Tag Archive | benifits

Disabling Attitudes

The reaction I get when someone realises I am disabled is usually one of three

The patronising sympathy attitude

Recently in a café a man came up to me and said I was doing really well. He asked if I had spina bifida, which was rather a personal thing to ask, none of his business and wrong. I explained I had a hip replacement. He then went on to tell me he used to work in a special school with people like me and I was doing really well. I know he meant well, but I found it annoying. Firstly ‘people like me’ just labels me as special needs and does not give me any credit as an individual person. Secondly how does he know I am doing really well? I was in a café with my mum, nothing remarkable in that. What is a disabled person supposed to do? Either I carry on with life like everyone else or roll over and die. I guess I could sit at home all day, everyday and get very depressed and lonely, lamenting woe is me I am disabled or I could go out and have some kind of a life. Also being disabled physically does not make me stupid. The man in the café may have thought I was doing well to be so functioning. Well I chose my own drink, ordered it and paid for it, and do this kind of thing on a regular basis. In fact I live alone and do not have a carer.

The fact he used to work in a special school with that kind of attitude annoyed, but did not surprise me. I spent three years in a special needs school as a teenager and this was something that annoyed me on an almost daily basis, the patronising attitude of some of the staff. I think I may have acted up a little bit less perhaps if the staff had expected more of me. Thankfully my parents were never patronising and never let me use my disability as an excuse to not make an effort or learn things. I can do a lot more for myself now thanks to my parents making me learn than I may have been able to do otherwise had it been left up to school.

The super human Paralympics attitude

I watched the Paralympics opening ceremony earlier this month. I like the Paralympics; they are fun and help promote disabled issues around the world. On phrase I dislike that was also used a lot in the 2012 Paralympics, that disabled athletes are ‘superhuman’. I admit that they achieve some incredible things, but why are they superhuman? Disabled people are only joining in sport like everyone else. Sport for some people seems to be something natural, an instinct, why is it so amazing that a disabled person would also have this? Yes it is often harder for a disabled person to be able to join a sport, but it can be tricky for anyone to join sports, especially at an Olympic level. Sometimes the Paralympics can make it harder for the disabled with people thinking that if the Paralympians can achieve so much why can’t all disabled people. For example someone once said to me that if the disabled athletes can do that, why I can not even get a job. When it comes to work my physical issues are the least of my problems, like all disabled people I have more going on in my life than just my disability. Every four years it is like we are all suddenly expected to be superhuman. Well I will win a Paralympic medal the day all my non-disabled friends win an Olympic medal. Rob Crosan in the Telegraph puts it well, ‘The Chances of most disabled people becoming a world class athlete is roughly the same as it is for able-bodied people (i.e. nil).’

The scrounger on benefits attitude

I would love to have a paying job and not be on benefits, but that does not seem to be an option for me right now. There is only a brief three month period of my life I can remember being totally off any benefits as an a adult when I had part time temp job. I was on job seekers allowance for a number of years before changing to employment support allowance for health reasons. At first on job seekers everyone seemed supportive, but the longer I remained on it the more the support seemed to decline. People who understood my situation less well started to say not very nice things. Apparently I was lazy, not trying hard enough or too fussy about the type of work I would do. If only they knew how hard I was trying to get work, attending interview after interview and getting rejected over and over. I ended up having to remove a couple of people who I thought were friends from social media for saying very negative things about people on benefits.

The media do not help with the scrounger attitude some people have. There are so many newspaper articles about benefits cheats that it must seem to some that the vast majority cheat the system. For example if you type the words disabled or disability into an internet news search, you nearly always get at least one article on someone who has been caught cheating benefits. Yes, a few people do lie and claim benefits falsely, but the vast majority do not. ‘Official data shows that there is nearly twice as much error as fraud in the benefits system’ (www.disabilityrightsuk.org). Less than one percent of people are benefits are said to be fraudulently claiming. The media often muddle up fraud statistics with system errors making the fraud look much worse than it actually is. The government have also made things worse by constantly banging on about cutting disability benefits and catching benefit cheats. However if I was to come off ESA I would have no income coming in at all apart from housing benefit which gets paid straight to my housing association anyway.

I am not a scrounger; I volunteer a lot in my local community. I am not super human, I am rubbish at sport, but I also do not want your sympathy. I am simply me, a human being, but as Penny Pepper writes in the Guardian, ‘It truly seems that the only acceptable disabled person is a Paralympian – and then only for a few weeks’. All disabled people just want to be accepted as themselves and not just during the Paralympics, but all of the time.

