The irony of being told I don’t deserve benefits


by Sue Marsh    
2:10 pm - October 26th 2011

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All my life I wanted to work. I wanted to do something important.

I did everything society told me I should. I worked hard, I went to college despite being told I’d never pass due to sickness absence. I went to uni despite being told by well meaning doctors not to go. I worked.

For years, despite well meaning loved ones telling me I should stop.

When I became unable to “work” (in the traditional sense) I tried everything from classsy-bar-singer to teacher to saleswoman to trader. I tried self employed, part time and late shifts.

I worked. I got sick, I had surgery, I went back to work. I nearly died. In the end, family and friends launched “Campaign Save Suey” and nagged me at every dinner or party or wedding to STOP WORKING.

In the end, I had to. It was without doubt, the very worst thing I ever had to come to terms with about being ill. “There’s no such word as Can’t” was the mantra in my house as I was growing up and realising that in fact, there WAS was very nearly impossible.

I wrote a book (no-one would publish) about NHS reform. I fed the homeless and took in waifs. I bought and sold properties, keeping us afloat for around ten years longer than we would have managed by sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves.

Through that whole period, my country accepted that I was so unwell, that I needed support. I didn’t feel like a “Scrounger” I felt very, very sad that my ambitions and dreams had been taken away. I marvelled at just how I’d managed to stay alive and blessed with a loving family. I thanked the NHS every day for saving me and I thanked the welfare state for giving me a little dignity.

Sometimes I thought “Well, my husband works, why should I get this money?”

Then when I spent £60 on petrol to get to the specialist bowel disease centre 130 miles from my home, or bought food that meant I wouldn’t make myself more ill, I was grateful.

All of that is now under threat. I feel like a burden on society. I feel that my voluntary contributions to many people in society are worth nothing. I feel that my life has been useless. Not to me or the people I cared for, but to “society”

I feel weak and pathetic, where I used to feel accepted and lucky. I cannot earn even a little money from the writing I do or my family will lose everything – much more than I could earn from the few articles I might be able to publish when I am (unreliably) able to write.

It isn’t about how I will survive – I would rather work myself to death than see my family suffer.

It’s about how I feel now. Every day. It’s about the articles full of lies I read every week in the Daily Mail. It’s about the distortions and mis-truths I hear from politicians now.

It’s a society so convinced that a “something for something” society is fair, they never ask what become of those who need your support for nothing. Just because you care.

This is what you’re doing. Not “taking away” or “sanctioning” or “getting tough”. You are making me feel invisible, unworthy and frightened. It’s THAT that I despise you for.

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About the author
Sue is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She blogs on Diary of a Benefits Scounger and tweets from here.
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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

“It’s a society so convinced that a “something for something” society is fair, they never ask what become of those who need your support for nothing. Just because you care.”

Well said (the rest of the article, too).

Beautiful words. It really isn’t just about the material effects of what’s happening to the welfare state; it’s the complete lack of even the most basic respect and sympathy for anyone who has the audacity to be in need. Waking up to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer accuse you of mugging society doesn’t exactly fill one with a tremendous sense of social worth.

I agree wholeheartedly. The failure of people to recognise the duty of care they ought to have to their fellow man in a civilised society is something that causes me great sadness, and I speak as an “able” person. I can only imagine how it must feel for you. My sympathies.

4. Kismet Hardy

You have to wonder how omnipotent the editors of the Scum and Fail must feel.

They say travellers are thieving pikey gypsies: the white van man and mrs pilkington in manor house gardens both believe every single one of them is a thieving bastard

They say terrorism is thrife: all Muslims are under suspicion; They say youths have lost their way: they’d vote in a call for mandatory national service tomorrow. They say benefit scrounger, the working class and toffs think all council houses are havens for lazy people with bigger TVs than theirs…

What they say, the masses just gobble up. Even Simon Cowell doesn’t weild that kind of unanimous head-nods. That’s the kind of effect Jesus used to have!

How do those editors sleep at night? Smug, powerful and utterly peacefully I should think…

5. douglas clark

Sue Marsh,

You are a brave and worthwhile person. The folk that do you down are not. I’d like to say that Kismet Hardy @ 4 is wrong. And, to some extent he is, however we are on the slippery slope he identifies.

