Workshy scroungers redux

Hypomania is calming down. I am a little bit disappointed by the relative quietness in my head. This typing sounds like thunderclaps.

Anyway, hooray for the Conservatives, the new-New Labour.  First we find out that DLA is in danger and now they want to cut incapacity benefits and boot people onto JSA, which is already a criminally low amount of money.   Given the idiosyncratic and very-much-geared-at-physical-illness criteria for ESA in deciding who’s “fit for work”, let’s enjoy our final few months hating ourselves for being too mental to hold down a full time job so we can hate ourselves for being even poorer.

The Conservatives say they would pay for their £600m plan to “get Britain working” by cutting the incapacity benefit bill.

People on employment support allowance who are deemed fit to work would be put on the jobseeker’s allowance, reducing their benefits by £25 a week.

All incapacity benefit claimants would be assessed to see if they could work.

Robert noticed my worried face as I read this story and said, “It’s ages away and anyway, it won’t be for people like you, who have real illnesses and have the doctors and nurses helping you”, but it is for people like me, and for people like you, not just the famed, “dodgy backs” of Britain.  (Speaking of which, as I write this, I have a completely buggered neck I can barely move.  GIVE ME MONEY).  It’s not the first time someone has said, “Ah, but YOU deserve it”.  They can only say that because they know me well enough to know and see first hand how severely my illness affects my life.  I’m still judged unfit to work by the DWP but I’ll eventually be assessed and probably booted onto JSA.  I can walk, after all.  And people who do bullshit, like a certain someone I know who does the double (works and claims benefits) and who faked a panic attack at an assessment, should be pulled (and in her case, kicked up the hole although there are many people who are in such poverty that they claim benefits for the much-needed extra income, which is seemingly never addressed).  But the process for judging who is and who isn’t “deserving” isn’t just a medical one, it’s becoming a moral and social one.  The system is hugely flawed.  Have a read of the Benefits and Work forum to see actual examples of the judged “dodgy backs” who find themselves utterly fucked because of it.

I am aspiring to be in part time work by mid-next year.  Nobody, including myself, believes me well enough for it yet,  but I try to routinely do something (even if it’s just writing something by a deadline) to test myself and to keep busy.  I am meeting the therapist for an assessment on the 22nd so that might help, too.  But it’s besides the point.  There is a sour attitude towards people who are ill in Britain right now.  I feel like human flotsam, guilty for every single penny I spend, even though I worked and paid my taxes since I was seventeen.  Just force people into shitty, badly paid jobs and cut benefits to the point where there’s no financial gain to be had on them. I don’t even have the energy or the impetus to write about it.  “Benefit reform” by both Labour and the Conservatives have long since ceased to pretend to be humanitarian.

(P.S:  I should say that I am embarrassed to be writing this as I know some people reading will be thinking, “Get to work! There’s nothing wrong with  you!  You can type this, you have a life!”  which is a little internal prejudice against myself I hold also because my problems are mental and I am often ashamed of them.  Which I think says quite a lot about what “real” illness allegedly is

Lydia just pointed out how much she hates the, “what do you do?” question from people.  Ah, yes, me too).

31 Responses

  1. I think it’s a real pity (in general) that Work (in general) should be a matter of fitting (often) square pegs into round holes rather than really using the various talents we have and working around when and how we can supply those talents.

    My job, predominantly, is about me showing up in the morning at the right time and doing the paperwork required of me. This part of the job could be carried out by a machine, but it’s this part that (ultimately) my contract rests on. Mental health difficulties means we sometimes struggle with the be-at-your-desk at eight-thirty sharp aspect of Work, but that doesn’t mean we’re not ‘fit for work’, does it?

    A great shame, and unfortunately, as much as we moan about labour, it’s going to be a thousand fucking times worse under C(amer)unt and his cronies.

  2. Yet more prejudice against people on benefits, with the unspoken assumption that they are all cheats. How is this going to catch the people who are actually scrounging? They’ll just go on lying and faking. They’re clever enough to cheat the system. Meanwhile, for people like you there will just be more stress and pressure.

    And where are all the extra jobs going to magically appear from?

  3. They’re not, the whole point is to make people so desperate for work they’ll take any shit wages, even if it’s just the bare minimum needed to stay alive. They want to turn Britain into a third-world economy.

    The Tories really are scum; I remember their last disaster of an administration, when there was a recession in the early nineties their policies ensured the gloom didn’t lift until about 1996-7 (and for many people it never ended at all).