References:

Rob Crosan, Telegraph, 15.09.2016
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/we-disabled-people-arent-super-in-any-way-i-couldnt-care-less-ab/

15.05.2014
http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2014/may/benefits-fraud-less-one-cent

Penny Pepper, the Guardian, 06.09.2016
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/paralympians-superhumans-disabled-people

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Not Everyone On Benefits Is Trying to Cheat the System

‘Are you fed up with your hard-earned wages being given as ‘benefits’ to individuals in society who don’t deserve them?’
‘Zero tolerance against the work shy, freeloaders and benefit cheats drinking cheap ale, lapping up the sun rays well we slog it out in the offices and factories…..’ ‘Keeping Jeremy Kyle on the tele’.
The inaccuracy I read online about people on benefits can sometimes be amusing, but also sometimes makes me quite angry. I am on Job Seekers Allowance and have been for the best part of three years, but I do not drink ale, have not had a holiday abroad for over four years and have never appeared on the Jeremy Kyle show. These particular quotes come from groups on Facebook against people on benefits, but I have read similar comments on internet forums, on comments to newspaper articles and even heard people say things like this in person. I think in the last few years since the recession the comments about people on benefits have got nastier and more frequent. I think this has been fuelled by both politicians and the media.
The government needed something to cut in the budget, they tried cutting public spending on things like the NHS and education, but this was unpopular with almost all voters from every walk of life. What they needed was something they could cut spending on that did not affect their main core of voters, so they turned their attention to benefits and in particular those for the disabled and jobless. Statistically this makes little sense as the biggest benefit expense is in fact pensions, but no way were they going to touch pensions when older people are one of the main groups of people to vote. The disabled and the jobless are a lot less likely to vote, so the government have less issues with cutting their money. Now the government just had to get the rest of the general public to agree that cutting these benefits was a good thing. So they turned to their friends in the media, and boy did the right-wing press do them proud.
Tabloid newspapers love a benefit cheat story. They love to point out all the people who are able to get money whilst still working or living abroad. If you type benefit cheats into the news section of an internet search engine you would think that an awful lot of people are defrauding the system. However according to Citizens Advice Scotland benefit fraud represents only 2% of the estimated total annual fraud in the UK. In fact the amount of money paid to fraudsters is less than the amount overpaid or underpaid in error by the government. All this negative reporting of benefits seems to working.
To be on benefits long-term is seen as shameful to some people. These people have never had to be on benefits or at least not for more than a few weeks. I am on long-term job seekers, the way some people talk you would think I was a career criminal. I am trying very hard to get a job and do everything the job centre ask of me, even the stuff that makes no sense whatsoever. This is the only income I get and not that large an amount of money either. Without this money I would struggle to have any kind of life. I don’t want a fancy life, just enough of one so I do not go stark raving mad with boredom and loneliness. If more of the public were aware of what being on job seekers is like long-term, they might be less negative towards us. This coming week for example is not even a sign on week and I still have to go to the job centre twice for meetings.
I also used to be on Disability Living Allowance, which seems to get very negative reporting. A lot of people claim they know a neighbour is cheating the system, but I bet nine times out of ten that neighbour is fully entitled to that money. Not every disabled person is fully wheelchair bound and some have conditions that fluctuate giving them good and bad days. People see you on a good day and assume you are faking being disabled or ill. Getting money when being disabled was always fairly tricky, now Personal Independence Payments, replacing DLA are making it even harder. If someone gets PIPs you can rest assured they have probably been thoroughly checked out. No system any government can come up with will be totally fool-proof, someone will always find a way to cheat it for benefits, but the alternative of paying no benefits at all would be way more costly long-term.
Now I think one way to stop benefits being seen as so negative is for more people on them to vote. If the jobless and disabled voted more at elections the government might be less keen to cut their benefits and make them seem so negative. I call on all the disabled and jobless out there who can vote, to do so at the next election and show people that we are not all lazy benefit cheats and that we can and will stand up for ourselves.

My Benefits life

‘Disabled people pay “a financial penalty” on everyday living costs, spending an average of £550 a month extra, according to a report by Scope.’http://http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27029928

I have been on benefits most of my life.  The way the media and other people talk about benefits makes this fact sound like something I should be ashamed of, but I am not.  Sometimes you hear older people say, that they are entitled to benefits as they paid into the system all their lives, I admit I have not paid much into the system at all.  Even when I have worked paying jobs one of them was between college and university so as a student I got my tax payments back a year later.  However being entitled to the money, why should I not take it, I need the money to live on.  I have tried very hard to get paying work and feel that it is not my fault I can’t pay tax into the system when no one will hire me.