I’d prefer to live in Janviers society to the one that appears to confront us. I agree with his/her sentiments entirely.

6. Leon Wolfson

@4 – How do they sleep? That’d be called the fat paycheck and, frequently, a personality disorder. (Capitalist business positively encourages some kinds of personality disorder in people, after all)

One thing Goebbels did get right was the theory of the Big Lie. Repeat an outrageous lie often enough, and people believe it. To whit, he said;

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(And please someone, accuse a Jew of being a Nazi sympathiser, I need a laugh)

7. douglas clark

Leon Woolfson,

You are clearly a Nazi sympathiser and you can buy me a pint!

8. Leon Wolfson

@7 – Not at UK prices I bloody can’t!

I sympathize with your situation and hope that some beneficent resolution comes to you soon. It is a matter for deep reflection and great concern that this Government, above all others in living memory seems to be acting with all the impersonal and careless attitude of an Autocracy. It is as if, through no fault of our own, we have unwittingly released a plague upon ourselves. We know, through historical evidence that times of famine or austerity have been accompanied by Draconian leadership, brooking no obstacle – human or humanity, to achieve their goals. I am not a Christian. I don’t adhere or believe in an all-powerful Deity: but if I did – now would be the time for Him/Her to prove themselves. We are sliding, slowly into a morass: a quicksand of policies designed to make people transparent – never mind transparency in Government. Cuts in Benefits are set in a foundation -stone of cuts in Legal Aid: so the arrogance of State cannot be either argued against or undone. Decisions are final. The people suffer. It is their Law! It is their credo. All imagined and real obstacles to ‘economic growth’ must be removed: employment laws, housing laws, the right to appeal against unfair or mistaken judgements are refused, revoked and forbidden. I swear I thought we left the shadows of Stalin and Hitler in the past. We won the War didn’t we? WE did etch on the innnumerable Gravestones to Heroes “Never Again” didn’t we? Yet here we are in 2011, under the boot of another system: another Governement parroting the idioms of the War Years. The Orwellian paradigm made flesh in the forms of David Cameron and Nick Clegg (a two-headed beast if ever there was one.) Yet their collective practice of amputating a leg to save the body is not working, and they are seen to be less in command of the economic crises tham ever. Meanwhile the suffering is loaded onto the backs of the ‘lower orders.’ They do not suffer, for they are above us and do not share our infirmities, our disabilities nor our mental illnesses (apart from the fact that Mr Cameron may be more dangerous than a malignant narcissist with a penile dysfunction!) They all echo the idea of “short term pain for the benefit of long term growth” – but it is our pain, not theirs. Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have torn away over £4.5BN worth of Benefits from the poorest of our Communities – yet they have also awarded themselves large Bonuses across the wide range of Conservative and Lib-Dem Councillors. They prepare to make it impossible to claim ‘unfair dismissal’ and they will reinstigate the whole nightmare that was ‘corporate and workplace bullying.’ Meanwhile there are few jobs that pay enough to satisfy the most basic of living standards or payment of Bills, yet we are being bombarded with Bank Advertisements about ‘providing for the future.’ A future under this abysmal Government is likely to be violent, wretched and short! If we are fortunate there will be some accident of fate that will anger the public enough to remove them. I fear it may already be not enough to heal the damage already done! I hope not.

Thank you for all the lovely comments everyone.

‘This is what you’re doing. Not “taking away” or “sanctioning” or “getting tough”. You are making me feel invisible, unworthy and frightened. It’s THAT that I despise you for.’

Sometimes, when I read stories such as yours, I feel depressed…

Most of the time I feel intensely angry.

I see no evidence of any political will – within any political party, but least of all the Tories – to change the dehumanising approach to what is laughably called ‘welfare’ (or indeed, a wide array of other aspects of modern life) in this country…

12. So Much For Subtlety

t’s a society so convinced that a “something for something” society is fair, they never ask what become of those who need your support for nothing. Just because you care.

