Benefits system? It’s more like psychological warfare

Alan Carr: Another comedian who, like Paul O'Grady, must be fuming that his taxes support a government that is more interested in looking after its own fat expenses claims than in looking after people who genuinely need help.

Alan Carr: Another comedian who, like Paul O’Grady, must be fuming that his taxes support a government that is more interested in looking after its own fat expenses claims than in looking after people who genuinely need help.

Mrs Mike has had another setback in her struggle to become a worthwhile member of society.

For those not in the know, my significant other has been receiving sickness benefits for many years after damaging her back in what she believes was a work-related injury. Her (now-former) employers have never admitted any liability and her trade union let her down badly. She currently suffers with back problems which are worsened by fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome (operation soon) and mental problems including depression.

Until last August she was in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, but after one of the DWP’s infamous Work Capability Assessments she was put in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. Shortly before Christmas she had an interview at the local Job Centre Plus, when possible ways of slowly reintroducing her into the job market were suggested.

She has always hated being unable to work, and the opportunity to get back into active service, so to speak, brightened her outlook considerably.

Arrangements were made for her to have a telephone interview with a representative from a company that provides help in getting people back to work. Having presented the experiences of David Dennis on this blog, I was sceptical about the amount of real, practical help this could offer, but I kept quiet and waited to see what would happen.

Firstly, they phoned to say their rep was sick.

Then they phoned to ask Mrs Mike to call back on another day.

Then the Job Centre phoned to ask why she hadn’t spoken to the company rep. When she explained, arrangements were made for her to phone again – today.

She called at 3pm. Spoke to a machine because nobody was answering. Left her number. After a while, she took the return call. A while after that, she passed the phone on to me.

“Could you talk to them, please?”

The lady on the line was friendly enough, but her message was utterly frustrating. “I’ve spoken to your partner and from what she tells me, we can’t do anything to help her. She’s not going to get better in the timeframe within which we work. I know people with fibromyalgia and that’s just not going to happen. I recommend that you appeal against the decision to put her in the work-related activity group.”

“We can’t appeal,” I said. “That decision came back in August and we were advised not to appeal against it because it was unlikely to succeed.”

She was adamant. “Ask for a review of the decision, with a view to going into the support group. Go back to her doctor and request reassessment.”

So there you go. Six months in the new system (the WCA was in July) and we’re at square one. The whole experience has been pointless so far.

Worse than pointless, in fact. This has affected my girlfriend’s state of mind, you see. The thought of going through another WCA terrifies her (the first was harrowing enough), and the possibility of going through the system again and getting nowhere – again – seems a certainty to her.

It’s like psychological warfare.

I’m not blaming anyone who has dealt with us directly. I’m sure they all mean well. But it’s the system that is at fault. It has been created, not to help people, but to break their spirit. The message is: “You’re wasting your time here. You won’t get what you need. You should give up and do something else instead.”

Except, the prime choice for people on disability benefits who DO choose to do something else instead appears to be suicide.

And all the time we have to listen to Iain Duncan Smith verbalising his DWP inanities via every right-wing news outlet he can dupe into carrying them.

I shall keep you informed.

18 thoughts on “Benefits system? It’s more like psychological warfare

  1. Billyboy

    Unum. The alternative is we give up on the benefits system and buy health insurance from a company like, say, Unum. These less than delightful people (Google for Unum scandal to see page after page on their disability denial misdeeds in America) have been acting as consultants on these so called ‘welfare reforms’ since the 90s when Peter Lilley called them in. Their former chief medical officer now has that role at Atos. I think the idea is benefits are made so hard to claim people do indeed look for an alternative and oh look, there’s Unum with lots of policies ready in place. We’re being herded into Unum’s open welcoming arms, opening up a multi-billion pound market for them. I find it hard to believe IDS won’t be getting his extremely large share of the billions of profit generated. Does he care, then, what anyone in the electorate thinks of him? I doubt it. Explains it all, doesn’t it? Just follow the money.

