Monday, February 14, 2011
Project V - (In)Voluntary Work
On Valentine's day, traditionally, we hope for messages of love and support but this morning, like many other mornings, my inbox was filled with nothing but messages of despondency and despair.
Today I received a message from a 60 year old British lady who's worked hard all her life, paid her taxes and her national insurance, until 4 years ago, when she became disabled.
Despite being in receipt of Disability Living Allowance she has been deemed fit for work by the Work Capability Assessment and placed onto Job Seekers Allowance where, for the past four years, her local Job Centre staff have witnessed how hard she has fought to enter paid employment.
Now, she is being forced to work 37 and a half hours a week - 'voluntarily' - to receive her benefits. She tells me that she doesn't mind this, that in fact she's more than happy to contribute to society in return for her benefits, but that the work she's expected to do is heavy manual labour gardening alongside young offenders and substance misusers, work she is simply not capable of physically carrying out. If she doesn't comply with this work she'll lose her Job Seekers Allowance. If she does comply with this work, she risks further injury or even being deemed ineligible for her Disability Living Allowance because she's attempted to comply with rules for other benefits. Once this lady loses her Disability Living Allowance she will become homeless: the money is used to cover the shortfall in her rent in the private sector; she won't be entitled to Local Authority housing because she's older but not old enough; because she's childless and because there's simply a massive shortage of Local Authority housing, so she faces a stark choice: she either complies with work that she's physically incapable of doing or she risks losing her home. Once she loses her home, she's also likely to lose her eligibility for Disability Living Allowance because she'll have no address.
Once that happens, she'll no longer be able to pay for prescription charges for the medications which keep her alive, nor will she be able to keep her assistance dog, so she will be living on the streets without hearing, without assistance, without money and, quite understandably, she wishes to die instead of that.
All this talk of the 'Big Society' from David Cameron, himself the father and son of disabled men, is laudable but it's also being used as a cover for the wholesale massacre of the welfare contract that the British people have with their state. Are we really saying that when the measure of an enlightened society is how it treats its most vulnerable, in this case, sick and disabled people, that that is something, that in 2011, in Britain, we are not capable of doing? To paraphrase, or perhaps canibalise the words of a far more eloquent disabled persons than myself, "Do not go gently into that dark night. Rage! Rage against the dying of the light!"
Transcript kindly provided by OldManKelv Thank you!
Update: 17/02/2011 The lady in question has been called to a meeting to discuss alternatives after much correspondance querying whether her disabilites and care needs had been taken into account when deciding upon this placement, which is fantastic news. However, what is less positive are the accounts of similar situations coming into many of TBofB team making it clear this is not an isolated incident.