  4. faking a panic attack is one thing, I went for the much more stylish getting horribly stressed mid-interrogation, raising my voice and informing them that I could be a ‘fucking astronaut if I wanted to and I had no medical problems that fit into a stupid tickybox’ to bursting into tears when I was asked to sign a jobseekers agreement that said I had no health problems which I knew was a lie.

    it wasn’t fake. and it fit nicely into a one hour work focussed interview where they ended up recommending I should probably be looking at claiming IB again which was a massive U-turn from ‘no health problems’

    Anyway, the point is that I really don’t recommend breaking down in your interview as a way to get taken seriously as mentally ill. But ironically, it helps much more than Doctor’s notes and self-certification does.

  5. For the last half year, I’ve been trying to sort my way out of my own quagmire and into full time education. Seems the government could care less about my efforts to get better, and just wants to drown me. Thanks for bringing my attention to this.

  6. I’ve got an appointment on Thursday to go to the Job Centre. According to my CPN a lot of people on IB are being called in for assessments at the moment, so I think it’ll be that. It’s really scary. The annoying thing is I’d do just about anything to be well enough to earn my own money. I’m grateful obviously, but it’s so demeaning having to jump through hoops to get handouts. Because, of course, I just *love* it when people ask me what I ‘do’, and I have to tell them that what I ‘do’ is being ill. A fine conversation stopper if I ever heard one.

  7. What is happening and about to be happning with the whole benefits system, in particular disability benefits (DLA by the way remains safe for the time being), IB and ESA is truly apalling and devestating for so many of the poorest, genuinely needy people of this country. I work as a mental-health advisor for CAB and by God we’re overwhelmed already so dread to think what it could be like once the Torys start flailing the whip around. On a personal note, the tragic thing is – I;ve also been shoved onto JSA and threatened with benefit withdrawal if I don’t give up my volunteering for any paid work soon. And I’m busting my gut as it is trying to help sort out all their fuck-ups.
    But at least for the time being I have the privelege of being able to help. Who knows, in a month or 2 I could be stuck behind the check-out at Tesco screaming expletives across the tannoy!
    I’m loathe to use the words Torys/Nazis in the same breath but at times lke this, it’s difficult to restrain.
    Sorry for the rant.

  8. This may be controversial in light of most people’s politics around here, but I don’t think The Conservative’s are any worse than Labour. The Government clearly state their plan to get one million people off IB and ESA by 2015 and into work.

    I had a rant about this and Pathways to Work here:

    I too hate the “What do you do?” question. I tend to just state I am an IT consultant, which is true. I am still employed as one. I just haven’t been near the office for 18 months. I feel like I am lying though, cos the truth is I’m lazy, work-shy scum. 😉 *sigh*

    • yes, I agree the tory’s are no worse. it’s almost a case of one-upmanship between the two parties as to who can beat the sick and the poor the hardest. It’s a disgrace but a predictable tactic that they are both appealing to the ‘common vote’ in difficult times by threatening to ‘get tough’ on benefit claimants – as if the incapacitaded and ‘work-shy’ are somehow responsible for bringing the economy and country down. We all know where the blame lies there and despite the half-assed attempt to curb banker’s bonuses, the inequalities of wealth in this country continue to soar (indeed got worse under labour). The poor are an easy target – nothing to bargain with, scant means of fighting back, construed as a threat to the average, ‘normal’ working-class family. These proposals would be marginally less unpalatable were there genuine measures and support systems put in place to properly help people into appropriate work or training but they’re not. JCP staff are being hastily posted and under-trained, schemes and recruitment are being franchised out to private companies – some of whom are dubious at best – and the majority of claimants are pressured into taking low-paid insecure, unsuitable employment.
      What’s next? return to the workhouse? The sick and the disabled lying stricken in the streets?
      Bottom-line – so long as there are people on 6 figure+ slaries in this country, i refuse to believe that there is a crisis of funds and that the poor are the parasites.
      End of rant #2

  9. Now that the tories have announced this the Labour Government has the gall to say “this is an attack on the ill”. Huh? The tory plans are basically the same as what the Labour Gov was putting through anyway!

    The tories want to cut inheritance tax by taking the money off the sick. Bunch of cunts the lot of ’em.

    MPs get £200 a week for FOOD ALONE. Yet they will now countenance reducing an income of less than a hundred quid by 25%.

    I’m fucking furious.

  10. Having been on both sides of the Job Centre desk I know only too well that the genuine people are the ones who get nailed while the seasoned con artist will always find a way to work around whatever legislation is brought in.