  2. kimberley

    yup. been here. the govt are giving these organisations a lot of money to basically tell you that you wouldn’t be up to attending..firstly 2 out of the 3 in my area are absolutely not accessible to those with walking mobility disabilities. .so someone had to come with me…i was then told that i would need to attend every day for 6 months minimum. well there isn’t anyone i know that can come with me for that length of time! i asked how it works..they explained the govt pay companies to employ someone with a disability. however this is for a set period then that funding stops. what is to guarantee the employment continues? so there is lots of govt money so long as it is for what the govt decide we need rather than for what we genuinely need. oh and the newly appointed job centre plus staff member…erm off sick so the appointment was cancelled..oh the irony. i was told i would be transferred to the only possibly accessible place that ran the never happened. i again had to chase it up they (the govt)…claim they want the disabled off benefits and in work. no they dont. they just want us to cease to exist full stop. ps i have run my own businesses for 20 yrs. most recent one as a franchise for the last 13. i am still doing this by the skin of my teeth. perhaps if the govt genuinely helped by ensuring i had some enforceable rights to ensure i stayed in the role i love then we may get somewhere.

  3. Nessie Buggles (@wildcandytuft)

    Tell me about it! Just received the last payment of ESA into my bank account. The 365 days expire in just over a week’s time. I’m now applying for income based ESA and have filled in a whopping form to detail my finances, or rather lack of them.

    I wish I had appealled straight away when after a reconsideration I was put in the WRAG group. I was told by the CAB who came out to see me so late that the DWP had already made their decision. I was told that appealing was a waste of time because I have a mental health condition and that the descriptors were too narrow. I’ve since learned that if work related activity causes distress then that is a good case for being placed in the Support Group. I completely empathise with your girlfriend. I just can’t cope with the Atos assessments and am absolutely terrified in case this financial form goes astray and isn’t processed quickly enough leaving me with no money. In May I’ll have to undergo another Atos assessment for DLA/PIP and it gets worse. My area is included in both the Universal Credit and PIP trials in April. Too much STRESS!!

  4. Tracie.aspinall

    They have done the same to me I have injured my lower back in a fall and I have PTSD and fibromyalgia I’ve been house bound since August I have carers who take care of my personal care as iam a single mum with 3 kids I’ve worked all my life and when I need it most you get nothing they sent there so called doctor to give me a medical in my home I stayed in my bed the whole 5mins he was here he asked me what medication I was on how many hours I get for care who my consultant was .did my medication effect me then left .yet he sat why I lay in my hospital bed with my zima and wheel chair and comode he didn’t ask me to walk or seer try to attempt to get out of bed .what was the point of that ! He sat in my drive while he wrote his notes then left . Medical over . I get my reply new year and they say I have to go to a work related interview . Yet my money goes up they never contacted my gp or my consultant regards my health .so I have a interview at job center 14th to which I will have to go with my carer with a special taxi if I don’t have a panic attack before I go as I can’t leave the house either .i spoke with my physiologist the same day as my letter she said how have you got through such truma in ur past life .?? The answer was I don’t no I did it for my kids I fought with and evil man who attacked me daily and my childern I survived . Yet this that they put me in a different trauma .my doctors and social worker can not believe what has happen if I could walk and use the toilet and wash myself I would gladly but I can’t ohhh boy if only I could turn the clock back and work again I would love to . I sit and sob how do people live on 71.00 a week it’s a disgrace I used to send 200 a week on food when I worked now I don’t eat so my kids can eat . I’ve paid my taxes since I was 16 am nearly 43 what do I get back 71.00 a week someone needs to wake up and iam not a drain on the system just unfortate to be in this sad place i now I wish I would just die I’d be better off

  5. Paul Leake

    Ask for the medical report that the dwp based their decision on. Use this info to build your case for a reconsideration or an appeal. See a welfare rights officer for support about seeking an appeal or reconsideration. U have up to a year from starting ESA!

  6. Rainbow Lizzie

    God Bless you Mrs Mike, we are holding you and yours in our prayers each and every day. Mike Thank you for sharing. I fear that I will be going through the same motions of my first WCA humiliation sometime this year, that I am prepared for, We are both appealing for my fiance nightmare, humiliation WCA in October last year. , my fiance and I are looking to join UNITE, I used to be with UNISON when I was working in the NHS in the Caring profession for 7 years before my lumbar discs went and sciatica in 2006, when I was forced out of the NHS due to Incapacity, and last year they found a curvature in my Cervical Spine and four cervical discs seriously degenerative compressing the Ulnar nerve in my C6 , With chronic spinal problems which is already becoming arthritic and also awaiting a Discectomy in my Cervical Spine, under my neuro-surgeon who am being re-referred to. And like dear Mrs Mike, living with chronic pain is another unseen debilitating condition as with Fibromyalgia, which also comes hand in hand with anxiety, depression and some form living with chronic pain, Although we will not lay down and die we are taking the ram by its tail and fighting back hard we have set up a fb page “V FOR VENDETTA: FICTION or REALITY” with view to bring all the present organizations to join together to get rid of this CONDEM NATION once and for all. TIME TO PUSH CAMORON & GEORGE OSBORNE OUT OF OFFICE!!!!!

