Tuesday 17 June 2014

I feel like a fraud

This was going to be a post on gender. It's not a post on gender. It is instead a post on benefits. The current benefit system for new benefit claimants, specifically Employment and Support Allowance.

Firstly, if you're going to try and use this post against me as a reason that I shouldn't be claiming benefits at all, cos I can string a sentence together, jog on. Look back at the other 255 posts in this blog. Tell me when most of them were published. Tell me how frequently I used to post. Now tell me how many posts I've made since February?

I haven't left the house for days. Possibly actually no definitely, 10 days. I've spoken to no one but my partner in person since before Easter. I'm trying to help myself by using 'pacing' though this is not something the medical profession are helping me with, being as how the medical profession have yet to discover what's wrong with me. I have two bulging discs in my spine and a 'hyper extendy' spine which along with knees which have a habit of 'floating' backwards makes for interesting mobility issues especially when the pain gets so bad I wet myself.

Too much information? That isn't the half of it. Believe me when I say it's not. There's a reason I'm rarely leaving the house and it's not fear of being found out as a benefit fraud. I'm not a fraud. I imagine I'm what ESA was supposed to help.  Unfortunately for me, I'm caught up, along with apparently 70,000 others in an ATOS backlog which lets face it ATOS have no interest in clearing now they have abandoned their contract mid way through.  

I still feel like a fraud though. Because of many things. Like the fact that the BBC has focused great energy and attention on telling you that the National Identity and Passport people are 30,000 behind but pass one sentence on the fate of me and 69,000 others. But then they would. Those 30,000, they're far more important than me. They're working, is the implication. Hard working people, that's what this country wants. Anyone who can't, whether temporarily or permanently can jog on.  David Cameron has been relentless in his message. Hard working people. Britain wants hard working people. 

Well Mr Cameron, I was. I worked hard. I busted my ass inside your government for 12 hours a day while I could and the commuted 2 hours on top of that. I took 30 minute lunches. I tried. I worked hard. I might have been bloody useless in the post I was put in but I tried so damn hard and no one can deny that - let them bloody well dare. Before that I worked in a comms office in a Council and I worked hard, so so hard. Before that I was in a portcabin in a rubbish depot, before that at a travel agency in technical support, before that in Probation and Courts working hard hard hard.

I've done 2, sometimes 3 jobs at once. Worked shifts 4pm-12 midnight with Tuesdays and Wednesdays as my weekends. I've temped, contracted and been full time. I've never been part time, never given anything less than my all to every single job I've ever done and that includes shelf stacking in the local Co-Op to pay to afford to go to college. 

I've literally busted my ass. Literally, because I'm broken. I can't deal with people, I can't deal with complicated, I can't deal with the pain some days and most of the time the thought of going back to work sends me into a full on sweating jibbering anxiety attack. 

So would someone please explain why this means I have to have people I don't know in my house? Without warning? https://www.gov.uk/dwp-visit says it's okay and it's happening and it's official but what does it not say? What's missing from that page?

Why? Why are you checking up on me? Why wasn't I or anyone else told about this massive intrusion into our lives? How is this going to affect those whose health conditions are worsened by stress? Do they know they could cause someone with Multiple Sclerosis a relapse due to stress? Do they understand that that relapse might be the one that robs someone of their sight due to Optic Neuritis or mean they need to self catheter due to loss of bladder control or lack of mobility due to spasticity? 

Of course they don't. They're not medical professionals. And they don't care. Because they're not paid to care, they're paid to do their job.  They'll walk out of that persons life and never have any knowledge of the mayhem in the body of the person they've left behind. And if they can't see it, if they don't know about it, they can't feel guilty about it can they?

Sounding familiar yet?

It's not just this that's angered me though. Next week I have the audacity of leaving the country and goin on holiday. Go on, say it, "you're going on holiday at the publics expense?"