If someone cares there is no law stopping them helping. As people do every day. There are people who need our support for nothing. They will get it. To return to the obvious point – no one is abandoning the sick to die in the gutter. All that is going on is that sick people are being asked to prove they cannot work. If they genuinely need our support for nothing in return, they will get it. If they do not they will be moved on to some other form of benefit where they are expected to show some basic minimal effort to get off benefits. This is not Dachau.

This is what you’re doing. Not “taking away” or “sanctioning” or “getting tough”. You are making me feel invisible, unworthy and frightened. It’s THAT that I despise you for.

I am sorry you feel bad. But I notice that your benefits have not been cut as yet. Nor does there seem to be any reason to think they will. All you are being asked to do is to see a doctor. Why is that so unreasonable? As for you feelings, I am sorry you feel unworthy. But the welfare state exists to meet real material needs. Not to protect the feelings of every single person in the United Kingdom.

I see nothing unreasonable about asking sick people to prove they are sick. If that makes you feel bad you will have to explain to me why it is so important that it should trump every other policy consideration.

13. So Much For Subtlety

9. Mike Caits

It is a matter for deep reflection and great concern that this Government, above all others in living memory seems to be acting with all the impersonal and careless attitude of an Autocracy.

Take the best read newspapers in Britain. Look to see what their attitude to these reforms are. The Daily Mail for instance. Are you sure that it is not you who is demanding the impersonal and careless attitude of an Autocracy?

I swear I thought we left the shadows of Stalin and Hitler in the past. We won the War didn’t we? WE did etch on the innnumerable Gravestones to Heroes “Never Again” didn’t we? Yet here we are in 2011, under the boot of another system: another Governement parroting the idioms of the War Years. The Orwellian paradigm made flesh in the forms of David Cameron and Nick Clegg (a two-headed beast if ever there was one.)

You must see that this sort of language is not only utterly out of touch with reality to the point of nearly being delusional, but that it will also only damage your side of the argument? How can you expect anyone to take you seriously when you compare asking sick people on benefits to see a doctor with Auschwitz? Come on, can you explain to me in what possible way Cameron is remotely like either Hitler or Stalin?

Meanwhile the suffering is loaded onto the backs of the ‘lower orders.’

That is manifestly not true. It is hard to work out precisely who benefits the most from the welfare state but there is simply no denying that the poor are massive beneficiaries. And will continue to be regardless of these reforms.

A future under this abysmal Government is likely to be violent, wretched and short! If we are fortunate there will be some accident of fate that will anger the public enough to remove them. I fear it may already be not enough to heal the damage already done! I hope not.

You hope not? You want the damage (which only exists in your mind) to continue unhealed? Weird. The future under this government is likely to be what it always has been. But with fewer people claiming disability falsely. Unless the Euro implodes in which case we are looking at 1929. When we will not be able to carry so many mouths that refuse to work. Be careful what you wish for.

J

Most of the time I feel intensely angry.

And do you see this as a qualification for comment or a disqualification?

I see no evidence of any political will – within any political party, but least of all the Tories – to change the dehumanising approach to what is laughably called ‘welfare’ (or indeed, a wide array of other aspects of modern life) in this country…

They seem to be trying to me. Welfare is dehumanising. Which is why it is so much better to get people back to work. Given we are so immensely generous to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, the lazy, the feckless and so on, why is it you seem to think that we also need to take their feelings into account? Why? Isn’t it enough that most of us work from about January to May each and every year to support them? Two days each and every week?

14. Leon Wolfson

@12 – “no one is abandoning the sick to die in the gutter”

ATOS can. ATOS have.

“This is not Dachau.”

No, it’s far worse, because we’re supposed to know better. Tories like you don’t.

“I see nothing unreasonable about asking sick people to prove they are sick.”

And nothing wrong with a quota for reducing that number, which they are obliged to meet. Right. Never mind that people have conditions which don’t get better, they need to be constantly harassed. Reduces life expectancy, cuts the medical bills.

“Take the best read newspapers in Britain. Look to see what their attitude to these reforms are. The Daily Mail for instance”

Ooh, yes, the tory tabloid the Daily Fail, full of worthless trash journalism…the law on privacy and defamation should be reformed to stop that sort of intrusive paparazzi-photo-buying trash from casually ruining lives.

