assessment, Atos, bedroom tax, benefit, Conservative, cut, David Cameron, Democrat, disabled, Employment and Support Allowance, ESA, Group, Iain Duncan Smith, Job Centre Plus, Jobseeker's Allowance, JSA, Liberal, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, pmq, Prime Minister's Questions, provider, scrounger, sick, skiver, striver, support group, tax credit, Tories, Tory, Universal Credit, Vox Political, work capability, Work Programme, work-related activity, WRAG
Today’s article is for the doubters; the deniers. You know who I mean – people who have been brainwashed by the government’s rhetoric about its benefit cuts; who actually believe that they aren’t doing any harm to people who don’t deserve it.
That view is, of course, nonsense.
Government policy, as spearheaded by Vox Political’s ‘Monster of the Year, 2012’, Iain Duncan Smith, is to clear as many people off the books as possible, whether they deserve state support or not. The weasel words it uses to justify the policy would be risible if they were not so harmful.
The sick and disabled have come under especially intense attack from the Conservative-led government, not only with its divisive “strivers v skivers” rhetoric but also with a contradictory system that seems intended to provoke depression and despair in all those who are put into it – especially the mentally ill.
I think they want these people to kill themselves. It takes them off the benefit books.
It’s as simple, and ugly, as that. If you support a Conservative government; if you support a Liberal Democrat MP, then there’s blood on your hands as well.
I mention this now because I have been in the unenviable position of being able to watch a disabled person coming apart at the seams, as the welfare state into which she has paid is taken away by the ConDem nation.
My significant other – Mrs Mike – has been at the mercy of the ESA assessment system since early 2012. First there was the notification letter that she would have to undergo an Atos assessment at some point in the future. No date, just the warning. She was kept in suspense for months.
The assessment took place in June or July last year and was deeply distressing on both a physical and mental level. First we were told we were not allowed to record the interview. That was not only incorrect but illegal. Secondly, although the assessor was polite, he did put Mrs Mike through physical tests that left her in tears, and asked questions that deeply disturbed her state of mind. She remained deeply upset and uncomfortable for several days after the interview.
I would contend that it was contrived that way, in order to discourage people from continuing with their claim.
After several more weeks, we received notice that she would receive ESA, but would be in the work-related activity group, starting in August. This meant, apparently, that her benefit would last for one year only, starting on a date in August. By the end of that year, she would be expected to have recovered her health enough to have found a job that she could do.
Bear in mind, please, that the job market is deeply depressed. The government has not created a million new jobs, as David Cameron keeps trying to tell us. It has cooked the books and is lying to us about the result. Only last week, we heard that work programme providers – and I’ll get back to them in a moment – have been encouraging people to defraud the system by saying they are self-employed when they have no paying work to do, in order to allow those firms to claim the massive bonuses they are contracted to receive if they remove someone from the benefit books. Tax credits are to end when Universal Credit comes in, so this little wheeze is doubly vindictive.
Bear in mind also that, at the time, Mrs Mike had been ill for 11 years. Her condition is one that may continue indefinitely, or may dissipate at any time. One thing we do know about it is that stress makes it worse. She physically clenches up and that aggravates her symptoms.
The letter said she would soon be contacted by Job Centre Plus, who would arrange activities to get her into work. There then commenced a lengthy period in which she was left waiting by the authorities, all of whom seem to have decided they had better things to do.
She was finally contacted in December – five months after she received her notification letter, and four months into the period of her ESA benefit. Interview at the Job Centre. We attended. A very nice person, who is a personal acquaintance of Mrs Mike anyway, took us through the options and it was decided that someone from one of the associated firms – I’ve been calling them work programme providers because that’s all I can imagine them to be – would contact her to take matters further.
There then followed another month-long wait – partly caused because the person who was to deal with Mrs Mike became ill and had to postpone the interview. In January – now five months into the ESA period – she had a telephone call and after a brief conversation, handed the phone to me. I was told: “We cannot help her.” The advice was to seek reassessment as she should be in the support group.
This means the previous six months in the system had been nothing but a pointless waste of our time. We are now going through the process of arranging a reassessment – to get it done before April, when people asking for this or appealing against decisions are likely to be put on Jobseekers’ Allowance – with all the responsibilities that go with it – while their cases are considered.