    About six years ago I was dragged into the Job Centre to be asked what I was doing to find work (I had a DEA at the time but she was useless! I didn’t get ANY job leads from her since I moved down her 15 years ago!). They presented me with a job they thought I should take…..OFFICE JUNIOR! Firstly, as a 30-year-old I feel my days of ‘junior’ posts were well behind me. Secondly, as a wheelchair user I just wanted to know where I was supposed to put the coffee tray, on my freakin’ head!?.

    If they still have the mentality that says we should be grateful for crap jobs that are way beneath our intellect just because we are disabled, I’m afraid they’ll continue to get the two-words response from me….the second word being ‘Off!’.

  11. Thought I might have tried to leave a clever comments on here earlier, but seems like I didn’t.

    That’ll teach me for trying to be clever. SHall focus on being dumb from now on.

  12. I will never in my life understand why people with so much wealth and privelege begrudge those with neither the smallest amount of help. Being unemployed/on a benefit is NOT fun. Sure, a few abuse the system, but bloody hell, in the overall scheme of things this hardly matters. It’s like putting the whole class on detention for the actions of one idiot.

  13. You could be in the United States. We have billions of dollars to throw at the financial sector (which, uncoincidentally, substantially caused our economic depression), but money for people is somehow morally suspect.

    A madness infects the culture, and the only way that most of us can address it is by educating people. That means talking, openness, and rejecting the model that says disability (or poverty) must be something shameful and hidden. We can guess what happens when the already powerful get to define everyone else without challenge.

  14. The Tories introduced DLA in the first place. Abolishing it would be an admission that they made a great big fat mistake.

  15. Im the eternal teenager and blame my parents and their smug generation. Its a generation that has believed that subsequent generations have failed to meet their achievements but if there is any failure it was theirs.
    Defeating the fascists required the efforts of all parts of society the class structure that had existed for generations was shattered and it was logical that the post war society would reflect these changes.
    The post war generations enjoyed the fruits of this with full employment, being able to move jobs without difficulty, new health and social care and pensions(remember those) .
    But it was nothing more than a blip and the waters have now settled and the old order is restored Both Lab and Con are now fed with career politicians by the public school Oxbridge route so there is little wonder that neither party represents. ordinary voters.
    The Tories plans for invalidity benefit are cause for concern as if the threshold is too high you would be kicked off invalidity but because of illness you would be unable to meet the requirements of jobseeker and lose that too.
    I can see the workhouse making a comeback and they seem to be trialling it for single mother scroungers.

  16. Take your time and do things the way you want to. Handle yourself with care and follow your own schedule. “Shoulds” are BS and the sign of a weak follower. I’m in hypomania land too. I hope everything works out.

  17. As much as I’m sorry for what you’re going through with bipolar and looking for work, I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. I have just been diagnosed as bipolar and am just off work. I don’t know when I will be able to return to work. Most people don’t understand my condition and always say I seem fine. I’ve done a good job of hiding it and when I am really not fine, I go into hiding, which they don’t seem to notice. I feel that I will never get better – it’s been around 23 years of hell.

  18. I am fed up of being told that I’m going to be “helped back to work” when there is never the slightest mention of anyone helping me to get better first. I don’t need bullying, I need doctors etc. but where I live there is no hope of a CPN or therapist or whatever until you have at least 1 “real” suicide attempt to your name. If I want any help now I have to pay for it, only I am on benefits and can’t afford it, obviously. There used to be access to more support but it was all cut some years ago, under the arguement that there was no need for it here.

    And when I have been helped back to work and put on job seekers allowance no one seems to have put any thought into where the hell these jobs will come from. I struggled to find people willing to employ “one of them mentallers” when I was well and working full time and had a career I was bloody good at. I can’t help but worry about my chances of finding a job when I do return when it will have to be part-time, low paid and unskilled in a recession.

  19. Tried to link my latest to this post but couldn’t figure out quite how but it’s at:

    .. and even that didn’t work out as a link but it’s there at the top of my blog for now if anyone’s in the least bit interested

  20. Oh – it worked after all!

  21. Seaneen – I’m doing a Psychology presentation on Mental Health on Monday in college for my Access to Nursing course and I want to including as part of a hand out to other students a list of Mental Health Bloggers for them to look at if they wish to learn more from service users direct about what it’s like for us to live with Mental Health conditions. I’m actually focussing on Borderline Personality Disorder but I’m including lots of focus on different therapies and medications and since you’re one of the biggest bloggers around I love to include you in the list, of course I’ll add what you condition you as well. I need to gain permission from people to do it!