“You must see that this sort of language is not only utterly out of touch with reality to the point of nearly being delusional”

No, it’s accurate. You’re using the standard far right tactic of insulting as mentally ill anyone who disagrees with the corporatist screed you preach.

“And will continue to be regardless of these reforms.”

Oh, is THAT what not being able to afford basic food, a roof and utilities over the winter’s called in Tory parlance.

“Unless the Euro implodes in which case we are looking at 1929. When we will not be able to carry so many mouths that refuse to work. Be careful what you wish for.”

Yes, like yours. You refuse to do your part, leech. Even some third world countries take better care of their poor than England does.

“Given we are so immensely generous to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, the lazy, the feckless and so on”

Oh right, that’s what the miserly benefits, as can easily be see by anyone with any grasp of numbers at all, handed out from begging the JSA not to pick YOU for their sanctions quota this week, despite you following the massively bureaucratic rules to the letter.

“Why? Isn’t it enough that most of us work from about January to May each and every year to support them? Two days each and every week?”

You work for yourself, and here you’re working to HURT those people. You are a spiteful, vicious individual who has come here and attacked someone ill for the fun of it.

Brilliant article as always, Sue.

As for @12: you said:
“All you are being asked to do is to see a doctor. Why is that so unreasonable?”

What’s unreasonable is that it is often not a doctor assessing the individual, but a “healthcare professional” who often has no detailed knowledge of many types of disability & relies on a deeply flawed piece of tick-box software. Doctors and specialists’ medical evidence is often flat-out ignored. Of those who appeal their ATOS/DWP decision, the success rate is around 40%, and can often average as high as 70% when the claimant is represented by an knowledgeable representative (which is also being cut, by the way).

We don’t mind being assessed every so often. But we want to be assessed by people, qualified doctors, who know what they are doing. During these assessments, we’d like to be treated as human beings, not absolute scum. It would also be nice if the DWP would stop releasing highly misleading and in some cases downright false information with which the tabloids then use to beat & smear sick/disabled people. And, finally, we’d like a bit more humanity in the system and proposed reforms. Stopping transport for those in care homes and cutting ESA for those with a partner in work are not only unnecessary, they are rather cruel.

But what can we expect from the Tories (and Labour these days as well) when they see us only in terms of economic production and how much wealth we generate for the bosses and shareholders? In the current neoliberal, sociopathic Britain, if you can’t make a profit for anyone, you aren’t worth shit.

16. Leon Wolfson

@15 – “We don’t mind being assessed every so often.”

For people who have conditions which never get better? Nuts. The ONLY reason to assess you is to see if they can throw you off benefits. It’s a waste of cash, but there’s plenty for ATOS…

For all the apologetics SMFS has made of the WCA, not once has he actually demonstrated it does what is claimed: does it actually test accurately if someone is capable of work?

18. So Much For Subtlety

15. Douglas

What’s unreasonable is that it is often not a doctor assessing the individual, but a “healthcare professional” who often has no detailed knowledge of many types of disability & relies on a deeply flawed piece of tick-box software.

Could you please provide evidence that the people doing the checks are not actual doctors? I am sure they are using a flawed piece of box ticking software. As does everyone these says.

Doctors and specialists’ medical evidence is often flat-out ignored.

Some doctors’ and specialists’ medical evidence is ignored by the ATOS people. Rightly. Are you saying the massive inflation in numbers claiming is a real, actual, genuine phenomenon? That doctors never make mistakes?

Of those who appeal their ATOS/DWP decision, the success rate is around 40%, and can often average as high as 70% when the claimant is represented by an knowledgeable representative (which is also being cut, by the way).

So in other words, even among those that feel aggrieved enough to appeal, the majority fail to prove they are sick? The fact that 70% of those represented by whatever self-interested lobby it was win merely proves how easy it is to spot the people who have no genuine claim – even non-doctors get it right more often than not.

We don’t mind being assessed every so often. But we want to be assessed by people, qualified doctors, who know what they are doing. During these assessments, we’d like to be treated as human beings, not absolute scum.

I am all for people being assessed every now and then. I am definitely for proper doctors doing it. Doctors who should behave in a professional manner with all patients. But I am not willing to concede that hurt feelings are a valid criterion for judging the process.