Let me pause and go back to the title of this article. I’ve covered “betrayal” – that’s the government’s betrayal of people on benefits, who have paid into a system only to find their money has disappeared into a government black hole and they’ll be pushed away just as soon as possible, whether they are capable or not.
What about “collusion”?
Readers of this blog will know that we have been having problems with our landlord, a social housing provider. This organisation caused flooding in our home by failing to respond appropriately to a callout after we discovered a leak in a water pipe connected to our heating system. The problem had been caused by workmen putting in new bathroom fittings and decoration back in October/November on behalf of the housing association – they put a screw through the pipe, which worked its way loose in the cold weather. The company’s 24-hour emergency callout service proved to be nothing of the kind. When someone eventually came out to fix the boiler, he said we should leave the water on, because the housing association had told him the repair people from the company responsible would be out that evening. The housing association had lied to him; when the cupboard under the stairs and part of the kitchen flooded as a result of his advice, he was the one who was told to fix the problem, even though he didn’t have the right equipment. He went through a gas pipe while he was trying to go through the floorboards, too.
Mrs Mike had been in hospital that day, having an operation on her wrist. She needed peace, quiet, and rest. She got stress, aggravation and the extreme upset of seeing her possessions wrecked by entirely-avoidable water damage.
The housing association has phoned us irregularly ever since, either asking for information or promising us that people would come out to fix the collateral damage caused by the repair – and always providing the wrong information. A man came out on Monday, from yet another contracted-out firm, to fix the upstairs flooring. Mrs Mike wasn’t entirely happy with the job so someone else will have to come and finish it but never mind that, because yesterday (Wednesday) the housing association phoned to say the company that caused the problem in the first place would be coming out to do the same job! We told that person that we were sick of talking to employees; let him put the company director on the phone to us. We’ll sort it out with that person instead. Whoever they are, perhaps they’ll be fascinated by the abuses wreaked on tenants by their firm. Did I write “fascinated”? I meant “horrified”.
Practical upshot of all this was that Mrs Mike collapsed in floods of tears yesterday lunchtime. She’d had too many people messing her around and couldn’t take any more – physically or mentally. On the same day, a letter arrived from the DWP about the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment. It actually stated that she would be receiving more money in her DLA (around £1.40 per week; a ridiculous amount) but she was utterly unable to absorb that information or accept that it wasn’t bad news.
We had to contact the local mental health services and Citizens’ Advice, to get treatment for her mental state and help to combat what Mrs Mike now sees as an attack on two fronts.
The housing association is fully aware of its tenant’s health condition – or would be, if its employees could be bothered to read their notes before calling us. By its very nature, it provides accommodation to people who are on benefits or low pay. Therefore it follows that, if it causes undue aggravation to those tenants, it is helping the government’s scheme to do away with them.
And then we have the bedroom tax, coming into effect in April. I was pleased to see Cameron take a pasting over the issue in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday – but disappointed to see that some members of the public have been supporting his line that it is a reasonable thing to do, and that it is not a tax.
The latter issue is a matter of semantics; they’re splitting hairs. If the government is taking away money that you would otherwise receive, and keeping it for itself, then you will see it as a tax. I think the people who are saying it isn’t a tax must be people who won’t be affected by it. People who, incidentally, will themselves be no better off as a result.
But again, this is collusion. The government has found another way to divide the nation, trying to garner popular support for its policy against a minority group.
Looking at the question of whether this is a reasonable thing to do, it occurs to me that, even by the government’s own standards, it isn’t. This is a complication of the housing benefit system. Now, the amount a claimant receives will be dependent on the number of bedrooms in use in their home. Doesn’t that go against the grain of the government’s policies – for a simplified benefit system (Universal Credit), for a simplified pension system (flat-rate pensions were recently announced)?
This government will simplify as much as it can – but only when that suits its purpose. And its purpose is to hammer the poor. The simplified schemes I’ve mentioned will take money away from people, not give them more. The complicated change to housing benefit will do the same thing.
With public collusion.
So, to all those people who support the government’s disastrous changes, I must say: This government doesn’t care about you. It’s not doing these things to help you. It wants your money too.
