was! It took TWENTY signatures, by which time I had smoke coming out of my ears over the idiocy of this madness! I'm left-handed, thus I have to write backwards, every single day, to fit into a right-handed world, meaning that my writing is very untidy and my signature is barely EVER the same, each time I write it, because the stress of writing backwards, even 60 years later, is enormous as it messes up my natural brain pattern.. 
But, I digress......... 
I mentioned that with that day's visit to the Jobcentre, plus these 3 new visits to courses and to sign on, meant I'd have to spend almost £20 on bus fares and I didn't have the money! You can't claim bus fares back from Jobcentre visits...so, tough. I could for the course, but that would probably have involved many more forms, signatures, computers exploding over my writing and having to prove who I was via my birth certificate, or passport, driver's licence (don't have either of the last two) or whatever else insane documentation is required on the day the moon is blocking out the sun! 
Yes, I'm getting MORE stressed as I write this.......... 
Well, by the time I got home, I was in A Right State of nerves, anxiety, depression and ANGER, bloody FUMING ANGER, the sort where you can't sit down, because, damn It, I SHOULD have my PENSION not this Feckingly AWFUL STRESS being laid out before me! 
This state of mind, of being Out of My Mind, continued through the entire weekend and on Monday Morning, I CANCELLED learning how to Eat A Frog and went back to my GP instead, sobbing all over her (AGAIN!) and she gave me a sick note...because I've been under her for depression for a few months now, after I began to realize that NO WAY was I going to get a job in my 60s! 
I rang The ESA folks up. 
By now, I HATED Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons', the music The Robot lets you listen to whilst telling you how to phone in the early morning when it's less busy! 
It WAS THE FECKING EARLY MORNING and STILL I had to wait and wait and wait! 
Eventually, someone answered. We filled in ANOTHER FECKING FORM! 
I sent off my Sick Note the same day... 
Nothing happened. 
Days passed.....Nothing happened........ I rang them back.......... 
Shut the FUCK UP, Vivaldi!!!!!!!!! 
"Why not ring us early in the morning when we're less busy!" 
It's Springtime in VivaldiLand...and all is FAR FROM WELL! 
"For example, you can tell us you're phoning us because you have a problem with your form, or you've been overpaid, or you have another question to ask us...." 
FINALLY, I get through, to a lovely lass...her MUM is one of us, one of The 1950s women, so I tell her about The WASPI Campaign, of the five lovely lassies who came together to give us a voice to shout and scream with, to demand something is done about the shocking way we've been treated and to get our STOLEN pensions given BACK to us. She said she'd be sure to tell her Mum....and told me my claim was almost ready, but it was being dealt with by Caerphilly....odd, as I live in Devon, but apparently, they move things round the country when busy, so Plymouth was now sending things to Caerphilly.....and........................... 
We ended the phone call.... 
By now it was around the 11th of April. I'd had NO MONEY coming in since 30th March. 
So, I contacted my local council, applied for a 'Crisis Grant' to help with food, etc. 
Guess what? Yes, ANOTHER FECKING FORM!! 
EVERY sordid detail of my decline into ScroungerHood was required, every inch of my life written out before me.....before I could press 'send'.
 I sent.......
Next day, I got a phone call from them. They could not help, for I had the audacity to have £109.00 in my bank account. I sighed, told them that £100 of this was for Direct Debits and it was about to start coming out any day now. She said that didn't matter, I had money there that could be used for food and thus, they could do nothing. She suggested I apply for a loan from other sources. I asked how I'd pay back a loan with barely any money coming in. She avoided that. She also avoided explaining why the head of the council, our Tory Mayor, spent £20,000 on ONE FECKING PALM TREE not so long ago, having it shipped over from Spain! THEN, not bothered by the outpouring of RAGE from The People, he went and ordered another 12, at a cost of £12,000 this time, for them all, (far smaller ones) sticking them in the dual carriageway into town where they remain to this day, choking on traffic fumes.....This man owns 15 houses, 2 fields and a couple of garages...but *I* had £109 in my bank account, and even though I was shortly to have only £9 of that left, I had to GET A LOAN !!!!!!!! 