It would also be nice if the DWP would stop releasing highly misleading and in some cases downright false information with which the tabloids then use to beat & smear sick/disabled people.

The fact is the majority of people assessed are found to be capable of work. The majority of those that appeal are found to be capable of work. I don’t know how much less misleading their figures can be – you have conceded there is a massive problem with fraud. We need to do something about it.

And, finally, we’d like a bit more humanity in the system and proposed reforms.

We all would. But the system is not meant to spare people’s feelings. It is meant to meet the real needs of the genuinely sick. This is not even a distraction. It is missing the point.

17. Mason Dixon, Autistic

For all the apologetics SMFS has made of the WCA, not once has he actually demonstrated it does what is claimed: does it actually test accurately if someone is capable of work?

That is an interesting question. We know that the present system is massively bad at spotting people who are capable of work. Given the majority of decisions are upheld on appeal – and the majority of the assessed don’t even bother trying to appeal – it seems to be working fairly well. The fact we have so many ways of double checking suggests safeguards to make sure it does work. No harm in trying anyway.

19. Dear Old Ted

A good and moving piece. I really can’t be bothered to argue with 18. Nice one Sue.

20. That bloke from muse

@19…yeah if we ignore 18 he might go away and take 13 and 12 with him. One can but hope.

I have been married for 39 years. I have two daughters, both graduates. During my working life, i worked with special needs children. It was low paid but i didn’t care as i loved it. I also looked after my disabled mother for many years.The last ten years i have suffered from a very painful autoimmune disease, i get low rate dla, roughly £18.00 a week.

I have done my bit and now i am ill, so i say sod the Daily Mail and those people that would question whether i am a scrounger.

Like you Sue, i despise them. I refuse to let them pull me down.

@18.

Ahem. So you think there is nothing wrong with a system which incorrectly assesses people as fit to work when they’re not 40% of the time? (possibly even up to 70% of the time).

Now, I’m afraid I always do my best to abide by decency and civilised standards of debate but it’s obvious that you don’t actually have any ability to reason or think at all and that it would be pointless trying to change your mind.

So instead, I’m just going to give my opinion on what you’ve said: You’re a cunt.

(apologies to anyone other than SMFC who is offended by this)

More than that, you are genuinely evil. You are exactly the kind of heartless, ignorant, hateful person that stands by and cheers as others are herded into gas chambers.

The truly remarkable thing is that I never compare people to Nazis and I’m actually a supporter of the coalition who regularly disagrees with articles and opinions on LC. So, let’s just say that for me to view you as scum then it just proves that you really have gone above and beyond the low grade malicious idiocy one finds all over the internet.

I won’t bother to read your reply, incidentally, as it will just be more of the same ignorant horseshit that you normally spout.

23. So Much For Subtlety

21. Lynne

Like you Sue, i despise them. I refuse to let them pull me down.

But you still take their money. I don’t think that in the long run this is sustainable. Either you do not get the money (either you refuse to take it or they refuse to give it) or you have to stop despising the tax payers who work so hard to earn the cash they give you. If you spit in the face of people who give you charity, they will stop giving you charity.

22. George W. Potter

Ahem. So you think there is nothing wrong with a system which incorrectly assesses people as fit to work when they’re not 40% of the time? (possibly even up to 70% of the time).

Well it depends on the alternative. And given the alternative system we have used up to now is vastly less accurate, it is an improvement. But you have not understood those figures – they say 40% of the people who appeal win. Not that 40% of people assessed win. A huge percentage do not appeal.

(apologies to anyone other than SMFC who is offended by this)

I am not offended by it. I understand that people who have been living on sinecures for so long get upset when their livelihoods are threatened.

More than that, you are genuinely evil. You are exactly the kind of heartless, ignorant, hateful person that stands by and cheers as others are herded into gas chambers.

Again, it is your own credibility you are throwing away. Do you really think this is going to help?

As I have explained about eight times, the WCA does not test ability to work. It merely tests for arbitrary descriptors and if you don’t possess enough descriptors you lose benefit whether fit for work or not.