What are you going to do when the government turns on you, and there’s nobody to help you because you sold them down the river over disability benefits and housing benefit?
Will the changes be reasonable when they put you into poverty?
I thought not.
But by then, it will be too late.
Stephen Bunting said:
Impossible for me to read through this without getting hopping mad. Even if you are a Sun reader who recko’s “they” “shouldn’t be getting nothing anyway”, there is no excuse for this vile treatment of sick people. A friend of mine e-mailed me to say he had a woman with a terminal illness in tears in front of him – she has had the ATOS test and has been given zero points and advised to claim JSA. His comment is better than mine – “only a complete and total psycopath would claim this dying woman is fit for work” …
Chris Tandy said:
It’s a field day for psychopaths. Psychopathy must be the only growth industry in this country.
You have immense courage to write about such matters, Mike, and I salute you.
You have the ability to use your own family’s situation as an example of this fascist government’s evil, without writing merely writing a sob-story; although yourself and Mrs Mike have much to sob about, I’m sure. It proves you have the dignity of the common man, something that caMoron and his henchmen lack in entirety.
But they don’t ‘do’ a module in ‘dignity’ at Eton, do they?
That is the whole issue here,we are dealing with human beings.If people saw the damage that these policies cause,they would not support them
Take this has a hypothesis.A vet,at Aintree Grand National is called to see a horse,because its owner thinks it is unwell.The vet says,nonsense,the horse is fine,let it race.
The horse gets half way around the track and drops dead.This nation of animal lovers.condemns the vet,calls for him to be sacked,because the horse was obviously unwell.There is a outcry in the press calling for tougher vetting procedures for race horses and also demands the vet be struck of.Questions are heard in the House of Commons and the PM promises a full enquiry.
Now then,a man goes for a WCA,and is assessed as fit,goes to work and drops dead.It does not make national news.It is not in the papers,in fact most people will never hear about it.Why?Because he was just a Poor Human Being.
Chris Tandy said:
It’s sad that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is not a human being. I’m not altogether sure how he was concocted, but there is not one milligram of humanity there.
The proof is that human beings can fail and admit to failure, ~heck, we all fail sometimes!~ but he does not, no ,never. He is a perfect specimen, but of what, I shudder to think.
I think somebody 58 or so years ago must have sh*t in a bucket and let the maggots worked down from there.
Phil The Folk said:
Mike, I still want to know why this national scandal is not being reported on the TV news and related programs?? It even outweighs the horrors of the Stafford Hospital, and in fact all the findings and recommendations made yesterday on that should also apply to all sick and disabled people reliant upon state support. What have we got to do to let the public know the truth about what is happening? How many lives does it take to make these morons wake up? We need a new Political party that puts people before profits!
Mike Sivier said:
Control the media and you control what people think. That’s why it’s not being reported.
I wonder who’d be brave enough to go onto YouTube and try to get a viral video made?
Henrietta Sandwich said:
Good idea. I would, if I wasn’t clueless about the technical stuff. There must be at least a few people reading this blog who do know how to do it, though.
Thank you for this post. It is especially relevant to me as someone who had to endure a year of different subcontractors in and out of my home during the decent homes scheme. A scheme that left me with ill-fitting windows, disturbed asbestos, crumbling plaster, holes in the joinery and heating pipes in the loft and a boiler outside, leaving me in fear of cracked pipes as I’m on a N-Power prepayment meter and can not afford my heating on. All the decent homes work started a month after my dad died. They would not delay the work, they would not set or keep appointments, instead they took my spare keys and came in and out, leaving my flat in a state of disrepair for an entire year whilst I was grieving. I am sure this has helped lead to the severity of my OCD.
Along with the fact that they resolutely refuse to clean the communal areas, despite youths continually kicking in the communal door and leaving the stairwell full of litter, drug use detritus, urine and spit and despite still charging the lease holders in the block for weekly cleaning. Whenever the door gets kicked through and you request a clean they tell you you have to get a police crime number, the police don’t attend for days then tell you “no crime has occurred”. That and the fact that my roof has been leaking for years, but apparently the holes in the roof are not connected to the damp walls (big gaps in your tiles and shredded felt are apparently good for ventilation).
