A Thank You

Cameron’s Benefit Blunder is written by John Perry. Perry has previously been a director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and remains involved as a part time policy advisor.

The article begins by discussing the prospect of having an age restriction for housing benefits, ie the potential cessation of housing benefit for under 25s. Perry explains how it’ll not be straightforward to implement such cuts.

He continues to explain about the number of HB claims and who the growing welfare bill is being blamed on. To quote his article:

being blamed on the millions of working people sitting at home on benefits

Perry’s willingness to explore the fact it’s much more than this is refreshing.

Towards the end of his article Mr Perry refers to my recent blog article, And So It Begins, regarding my own personal housing benefit cut of £73 per week.

I would openly like to thank Mr Perry for reading my article and for mentioning me in his article. If anyone knows John’s contact details, preferably email, then please get in touch so I can thank him personally. His views are ones many will share and many will rebut.

Wars, Houses and Children

So. Today is 32 years since my parents got married. They met whilst my mum was at University and my dad training as an officer in Armed Forces. They loved each other intensely, the words my father used a few years ago. About 14 months after they married I arrived, the pregnancy and birth difficult. A few years later another daughter was born, 5 weeks premature. No further children were to be born to my parents, apart from cat babies! Armed Forces life took us all over the country, my father deployed to various theatres of war. Promotions took my father steadily up the ladder. In time my father became the boss of a whole airbase, it meant my mum would have to stop doing teaching jobs. Life began to change. My parents started to become distant and not as affectionate. I just thought it was due to my dads working hours and workload. After they left the airbase I discovered my father had betrayed us all. I can’t go into details but it was horrid.

I had a hiatus from my family following a breakdown. By early Spring 2009 I got back in touch with my dad, but not my mum initially. He broke the news that he and Mum had split. A few months passed and, due to a family bereavement, I was forced to contact my mum as she would be at funeral. Angry and emotional calls ensued. It was about this time their split affected me. Well started to anyway.

I started to realise that my family was broken. Broken beyond repair. Relationships between parents, parent/s and children and between children. It broke me. I found myself crying more and more. The black dog that is depression and anxiety crept up on me.

Furthermore my parents, well mostly my mum, fought rather bitterly. Most of the time it was via us two children, vile expletives used. It saddened me. The very two people I had loved and known (ish) love from were sniping at one another. Usual line began ‘Well he is a blah blah blah’. Then there was the house. Don’t even get me started on this matter. Needless to say it is 99% resolved.

The months passed by like a high speed train. Soon it would their wedding anniversary. But in my depressed haze I forgot, it wasn’t their actual day anymore. I send a card. Error. Big error. That was it, I was a bad daughter (as always). This broke me once more.

Then there’s birthdays and Christmas. This I don’t mind as it means two sets of gifts. It was almost a pissing competition for my 30th last year. It’s a little bit sad but my inner child quite likes this.

Last year I had therapy to help me come to terms with the split. I was mourning my parents marriage. In some respects it has certainly made me question whether I want marriage. I see friends from school who are getting hitched and I feel sad because I wonder if they will divorce. Is it wrong to think that? Probably but I’ve been deeply upset by the one divorce I didn’t want to happen even if I didn’t want to admit that at the time. I had to deal with the fact I despised my parents for not ‘sticking with it’ because, after all, they had been through a lot. I had to deal with the fact my parents are both in new relationships. Hell my dad may even end up having another child too, not that they’re expecting before you ask.

I blamed myself because I’m a ‘bad daughter and never do anything right’ I blamed the Forces for keeping my dad away from home so much. I blamed my mum for her behaviour. I blamed a lot of people and things.

I suppose divorcing parents may be a little bit worse for adult ‘children’ because you understand exactly what marriage and relationships are about. You may be in a relationship and their divorce makes you question your whole situation. You know what it means to have your heart broken by someone who should know better.

Will I ever get married? Probably not. I don’t think I could deal with the heartache that follows. Maybe in time this view will change. My sister is happy and getting hitched. Her view of men was very damaged immediately after the split.

So, dear reader, have I dealt with divorce in the right way? Who am I to judge. I’ve tried to remain neutral and not be involved. Time will tell am sure.

I’m now off to have a little blub but please don’t worry, I’m stronger than ever before.

Losing My Patience

Have you ever lost your patience? Am guessing the answer will be yes, unless you’re a saint.

I lose my patience a lot. Usually over silly things like, perhaps, the length of time it takes for me to do things that I used to be able to do in a minute. Things have changed dramatically in past few years.

Well today there was a debate in the House of Commons. The topic? Disability benefits. I managed to watch it, albeit sporadically. I got incredibly wound up to the point I was almost screaming at my television. Ok so the image isn’t great. I’m not one for holding back at times like this.

