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?