  22. That’s the fuckin’ Tories for you.


    Wymark, who has been unemployed and ashamed of it eight years now.

  23. What was funny (in a very sick kinda way) is that the Tories haven’t done their research. I mean, for this they shoulda got someone to be a fact checker. obviously couldn’t be bothered. They shoula have known that it is not Incapacity Benefit (it ceased as a benefit last October 08) and now known as ESA, and they got the sums very very wrong. Basic rudimentary information.

    But hey, who cares, it is only the poor they are shafting!

    What also appals me is the constant attacks, penalisation, sanctioning, stigmatising and vilifying the unemployed. It also smacks of criminalisation as well with the looming ever near of Workfare, plus the sanctioning of benefits if people refuse to engage with the hideous New Flexible Deal (I just lurve the title!) . Combined with all of this you have New Labour and the Tories throwing millions at the private companies to adminster the benefit systems who know about as much of the benefits system as David Freud (and he knows as much of what you can fit on the back of a match box).
    Privatisation will cause further complexities and bureaucracy further misery and further distress.

    The stench of the Dickensian workshouse is overwhelming.

    The crisis in capitalism that lead to the crash in the economy was not the fault of the poor it was the fault of neoliberalism, free market piracy and the greed of the banking system…..yet they have got away with daylight robbery and everyone elseis paying for it esp. people on benefits.

  24. For years and years I went from one shit job to the next, never being able to stick with one thing. I live in the U.S. and discovered something cool–college was a haven for me. I did get accused of being a “career student” several times, but it worked for me. I worked part time jobs and got loans and went to classes. It took me ten years to earn my undergrad degree, and–being completely unsure of what to do with a B.A. in English–I opted for graduate school, putting off the inevitable. The truth is, I didn’t want to graduate. I didn’t want to have to work because of my lousy work history.

    No one ever thought I’d amount to anything. I could see everyone watching and judging, and I have to admit I agreed with them. I was always quitting jobs and quitting relationships and who’d have thunk I would ever actually finish anything I started? I didn’t know I was bipolar yet. I just thought I was–uh–finicky or high strung or something.

    I think my family wondered and probably felt I was wasting my life studying for yet another degree in English, and it did take seven years after receiving my Master’s before I found my niche, but it all paid off.

    I don’t have the slightest clue how I mucked my way through graduate school. I don’t know how I landed a job teaching in my field (creative writing!). But a day doesn’t go by that I don’t feel really relieved about it.

    It may all sound a little Disney at this point, but I didn’t mention the psychotic episodes and the raging, violent drunk I was married to for several years. College became an escape for me, and when I finally left him I took my kids and we bolted into the dead of night. Best decision of my life.

    So here I am now. Fifty. Freshly divorced yet again. Struggling to pay bills (and still have one kid at home). I’ve had to apply for financial help to get by, and state funded insurance. Yeah, life is still hard. But yet I’m grateful for a job that allows me to stay home and do what I went to college for all those years. If at all possible, even if it takes years and years, an education is pretty damn helpful. And once you’ve got it, no one can take it away from you.

    Life’s never easy, and we get sucker punched a shitload along the way. Believe me–I’ve been hit hard several times. I just pulled out of a major depression recently. I’m bipolar I, rapid cycling. I sometimes see things, feel things, hear things that aren’t there. Fortunately, I have a job that lets me stay on the outer fringes of society, yet I teach people all over the world. I know. It’s weird as hell (and if my students only knew!).

    But somehow it’s all working out, in spite of all the rough times.

    • Hi Sooz, 🙂

      I had to jump back in because I think you make a really interesting and valid point. Yes, you have an uncoventional way of doing things, but you *do* work when you can and as far as I’m concerned what you choose to do with the rest of your time is frankly your own business because you are gaining knowledge then passing it on to others and that’s a big contribution to society.

      I am doing a Foundation Degree at the moment, and aiming to start my BA in Art next September. I am doing this because I know the conventional 9-5 just does not work for me either on a personal level or as someone with a physical disability, so I am doing this course as a way to give myself the best chance of long term employment via a route that is more appropriate for me than an office based 9-5 in many ways. It sounds like you’ve done that too and there’s nothing wrong with it.

      ‘The powers that be’ have such narrow ideas about many aspects of life that we really need to re-asses what it means work and be a productive memeber of society. There are so many permutations of a ‘meaningful existance’ that we really need to rethink the whole set-up.

  25. […] Mail. The top story was actually about benefit scrounging scum. This has been covered far better by SLoaMD. The story I will pick makes it look pretty bad for the Mail’s Schizophrenia + Stabbing […]

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