It was father’s day this Sunday and I spent some time with silver surfer Dad and my sister, HS.
The subject of Permitted Work came up.
Permitted Work is a scheme run by the Department for Work and Pensions for people who are claiming Employment and Support Allowance, the UK’s sickness benefit payable to people who are too unwell to work.
Yeah, OK, it’s not “welfare” it’s social security. Note the word security in that sentence, Tory government.
Permitted work basically means that the DWP accepts that work is a good idea. They say that even if you aren’t able to hold down a full time job because of your illness, you are allowed to do a bit of work, up to 16 hours per week.
You can also earn some money from that work and not have it taken away from you.
So far, so positive, progressive and enabling.
The problem with permitted work is summed up in this conversation I had with my sister, HS:
HS: “Oh! So you could do a bit of work and plan for increasing that as you improve? That’s really good, that means that you could grade into a working life and that fits your ME symptoms too! How much work can you do?”
Me: “There are 2 levels. Low level PW and high level PW. High level allows you to work up to 16 hours per week for no more than £101.00 per week.
HS: “Are you thinking about doing some?”
Me: “Well, there’s the fact that I’m not well enough yet but the problem is that independent benefits advisors advise not doing it. They say it’s a DWP tripwire.
“Once you tell them you are capable of doing a bit of work, the DWP assumes you are fit for work. The next thing that happens is that they call you in for a work capability assessment.” My sister looks at me deeply into my eyes and then sighs a deep sigh. She was there for my WCA and held my considerably shaky hand through appealing the outcome right the way up to Tribunal.
I stare back at her.
” It’s all the same system, that’s what you don’t understand before your first WCA. As you have already told them you are able to do a minimal amount of work every week, they then use that in your WCA assessment and drop your points value accordingly. More points, less ability to work. Bingo – you are then regarded as being fit to work again.
HS: “Oh no – oh yes, I can see how that could happen. Bastards.”
Me: “I’ve spoken to 2 benefits advisors about it because OBVIOUSLY I’d like to work at some point in my life again. They told me to simply not even go there. It’s not worth tripping the tripwire. If it were a different government they’d have a different approach but as this is the Tory c**ts, so no. I’m not even touching that tripwire.”
HS: “No, I can see that. Bollox. How disappointing for you, Lindy””
Me: “I know. It’s this all-or-nothing thing that really prevents people from considering how to lever themselves gently back into work. It’s so dis-enabling. I’m sure people with ME would be more present in the workforce if we were able to work small amounts regularly….”I trail off and throw the napkin back on the table in front of me.
Then today the news was filled with welfare cuts. I’m trying not to go into a negative space about this but it’s hard not to start to think through what will happen on July 8th if our support is threatened.
It’s not an option for someone with ME to slam themselves back into the level of mental or physical activity that work requires…reasonable adjustments don’t exist for that.
If I had to go back to full time work, I’d be off sick within the first week.
I know I’m not alone in sharing these worries….:-(
© Lindy 2015