So, I had to go back to ESA again, to ask for an emergency donation of my claim...... 
Yes, you guessed it... Vivaldi, I'm sorry about this, but FFS, I now HATE your music! 
Robot Woman greeted me...I resisted the urge to tell her to just FUCK THE FUCK OFF, for my BP was OFF the scale by now, as was my Sugar Level...and being diabetic, this is, of course, lethal !! 
FINALLY, yet again, I got through and asked for help.... 
This time, I got a SourPuss, but I managed to keep relatively calm, explained I had NOTHING to live on and could they please HELP! I could sense her pursing her lips, doodling the word 'bloody scrounger!' on her notebook. She told me I'd be sent £39 by 6pm that evening...and we left it at that, but not before she also told me that this would be deducted from my £73 a week in 4 stages, of just over £9 a time. (!!!!) 
Well, the money came through! I threw caution to the wind and bought fishcake and chips! 
Then, yesterday I found over £40 had gone into my account...and I had NO IDEA why, but it was from the DWP!
So....
Yes......
You guessed it......
I phoned them back.......... 
It was STILL SPRINGTIME In FECKING VIVALDI LAND and Madame Robot was STILL Robotting, but EVENTUALLY I got through, this time to a very nice young man in Norfolk....He hummed and haaaed and finally tracked this payment being for JSA, the tiny bit I was owed before I'd gone on to ESA...and he told me there was another £20 or so due to go in today from ESA, or possibly JSA, to make up this, or that...and that tomorrow my FULL ESA of £73 and a few pennies, times 2 weeks, would be going in, seemingly without the £9 odd being clawed back for the emergency funding bit....at this moment in time, although it will undoubtedly happen later.... 
Well, slap my buttocks with a wet, depressed fish, because everything's depressed around me at this moment in time.... 
Today, I woke up ALMOST feeling that today I could COPE, just a fraction, for a few hours...BUT....then...the POSTMAN arrived and he brought with him another FECKING FORM! 
Oh, but this was no ORDINARY Fecking Form! No! THIS is a 'Capability For Work Questionnaire', you see.  
It has TWENTY PAGES of QUESTIONS! Of BOXES to fit yourself into, for YOU have had THE BLOODY CHEEK to be SICK, you see, to be DEPRESSED, to be SUICIDAL, to have ended up being Pensionless Pensioners made so ILL by having their pensions STOLEN that they can't even THINK STRAIGHT any longer....and therefore you will now be Weighed, Measured and Undoubtedly found to be WANTING!
You see, Mr. Postman brought me a form which asks me if I can walk, climb stairs, use my hands, raise my arms above my head, deliver orders, warn of dangers, etc.etc.etc.......
So far, I can't find the section marked "Are You Fecking Off Your Trolley With STRESS Yet?" but I'm SURE it's here somewhere! 
WHEN I've finally Filled In THIS FECKING FORM they will ASSESS it to see if I need Further Assessing by Health Professionals (Hold on, my GP KNOWS I'm NOT fit for work, as does my depression counsellor!)..whereupon I'll have to find my way to where The Assessors Live and Be Bloody Assessed, from the moment I arrive, my movements, my attitude, my appearance, my answers, my eye contact, my EVERYTHING!
After THIS, no doubt, they'll deem that I AM Fit for work..and...thus...just like that poor lady in the Jobcentre, way back up this War & Peace Epic of The Pensionless Pensioner, I'll have my ESA stopped and THAT will mean I'll have to RE-APPLY for JSA..
And we all know what THIS will mean, don't we? 
Yes, that's right, back to the phone...to Vivaldi, to Phoning Early, or Late, or Mid-Day or Mid-Way, to explain who I am all over again, in case some Poor SOD is trying to PRETEND that THEY are ME and I'm not ME AT ALL!! 
Vivaldi's Springtime all over again....Springtime For Hitler In Paradise..... 
___________________________________________________________________________________