It took me a good couple of hours, and a nap, to calm down. I know my head hurt even more than it already does!

For excellent tweets about the disability debate please have a look at #disabilitydebate

I think it’s safe to say I should steer well clear of BBC Parliament.

And So It Begins

Regular readers will know that I am currently in receipt of the old style Incapacity Benefit and low rate care/mobility Disability Living Allowance. I also, as a result of being ‘on’ these benefits, claim housing and council tax benefits. However, these do not cover the full amounts – 88% to be exact.

My home is a one bedroom ground floor flat. I moved in as part of a ‘Move On’ scheme for ex-homeless individuals so I didn’t have to wait in unsuitable temporary studio flat for a decade or more. My housing benefit, or Local Housing Allowance as it’s technically know, is paid directly to the landlord as part of this scheme.

My rent is £150/week, the landlord (private rental) receives £143.83/week in HB. I top up the rest every 4 weeks.

Every person knows of the massive changes to the Welfare system. What some people don’t realise is the impact it has on claimants lives. People fighting for benefits by way of appeal find their health worsening due to the immense amounts of stress places upon them. There have been deaths due to the stress, some even taking their own lives. The Spartaci twitter group lost one of their own last weekend, Karen fought bravely and valiantly against the system that was meant to support her but the stress got all too much for her body. The outpouring of love and support for her husband & family was/is phenomenal.

I personally was expecting dramatic changes to the support I receive. Housing benefit reduction, DLA renewal and migration from Incapacity to Employment & Support Allowance.

Well my slow and hard screwing from the government has begun. I received a letter today from my local council.

Here is an excerpt from said letter:

One of the changes is the maximum amount of LHA payable to single people under 34 will be based on cost of shared accommodation. This change is being introduced from January 2012 and will apply to existing claims based on the anniversary of your actual claim.

My housing benefit will reduce, from £143.83/week, to £70.83/week from 10th December 2012. That’s a £73/week reduction. Understandably I am very upset and did some serious swearing.

There are exceptions to the housing benefit rules for under 35 single claimants. One of them is you’re exempt if you’re 25-34 and have been in a homeless hostel for more than 3 months. Another is if you’re in receipt of medium rate care component of DLA or higher. Obviously there are other exceptions but my brain already hurts from all this stress!

I shall be appealing the decision and will be approaching advice agencies as well as sending an email to my local MP. The letter may have come from the council but it’s the government that the blame should be placed with.

I dread to think how many more people are in the same situation as myself. I have had overwhelming support from various fantastic disabled activists and friends. I will fight this decision for all those who have given, and will give, their moral/practical support.

The Crazy Politicians Want People To Do What?

Unless you were in the middle of nowhere with no newspapers, television or Internet access you will know it was Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee at the weekend. There were numerous events to celebrate. Inevitably with such events millions of people were due to descend on our nation’s capital city. Crowd control was pivotal to the smooth running of events. Not only were police officers from all over the country involved but there were also private contractors used to look after the crowds and protect various Royals.

On Sunday evening I saw a link to an article in the Guardian newspaper. A link that exposed something rather interesting. The article was about the fact unpaid ‘workfare’ scheme participants being stewards. Now it is my understanding that, and feel free to correct if am wrong, stewards are meant to be SIA trained?! Well it would appear Jobseekers claimants (alongside paid apprentices) on the Workfare scheme were brought from the South West to London to be stewards for at least 2 of the days. They arrived in London in the early hours of Sunday morning only to discover the shambles created by whoever was in charge.

It soon transpires that some would end up having to sleep under a bridge and some would end up sleeping in makeshift campsites. With little equipment and inadequate clothing they ‘worked’ along the Thames as the paegent went ahead. The weather was atrocious. Now yes, I know that some of the stewards sent by the company concerned were paid apprentices but no person should have been doing that for free after a night of poor sleep and little food or facilities.

I have seen remarks that state people were genuinely afraid to speak up at the time in fear they will lose their benefits for several months. I have seen people state that they offered to pick up several of those ‘stranded’ in London. I have heard tales of children (adult children) calling parents in tears. I also saw in one tweet that a couple were asked to sign off of their Jobseekers Allowance prior to the event having been told they would be paid. Some reports state people on the buses up were told, prior to departure they would be paid handsomely only to be told hours before starting it wouldn’t be paid. The company concerned are involved with stewardship at the Olympics next month.

Would all those in favour of the Workfare scheme please google Jubilee workfare and then see whether you still feel it’s a good scheme?!

Workfare is acceptable for 16-25 year olds but not for people who have more than 10 years working experience under their belt. It should be optional, except in certain circumstances, for 25 years and older.

