Thursday, 13 December 2012

That someone up the road…could be you

When chatting on benefits forums and threads, how many times have you heard people say ‘there’s someone up the road from me claiming all s/he can …s/he’s a money-grabbing skiver and knows how to get all s/he can out of the system’? Or words to that effect. 

It struck me as odd how people always knew ‘somebody up the road’ who was ‘scamming the system’ because of course, they’re really going to pour out their personal health problems to their sworn enemies, aren’t they?  Private and intimate health matters are exactly that – so how come these ‘nosey-parkers’ know so much about someone else’s private and intimate health conditions and what they’re claiming?  

It’s simple.  These are people you presume are your friends, why else would you confide in them?  Maybe they’re your neighbours who you stop and chat with and ask each other how you’re doing.  Maybe you let slip a few personal details because they’re neighbours, aren’t they?  You think they’re interested in your health and how you’re doing but really you have to be on guard against these people because what they’re really doing is gleaning the facts from you.  They’re gathering information from you so they can pass judgement on what little amount of information you’ve volunteered.  Maybe you confided in them about your depression or your fibromyalgia and the fact that you’re getting DLA.  Maybe they’re seeing you on a good day if you’re out and about and they naturally think you’re faking it.  Oh they won’t pass judgment to your face – that would give the game away, surely – no, these are the types who spatter it all over public forums and the like.

So the moral of this blog is – don’t confide your personal details to passing acquaintances or anyone you don’t trust one hundred per cent.  It’s none of their business. They’re not doctors, they don’t know your medical history and why would you tell them?  Even your closest family members and friends may not be privy to this information so don’t give these snoopers ammunition to use it – most likely wrongly – against you. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

ESA WRAG Claimants To Be Mandated On The Work Programme

I have just seen a copy of the memo that the government have produced regarding new and worrying developments for those in the ESA WRAG group.  This was first leaked in The Guardian back in September and I have alerted my MP about it (to no avail - she is a Tory and complicit). But seeing the memo is quite chilling. It is entitled:

Work Programme Provider Live Running Memo

Here are some quotes from it:

"The purpose of this memo is to inform you that an amendment will be made to
Chapter 3c – work experience on a voluntary basis and community benefit work

"Currently, community benefit work placements are not available to Employment and
Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) participants. It has
now been agreed Work Programme providers will be able to use mandatory work
placements as another measure through which to help ESA WRAG participants
move closer to the labour market."

Decoded this means that because the Work Programme has failed in other respects, ESA WRAG claimants are now going to be used as guinea pigs and bullied. They are worth more to the providers don’t forget – a provider can get £14,000 pounds for every person they get off benefits. 

"Evidence also suggests that work can have a positive impact on the long term health of people with disabilities and health conditions."

Actually, this is only part of the picture. The right sort of work at the right sort of pay is good for some people some of the time. Mandating (bullying) people onto a Work programme is likely to be counterproductive. Let us not forget that for many people the wrong sort of work at the wrong time is actually bad for their health and can be disastrous.

And get this: 

"The opportunity for ESA WRAG participants to take part in mandatory community benefit work placements will be introduced from the 3rd December 2012."

This is confirmation that sick people may be left with just £28 to live on as a result of increased sanctions. When I wrote to my MP she said that sick and disabled people would be protected but those who could work would ‘be made to work’. Note also the creepy language – couched as an ‘opportunity’ followed by the sinister word ‘mandatory’.  So, what - they seriously think sick people are going to say ‘oh thank you for the opportunity to force me onto the Work Programme’?!

The last paragraph almost looks like a disclaimer:

"It is worth noting that there is a greater emphasis throughout guidance is on ensuring
that the activity identified is appropriate for the participants health condition or
disability and being aware of their barriers to work, including  ill health/disability and
any reasonable adjustment requirements when organising an activity with an

So please – could someone tell me in what situation a sick or disabled person will be forced onto the Work Programme?  If they volunteer that's all well and good but I can’t think of any reason to mandate a sick or disabled person in this way.  It is barbaric.  Simple as.