  7. Tim Stoker

    I am so sorry to hear of your significant other’s and other people’s difficulties. They are unfortunately not alone. This once proud nation of ours is demonizing the sick and disabled it should be protecting and helping. Not only that, it is forcing thousands of sick and old people onto the vile “Liverpool care plan”, thereby reducing benefit payouts because the LCP is a death sentence. Hitler started off by attacking, then killing off the mentally disabled, IDS is not content with that, he wants all of us disabled/old/sick dead. Give me a rifle and one bullet and i will make sure IDS never gets a retirement payoff or a gold-plated pension. That will be another benefit claimant off the list!

  8. jaynel62

    As you know Mike – Mrs Mike is not alone, I know that has no direct bearing but it certainly helps me to carry on the fight – All Best xxx

    1. Mike Sivier

      I do know that – all I have to do is look up and down this very Comment column! I told her the same thing yesterday, after the phone call, and I know that she understands it, intellectually. Emotionally, she finds it a huge personal attack against her, though – as, I think, does everyone else. But there’s only one thing to do – keep fighting.

      1. Billyboy

        It isn’t a personal attack at all, it’s just another day at the office for the people behind this. Potentially a very lucrative one too. Hundreds of milllions have already gone to Atos from the public purse – yes, let’s not forget we’re paying for this endless harrassment from our own money – so on top of their very nice salaries and expenses – which we also pay for – no doubt IDS, Grayling, Hoban, Miller, Freud, McVey, Carole Black and all the others involved here all the way back through Purnell to Lilley, all will no doubt be rewarded very nicely indeed. Easy street for them, an early grave for much of the electorate. I’ve never voted, myself, too easy to get bad ones in and then what do you do? Time for a bit of a rethink about how society is run, I’d say.

  9. Sasson

    I sympathize with your situation. I’ve got mixed feelings about the CAB help to appeal. Years ago they were absolutely useless at the appeal and were of no support whatsoever, and after I lost it, the person concerned was quite rude and dissuaded me from taking things further. I think sometimes you have to take things into your own hands and put up the fight.

    The psychology behind all of this is despicable. It’s the thought of endless years spent justifying yourself, never having some kind of stability. It’s already hard just coping with illness, let alone having to deal with continual stresses caused by this inappropriate system of dealing with the disabled.

    I’ve just finished going through a 5 month fight to retain a care plan, and not a couple of weeks afterwards on new year’s eve I received another ESA50 questionnaire. It took 5 months to sort that out last time. I’m soon to have another financial assessment for my care, and a separate monitoring visit. If I’m lucky enough to be put into the support group again in May/June of this year, then shortly after that the LA will reassess my care plan again. If atosser put me into the support group, then I’ll have have no choice but to appeal. When PIP is introduced, that will add another assessment. Then of course there’s the housing benefits visits every year where they photograph all of your bank statements and care bank statements; that particular visit is very stressful because the particular officer comes with the attitude that you must be hiding something.

    All in all each year I’ll be assessed in one way or another 6 times. I just want to be out of their clutches, the whole lot of them. I’ve been ill for 17 years. I’ve worked for most of them despite being so ill. There were times that I had to take a year off, but in desperation at the way I was treated, left without even the basics to live due to constant mistakes made with my income support, I’ve gone back to work or should I say I was starved back to work.

    This time around I cannot go back to work, so I feel completely trapped. I keep saying to other people that I know that are in this situation that this is the ‘new normal’, that we have to get used to these continual assessment phases. I keep trying to tell myself this too, but on days like today when I have to arrange a doctor’s appointment to discuss the ESA50, a care monitoring appointment, and a care call monitoring appointment (not so bad as they’re just testing the equipment), I just want to give up. I tell people that we must soldier on, that we must stay alive so that we are evidence concerning this flawed system, but then all I can see is this never ending assessment and monitoring, and I don’t think I can hack it any more.

    Ill people need rest, a stress-less environment, and financial stability, but these disability systems produce the exact opposite of that because they have changed from being supportive and helpful to one where the only intention is to cut that support. Even visits to assess care needs are now conducted by a low level assistant using a computer programme to assess you, rather than a fully qualified and experienced social worker, and of course the computer likes to say ‘no’.

