Over the last week I was aghast at the news yet again. The UK Government’s volte face regarding their approach to sick and disabled people in the benefit system is another assault in the arsenal of attacks meted on those too unwell or disabled to work.
Myself and many, many people who are in the ESA Support Group heaved a sigh of relief. We didn’t choose to be in this system, we didn’t choose to be sick yet the prevailing narrative over the time since the Coalition took power in 2010 would lead you to think otherwise.
Theresa May’s stance that No More Austerity meant No More Cuts appeared to be the first time since then that we’d cut a break. It made us think her government might be ‘Tory Lite’, no more the nasty party, she’d done the moral thing at last.
We’ve been through the atrociously unfair and counter-intuitive system of gaining those benefits, fought for recognition for the impact of the cuts and spoken out and marched against more hardship.
Finally in May’s announcement it seemed the chips were appearing in the edifice – the one that said sick and disabled people must bear the brunt of the cuts.
Finally someone had listened, finally we were being heard, finally we’d not have to go through the endless round of negative initiatives that affect each and every one of us.
Finally it had got through.
Then another announcement took place. Yesterday the long awaited report by the UN into human rights violations by the very same back to back British governments, concluded they had, in fact, been doing exactly what us sick and disabled people have been saying they have done.
The UN found the UK Government violated the rights of many of us that ( I add again ) through no act of volition, have ended up being unfit to work.
Multo celebrations, you would think.
The Green Paper Work, Health and Disability – Improving Lives, heralds a startling change of tack, one that counters completely Theresa May’s message that there will be No More Austerity.
There will be austerity and it seems it’s going to hit disabled people all over again.
The green paper proposes that all people who, like me, are in the ESA Support Group will be required to engage with Job Center Plus.
Job Center Plus are expecting that those of us who have been assessed by the government’s own processes as unfit to work and are exempt from complying with the need to engage with employment advisors or risk being sanctioned as a result, must now step into that system.
The Green paper’s message is that in the name of addressing massive sociological barriers to employment for people with disabilities, the same expectations of people claiming JobSeekers Allowance (JSA) or temporary ill health in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) could now be part of our lives too.
And I’m utterly sick of all of it ….
Many, many articles have covered the impact of benefit sanctions for people who have received them. They are too numerous to mention.
If it’s not in your back yard and you can’t even name one person you know who is in the system or suffering from ill health, then hold onto your hats.
It can happen to you too…
Most disability is acquired. It isn’t something you are born with. Mine is acquired. Until 5, 6 years ago I held down a very responsible job, a relationship, friendships, a social life and family life. I was in every way a fully functioning and productive member of society.
Then I got sick. I got sick with something that I have never recovered from. It affects me every hour of every day and although it fluctuates, there is not ever one day when I escape from it.
I have received treatment for it – that which is available on the NHS that is – there is no pill I can take, all I can do is adapt to it.
The differences in my functioning are brought about by long rest breaks, recognising my triggers, making decisions about what I do and when and definitely, definitely not working.
I have tried to work since I’ve had CFSME
Readers of this blog will know that my journey with this illness started with my trying to hold down the job I had at the time. Eventually I was unable to do that, so pervasive were the symptoms and affect on me.
I have been in the benefits system ever since.
I’ve not been idle though, I’ve tried to do voluntary work – 3 hours twice a week. I couldn’t sustain that though because standing up for 3 hours made me feel very ill and the pay back symptoms were significant.
So my GP and the DWP decided my illness was enough to put me in the Support Group and there I remain until this day.
The Support Group does just that – it supports me. I survive on Housing Benefit to keep me housed and twice monthly payments of Employment And Support Allowance to feed and clothe and pay my bills.
The Support Group enables me to focus on what’s really important – giving me enough health to have some quality of life while I wait for the international medical community to do enough research to finally treat me with something that may enable me to work again one day.
Ken Loach has just released a masterpiece of film making – I Daniel Blake. In it he tells a story about a man struggling against the UK benefits system.
You might think it is exaggeration for effect, it is fiction. It isn’t. It happens, I know people it’s happening to, you can read about them as well.
The UK benefits system is a screw up of epic proportions and all in the name of Austerity.
People are already suffering, workplaces already can’t support people like me, sanctions are leaving people homeless, in debt and vulnerable.
THIS is what the United Nations found.
If you have the time, please offer your suggestions to your local MP about the Green Paper. It will not improve the lives of people like me, it will make us more vulnerable.
In honour of this campaign, I’m starting a new twitter hashtag. The hashtag is #idanielblake
like #jesuischarlie it is a sign of solidarity against one more assault on the most vulnerable and needy in the UK.
share with the hashtag#idanielblake
Copyright Lindy, 2016.