No. I'm not. As I've had to tell everyone I've spoken to at ATOS regarding this holiday since the particularly sarcastic person I encountered on their telephone line who said 'enjoy your holiday' in the most horrid way it's possible to tell someone - I'm on contributory rate. My partner works. Because he works, I have £70 a week to live on and he is expected to pay everything else.  My partner is paying for the holiday. We're going by Eurotunnel which we got free cos of Tesco Clubcard vouchers and then we're camping and the campsite is costing us 18 euros a night. Meals will be boiled rice on the burner with assorted stuff thrown in or baguettes and butter with a bit of cheese. No eating out. No splurging. We might go to Versailles, but they're lovely and allow disabled people free entry for your carer and make no mistake, that's what my boyfriend has become and not of his or my choosing. We might go around some manor houses as we're members of the National Trust, a legacy from when I was working and there is a reciprocal agreement I think.

We're taking the bikes but my pain levels will dictate whether we ride them. I don't know if I'll be crying in pain or okay. I never do. 

Why am I telling you this? Because I feel like I have to. Because this governments narrative of a hard working Britain and no one else being welcome has made me feel worthless. A failure. Unwelcome. But worst of all it has made me feel like a fraud. I have days, despite not having left the house for 10 days or more, where I wonder if this is all my fault and somehow, if I just tried harder, everything would be okay, because it always has been in the past.

I didn't quit until I couldn't walk to the tube in the morning in London with a sit down half way. It was a 10 minute walk. I couldn't have a shower without needing a sit down half way through. Things have improved. I only collapse in a heap after I've finished showering these days.

And still I feel like a fraud. Like I need to justify my continued existence, like somehow breathing the same air as all of you working people is wrong and something I need to apologise for. I cringe when  asked how I am. I cringe when asked my job title. I cringe a lot these days. 

The unannounced visits from the men in black suits from 'the government' who will ask to see my bank accounts, my rent details and my benefits details is just the icing on the cake. 

I'm living in your Britain. You voted for this. Is this how you want human beings to feel in the 21st century in a first world country?


  1. I am in the similar boat a claimant the only reason i don't go "sick" is that in one they would have won. something i will not let them get away with, as they caused most of my subsequent problems. Your blog is balanced and far better written than anything i could have put together well done.

  2. I'm so, so sad to read this Lou :-( Sad for all people struggling to get benefits and help to become functional again, but more sad that you're so down, because you're brilliant.

    1. I feel less than brilliant, truth be told. I've held my counsel and bitten my lip for months hoping it would get better but it never does. It just gets worse.

  3. Absolutely heartbreaking, cruel narrative of the tabloid media and the government is causing so much upset and insecurity. If this kind of treatment was meted out to the black people it would be called rascism.
    This treatment is "causing alarm and distress" to certain group of people disabled immigrants should be illegal, if it is not illegal already.

  4. Great blog, voices what a lot of us feel day in, day out...I had no idea the DWP had introduced home visits, and I'm mortified at the thought - surely this is impinging on our privacy by a massive degree? Great, not only do I panic when a brown envelope comes through the door with the post, I'll now panic when there's a knock on the door that I'm not expecting...what a great way to live - in agony & in total fear.

    1. I know. I'm home alone every day during the week. I'm not a massive fan of letting strangers into my space unexpectedly either, especially when I might be having one of the days where I can't count to 20.

  5. your not a fraud (and never will be) you are perfect and a great person hopefully this time next year this government will be gone and life my get better just don't give up anytime soon ok your words have touch my soul and I went to help you but I don't know how all I can say is stay strong, keep being you, and never give up :)

  6. I know you. But they don't. I think it's good that there are checks. It sucks that you got pulled out in the lottery checking, but this is public money and some people really ARE frauds. I also know exactly how distressing it is to put your fate into someone else's hands, especially when they respond in uncaring fashions. It sucks. Deep breath. You'll get through this.

