more workfare shenanigans

i’ve just added a WORKFARE page to my blog. since this is now a part of my life i had to decide whether to blog about it and risk who knows what in sanctions or to keep it to myself and risk a hernia.

reader, LETS GO! FUCK WORKFARE AND THE HORSE IT RODE IN ON! because imma blog the fuck out of it.

so, where were we? yes. this morning i decided to make an introductory page about it which is basically cut and pasted from last week’s protected blog post, so if you read that you are up to speed. if you didn’t here’s the link to the page. you can find it any time, though, because it’s right up there at the top with ‘about the author’ etc. i will be updating it as i go along.

well, monday i had to go to another “work focused interview”. i was super anxious, since i had decided that i didn’t want to sign their incomprehensible paperwork, and i had printed out one of these consent withdrawl letters to hand to my ‘advisor’. my stomach was in knots about it, but the thing is that DSS (department of social security) paperwork is all kitemarked by the plain english campaign, so whether you like what you are signing or not it is at least unambiguous. if i have to have something explained to me  verbally i don’t like to sign it, because what, then, are you signing?

the consent withdrawl letter i used is all DWP (department of work and pensions) policy quoted verbatim. it’s written in legal english, which is difficult but not ambiguous. i was worried that it would mark me out as ‘anti’ and make for tense times at these mandatory meetings.

ten walked me up there, and i went in to the crowded open plan office. the bloke i see is nice enough, and clearly does want to help me, but it would seem that he is woefully ill informed about LOTS of things. lots and lots of things. let me be an education for him.

so, i explained to him that it was nothing personal, but that i declined to fill in the forms he had given me. i gave him the letter and a copy for me to read and sign, and unsurprisingly, he was disinclined to sign it right then and there. however, happily, he appeared to not take it personally, and the rest of our meeting went ok within the bounds of as ‘ok’ as it could ever be.

in fact, i told him two things about not signing the paperwork. i told him that it was unclear and that i didn’t want to sign it, and that legally i didn’t have to sign it, and i also told him that due to my heightened anxiety levels i no longer considered myself mentally competent (mental health act 1982, if i had to quote it, though i didn’t – i feel i need back up for EVERYTHING now). it seems that St Anne’s Hospital has lost my referral from the Complex Care team to the next team i will be handled by, for people with chronic health conditions, so if i want my medication looked at i will either have to wait til the original psych comes back from holiday and re-sends his referral, go to emergency, or get my GP to review my meds. this all seems too complicated for me to think about, so am currently just gritting my teeth.

at the top of the meeting he asked me how i was. obviously, in a normal situation i simply lie and tell people i am fine because that is the answer to “how are you?” however, it behooves me to tell the truth in this instance, since i need him to understand that i am very much not fine and expect to be not fine for the foreseeable future.

now, since receiving the letter about the changeover from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance, and my categorization in the work related activity group i have read it rather closely. obvs, i didn’t read it properly when i first got it, since i was OFF MY FACE on antipsychotics at the time. i tend not to read letters. i didn’t even open the original form, and had to phone them to ask for clemency because i hadn’t returned it during their time frame. guess what? that’s part of mental ill health. i was too busy having suicidal ideations to open letters, sorry.

anyway, now that i have read it more closely i have noted a sentence on page 4 which reads;

“You are required to attend and take part in work-focused interviews as a condition of continuing to recieve benefit. If you do not attend or participate in a work-focused interview your benefit may be reduced.

However work-focused interviews may be deferred if there are good reasons as to why it is not appropriate or of no assistance at that time.

i showed my advisor this, and HE HAD NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE and he asked me if he could take a copy. OF COURSE he could have a copy. the better informed he really is the better for me. it would appear his masters don’t want him knowing that he needn’t continue with someone who is clearly not well enough to attend interviews (this is, after all, how the organization makes it’s money, processing the sick and poor for profit).

of course, i have been thinking about what i would do if they took my benefit off me. unfortunately, my work based fantasies are just that, fantasies. if  i were well enough there are any number of things i could do. my thought was that i could do murals for people, because if i could do them then it wouldn’t take many to replace the ESA money. so, i mentioned this to him. OOH! he loved that. it was like i had thrown him a bone. i think it is evident to him that i would not be able to manage anything like a regular job, so i expect he was expecting a bit of an uphill interview.

if you do 30 hours a week paid work you can claim working tax credit, he explained. (that would be an income of half what i get on ESA, but of course, better than nothing, i suppose.) it would get me off ESA which would be a win for statistics, and more importantly for his company, a big fat cheque for getting me ‘into work’. he explained that i didn’t really need to be working 30 hours, that lying on the sofa thinking about my project would count as working. HA! if there really was a job called ‘lying on the couch and thinking’ i would be fully employed!

he printed off a ream of paperwork about self employment for me to take home. he is completely in denial about what i have told him is my physical state. bless him. he is also extremely uninformed about how working tax credit works. he did tell me that i would have to be making £70 a week. if i could make £70 a week doing anything i would have signed off so i could be free of this farce and the duress it puts me under.

i have looked up the regulations for working tax credit. as it happens, if you are considered ‘disabled’ the weekly hours go down to 16. still more than i could manage, but does he not know that? and according to their paperwork i could claim it, were i actually going to do this, while claiming EAS.

