Someone claiming Incapacity Benefit gets around £106 per week at the moment, which equates to £5512 per year; the proposed changes to the system will mean that the individual involved will after a year on Employment and Support Allowance will be shunted onto Jobseekers Allowance that brings in between £60-70 per week, which equates to £3640 per year. This amounts to an annual £1872 reduction in benefit and that’s assuming that the individual is getting £70 per week. Is this considered fair? Is this really placing the burden of paying off the deficit on the broadest shoulders? The Coalition Government certainly thinks so. I believe the Coalition Government should start living in the real world instead of living in their ivory towers where the air is sweet and financial problems are few and far between.
Now, you have probably guessed that I am the person I’m basing these calculations on and, despite comments mentioned on Question Time (BBC1, 21/10/2010) that most, if not all, households in the UK are also spending more than they have actually got, I can certainly tell you that I have absolutely no debts whatsoever and live within the limits of my reduced budget. My current situation is also not exactly helping my mental health either - living with my estranged wife because neither of us can afford to move from the flat we currently live in and Thurrock Council are not helping us as quickly as necessary, sleeping on the sofa for the past eight months which isn’t helping my bad back and not being able to heat our rooms because the radiators are, quite frankly, faulty or just plain low quality equipment. My estranged wife and I live within our means but only just. If we want something nice, we save for it and hope the price doesn’t go up before we have the money to buy it but we can only live on our income at the present rate and because we live together. What is going to happen when I lose £1872 per year or I have to start to pay all my own bills especially with housing benefit being reduced and council rents going up to around 80% of the private market rate?
The Coalition Government says that the reforms to the benefits system are part of their plans to get people off benefits and into work, which is all well and good but have any of them tried to get a job after a long period of unemployment due to ill health? My guess is – NO. Try getting a job when at the interview you have to disclose the reason that you have been off work for a number of years is due to a mental health problem and watch the shutters come down behind their eyes or have them return a glassy stare. Well, the Disability Discrimination Act is there to help you they may say. Wrong. The DDA only helps you if they can’t make up some other reason for not employing you or if you actually get the job and require a reasonable adjustment in working conditions (and, sometimes, not even then).
They say that you should move to where the jobs are but where is the money for the move coming from? They say that you can commute but how can you if the only job you can get is a low-paying job and you have to travel by public transport that is now going to become ever more expensive because of the cuts in public spending? What if you suffer, as I do, from anxiety using public transport making travel almost impossible without several days to prepare oneself? And, more fundamentally, what jobs? The cuts to the public sector are going to reduce the amount of jobs available and the resilience data from Experian in the local areas surrounding Thurrock are not encouraging and showing that in Thurrock itself “there is a high level of business insolvency” and “a small proportion of people are employed in resilient sectors”.
It may also be interesting to note that, due to my voluntary work, I have many transferable skills that would benefit employers and all that voluntary work looks really good on my CV but does any of that really help me get a job? The answer is a resounding no. If you can actually find a job you are qualified for but have a mental health issue, the chances of getting that job are minimal at best, especially as there are hundreds of other applicants for the same job who may not have the same problem.
The Coalition Government has stealthily hit the most vulnerable at a time when they need the most help whilst maintaining the deception of being fair and I weep for the future of this country as I see nothing but the dark days of riots, protests and strikes coming with the horror of homelessness and premature death looming for those most at need.
Hang your head in shame, “Call me Dave” Cameron; you are about to harm more people than you can possibly imagine to maintain the illusion of fairness with respect to the cuts to public spending.