I also have physical health problems with hyper-mobility causing me a lot of pain and discomfort. But despite all of that when ever I get to a point where I feel I may have the energy to fight, when I get my head in to a position where I feel I can face the outside world and try to improve my situation so that I can get a job and get out of this hell hole a white Atos envelope appears and I’m back on their tread mill where they drain every bit of energy and fight I have just to survive. There is sometimes a temptation to end it all, but so far my anger as overridden it. My anger at being treated this way because I fled domestic violence and ended up reliant on the welfare state. A situation that should of been brief, but one where I was treated so badly it made me ill and reliant on it for years.
So thank you again for voicing the concerns of people like me, as god knows the corporate media won’t.
Tam Hunter said:
What makes you sick most of all about this Coalition and (there are many things), Is that there are MP’s who spend more on biscuits in any given week, than a disabled single person gets to live on for a whole year. This is the most parasitic Government in living memory.
Thank you so much for writing this – I have been following you for some time now. Mrs Mike could be me.
Duncan Wardrop said:
Great piece Mike once again ,when I read your blogs or if you prefer when I read the way it is for the unfortunate to be sick and unwell in this used to be great country of ours it connects with my life and my day to day existence I am on dla and have had the support group fight though mines was laughable 27 screws in my foot new hip new knee new femur and a large chunk of titainium to work my ankle and im in the work group any way its all sorted for now .
I am Scottish and I am a great believer in my country Scotland and more home rule maybe not separation but im quite undecided as are lots of Scots but im afraid the way Cameron and his lackie are behaving the choice will not be independence it will be right lets do one as god knows what there taking of us or taxing us on next ,its plain as the nose on my face this is the way the snp are going to run there campaign and they are going to win the more Cameron and his butler does the more its going the independence way .
I hope Mrs Mike is keeping better ,I went to breathing classes at reiki for when I was down or pressured it might help
Mike Sivier said:
I’m not sure she is keeping better. Someone just phoned up about PPI and I think she might have just smashed the telephone…
As an Englishman I would advise you and your fellow Scots to vote “yes” to independence next year – that will allow you to rebuild your country’s welfare state and public services, and ensure your country’s natural resources are used for the benefit of the people of Scotland rather than London politicians and bankers. I only wish the West Midlands could secure some form of Home Rule, to free oursleves from this ConDem government.
Thomas M said:
The sooner we get rid of this government the better. I’ve so far not been bothered by ATOS, but I’m dreading being hassled by them,as any job offer that I get will just be a scam.
totally agree mike, the blood on their hands condems goes back years, one just has to look at our care / residential homes and the abuse suffered and continuing by sheltered housing residents which goes back to 2003, labour has blood on their hands.there is another one for the deniers!
J. Cox said:
Those in power should be stopping these terrible & inhumane suffferings going on in our society immediately! They must all be psychopaths to allow this continue. Why isn’t it being broadcast on all our national tv news channels….whose blocking it & how do we stop this genocide? I myself have mental health problems & having just completed & sent back my WCA questionnaire,
I’m on the verge of yet another complete breakdown as I’m certain these assessors are going to skin me alive!!
my wife is in the same situation , she will probably end up having a nervous breakdown but do this in- humane government care ” NO ” as long as the poor , disabled , old and needy get off any benefit help they dont give a Sh** . One last thing did David Cameron have any help with his son when he was alive !!! i think he did
The sad truth of the matter is, this savage attack on the poor is fully supported by a significant proportion of the not-so Great British public because they think it’s not going to affect them or their loved ones and they have fallen for the “scrounger” propaganda hook, line and sinker. They believe totally, the tabloid propaganda that anyone who is on any kind of benefit is a “lazy workshy scrounger” who spends all day watching Jeremy Kyle and playing video games on their giant 3D flatscreen televisions while sipping cans of special brew and smoking cannabis, while laughing contemptuously at the suckers who subsidise their luxurious life of leisure by going out to work everyday. They find the scrounger rhetoric gratifying to believe, because it gives them someone to feel superior to.