Lizzie's tale is no doubt all too familiar not only to women in their early 60s, but also to men and younger women who have been forced into the JSA & ESA mincer.

Lizzie believes that the solution is for the Government to reverse the women's state pension age rises legislated in 1995 and 2011 so that she can have her state pension. If it did, she would never need to listen to Vivaldi again. But thousands of others, too young to qualify for the state pension, will still be condemned to spending hours on the phone, filling in badly designed and repetitive forms, and trying to make their case for support to overstretched and poorly trained DWP assessors. What a waste of time. What a waste of energy. What a waste of human life.

But what Lizzie really wants is an income. And she doesn't want to have to beg for it. Nor should she have to. It should be hers by right. Not a pension - because after all, others are suffering too - but a Basic Income.

I despair at those who dismiss Universal Basic Income because it wouldn't fix all the problems with the current benefit system. True, it would not. Other measures would be needed as well. But it would fix Lizzie's problem, and the problem of all those experiencing the uncertainty and despair of the JSA & ESA system, not to mention all those who are in poverty despite being in work. Isn't that enough?

Related reading:

Here I stand, I can do no other
An experiment with Basic Income - Pieria
A neoliberal case for a Basic Income, or something like it - Adam Smith Institute

Comments

  1. This is why people become criminals. Easier to steal than beg.

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  2. Yep Citizens Basic Income, or negative income tax if you like, mainly funded by LVT, a flat rate of income tax and a few 'sin' taxes (on fags, booze petrol).

    Stops this madness in its tracks and gets rid of all the dead weight - staff at the DWP, all the HMRC tax inspectors, tax accountants/lawyers, BTL landlords etc.

    No need for a minimum wage as people can choose to take on as much or as little work as they want at times to suit them, on rates that match their skills. And people who create 'real' value (private sector employees/firms/entrepreneurs) get to keep more of the value added they create rather than it returning to 'rents'.... so boosting output, employment and investment.

    Plus the state doesn't get to pry into your 'lifestyle' and decide if you are worthy of a handout.

    What's not to like?

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    1. Or "citizens' dividend" which makes us all EQUAL stakeholders in the nation, so no more them and us taxpayer/benefit scrounger framing possible.

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  3. Lizzie is wrong, you can get JSA for more than 6 months. You can get it for years. Contributions-based JSA runs out after 6 months max, income-based JSA lasts indefinitely as long as you're still signing on and proving you're looking hard enough.

    I disagree with universal basic income. The benefits system can be made seamless without it. If universal basic income was high enough to live without working then many people would, and this is politically a non-starter. Benefits conditional on your circumstances are easier to justify. What's that? There's plenty of stories in the rag about scroungers because the owner of the rag wants to cut govt spending? Yes, now imagine a world where "he's on basic income" and a much higher percentage of people believe the benefits system is a joke. Hyman Minsky may have been on to something when he promoted a government job guarantee, the state would be employer of last resort, under an obligation to hire anyone who wanted a job, which would mean the abolition of involuntary unemployment.

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    1. The evidence is that basic income improves, rather than destroying, incentives to work, since it eliminates the problem of very high marginal tax rates as earned income replaces benefits.

      Job Guarantee is workfare - even if it is "voluntary". That is because the same social stigma you identify as an obstacle to basic income would also apply to people who were not workng in a JG system.

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    2. I deliberately didn't say whether I thought fewer people would work under basic income, merely that working people would suspect this and the rules would now allow it. Give that, I can't see how it can ever be introduced. I think talking about it confirms the suspicions of voters in the middle who could otherwise be persuaded to fix unfairness with the existing benefits system.

