The unbearable harshness of benefits….

The devaluing of paid work continues. Unemployed people are helping to deliver patient care in hospitals.

The trust said all participants in the initial pilot were CRB-checked and received two weeks of training at Sandwell College before carrying out their tasks in hospital wards, involving “general tidying, welcoming visitors, serving drinks to patients, running errands, reading to patients and assisting with feeding patients”.

Putting aside training, qualifications, experience, expertise, health & safety and so on…what amazes me is that unions agreed to the proposal initially as they believed it would be a way for the unemployed to “gain experience”… Really?

But they said they had not agreed that the jobseekers would “play a direct role in patient care” and said they were very worried about the prospect of this happening.

Didn’t it occur to them that this would be the case? Give managers an inch and they were take more than mile. This is exploitation pure and simple and the unions should have known that.

ConDems go on about being better off in work yet workfare contradicts that assumption. People are facing one big monumental economic crisis. Personal insolvency is on the rise, unemployment, homeless has jumped by 14%.

The outlook is bleak and now with the reforms in the Welfare Reform Act kicking in and giving a kicking too. Unemployment declined by 45,000 in the three months to March and cue Chris Grayling’s excitement about it being a step in the “right direction”…There’s still high unemployment and a rise in part-time work as finding full-time work is problematic. But what Grayling fails to ask is where exactly have those 45,000 gone? Furthermore, number of people receiving jobseeker’s allowance, had also fallen, by 13,700 in April, to 1.59 million. Again, where have they gone? Where’s the statistical analysis? Just because someone has stopped claiming JSA doesn’t automatically mean they have found work. How many people have fallen through the net, fallen off the radar? How many are seeking financial support through other means? How many are utterly destitute? And today, 124,000 single parents whose youngest child is five or six were moved from income support (IS) to jobseeker’s allowance (JSA); they were told only eight weeks ago.

From 30 April 2012 until now I still have no benefits. How am I classed? Last week I applied for contributory JSA, I filled in my form at the Jobcentre but I got confused and garbled information about my old ESA claim that was still “live” due to being credited NI contributions. Today, seeing another adviser who told me to immediately contact ESA and tell them I have switched benefits and claiming for JSA as while my claim is still “live” for ESA they won’t process my JSA application (and I still don’t know whether I will receive it).

Nobody truly explained this until today, so I have “lost” a week, a JSA form lying around somewhere not being actioned because another benefit I no longer get is still “live”. Contacted the Jobcentre, ESA department and they have said they have closed the claim and will contact JSA. Indeed without the severe prodding of bureaucratic departments the left wouldn’t know what the right is doing…Even the adviser said sardonically, “They don’t communicate”!

It seemed glaringly obvious when I attended the Jobcentre last Monday, there was confusion along with staff whispering about ESA and JSA regarding what to do. I just wonder how in disarray these departments are in especially when the civil service is “downsizing” as well?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the emotional impact of lack of funds. Independence fizzles away to dependence on your nearest and dearest. I am fortunate I have a partner but his salary doesn’t stretch that far. What about people facing this predicament who have no way of getting money? How to describe this experience is devastating and despairing.

ConDems sermonise about being “better off in work”… What about the impact of decreasing finances? Not being able to pay the bills i.e. phone bill = lose your broadband = not being able to search for jobs. “Ahhh, you could still search for jobs at the Jobcentre”! says the ConDem. Indeed… but about bus fares? My local one is 4.5 miles away and no doubt they expect you to walk there and back (I have walked the distance but not everyone can).

Over two years ago I was in work. Had energy, vim and vigor. An organised routine. Now there are days I can’t face the world, just stay in bed staring blankly at the curtains listening to bird song and classical music. It’s safe and cheap. Governments don’t care about the changes, trauma and upheavals colliding into your life. It’s all about knee-jerk reactions, vilification and demonisation. I used to have nightmares when I was OK of me being gripped by anxiety and depression in my waking life affecting my work and whole being. And this experience is one big nightmare, suicidal feelings have leeched through my consciousness. I wonder what was going through the mind of this man who slashed his wrists in the Jobcentre? How many more people will plummet to the depths of distress and see suicide as the only way out? Along with massive knocks to confidence and morale they expect you to have the energy and interest in applying for work.

There are times I feel embarrassed, self-blame and shame (I know better and these feelings are so contradictory) due to being unemployed and penniless. Unemployed and disabled people are scapegoated and chucked onto the scrap heap for an economic crisis they had nothing to do with and now we are paying for it emotionally and financially. Blaming the powerless in this society is a favourite sport for this callous and cruel coalition, they have blood on their hands.

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6 thoughts on “The unbearable harshness of benefits….

  1. Sadly there has been considerable research on just how much victims will feel shame at being “responsible” for what has happened to them, survivors, rape victims – male and felae alike – the list is almost endless. This is now being given a practical expression in making claimants feel the same way with the most comon excuse being “you did not fill the form in properly” as if we can handle 50 pages of increasingly intimate questions without getting at least one element slightly different among its pages. Like running through a minefield blindfolded we stand no chance of success when the aim is to actually create more guilt and shame for us and more hatred from the gutter press reading public. Fear and loathing in the UK has become institutionalised and the ones who fall through the cracks are gleefully written off. Until such time as there is full, open and honest reporting of the facts behind these vanishing claimants such lies about them being in employment will keep being made by the evil trolls in power and we will be made to feel shamed and guilty for challenging the.

  2. Agree. It is about blaming the victim as it is easy to do so :(
    And those bloody forms…..ahhhhhh… they are not straightforward and it is easy to make a mistake. Indeed I think it is about creating more shame and guilt. We need to know what has happened to people who fall of the radar.

  3. We all need to keep going one breath at a time… one step at a time… one day at a time. The world is full of raging madness and all we can do is to look after one another and try to keep going until the world regains its sanity. Don’t give up. Keep going. Never, ever lose hope.

  4. Good luck Harpy and keep your head up – because for an awful lot of people it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. Don’t drop the broadband whatever you do … live on beans on toast rather than that. Write, photograph, walk.

    I always think that no one (I guess I have Polly Toynbee in mind) should pontificate about poverty until they’ve been afraid to open the electric bill.

    “But what Grayling fails to ask is where exactly have those 45,000 gone? ”

    The phrase is “economically inactive” aka given up looking. I know a few people like that. But Tim (and the old socialists) are right – personal worth isn’t measured in cash. Keep the head up.

    “A man’s a man for a’ that” – and a woman too.

  5. Hey,

    It sounds terrible. It seems like a system permanently on the edge of collapse. I can sympathise, being in a similar position many years ago and it was bad enough then. Hope you get things sorted. Something always turns up and you come across as intelligent and able.

    best wishes

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