    1. I think I need to write another post to explain why dwp paid over £1000 into my account 6 or so weeks ago. I applied in feb for ESA. They backdated it to the beginning of last December. In the process of 'trying' to pay me 70 a week they lost 3 separate medical certificates. I tried sending them recorded delivery, paying extra to ensure they got there. I was told that was no good as it was some bod from a third party company who processed the mail so anyone could have signed for it.

      Now imagine I'm not with A. And dwp owe me £1000.

  7. I hope you have a fab holiday. I worked 11 years, company went to voluntary liquidation. The stress JSA caused me meant I just gave up with it and lived off my very small redundancy. I gave up signing on. I paid for 11 years but my nerves and anger levels dealing with the JSA were making me ill. Now the money is nearly gone. My one big regret is my teeth, I cannot afford the dentist! I really just couldn't stand the pressure, makes having a job look like childs play, it took over my life and I worried all the time. In the end I just couldn't stand it. It is a system that sets you up to fail because as the weeks go by the hurdles they present get harder and harder to navigate. In the end you spend all your time fullfilling their requirements instead of actually pursuing finding the job you are after. Because they do not care if you find the right job. They want to force you to take the first rubbish job that comes along, god forbid you think about a career change, that is actively not allowed. Nor retraining or anything else in fact. And half the people you deal with wouldn't even know what a hard days work is. And talk about scams! the endless 'charities' set up to milk money from the great udder, the gravy trains that are supposed to help you in your job search but act as the soft cops towards sanctions. Meanwhile the likes of Amazon and Google take over the world and pay no tax!!!!!!!! I paid all my effing taxes, where is their shame? The joke is that half the people with jobs still have to get tax credits or housing benefit. Who actually lives off what they earn? These sums are far greater then the small amount that goes to the sick and unemployed. Infact I know many people who are doing very very nicely on tax credits, if you know how to swing it! The other thing is there will always be disfuctional, unempathic, damaged people who enjoy and do well at these jobs such as in the JSA, jobs where they can intimidate and have power over the lives of others. They tend to do very well in police states. Home visits, why not just tag the unemployed like criminals. If they don't like it they must have something to hide!
    People are stuck for a way forward. Protests and demonstrations failed in the past. Democracy is seen for the joke it is. We are letting an elite cadre of public school boys, born to privilege, dismantle our hard won safety net. People, they are stealing what you worked for! Thinking better the devil you know and look at the rest of the world no longer fits. Why has the bottom dropped out of the pot? There are more super wealthy people in the world than ever before, people worth more than the GDP of whole countries. Blame the immigrants, blame the unemployed - no blame the culture of greed that tramples all underfoot.
    But what is the answer? People need to start giving a shit again. That is what I think. Yes it does matter. It all matters. What do we want to pay our taxes for? I paid tax because I want to live in a world where there is an NHS, a health service for the people owned by the people and benefit system that is there for us when we need it. I want babies to have incubators, old people to get their hip operations and so on and so forth and maybe if Amazon and Google and the like paid their taxes like the rest of us have to do we could all stop fighting amoungst ourselves over the crumbs.

  8. "I'm trying to help myself by using 'pacing' though this is not something the medical profession are helping me with, being as how the medical profession have yet to discover what's wrong with me. I have two bulging discs in my spine and a 'hyper extendy' spine which along with knees which have a habit of 'floating' backwards "

    Have you been checked for Ehlers-Danlos? You sound like me. So very like me. Your story is so familiar. And you're not a fraud, and neither am I.

  9. "I'm trying to help myself by using 'pacing' though this is not something the medical profession are helping me with, being as how the medical profession have yet to discover what's wrong with me. I have two bulging discs in my spine and a 'hyper extendy' spine which along with knees which have a habit of 'floating' backwards "

    Much as I dislike armchair diagnoses, this struck a huge chord with me. Have you been checked for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? You sound like me. So very like me. They didn't know what was wrong with me for 40 years either. Your story is so familiar. And you're not a fraud, and neither am I and I really hope you enjoy your holiday.