    Ah well, I’ve been writing this all morning procrastinating these urgent phone calls I need to make, so I’d better get on.

    All the best with your situation Mike.


  10. Stephen Bunting

    I am appalled by what is going on – just been on an online forrum and, sure enough, they need cards because they are all watching Jeremy Kyle while getting pissed and breeding their 11th Benefit bonus on the smelly dirty sofa. Oh, and PS, it was all Labour’s fault for overspending. .. not even political debate, just cynical propaganda!
    My best wishes to Mrs. Mike too ( What? Mrs.? So, do these chavs get married on the State an’ all?? ) – I have a work-related back injury from a minimum wage job the DWP leaned on me to take and, yes, the Union screwed me over too – so I can certainly relate to the situaation,,,

    1. Mike Sivier

      There’s always one, isn’t there?
      To all the ladies and gentlemen who read this blog, Stephen here is modelling the kind of attitude we have to fight wherever we find it in everyday society.
      Note that he does not tell us which online forum he visited, therefore we cannot visit it ourselves to verify his comments about it. However, since he then employs the classic triple-cliche of watching Jeremy Kyle, getting drunk and breeding, I think we can safely take it that he’s being satirical.
      Regarding whether Mrs Mike and I are living in sin or not, I can assure you that I use the nickname ‘Mrs Mike’ merely to refer to our status as a partnership. There’s no certificate chaining us to each other. We are not chavs. In fact, I don’t think either of us owns any clothing manufactured by Burberry,
      To be honest, I’m not sure I should have allowed this comment. I understand the point being made, and it IS worth making, but this is an extremely emotive subject. There is evidence to demonstrate that people have been pushed to suicide because of their treatment at the hands of the Coalition’s DWP lackeys, and it is clear from some of the responses above that many more are at their wits’ end.
      If Mrs Mike saw Stephen’s comment, she’d go straight through the roof. Again.

  11. jeffrey davies (@jeffrey33333)

    ah the wrag being put into this still leaves open for work and benefits being cut off for refusal of work how can they make you work when ones body cant do it is beyond belief how they can get away with it ,there are thousands like mrs mike but made to feel worthless because we cant work but she,s like me wanting to but cant ,so we stuck between two worlds and this lot only cause is to call us social scroungers well we aint mr ids we worked most of our lifes only to become ill or disabled and now we cant claim time limited oh thats a good one by you ,but hold on its them who are the social scroungers who daily dip into the till taking out monies for their selves ,while we pay our everyday bills they get us to pay those so who are the social scroungers they are mrs mike look to oneself you didnt ask for it and would if could like to work so hold your head up and dont let them make you feel worthless you noyt you are worth ten off ids the minister for cruelty yep ten so dont feel if you alone theres thousands of us be at piece with yourself its not you but they our carring goverment who tell us we aint worth the salt but its them with their greed jeff3

  12. Nessie Buggles (@wildcandytuft)

    Mike, I spoke to a really helpful young lady at the jobcentreplus call centre today who apologised that I hadn’t received any notification about what would happen when the benefit ran out. She thought perhaps it was because the 365 day rule only came into effect after I had received ESA but that I should have been told about the changes and what to do next. Anyway, it transpires that they try not to leave single people with no other income high and dry (only the ones in relationships) and fast tracked the forms through for me. So I will continue to receive payments though at the reduced means tested rate. The dreaded WCA is to be expected sometime in March 🙁

    Here’s a thing that has puzzled me. I was in the middle of dental treatment and received a call today from the dental practice demanding that I either have the filling done at a cost of £200 or they will close the course. I explained that as far as I knew I didn’t have an income and was waiting to hear if I was getting the means tested benefit. I asked what people do when they have no income and she told me that to have NHS treatment you must be claiming certain benefits. On the contribution rate I had to pay. This needs some serious investigation. It appears that NHS dental treatment is not available to people who have no money at all!

    I hope Mrs Mike is doing okay, and suggest that when the contribution element runs out she still applies for the means tested benefit because she may well be entitled to some of it depending on your income and savings. Surely at the very least pension contributions, though it would seem particularly cruel to be put through an Atos assessment to claim this.

    It’s a minefield of confusion and stress and uncertainty. Please keep us updated about Mrs Mike and how she is. I suspect if she wants to find some work she can manage and cope with she’d fair much better doing this on her own terms and under her own stream anyway. I wish you both well and hope together you can get through this injustice.

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