Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Benefits and me

Its time to get something off my chest.

Something that has been causing me stress and anxiety, and a whole lot of anger over the past month.

I try not to think about it, try not to get wound up about it, but its still lingering. So, I'm thinking the best way to rid myself of it, is to write about it....

The subject of benefits is one of great controversy among the public and the media. We are constantly bombarded with stories of 'benefit scroungers' etc etc. The media and the government have generated a negative image of people on benefits, but now its time for me to show you the negative effect the government has had on me.

I have been receiving ESA (employment and support allowance) for the majority of my time off work. In order to receive this benefit, you have to fill in a beastly medical form, something that I could never do without help from my support worker. It is because of my ongoing depression and anxiety that I qualify for this benefit.

On ESA I got approx £115 per week. Considering I live at home and don't have to worry about bills, this payment allowed me to go about my business without having to get too anxious about finances.

In August this year, my support worker suggested that I start doing some part time work. The benefit guidelines (which I researched online and had the relevant paperwork) would allow me to work 16 hours a week, and still receive ESA. After being offered a job, and explaining my circumstances, I began working 16 hours a week.

And I was a happy little banana.

For the first time in 2 years I bought myself a new pair of jeans.

I went out for a meal with my friends, and didn't worry about the price of the food.

I was even able to save some money each week, again, something I haven't been able to do for the past 2 or 3 years.

However, on the 30th October, I received a letter saying that my ESA had been stopped due to the fact that I had been working more than 16 hours a week.

My heart sank, my mind panicked and I quickly rang the department and said there had been a mistake.

The conversation went something like this,

Me: Hello, there has been a mistake, my ESA has stopped but I haven't worked more than 16 hours.

Robot on the phone: You should have been working 15 and a half hours.


Robot: bored silence

Me: Are you serious? Nowhere on any of the guidelines does it say 15 and a half, it says 16!! Can I get a reconsideration? Theres obviously been a mistake.

Robot: Your claim has now ended. If you want to claim ESA you need to apply from the beginning.

Me: WHAT! Can you help?

Robot: I'm not permitted to advise you.

I then hung up the phone and cursed the robot.

The thought of starting a claim again filled me with dread. The thought of appealing against the decision made my stomach tighten and my brain panic. I began to worry that I would have to start working more hours, but knew that I couldn't manage to do that. Oh it was like a panic mine field.

Luckily, my support worker suggested that I should be entitled to working tax credits, and that's what I'm in the middle of applying for at the moment. But of course, it took 3 weeks for the form to arrive and it takes another 3 weeks for me to hear the result.

I'm also lucky that I do live at home, and don't have any large outgoings. But this whole situation has really effected me. I cant help but take the whole thing personally, although I know that sounds silly.

I'm now back to scrimping, saving, and missing out on things I might like to do because of money. Silly old money.

Just when I was starting to get myself together, then the government come along and mess it all up for me. And I'm not mentally well enough to fight them on it. I just don't have the strength.

The irony is, although I am now working, I have less money than I did when I was just on ESA.

So, the government is trying to get people back to work, but they are taking away the vital support that they need along the way! It just doesn't make sense.

I know that there are far worse off people than me, and that's what worries me too. How are they coping if the same thing has happened to them?

I'm not asking for sympathy, I simply want to make people aware of the way in which this government treats people who are just trying to survive.

Ok. Rant over.

Oh I do feel better.

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