Last year is the first time I stopped receiving Disability Living Allowance in twenty years.  My mum first claimed  it in my name when I was eight or nine.  I got it mostly for my Perthes Disease as I could not walk well, but later on she also got a care component for a few years due to my mental health issues as I was more work than a child of that age should have been.   When I turned eighteen I started to get the money myself.  I was by then just getting the mobility component, but found the money very handy.  I certainly needed it when I went away to university to pay for taxis to places some people might have considered walking distance.  For  example at one stage I was having weekly physiotherapy sessions at the hospital and it would cost me £5 a time to get the taxi there, as it was too far to walk to the bus station in town and then from the bus stop to the physiotherapy department.  When my old hip became too much to bear I purchased my own crutches as I knew the hospital waiting list to see physiotherapy about them was long and being in my final year at university I could not wait for them.  I got them online and they  came with a small delivery charge as well.  I think I got them at a very good price, but being a student without much money, I was glad of my DLA to help with the cost.  After my total hip replacement surgery they left me on DLA during the recovery period as it was not like I was instantly up and walking without any problems.  They leave you on DLA for about a year or so until the doctor signs you off to say it was successful, as that is about how long it takes to fully recover.  By this point I did feel like I was no longer entitled to the money, my circumstances had changed, I was walking much further and doing more for myself.

Claiming DLA was not an easy task.  As with most benefits the form is a full on booklet with many questions.  I  am glad they are thorough, I don’t like the idea of people falsely claiming benefits anymore than the next person, but they do ask some questions which are very hard to answer.  In the old DLA forms they used to ask how far you could walk, but in my case but varied from day-to-day.  Many disabilities change daily and many of the questions assumed that it stayed the same all the time.  I just put in my worst case days as although I might have been OK sometimes, if on the day I had to go out was a bad one, then I would need the money.  DLA has now changed into Personal Independence Payment which I gather are just as hard to claim for as DLA if not harder.  These forms are so hard to fill in as part of her job my mum has been on courses on how to fill them in.  They no longer give anyone life long benefit awards, everyone has to be re-assessed, even if you have something you can never recover from such as a missing limb or total blindness, yes because limbs just grow back magically and eye sight just recovers!  I was on low rate mobility which is now called mobility standard, which currently gets you £21.55 a week, which is not very much when you consider the average price of a taxi anywhere these days.  The most anyone could get on PIP now is £138.55 per week, but that includes both the enhanced mobility payment and the enhanced daily living payment.  This might at first sound quite generous, but there are extra payments some very sick people need to make such as using more central heating as they get more cold from not being able to move  as much or more electricity to charge up their wheelchair.

Right now I reviving just the one benefit,  Employment Support Allowance.  This is the replacement benefit for Incapacity and some types of Income  Support.  I am only on it now on a temporary basis as I managed to go and break a bone in my foot.  For about two months I will get a little over £66 a week.  I get a little less than some due to the amount of savings I have, so the more you save up the less ESA you get.  People on benefits are  often penalized for being careful with  money and having managed to scrimp some savings together over many years,which is not easy to do on such a low-income.  I have been on ESA before after my hip surgery for a few months as I clearly could not work.  Some years ago whist at college I was also on Income Support because due to my hip I had the stamina to either go to college or work, but not manage both.  Some would say I should have worked instead of going to college, but how is  a disabled person supposed to better themselves and get even a semi decent job if they can never get an education.  Why should I not get the  same opportunities to learn as everyone else.  Whilst on ESA you can work and earn up to £20 a week in addition to the benefit, which for some people who have not worked in a very long time or ever, it might be a way to slowly get used to the world of work again.  However £20 would not cover the transport costs for a lot jobs let alone make you  ant profit.

I will soon be back on Job Seekers Allowance yet again,which is a bit depressing as I never seem to get off it for very long.  I been off and on Job Seekers since I left college aged twenty-one.  I have come off it a few times, twice for temporary seasonal work and for University.  I think of all the benefits that I have been on Job Seekers gets me the most flack.  I have been called too lazy to get a job, been told  there are jobs out there if I really wanted one, asked why hard-working people should fund my lifestyle and worst of all been called thieving scum.  I would be the first to admit I am somewhat of a lazy person, but I have tried very hard to get a job.  I fill in application after application, attend  every interview I get, go to all my job support courses and meetings when I can and keep an eye out for jobs when out and about in shop windows and on notice boards. I am not that fussy about the type of work I will do, I have applied for shop work, cleaning, basic office jobs and even once as a litter picker.  There are jobs out there, but there are also hundreds applying for each job in some cases.  Since I am entitled to the money and fit the required criteria how does that make me a  thief?  Job seekers gets me £71.70per week, which I find perfectly OK for my circumstances, but if my parents were less generous and made me pay a lot more rent, or even made me move out I know I would struggle on that amount.