For a copy of the memo please follow the link below.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Dear Philip Lee, MP for Bracknell...

I saw your video link where you were talking about the cost of prescriptions that people get for free for conditions such as Hypertension and Type II Diabetes which you say are ‘predominantly to do with lifestyle’. I beg your pardon?  Ah, so people choose to have Diabetes and Hypertension, thanks for telling us, Mr Lee.  I had hypertension at the young of age eighteen and of course that must have been ‘a lifestyle choice’ - silly me.  Can you also tell me why you all bandy these mantras about?  I'm hearing so much about this 'lifestyle choice', it sounds so sweet and innocuous, as if we're choosing between a relaxing life in the sun or perhaps a world cruise.  Make it sound like a choice and you can then get away with blaming the individual for their obesity, addiction, and now – increasingly – other conditions.  Isn't that the real reason behind such a phrase, Mr Lee?  Isn't it just a euphemism for saying it's all your fault? And I heard you describe these debilitating illnesses - Hypertension and Type II Diabetes - and by association the people who suffer from them - as ‘an increasing burden on the National Health Service’. (The 'burden’ word again – the same rhetoric that was used in pre-war Germany, let us remember).  You go on to talk about 'moving the locus of that responsibility for health care from the state to the individual'. What you really mean is making people with these conditions pay for their drugs. By doing that you would, in your words, be ‘attaching a consequence to lifestyle choice’. (You couldn't resist that phrase again, could you?) But you didn't finish it there - you went on to talk about the  ‘differences in generations in their attitude towards arthritic pain’.  You praise the wartime generation – as if somehow they have no need for the NHS and its services.  But you give away your real agenda which is that when the ‘incredibly stoic… wartime generation have passed on…with their attitude towards their lives, their pain, their suffering that appears to be significantly different to their children’ the shit will really hit the fan.  Your real fear is when ‘that huge number’ of  baby-boomer children – that group born between 1945 and 1955 hit their 70s and 80s between 2015 and 2030. ‘Their expectations, their demands upon the system are going to be immense,’ you say.  Excuse me?  Well, I don’t quite fit into that Baby Boomer group, not by your definition at any rate, Mr Lee, but watch out, matey. There are all those of us born in the late 50s, 60s and 70s who expect good health and longevity, and what, pray, is wrong with that?  You seem to be bemoaning the fact that the NHS has been successful in achieving greater longevity and alleviation of pain, rather than celebrating its achievements.  And for your information, Mr Lee, my parents are both of that wartime generation. My late father had Type II Diabetes and was certainly glad of the NHS for his treatments.  My mother too, is of that generation, and certainly she is stoic, but does that mean she shouldn’t be relieved of any pain and suffering?  That she should put up and shut up?  She is actually furious about what is happening to the NHS.  
I find your tone and implications extremely worrying.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Genuine Word

Last week's Question Time, Thursday November 8th, included Jane Moore of The Sun who at one point talked about 'helping the genuinely vulnerable and disabled'.  Now coming from one of The Sun's mouthpieces, it was a small step forward, that the vulnerable in society even got a mention.
She immediately killed it dead with that one word 'genuinely'. That one word speaks volumes and we're hearing it more and more.  By inserting that word before the 'sick and disabled' (where it is usually inserted) these media and government spokespeople are causing untold damage.  They know exactly what they're doing, of course. They don't have to spell it out because the inference is deafening: there are a whole lot of ungenuine sick and disabled people out there who are, in more popular parlance, 'faking it' or 'scrounging off the state'.  Such use of language is dangerous and brutal. The rise in disability hate crime has coincided with this vile propaganda.
Jane Moore, then trotted out another of those sloppy platitudes. 'Those who can work, should work'. Again, what are the implications here?  That some are 'choosing not to work' or 'choosing a lifestyle on benefits'? I am sick of hearing these hollow and brutal phrases that fail to address the fact that in order to have choice, there has to be an alternative.  But with its aggressive pursuit of austerity, this government has taken away the alternatives of meaningful work with a decent income.
Who would choose to live on £71 a week (or even less if you're under 25),  with threats of sanctions at every turn and cuts to housing benefits, not enough to eat, to keep warm or clothe themselves?
It's high time that the government and the media that they own took responsibility for their choice of words.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Load of T'Waddell & Aylward