Many people have forgotten how bad things were before the creation of the welfare state because they are generations removed from it. The only thing that will wake the British people up out of their right-wing media induced stupor and turn them against this radical right-wing crusade, is when they and those that they love, personally suffer the consequences. It won’t happen a second before that. Even then, the government will provide them with a constant supply of scapegoats (immigrants probably) and many people will fall for it.
martin kroupa said:
Very true, I am afraid. I had nearly been made to believe the false propaganda about benefit scroungers by media and from listening to British folk talking about it.
Then one day I was racially abused and assaulted by 4 cops. I ended up permanently ill because of my injuries from the assault. The 2011 riots in England started a week later. I never learned why the Scottish cops did it to me.Possibly Strathclyde Police had a training on me first before going live Down south…
I was a lucky one to get at least my ESA to survive. I never learned why the Scottish cops did it to me.
I am a Czech immigrant who has lived in UK for 10 years.
Ian Wolton said:
Politicians of all parties need to remember one basic thing they all seem to have forgotten,
that is that according to the representation of the people act, they where elected “by the people,for the people”
Dan Kieron said:
All the comments here and the article speak directly to me, having been on JSA for years, and ESA also, and having had mental health diagnosis and criminal record emplyment issues, I have spent many a weekday running to and fro from the local TurdCentrePlus and work program brain drains, and many a confused time worrying about paying bills, food, and my future, in the ConDem’d country we find ourselves in.
Having been on the brink of suicide in 2012, partly due to a successful psy-op against occupy campaigners and supporters, and also life struggles of my own, i have massive empathy for anyone under the same treatment, facing this genocide of our nations core and backbone. It rings true with millions of other people around the globe, and I can now see the despair and loss of hope in the faces of those taking the daily commute to work, when they glimpse their reflection in this twisted house of smoke and mirrors which surrounds us.
I have my family, bless them, and my friends who stuck with me, bless them too, to thank, the best any of the DWP enforcers can warrant, is that a few knew that I knew it was all a load of BS, and didn’t push it in my face too much, not all people are so lucky, and not all have support when it is needed. Even so, it can be like stopping a bull in a china shop once the stress digs in deep. It is normally through our community we gain strength and help in our times of need, but community is sparse, as the financial apartheid weighs in heavier every passing day, and the responsibilities once considered sacred to all and central to the welfare state, are being inverted into persecution, contempt and eventual exile for those who have been at the mercy of this mad monarchistic machine for so long.
Practicing Reiki, or finding someone who can help with breathing and meditating, is invaluable, as it gives you time to pause, think and act, rather than re-act, and helps build self confidence. Herbal medical knowledge is being condemned and ridiculed, but has a much longer and much larger positive history than flouride and petro-chem based mind numbing “medz” which now flood the pharmacy.
Because of the media blackout, this is increasingly difficult, as people are forced to struggle alone, without any word or whisper from their neighbours and local community. This fits in with the elite sponsored Agenda 21 and Codex Alimentarius, and with the articles point of planned suicides, also prevalent in many other countries, which is working to slowly eradicate 75%+ of population, via govt./corporate sponsored enslavement, genocide and biochemical warfare disguised as pharmaceutical, agricultural, and now geoengineering.
In my opinion, it should not only be the ConDems we bury in May, but the monarchy too which has exhibited a distinct lack of ability to recognize and communicate with the people that co-habit this green island. It is also the CFR, Tri-Lateral Comm., UN, and similar bodies which having drawn up these proposals decades ago, and publishing them, are supporting the genocide (eugenics in their minds) which is being carried out globally, every day with out any quarter given.
Reblogged this on HUMAN RIGHTS & POLITICAL JOURNAL.
betrayal/collusion is par for the course with the LibLabCon UNUM 2000 Private Health Companies 2000 Virgin etc I note your Housing Association, NO rIghts, NO F.O.I NO Secure Tenancy , NO Local Cllr /Party to vote in or out, or complain to, the LibLabCons detest Council Housing, labour left power to the delight of their LibCon colleagues with a CH Deficit of 46,000 as for their current housing policy by wide-boy Dromey, it could be a Tory or LibDem one, private and zilch Council! [ cant have us plebs getting rights eh! ] We Northampton DCH are currently fighting the Tory run Council who want to transfer us,