These descriptors have been arbitrarily changed recently. An appeal tribunal still has to apply the same descriptors. Part of the problem is the bad assessments, but only part. So a refused appeal does not prove the system has worked well.

If you want to defend that sysytem, fine, but stop pretending it assesses capacbility to work.

Oh, and I believe the reason Sue will lose her benefits is because of the impending 12-month time limit, not the WCA.

@ SMFS

“Isn’t it enough that most of us work from about January to May each and every year to support them? Two days each and every week?”

What are you blithering about now SMFS? Are you suggesting that the roughly two-fifths of national income that gets collected in taxes and then spent by the government is spent wholly on supporting “the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, the lazy, the feckless and so on” – rather than on services and benefits provided to the working or retired population?

Newsflash: only 7% of national income is spent on welfare. (Or if you want to put it that way: most of us work to support these people until round about coffee time on a Monday morning.) The rest is spent on providing healthcare, education, pensions etc. to people just like you.

(Of course, “the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed” are also people just like you; it’s just that you’ve so far been lucky enough not to find yourself in their position.)

@ George Potter:

Did you ever read my last few comments re the personal allowance changes on this thread?

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/10/09/is-the-co-op-movement-getting-a-raw-deal-from-labour/

I also made a comment @ 6 here about what the “53%” movement in the US says about the prospects of a higher PA for promoting solidarity between low earners and the rest of us:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/10/15/how-global-occupations-can-play-to-mainstream-99-values/

I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to read them.

@22 Please don’t feed the troll. So Much Fucking Stupidity’s lengthy servings of bilious drivel reveal he is in desperate need of at least one of the following:
Employment.
Psychiatric care.
A life.
A blowjob.

23.
I payed tax when i was working thankyou very much. My husband still pays tax on his private pensions. We are getting back some of what we paid in. Get it.

If you think that sickness benefit or DLA is charity, then i presume you won’t be taking your state pension when you retire.

23
Sod off!

From Sue’s blog, yet more bad news for the disabled. according to new rules they will no longer be able to get cars on Motability worth more than £25,000.

Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for the user-led charity Disabled Motoring UK, said she was “angry” and “disappointed” with the new rule, and accused Motability of bowing to media pressure.

She said: “I feel they have listened too much to the negative press reports and reacted to them in this way. I am saddened by it because it is restricting the choice of the car for disabled people.”

She said she would not in future be able to lease the Motability car she currently drives, because it was worth more than £25,000.

“It was a completely personal choice because I do a lot of mileage and I wanted a car that could reach reasonable speeds and was safe to drive.

Is it outrageous for me to want to have a nice car? I work full-time and I put my money towards it. What is outrageous about it? I don’t get it.”

@23

“I am not offended by it. I understand that people who have been living on sinecures for so long get upset when their livelihoods are threatened.”

I’m not affected by this at all. I’m young and healthy and, in all probability, will spend my life paying much more into the system in taxes than I will ever get out of it. But that’s why it’s called National Insurance. It’s not complicated. You pay into it in the hope that you never need to take out of it. But if you end up in a situation where you need the system to kick in and look after you then you’re entitled to expect that it does so properly. People like Sue paid their NI contributions and they have every right not to be treated like scum when they claim what they’re entitled to.

@27

Sorry for feeding the troll.

@26

Yes I did. I’m afraid I never got round to answering. Sorry :S I don’t really want to hijack this thread with the debate but, to respond to your points, the fact is that everyone will still pay some from of tax (council tax, VAT, etc.) so these people will still be taxpayers and universality will be preserved. Also, I think you are right that there might be a danger of people trying to turn it into “them and us” but unfortunately they do that anyway. Just look at the typical Daily Mail middle Englander attitude where they think they are paying loads of money to scroungers while not seeing anything wrong with the way that they themselves greedily grab pensions, child tax credit, winter fuel allowances, free bus passes, etc. So this kind of problem will always exist and I doubt raising the tax allowance will significantly effect it. That kind of attitude will always have to be tackled, regardless of how the system is set up. And the truth is that, under any system, there will always be people who take out more than they put in. But that’s the entire freaking point of the system in the first place.