      I'm in my 30s and in my lifetime unemployment has usually been around 5%, in the Great Recession it was far higher, in Southern Ireland it was 9% or more for 8 yrs, in the UK it's been as low as 2%. High marginal tax rates penalising work? I don't hold that responsible for much unemployment at all. (It's also beloved of Thatcherites who want to justify cutting benefits to "make work pay" by compairosn.) Thus, getting rid of the high marginal tax rates will hardly dent it, and there is no need to resort to such a politically divisive measure as basic income to do that. Rules of existing benefits can be changed to achieve the same result.

      In my comment I didn't mean to complain about the stigma the claimants would feel, but the unpopularity it would give the policy among the working population. But as far as stigma goes, JG workers would surely feel less of it than basic income claimants because other people would be less able to call them "skivers".

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    3. Seamless benefits system.... ROFL. You can't be serious.

      Negative income tax.... other side of the BI coin. Easier to sell politically.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, you've missed the point. High marginal tax rates don't necessarily increase unemployment, but they are a work disincentive. Why train, develop skills, find a higher paying job if the extra money all disappears in benefits withdrawal? Why enter the workforce at all if you are a mum or a pensioner?

      You also misunderstood my JG point. If taking a guaranteed job in order to obtain benefits is compulsory, it is clearly workfare. But even if it is not compulsory, JG is workfare, because those on benefits who refuse guaranteed jobs - or who are not able to work for other reasons - would be stigmatised. The stigma would be worse than it is when there is no guarantee of a job.

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    5. The basic income is an interesting topic, I do have doubts about how it can be fairly implemented and what all the unintended consequences will be.

      I would guess that it would herald another wave of immigrants all eager to receive money for nothing.

      But particularly in the UK almost certainly any basic income would immediately flow into the housing market. Landlords would crank up rents as they perceive that tenants will be able to pay more. Schemes would be announced "helping buyers on the housing ladder", pushing up prices. Which also leads to even higher rents.

      Richard.

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    6. Well maybe you were casting a wider net than I thought and rather talking only about the unemployed going to work at all you would include such things as tax credits (thus finding a higher paying job).

      My problem with this is we seem to be talking about all sorts of structural things these days as if the right has successfully set the agenda and made us all deny the cyclical unemployment problem -- even emerging from a Great Recession!! We can remove high marginal tax rates or even introduce UBI with IDS in charge of it, and we'll still have the current u/e rate as it's mostly demand deficiency. As for people getting better jobs, the country is full of people desperate for a promotion or a raise or who are skilled or well qualified but cannot find a job they're qualified for. Why is that? It's not due to the existing benefits system, it's because deficient aggregate demand produced an epidemic of underemployment and low-productivity unskilled jobs.

      Again I don't think I misunderstood that JG was workfare, which it clearly is. What I misunderstood was whether you were promoting UBI as the solution to involuntary u/e or something broader. (You want to give Lizzie an income but not necessarily earnings.) I didn't mean to imply JG would exist without ESA or similar also available to those who illness/disability prevent from using it.

      Your last two comments do seem to indicate you think stigma would not attach to people *in* JG jobs, and that's what I suppose too. But that stigma *would* attach to those on UBI, as it surely will to people on UC esp since nosy neighbours will be unable to tell what reason the claimant has for getting UC. (Sick? Disabled? Job seeking? Small kids?) UBI adds an honest-to-goodness "able to work but deliberately not choosing to" category, fuelling stigma, where before it was ignorance, suspicion and a little bit of fraud fuelling the stigma.

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    7. Anonymous,

      You don't seem to understand what UBI is. "Those on UBI" would be EVERYONE, not a subset of people who (for whatever reason) are not working. So it is ridiculous to say stigma would attach to "those on UBI". You may say that stigma could attach to those who are not working, but that would be true under any system - and at least under UBI we would be spared the jealousy of those who think that people on benefits are getting "something for nothing" that they themselves must earn by "working hard". If everyone gets UBI, then those who choose to live on UBI are poorer than those who choose to work, by definition. The issue with UBI is that it is inadequate by itself as a welfare system, because it penalises those who through no fault of their own (sickness, disability, frailty) are unable to work.