My advice for anyone who needs to claim benefits, if you have any doubts about how to fill in the forms go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau as they have advisers trained in benefits and can help fill it in correctly with more of a chance of getting a successful claim.  They can also tell you if you can claim for  any more types of benefit.   I hope to one day get a job that means I can stop being on any benefits for longer than a few months.  I do not like the fact I have to claim benefits, but without  it I would have no income what so ever.  People can not live on nothing.

The Unemployment Game

At 28 would you consider me a young person?  According to the government I am middle-aged, well at least that is how they record me in unemployment figures.  The British Government consider a young person to be between the ages of 16-25.  So when you hear on the news about young people being out of work and young people needing employment job support they don’t mean me.  The government have now come up with schemes to help the vast number of young unemployed people to get help including government-funded apprenticeships.  These are a very good idea and will help young people to get experience, qualifications and  references for their CV s.  However I am getting tired of seeing perfectly good jobs that I could do being advertised as apprenticeships under this scheme, as being over 25 I can’t apply.  Also some of the jobs I see as apprenticeships are clearly being used as a way for businesses to get free labour paid for by the government, I mean who needs to go to college once a week and apprentice as a shop assistant or as an office junior.  None of these jobs are at management level or even supervisor level and yes having done retail work myself I know it takes some skill in money handling and customer service, but it is not a skill like say hairdressing or car mechanics.  I also note an apprentice in their first year gets paid less than normal minimum wage, £2.68 an hour is hardly going to cover most people transport costs let alone give them any money left to spend after.  After the first year they are paid national minimum wage for their age, however a lot of apprenticeships don’t last more than a year.

I am not ashamed to say I am in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance benefit, it is something I have to do to survive and I am genuinely trying to get paid work.  However the things you have to do to get it are starting to become more and more ludicrous.  For example you have to use the government’s own job search website, Universal Jobmatch at least a few times a week as well as other sites and log into it so they can monitor your job searching.  At first this seamed reasonable, they want to check you are actively looking for work.  However the jobs on this site are a bit of a joke.  Within 20 miles of my home town today 18 new jobs were posted, out of those 1 was an apprenticeship, 10 were recruitment agencies who mostly advertise elsewhere as well, at least 2 of them were the same jobs I saw earlier this week and there was the daily Avon job.  Avon reps hardly make the kind of money you can live off, even the TV advert calls it a nice little wage top up, pin-money so to speak.  Not to mention the number of self-employment jobs where you still end up having a boss, but no employment rights.  Then there is the jobs that do not even say who the company are advertising the job, they say company confidential, but I suspect they are either recruitment agencies or not proper jobs at all.  Last week I saw a report on Channel Four News about the number of fake or reposted jobs advertised on Universal Jobmatch.  According to Channel Four more than one in five adverts on the site are copies, which was something I was starting to suspect already.

jobmatch_2433649b

Then there is the whole long-term job seekers thing.  If you sign on for more than 6 months you have to go to privately run extra support places at least once a fortnight as well as sign on.  My nearest provider is a place called Working Links, which are a national chain of offices designed to help people find work.  However I have been with them nearly two years and the only job they ever found for me was in a yoghurt factory standing for 12 hours a day which I had to turn down due too not being able to stand for more than about 6 hours a day with my hip issues which had already told Working Links about before.  If you manage to get a job your Working Links advisor gets paid a bonus.  I did manage to get a three-month Christmas temp job last year so my advisor got a bonus, but actually she never helped me get the job at all, I found the job and never even had an appointment with her in time before I had the interview.  I thought yay I had a job I wont have to see them again for at least 6 months, but I was so wrong, if you have been with them within the last 6 months then you automatically go back to them when you re-sign on.  I would not mind so much if they were in my own town as it would not take very long, but the offices are in the next town and it takes me about 30-40 minuets on the bus.  They do pay my bus fare, but it is more the time I am wasting.  A previous advisor I had till I complained, just used to stick me on a computer for an hour to job search.  As if I could not and was not already doing that at home, how is a different computer in a different place supposed to magically produce new jobs?  Also if there were no jobs to apply for that day it was hard to know how to fill the hour.  To be fair my new advisor now is more friendly and we get along quite well, but I am still not getting much actual help from her.

