This week sees the implementation of the new benefit, ESA, brought in to replace Incapacity Benefit and Income Support for all new claimants. Supposedly it will focus on what work disabled people can do, rather than what work they can’t. The government tells us this is a fantastic opportunity for the two million disabled claimants, who would love to work but haven’t been given the support to enable them to do so in the past. No doubt, the 6 out of 10 employers who have stated they would not give a job to a mentally ill person, have miraculously changed their minds. The governmet has a target of removing one million people from incapacity benefit. There are currently 600,000 job vacancies, so we’re already short of 400,000 jobs for the newly recovered. Add to that the fact that the recession is causing more and more job losses every day, and that those 600,000 spare jobs must be pretty bad if the influx of Eastern European immigrants refuse to take them, and I think it’s safe to say this isn’t a good day for the nutters amongst us.
But if you’re genuinly sick, you have nothing to worry about! So say the ministers. Hmmm, ok then. So the target driven advisors and assessors of the DWP will focus on ridding the system of fraudsters will it? They’ll go after the ex coal miners who haven’t worked for 20 years and are close to retirement, and who were told by the dwp to fake bad backs in the first place, so that they didn’t add to the jobless figures. They’ll target communities where 4 in 10 are unemployed and all local industry has gone to the wall? They’ll go after the true fraudsters who know every trick in the book, how to get through the medicals with the right answers, and how to sue if they don’t get their benefits?
No. They will target those of us who struggle to fill out their forms. Who have enough self respect to dress nicely for the medicals. Who feel so ashamed already at relying on benefits that we hide how ill we are and try to please the assessors.
I used to work. I’ve held down a full time job the majority of the time from 18 – 32 years of age. I’ve lost each of my jobs to BPD, either by being sacked for sick leave or attitude (mood swings), or theft (stealing chocolate to binge on), or walking out of the job because I thought everyone hated me. I’m impulsive like that. Self neglect is a huge problem for me, as is socialisation. I chose to work night shifts, preferably on my own, where it wouldn’t be noticed so much that I hadn’t washed my hair or ironed my clothes properly. One employer called me in to his office to tell me I needed to shower more. Embarrassing for him and humiliating for me. I don’t even like admitting it here. But getting up and getting to work was as much as I could manage. I spent my time off asleep or drunk, lurching from one breakdown to the next. I was never popular with my colleagues. Apart from not being very fragrant, I was also very argumentative. I hated myself for it.
The text books say that BPD symptoms fade away from your thirties onwards. I’m 35 and have found it to be the opposite. And I’ve come to realise that my ability to work is not how I should define myself. Being sat at home alone 24/7 is not good for me. But neither is full time work. It brings out every paranoid feeling and leaves me drained of energy. In the past I have found occasional voluntary work to be therapeutic. Unfortunately, the DWP see this as indicative of an ability to get a full time job, so I have to stay at home rather than lose benefits.
To those of you who are disabled and want to work, good for you. I hope ESA helps you with that. Perhaps some time in the future I will be like you. But not now, and not soon.
I came across some info about BPD which the decision makers look at when they decide on how much benefit we get. By the looks of it, I will be screwed at my next review, because I don’t have access to a cpn or social worker. The dwp think that means my bpd only has a minor effect on my life. They don’t take into account that it’s a lack of resources which prevents me receiving that help. Check out the link: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/medical/med_conditions/personality_disorders/
I hope someone in government is keeping an eye on the suicide statistics now that ESA has started. However, they probably view any suicides as collateral damage.