      I do not propose UBI as a solution to unemployment, nor as a system of welfare. I propose it as a human right. No-one should be deprived of the means to live.

      I submit that the stigma attached to those who are not working would be far, far greater under a job guarantee system. Your final remark "able to work but deliberately choosing not to" would apply to in spades in a JG system.

      Also, you misinterpret my last two comments. I think that stigma WOULD attach to people in JG jobs, since they would be seen as the no-hopers who hadn't got the gumption to find a job themselves. This would be reinforced if the JG pay rate was below the minimum wage, which many advocates of JG recommend to prevent JG crowding out private sector job creation.

      Delete
    8. But I do understand what UBI is. The problem is UBI would allow someone to live without working, and without the current conditions attached. Yeah, I worded it sloppily -- those on UBI who chose not to work would be stigmatised, and people would suspect UBI claimants who are jobseeking or ill or disabled of being malingerers, as people in work would believe they were paying for those people not to work. Seeing a juicy tax cut waiting by abolishing UBI and imagining lazy people to justify it would be the same problem for UBI as it is for today's welfare state.

      I'm unsure what you mean about not proposing it either as welfare or as a solution to unemployment when you bring it up because of Lizzie's case. She hasn't got an income from work, so she's unemployed. She's reliant on ESA because she's unable to work. She wants an income, and you want to give her one, UBI. A solution to her unemployment/need for welfare is exactly what it is in her case. I think calling it a human right and a means to live instead is semantics.

      Why would it apply in spades to a JG system? Anyone involuntarily unemployed (but not disabled etc) would get a JG job instead of JSA. They'd avoid the stigma of the dole and have the dignity of work even if it was a drudge job for the state respected less than other jobs.

      I hoped it was clear above I didn't think JG would be stigma free, merely preferable to JSA/UC and UBI in terms of stigma. JG doesn't need to be paid below the minimum wage, as Randall Wray says the min wage could be abolished and the JG wage would act as a floor because to suck people out of the JG scheme the private sector would need to pay the same or greater.

      Delete
    9. Lizzie's problem may be lack of work, but you can't compel her to work. Suppose she refused a guaranteed job? What would you do then? I don't think a civilised society should use the threat of starvation to compel someone to work, even if the job is guaranteed. That is workfare, and it is cruel.

      But the real problem with JG is not the unemployed but those who are unable to work - the sick, disabled and frail. People are cruel, and disability is not always evident. Social pressures would inevitably turn JG into workfare, with all the cruelty that entails. JG only works in my view as a complement to a properly thought out basic income scheme. Randall Wray has never come up with a satisfactory answer to the problem that a JG scheme creates for the sick & disabled. When I challenged him, he said "of course there would need to be income support as well" - which is of course a basic income. Lack of joined-up thinking in JG-land.

      The proposals I have seen for JG propose it being paid at below comparable private sector rates, to prevent crowding-out.

      Delete
  4. I have every sympathy with LIzzie after caring for her Nanna for so long, but she is so wrong from my experience.

    I had a perfect storm of car crashes in my life not long ago over a period of few years - diagnosed with Clinical Trauma from being sexually abused as a child, Prostate Cancer and being on the Autism Spectrum along with losing my business abroad, moving back to the country, getting divorced, losing my savings and ending in living in a way that really really hurts... but the safety net that this country provides is unbelievably valuable.

    Of course there were a lot of forms, and various visits etc. but quite honestly to be infuriated by the choice of music of the DWP is ridiculous. Calmness, politeness and expressing appreciation got me a long way. I go the impression that the staff found this so rare they were very willing to help where they could.

    And of course I was intensely stressed, and if I had to the DWP I would say that and apologise in advance if I could, or after. Not get angry at people doing their job.