anyway, it’s all in the realm of myth right now. if i were well enough to work i would be happy to go to the job centre where the career advisors are more well informed about guidelines if i wanted to be self employed or if i was entitled to working tax credit. if i were well enough to work, though, i’d much rather get a job. self employment is, in reality, incredibly hard work and involves a LOT more than 30 hours of work a week. the stress alone would put me back to square one.

sorry for banging on! unfortunately, dear readers, i will likely be blogging about this for some time to come. i hope that what information i glean can help others in my situation. go forth! be well! and if you are dealing with this abomination yourself, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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21 responses to “more workfare shenanigans

  1. The lady I was assigned to when I was granted ESA decided at our first meeting that she was only going to contact me by phone because getting to the job centre was obviously too much for me, and eventually decided that – by doing her job – she felt as though she was harrassing me and told me she was putting a stop to the calls with something on my notes saying that I’m just not fit for work and so meetings are overly stressful for me and a waste of time for both of us when she can be helping someone who CAN get back into the workplace.

    I know that I’ve generally been very lucky in terms of health care and appropriate disability benefits in the area I live in, and I hope that it will be the same for you x

    • i expect that day will come. i think he will get fed up of me sooner rather than later. it really is pointless seeing me, and it’s a slot someone else could actually benefit from.

      none of my conditions are technically degenerative, but neither are they likely to improve. even if i were totally on the street it wouldn’t make me be able to ‘buck up’. if i were put on working tax credit it would actually be defrauding the system.

      • I felt so bad for the lady who was dealing with me. She actually said “I feel as if I’m harrassing you – I’m so sorry” and I had to reassure her that I was fully aware that she has a job to do and I wasn’t feeling harrassed at all. I didn’t even get called back for a medical review, so I think she may even have contacted ATOS herself on my behalf and told them they’d placed me in the wrong group. I’m falling apart at the seams; I *look* perfectly healthy, if a little pale, but I constantly hurt and can barely walk or even sit for long periods. How am I supposed to do any job at all?

        At least I can tell you, from experience, that not everybody who takes on these roles at the Job Centre is a dictatorial git 🙂

        • yes, i have another friend whose experience was solely with jobcentre. i am getting the distinct impression that it is much better just to stay with them. unfortunately, my jc interviewer didn’t give me the choice. i was told that if i didn’t voluntarily go to a private ‘provider’ then it would become mandatory anyway. so i went.

          my reality is that i can’t sit, stand or walk for more than a few minutes (if at all) without pain. and if i push it and just stick out the pain i invite spasms and days of migraine and extreme fatigue.

          any idea of my working is a complete fantasy.

          it pisses me off that ATOS get paid for reviewing applications which they processed wrongly in the first place. ‘the game is rigged’ as they say in wired.

          • While you and I have differing physical/emotional issues, I am still in a great deal of pain and extremely fatigued from Monday – so I can truly understand where you’re coming from.

            Reviewing either of us is utterly pointless. They can’t physically examine my brain activity and neither of us are going to suddenly stop having disabilities!

            • somebody somewhere seems to have decided that everyone on disability benefits either just happens to sit in a wheelchair and is in no pain and has no other problems, or else they are ill in a way which will involve getting better. while i dare say there are some people to whom this applies it’s not even close to reality.

              if people are disabled in a way in which they can still work they tend to just claim DLA to help them do that, and they are already doing it. same with ‘people who get better’ and, arguably ‘people who are going to die imminently’. everyone else, the vast majority of claimants, are ill in chronic and or degenerative ways. we exist! that is all! we won’t suddenly not exist just because the govt wants to get rid of us.

              /end grr!

  2. I wish I knew what to say. This is idiotic bureaucratic nonsense. It sounds like something we’d do here, not something they’d do in the UK. You’re usually better over there. We’re usually the ones with stupid ideas that don’t take people into account. Ugh.

    I guess all I can say, and it’s woefully inadequate, is keep writing. It’ll let off some steam. And I think you’ll be having a lot of steam to let off over the next little bit. I wish I could Hulk smash someone for you, I really do. I also wish I was independently wealthy so I could “hire” you to sit around and “think about projects” for me so they would LEAVE YOU THE HELL ALONE.

    • i know! right? it’s mad and embarrassing. i want to move to france.

      i do feel much better now that i have decided to write about it. better than keeping it all in.

      i would be SO GOOD at sitting round thinking about projects. LIKE A PRO!

        • indeed they are. ATOS. and apparently they are denied any feedback on how the assessments work so they can’t modify them to work better.

          i won’t be moving to france. i’ve already moved there in my mind, though, watching french telly til it comes out my ears. c’est maginfique!

  3. So, does educating your workforce contact and doing all your own legwork, so to speak, contact as self employment? Because if so, you totally qualify for the tax credit right now.

  4. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, that both sucks and blows.

    I hope they see sense in the very near future.

    • i am appealing the decision to put me in the ‘work related group’. from what i can gather it takes several months, though.

      i have to attend these interviews or risk losing benefit but there’s little point in him getting all enthusiastic about getting me work if i can’t do it.

  5. It has become clear to me the people who make decisions about who “deserves” benefits and who “does not deserve” benefits are either fully able-bodied and have never dealt with a debilitating illness, or they have enough resources that being unable to work would not impact them financially at all. They. Make. Me. Sick.

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