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. 

13 comments:

Ben S said...

Some days you are my total hero, Bendygirl.

(Did you see that the deadline for DLA reform responses has been extended until Friday 18th? I am linking as many people as i can to your video to try and encourage more submissions...)

Keep fighting the good fight - thousands of people you will never meet will thank you...

melloncollieclo said...

Stuff like this never ceases to make my blood boil. I only wish more places told stories like that about what it's REALLY like for so many of us on benefits than the usual 'oh you get a nice house and big tv and a limo and jacuzzi' crap.

Claire said...

Thanks for all you've done on this issue. It's so important. I hope it's okay I've linked to your blog from mine, where I've written my DLA story. http://otonwheels.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/valentines-day-my-dla-story-ombh/
Best of luck with the campaign.

Visually Impaired said...

I am saddened to say this happened to me.In december last year I was put with A4E. Despite knowing about my health and n particular my eyesight. I asked for large print on 14th Jan 2010 and was latertold by a ms Jenny Smith of dudley branch that she doesn'thae to provide me with anything. stuck to my guns and was called unco=operative by the DWP. 3 months down the line the penny finallydropped to A4E and I was sent tobeaconcentre for the blind. Beacon centre for the blind were a bit better but were bullying. A charity is bing paid money to take me and to provide results, sanctions, getting people to sign off. Well anyway I was told on numerous occasions by the DWP that I had to do a mandatory placement. OF 40 Hours I said I cant and stuck to my guns, time and time again I was told even by this chrity you don't like it nobody is telling you to sign on. December 2010 still sticking to my gunns with doctors and hospital appointment. I was then put with the NHS trust now to be defunct and eventually got it down to three daysa week. Tell this lady to stick to her guns and make sure her supervisors and everyone knows she is having a problem.. IF THIS IS DAVES BIG SOCIETY HE CAN STICK IT

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused. The 60 year old lady should not have been assessed according to the Government's own guidelines. These state that if a person reaches their state retirement age, during the time Incapacity benefit claimants move to ESA ie till 2014, then they will not be involved in the assessment process. She should have been exempt, or have I interpreted it incorrectly? Sorry not meaning to sound too clinical I agree with all the comments but if the agencies are ignoring the guidelines this should give the individual the perfect right to challenge the judgement.

Anonymous said...

Bendy, I love you, Really I do. But this is silly. And probably not true.

This country will always look after the sick and the elderly. Always.

60 year old lady said...

To answer anonymous.....

I am the 60 year old lady that Bendy is referring to and I am not in receipt of Incapacity benefit, I am in receipt of Disability living allowance and basic job seekers allowance.

I do not retire until I am 61 (the governments age for women to retire) so I still have to attend fortnightly visits to the job centre to sign on as unemployed.

The job centre have a mandatory employment scheme and if any person refuses to do the work found for them (whether they are medically able to do so or not) then their benefits can be stopped for a minimum of three months. This means no DLA, no job seekers allowance and no council help towards rent. This means (unless a person has at least 3 months savings to cover all the household bills and rent) that they will be rendered homeless as they have no income.

There is a great difference between Incapacity benefit and Disability allowance.

RockHorse said...

Our government not only fail to comprehend (or care about) the immediate effects of what they legislate for but they seem also oblivious to the knock-on/cumulative effects of their decisions on people's lives and circumstances!

And the JobcentrePlus staff reach for sanctions while ignoring (or ignorant of) the bits in their own Guidelines that say, "without good reason or cause" or "within reason". And they don't seem to understand that, "at their discretion" means they have a CHOICE...

My best good wishes to 60-year-old Lady and thanks, BG.

xJ

Mama Tiara said...

Sadly, we are hearing more and more stories like this and yet, less and less about the so-called hordes of benefit cheats. The government is not tackling those that abuse the system, they are doing their usual "blanket coverage" and treating everyone as potential cheats, in the hope that they will catch a few in the process. In the meantime however, a lot more genuine people will be hurt.

dobbinzookeeper said...

i understand Atos are contracted to find people fit by dint of their being a bonus for every person they find fit for work, regardless of whether they go to appeal and have that fitness overturned. the question should be, what is fit for work? for instance a blind person might be able to use a computer with relitive ease, but the software they use is not going to read everything on the screen, hense the need for help from access to work, which can take months to precure, if the blind person isn't shown the door at the beginning of the interview. i use a screen reader, but it only works well with popular applications, not with those found in office environments. can i hold a pen? yes, can i use it? no, for i can't see to use it. can i pick up a £1 coin? yes, but where is that coin? can you move around familiar surroundings? yes, they are familiar. how about the unfamiliar surroundings? how about the social side of work that blind people find so difficlt, not to mension the problems the sighted population have with relating to blind people. the way the laydy in this article was treated was unacceptable, but is part of the, get them back to work at all costs, line of thinking that this government subscribes to. the test is very manual in nature, and does not take into account sensory disabilities or mental health issues, let alone other disabilities such as cologen disorders etc. again, a system which thinks if you are physically able to do something, you can do it, and the rest? well, they don't matter.

Anonymous said...

There is something fishy in such a story to me.

I do not see how anyone can be forced to do something they are physically incapable of because even if a gun was pointed to your head, you cannot do more than your body allows.

If one is set to work that is potentially injurious, one has a simple solution, health and safety legislation.

I think people are taken in by all of this because they are overawed by authority and do not look beyond to such remedies as the law still provides.

It has not happened to me yet, I am not due to be reviewed until 2012, however ATOS are not going to find me at all co-operative, indeed the job centre were glad when I signed off onto IB, because they did not know what to do with me other than label me.

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