@31 – ‘… but if you end up in a situation where you need the system to kick in and look after you then you’re entitled to expect that it does so properly. People like Sue paid their NI contributions and they have every right not to be treated like scum when they claim what they’re entitled to.’

Yes, but one of Sue’s points was:

‘It’s a society so convinced that a “something for something” society is fair, they never ask what become of those who need your support for nothing. Just because you care.’

So whilst I absolutely agree that people who have paid NI / tax (whether for one month or 37 years or whatever) ‘have every right not to be treated like scum when they claim’ – *so do people who’ve never paid a penny* in contributions.

It only really matters if someone has never contributed to the system if you insist on treating them as nothing more than numbers, which is what the Tories are best at doing (and Labour weren’t exactly bad either), and just one reason why the current approach is dehumanising.

How many people read about the wee girl in China who was run over, and feigned (or maybe even felt) outrage at the morality of those who treated her broken body as numbers, as money? That’s exactly what we’re doing; it’s no less reprehensible.

@27

Sorry for feeding the troll.

@26

Aaargh, I just wrote a comment replying to you but accidentally closed the tab before posting >.<

Basically, I think you have a point, but that kind of attitude of them and us will exist anyway no matter what we do and it's something that people like us will always have to combat and challenge. Because, at the end of the day, people who don't pay income tax (which includes both poor people and big business) still pay tax in other ways through stuff like VAT. And, after all, the entire point of the system is that some people will always take out more than they pay in – that's the basic concept of any kind of insurance system.

Okay, this is odd. I’ve tried to post a comment twice and it hasn’t gone through. @26 and @27, sorry but your replies are lost in the ether.

36. Rob the crip

I was only seen once by a doctor, then to get DLA that took two minutes, but of course I’ve been seen again at a cost we are told of £1600 but fact I’m still paraplegic and I will be to the day I die unless Jesus pops up to heal me.

I’m told I will be seen again about three years so another £1600 plus, for a doctor to say whoops yes your disabled.

But of course Blair saw people who cheat all over the place and look at him, thieving little git. Those who have to go to court to hide their expenses have to be seen as creepy

Bugger. Now all the comments have appeared at once. Sorry for the spam :S

No problem George, thanks for taking the trouble to reply – twice!

I’d love to believe there’s nothing ‘special’ about income tax in terms of marking a divide between us/contributors and them/spongers, but I fear what’s obvious to you and me (most income tax payers get out more in services and benefits than they pay in income tax, even non-income tax payers pay indirect taxes, etc.) is not so obvious to many others. Look at how readily those “53%” types equate paying federal income tax specifically with being a worthwhile member of society.

I remain of the view that “progressive universalism,” exemplified by the tax credits system, may be the best idea New Labour ever had – almost everyone pays something in, almost everyone gets something out, but people on lower incomes with more dependents pay less and get more than households on higher incomes with fewer dependents. Some form of Universal Credit *could* be a way of building on this idea, further blurring the line between those “on welfare” and those “paying taxes”. Alas, I still think raising the PA pulls in the other direction.

@23

But you still take their money. I don’t think that in the long run this is sustainable. Either you do not get the money (either you refuse to take it or they refuse to give it) or you have to stop despising the tax payers who work so hard to earn the cash they give you. If you spit in the face of people who give you charity, they will stop giving you charity.

It’s not THEIR money it is OUR money. Having read Lynn’s comment it is HER money, she paid into an insurance scheme when she worked. She sould get paid out when she can’t.
That was / is the deal.

IT ISN’T FUCKING CHARITY YOU DICKHEAD

40. theophrastus

SMFS @ 12, 13, 18 and 23

Well said! – The welfare safety-net is being massively and systematically abused.

Sue
You are pitiable, courageous and deserving; but your self-regard and self-absorption are nauseating – and, I’m afraid, entirely typical of the Age of Entitlement.

oh sod off, theophrastus @40. Massively and systematically abused? The current figures from the DWP for ALL benefit fraud stand at about 0.6% of claimants. That’s all benefits, not just disability benefits, which thanks to the vast hurdles of medical proof and “assessments” is very difficult to claim.