Professor Aylward claims many people are ill because there are gains to be had for being ill. He thinks this explains why people stay on benefits and adopt the ‘sick role’.  That twaddle didn’t have much credence when it was first mooted decades ago.

This is the psychological side of the biopsychosocial model. Well, anybody who has studied psychology, as I have, know there’s hundreds of research studies being published every day, so it wouldn’t be difficult to find one to fit your agenda or the government’s – in this case, a sinister one to justify savage cuts to disability benefits, especially to those with illnesses and sicknesses which Aylward, Waddell et al don’t consider to be ‘diseases’. But anybody with only the most rudimentary grasp of psychology knows that psychological factors can affect the physical; that if you have a disease or illness, the symptoms can be affected by external factors, stress, depression etc.  But you can’t go from stating psychological factors play a part to then saying that psychological is all there is. This just displays a lack of the most basic scientific logic and is shoddy in the extreme.

But there’s also something warped about stating that sick people stand to gain from financial security and thus need to be ‘disincentivised’ (horrid word); that somehow benefiting or needing a financial safety net is wrong and that sick people should somehow choose to put themselves at financial risk in preference.  This isn’t peculiar to ill people; everyone derives benefits from being financially better off.  We see the same sort of language being bandied about all people on benefits, sick or the ‘fit’ unemployed.  We hear the term ‘welfare dependent’. Let’s get one thing clear. Everyone is financially dependent. Everyone needs money to buy the basics to survive.  How is it that we never hear about the tax-break dependent?  Or the bonus-dependent?  It is only the poor who are blamed for being ‘dependent’ on something that is a requirement for us all to survive.  Money. And enough of it. 

 So it's time to name the elephant in the room.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Forced Work

It isn’t work people are afraid of, if they are able to do some, it’s the idea of being forced.  Let’s substitute work for sex, for a moment. Sex is supposed to be something freely given, an expression of love or lust between two people.  For others, perhaps those who’ve been in a relationship a long time, the spark may have disappeared and partners may feel it a bit of a tedious duty, like others feel about having been in their job for too long, but nevertheless, they go through the motions, for other benefits.  Those benefits in a marriage, could be for security, safety, companionship.  The same could be said of work, the job may be stale, but there are benefits such as security, companionship, and of course, there may be financial benefits.  Maybe there aren’t, maybe the money isn’t worth it, just as in the relationship, maybe it is dead, and time to move on. 
But none of these cross a line.  But forced work, is no difference to forced sex. Forced sex has a name. Rape.  If a person doesn’t consent to have sex, then it is force.  The raped person will feel abused, worthless, guilt, shame, devalued, angry, powerless. Long term effects may include anxiety attacks, panic attacks, agoraphobia, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts. This is what happens when people lose control of their lives, lose their autonomy, their right to say who they sleep with and when.  It is now agreed that in a civilised society that this should be a person’s right, it affords dignity, self-worth and self-respect. But hang on: shouldn’t this apply to work as well?  Work should be a choice: something that affords dignity, self-worth and self-respect, shouldn’t it? We’ve all heard the government rhetoric but on the sly they are using compulsion and force.  They aren’t the stereotype rapists who jump at you and overpower you in a dark alley. They are much too clever. They use subtle language, blackmail, power and authority to get you into bed against your will.  The results are the same and they are devastating. They take away your autonomy, your ability to act freely, your capacity for choice, your capacity for creativity, your capacity to make a simple decision.  They incapacitate you, in fact.