    I am making it out to be easy. It wasn't. I hated what was happening to me (and a lot still is happening), felt humiliated, had depression and anxiety...but I was supported.

    20 pages of boxes of questions (the ESA form) seems perfectly reasonable to me - and forms and Autism do not mix for me, to put it mildly. What does LIzzie expect - oh, I'm sick and the government just hands over the money?

    Lizzie is angry at the position she is in, that I get, and could do with support. The government doesn't provide that kind of support, plenty of other organisations do (CAB, MIND, RESPECT etc)

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    1. Excellent comment.

      By the way, Lizzie makes quite clear why she might have difficulties in finding a job.

      Delete
  5. This is very reminiscent of my experience. A 50 page form, I didn't fit the categories and still don't. Every communication from DWP comes with a THREAT in large red letters saying that if you ignore this letter we will stop your benefit. It was constantly distressing and confusing.

    During one of my Work Capacity Assessments I burst into tears and the nurse who was conducting my assessment handed me a box of tissues. Later I found that he had written "appears to be able to handle tissues well with either hand" - the tissues were not an act of compassion, they were *part of the assessment*. Also, out of fear in that interview I didn't move from my chair. This was noted as "able to sit in chair for 45 minutes". I was very sore afterwards. I got put in the Work related Activity Group. I appealed and got put in the Support Group. My next assessment said "no significant change", but they put me back in the WRAG. I appealed and was put back in the SG. This happens every time. Appealing is stressful - but the Citizen's Advice Bureau have information about how the system works and how to lodge a successful appeal. It's worth appealing, but they count on you being too ill, scared, or ignorant to do it.

    I have a mountain of paper work in two large file boxes containing all the paper work and correspondence.

    Iain Duncan Smith was a monster, constantly issuing press releases with anti-welfare propaganda and often outright lies. Remember when he said 80% of people on illness related ESA were "fit for work"? His changes to the system have made it all much worse - but I think that was the point. To irritate and intimidate people claiming their legal right to welfare so that they dropped out of the system. It is Kafkaesque.

    What is weirdest is that there is every incentive to stay ill. To recover would be to have benefits cut in half and be thrown back into the job market at 50 and with a history of chronic mental and physical illness and years of unemployment (you'd be mad to employ me), with all the stress of that, plus the extra pressure the Job Centre and their labyrinth put on you. I know I can't handle that. I certainly can't afford it. I'd not be able to pay the rent and probably end up homeless. There are plenty like me on the streets in my town!

    What helped to make sense of it all for me was an article called "Merchantilism: Six Centuries of Vilifying the Poor" by David Spencer.

    This appalling treatment of the poor and needy is an extension of an urge to punish that goes back a long way, though it had a brief hiatus during the liberal 60s and 70s. Making life difficult for us is the norm in the UK. That's what the rich do to the poor, in order that we work hard to make them richer.

    I'm with Dr Simon Springer

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  6. One large problem I see is that the UK government has been a bunch of fiddlers and faffers for the last four decades.

    Take the State pension.

    This is something that people plan over a lifetime. Or more likely, don't plan but assume it will provide something eventually. Why can't they keep it simple?

    For example 45 years of contributions/taxes should give a full pension, no ifs and buts.

    But if you have been contracted out due to some faffing policy, then you get a reduced pension.

    Then they fiddled with the number of years contributions down to 30.

    Then they faffed and put it up to 35.

    Then they fiddled and your pension became based solely on personal contributions and marriage partner's contributions no longer counted.

    Then they continue to faff with various saving schemes. Which can be faffed into taking out mortgages.

    They have farted around with the pension age.

    And then we had SERPS and then we didn't.

    All this means that it is impossible to be certain about how much you will receive until the day you get the first cheque, and even then it is not clear if everything has been calculated correctly.

    Sorry for wandering a bit off topic.

    Richard.

    ReplyDelete

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