It is counterproductive to place a 45 year old with 25 years retail experience in a Workfare placement within the manufacturing industry if said claimant is actively seeking a retail position. Said claimant will have no choice but to attend, failure to do so results in benefit sanctions that could mean a 24 week loss of benefits. They tell you that you will be there for 8 weeks and are required to ‘work’ for 30 hours. You shall also still attend your signing on appointment and seek paid employment. Any interviews will have to be attended but any time lost from placement will be made up in own time. You continue to receive JUST Jobseekers Allowance.

The scheme does not look good to people from foreign climes. I had one person say it was barbaric.

The company concerned must ensure a full and frank apology is given to all those affected by actions. It would appear, judging by media seen, the issue is being avoided.

The scheme should just provide work experience for the young and inexperienced or even those wishing to change careers. It shouldn’t be punishing those genuinely trying to fond work. It isn’t just healthy Jobseekers affected either, the sick and disabled are being forced onto this scheme too. The government should be ashamed of themselves. I hope better rules come into force to protect others from experiencing what those poor souls experienced this weekend.

27th April – Diary

Today hasn’t been easy. Woke up feeling tired and achy with pain all over. Thought I was going to be sick but the nausea was calmed by metoclopramide. Usual meds taken as soon as was possible.

Took short walk to supermarket for essentials. Carrying the basket, had just milk and bread in it, really hurt. I felt exhausted by the time i was queuing. Had no choice but to lie down. Sleep beckoned.

I had food. This backfired. I had spasms. Just got pills to kick in in time. Had arranged to pop and see friend but had to delay leaving due to me looking 9 months pregnant!

The pain in my back makes my mouth dry. Cold drink quenched thirst but not the pain. Do wish Gabapentin would work again. Seems like the titration will keep happening.

I got home exhausted by the pain but knew some hoovering needed doing. Did it quickly. I cried after because everything was hurting. I hate being like this. I just want to be normal.

I sat down and rested. Dinner was a microwave meal but halfway through I feel the Crohns making itself known. Had Humira yesterday but this doesn’t kick in until tomorrow.

Today I have taken 2 metoclopramide, 4 Gabapentin, 3 codeine, 9 loperamide, 4 paracetamol and 2 Temgesic melts.

Pain score (out of 10) 10

Hours slept 8.5

Panic Begins

Today I have received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) regarding the universal raise of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). I receive low rate care and low rate mobility, just over £40 per week. It also reminded me that on the 26th January 2013 my DLA claim will expire! Panic time.

Not knowing when they send renewal forms out I posted the question on Twitter. A kind woman posted a reply almost immediately stating they’re sent out 6 months before expiry of claim, this then means I should get my forms no later than the end of June (around 2 months).

The fact the process will begin again soon frightens me and fills me with panic. Last time, as mentioned, I went through the application process I was literally put through the mill. I went through a lengthy battle resulting in a Tribunal. It was a 10 month battle. I had help from a solicitor specialising in welfare rights. It was thanks to Legal Aid I received this help.

This time round, however, I shall not be entitled to legal assistance. Legal Aid isn’t, as far as I am aware, available for such matters. Admittedly, yes my health has worsened since my application began plus I have a different (and far better than the last) GP surgery who are more than happy to assist me in whichever is necessary. I am also aware that my consultants various will prepare any medical reports should the DWP require them. In terms of the application forms I shall refer back to initial application forms and use some of the legal wording.

My medications have changed a lot since initial application as have my medical conditions. Take my hidradenitis suppurativa for example, this was only officially diagnosed by a specialist (was diagnosed by GP) in December 2010. This was 2 months after the appeal process had been successfully concluded at Tribunal. Because my conditions are ever changing I’ve kept the DWP informed, several times I have been told by DWP advisors I should be on a higher rate! They, however, aren’t the ones who make the decisions.

My plan is to start a diary, perhaps use this blog if people don’t object, noting the pain; medications; feelings; appointments etc. If I do it online I shall be able to copy/paste it ready to post along with application forms. If anyone has any other ideas I shall be very grateful? Get in touch if you do! Am willing to try all feasible options!

I shall also, once I have the forms, arrange to speak with a more regular GP (my surgery uses locums). I shall make sure they know all relevant details regarding pain etc. Alongside this I will contact Consultants, via snail mail, and prepare them for any possible correspondence from the DWP. Same applies to my Physio and
Therapist.

I shall keep a record of any emergency hospital trips I make plus operations that may, or may not, happen.

At the moment I feel anxiety flowing through my veins as I hate uncertainty and I fear for the loss of DLA. DLA, to me, means I can afford (well most of the time) to eat as well as paying my rent & council tax top ups; bills and travel to hospital appointments etc.

This is the side of benefits you don’t see in the media very often. Maybe this will change. Who knows?!

Before I sign off I must ask, again, if anyone has any better ideas for recording a diary suitable for use in a DLA renewal application. If you do then please let me know asap. Thanking you in advance.

Kind regards xxxxxxxx