Now I am told I have a very good CV.  I have not mentioned anything about my disabilities on it.  Firstly I can not think of any adjustments an employer would need to make for me if I got an interview or a job.  Secondly I don’t know if I want a job just to fill a quoter, I would rather get the job on my own merits because they want to hire me for my skills and personality.  However I do wonder if in some interviews, especially group interviews with team tasks and so on, if my mild Autism or learning issues might make me come across as a bit strange and if the employer knew about my mental issues would it change how they assessed me?  If asked I am always honest about any disability issues.  They often ask why I have been out of work so long and one reason was major hip surgery.  However I do like to make it clear I can now do more because of my false hip and not less.

Post Surgery

Am I still disabled?  Since having reached full recovery from total hip replacement surgery this is a question I find myself asking.

Before surgery I always thought of myself as disabled.  No I was not fully wheelchair bound, but I could not walk long distances easily and I often found walking a painful experience.  Now I can walk further than ever pain-free.  I love how much more I can now do without having to think about it first and decide if I need my wheelchair with me or not.  However having spent my life calling myself disabled I find myself in a confusing situation.

I am currently trying to get a job.  When filling in an application form they often ask the question ‘do you consider yourself to have a disability?’  I now answer this with a no, as I do not see myself as having anything an employer would need to know about and do not need any work place adjustments.  However sometimes I feel a bit like I am denying a part of myself in saying I am not disabled. Having called myself disabled most of my life I saw it as part of my identity, part of what made me.  I went to a special school for disabled children for three years of my education and I attended a special needs youth club session in my teens.  Some of my closest friends are disabled.  At university I was part of the disabled students group within the student union.  My disability had helped me make friends and join a social setting within society.

Now I feel a bit lost, where do I fit in?  Officially I am not classed as disabled.  One year after my surgery they stopped my Disability Living Allowance benefit money as my hip surgery was so successful.  I agree with the decision, I no longer need to pay for taxis to places that are considered normal walking distance for most people and I was only on low rate anyway.  This also means I no longer qualify for a free bus pass now, which I have to say as a non-driver I do miss, but I understand why.

I made a comment on Facebook about not being disabled any more.  A friend of mine commented asking how could someone go from disabled to not disabled.  I tried to explain that in my case surgery had worked and I was no longer getting any disability benefit.  I still think she struggles to understand this concept, as do I in some ways.  Looking back it was probably not a good comment to have made when I have so many disabled friends on my Facebook.  It was tactless when most of them had conditions that no amount of surgery could ever fully cure and they would always be disabled.  I find it hard sometimes to know the right things to my friends without sounding like I am showing off or thinking I am better than them.  I honestly do not think I am better than anyone else at all.

I do still have some mental health issues and some learning problems.  I am unsure as to whether they class me as disabled or not as they are mild and not a huge problem all the time.  However they do at times make me feel like I have something in common with disabled people in that I am held back from getting on with my life in some ways.

More recently I have started to wonder if no longer being disabled I have actually made things worse in terms of getting on with my life.  I have seen friends from school and other places moving on in life with jobs, homes and financial support.  I am not saying these people do not need the help or deserve it, I am very happy for them.  However it leaves me thinking, what about me?  I am still living with my parents at home, unemployed and Job Seekers Allowance being my only income.  If I was still disabled would I have had help to leave home and get my own flat, or would I have been put on a work trial that led to a job offer?  I went from being disabled with extra support, to nothing almost over night, which was a bit scary.  I remember how much pain I was in before the surgery and am very glad I had it, but no one told me that you suddenly have to deal with everything in life by yourself.  I am lucky in that I have very supportive parents who let me live at home at the age of 28 and help me to prepare and get to job interviews, help me financially by only charging me a small amount of rent and help me to have some kind of life.  I wonder how some people cope post surgery when the official support dries up and they have no one at home to help them.

Right now life has reached a sort of limbo, like I am waiting for the next part of my life to start, but I do not know how to get things going.  I want to move out of my parents house, but that is unlikely to happen any time soon on my budget.  I looked at the idea of local housing authority flats, but seeing as my parents are willing to put up with me and I have no health issues stopping me from living at home I would never be eligible.  Before surgery I would have been as we have steep steps to our front and back doors and I could have claimed getting in and out of the house was too painful.  I have tried the job thing, but after nearly two years on Job Seekers the best I could managed was a three-month Christmas temp job and am back where I was before.  I do not get work placements that can lead to a job as I am not considered in need in that kind of help being a non-disabled job seeker.  However I do get to walk pain-free and my life has improved vastly since the surgery.  I now just need to figure out how to make the most of this new hip and to start living life to the full.