Robin has been poorly with his chest and a bad dose of man flu so I thought I'd come on and copy and paste an email I have sent to Alun Cairns, my MP, in response to his information on the Welfare Reform Bill.
A lot of people are aware that this is going through parliament at the moment although I'm sure most people have very clouded, incorrect views on how people on benefits truly live. Especially those who are mentally and physically incapable of work.
Please do not believe the Tory spin on a life of state benefits, no family I know get anywhere close to £26k income and certainly do not live in homes that 'they couldn't otherwise afford if they were working'.
Anyway, here's my email to Alun:
Thanks so much for your reply, I really appreciate it.
Further to the idea of limiting the contributory element of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) to 12 months - I am on Contributory ESA because I bought a house with a friend about 5/6 years ago, which I do not live in and pay towards/get money for, however, due to the fact that I am still named on the mortgage at present (friend & husband now live there and are switching it over) the DWP (Dept. of Work & Pensions) said it'd be easier for now to be on contributory based rather than income based. I would imagine with the divorce/separation rates in Britain and the fact that lots of people would have had to have bought with a friend/relative with prices for housing so high, there are a lot of people in my situation; named on a mortgage but not living in the house/gaining from it in any way. Maybe a thought for those who cannot claim income related due to this complication?
Also, the main complaint that I (don't want to speak for others) have with the Assessments for ESA is that the so called assessors are not qualified to be either physically or mentally assessing the claimants and so how can they possibly state to what level someone is 'able to work?' I know this because my advocate (who has to take me to and accompany me at ATOS assessments) asked one of the ladies who got very angry and stormed out!
The questions asked in the assessments are closed and do not allow you to explain how you are able to do certain things, if you are able, they are just yes/no and it really is like russian roulette as to whether you get someone who wants to listen and makes a note of everything you say (like my initial assessment) or someone who couldn't give a damn and makes no notes at all (my second assessment).
At the moment I am in the appeal stage after having my assessment rated 'zero', interestingly enough in the last 3 weeks I have been hospitalised twice with palpitations, high BP, tachycardia, chest pain etc and yet no cause found, anxiety is listed as a possibility on my latest discharge letter to GP and my medication has been doubled, yet I am completely fit for work. I can tell you now, if I could work I would love to - I do not want to be sat at home with the constant worry of money and benefit updates and proving my income to all in sundry, especially with my anxiety issues! Given the low fraud rate of ESA it seems ridiculous to me that people like me have to go through this time and time again.
The idea of this Universal Credit scares me a little, all those forms rolled into one form - imagine how many pages people would have to fill out, all the questions that would need to be asked for each and every benefit that this takes over from. It is absolutely ridiculous to expect sick and disabled people to complete page after page of forms, and no doubt it'll be a regular occurrence. I can only imagine also that given that you're merging 6 benefits into one, there will be a huge backlog whereby people will have to wait weeks just for a decision and I don't even want to think about the percentage of likely lost paperwork.
I am quoting Iain Duncan Smith here :
He said for the majority of people, claiming benefits was only a temporary situation and Universal Credit would help move them back into work.
"But there is, for a relatively small number of people, a process which has kind of trapped them... in an invidious position of not being able to go back into work, because they are now being paid so much money by the state, mostly to do with the size of the house they are in."
I can assure you that (as you know) I live in a terraced house, which I do not get full help for as you don't get paid 'for the size of your house' - what rubbish, you get paid for 'how many bedrooms are in use' so me, my husband and Laura = 2 bedrooms. I think Iain Duncan Smith needs to find out the facts before he spouts such utter rubbish! I can also assure him that we do not get more in benefits than we would do working, far from it in fact. When I worked I earned £21k\yr and I still got Child tax and benefit for Laura. Now I get about £10k/yr as well as the child tax\benefit - bit different eh!! Would I choose to be in this situation? You know the answer to that one!
Again Iain Duncan Smith :
Asked if the cap was really a distraction from the changes to disability benefits, ESA and housing benefits, from which people were suffering, he said: "But they're not suffering. The point about this is that what makes you suffer is the state that plunges you into dependency."
Sorry but this guy seriously needs a gag, he is completely out of touch with what is happening with the above and how people really are affected by the proposed changes with welfare, especially DLA, ESA etc. The ATOS reviews in themselves are bad enough without the worry then that even if you qualify you may not get enough to live on or be on it longer than 12 months, do you have any idea of the pressure that puts on already sick people to 'get well within a Government proposed timeframe'?
Obviously this isn't an attack on you Alun, it's just an emotive subject I guess and I really appreciate your help.