I don’t really understand what’s “entitled” or “self-absorbed” about being disabled and having your rights – having paid NI – and your self-respect and respect from others whittled away quite fast.

I speak as someone who just went through the ATOS assessment yesterday for my chronic and degenerative condition. But I also speak as a taxpayer who’s trying to carry on working and doing additional charitable work in a recession. Wierdly, these things aren’t mutually exclusive – as long as the additional financial burdens of disability are offset, I can work and pay MORE taxes than I get back as DLA. If I don’t get DLA, I will not be able to do as much taxable stuff. Simples!

42. So Much For Subtlety

26. G.O.

Are you suggesting that the roughly two-fifths of national income that gets collected in taxes and then spent by the government is spent wholly on supporting “the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed, the lazy, the feckless and so on” – rather than on services and benefits provided to the working or retired population? Newsflash: only 7% of national income is spent on welfare. (Or if you want to put it that way: most of us work to support these people until round about coffee time on a Monday morning.) The rest is spent on providing healthcare, education, pensions etc. to people just like you.

Sorry but healthcare, education and pensions are all forms of welfare too. You can’t simply re-define the problem away.

(Of course, “the poor, the sick, the disabled, the unemployed” are also people just like you; it’s just that you’ve so far been lucky enough not to find yourself in their position.)

I am sure they are. On the other hand I don’t think people claiming disability when they can work are like me.

Lynne

I payed tax when i was working thankyou very much. My husband still pays tax on his private pensions. We are getting back some of what we paid in. Get it.

No. Because, unfortunately, it is not a defined-benefits scheme. You do not get what you paid in – or anything close to it. It is just a historical legacy that they use some of the same words. No more. Yes you paid tax when you were working. That does not give you an entitlement to anything now. Perhaps it should. But it doesn’t.

If you think that sickness benefit or DLA is charity, then i presume you won’t be taking your state pension when you retire.

As if there will be one. I certainly didn’t lie and claim it when I was 30. As many people, but not all, are doing with disability.

31. George W. Potter

I’m young and healthy and, in all probability, will spend my life paying much more into the system in taxes than I will ever get out of it. But that’s why it’s called National Insurance. It’s not complicated. You pay into it in the hope that you never need to take out of it. But if you end up in a situation where you need the system to kick in and look after you then you’re entitled to expect that it does so properly. People like Sue paid their NI contributions and they have every right not to be treated like scum when they claim what they’re entitled to.

I agree with all this except the last sentence. You are entitled to expect it looks after you properly. If you need it. Which is precisely what the system does. Unfortunately it also looks after people who have never paid in and are often not even sick. They falsely claim. All this system is set up to do is to check to see whether people claiming disability are in fact disabled. No more. It is making sure the system works as you describe – because the rest of us have a very reasonable expectation that disability goes to people who need it, not people who have made poor life style choices.

No one has a right not to be treated as scum. Hurt feelings cannot be a valid goal of the welfare system. Not that people are being treated as scum. This is just rhetorical bullying.

But you miss the point – Sue complained about a society where other people object to a something-for-nothing system. You seem to be in agreement that in fact people ought to contribute something to get some benefits back. I am not sure I would go that far. But the system does not work that way. It is called National Insurance because it is dishonest. It is not an insurance scheme. It does not depend on people paying in. We would be better off if it was.

39. Redfish

It’s not THEIR money it is OUR money. Having read Lynn’s comment it is HER money, she paid into an insurance scheme when she worked. She sould get paid out when she can’t. That was / is the deal.

No it isn’t. She paid into general revenue an additional impost on her income tax. When she worked. For which she is entitled to a totally unrelated amount of tax payer money when she gets sick. Which she is getting. It is not a fund that she paid into. It is not an insurance scheme. It is our money – not Sue’s. Nor is any person trying to deny her a pay out if she cannot work. All they are asking is that she pass a simple medical check to make sure she cannot work. If she can, she will not even be denied welfare. She will just be moved to another scheme. I have yet to see anyone explain what is so wrong about this.

IT ISN’T FUCKING CHARITY YOU DICKHEAD

It remains charity.

Nicki

Massively and systematically abused? The current figures from the DWP for ALL benefit fraud stand at about 0.6% of claimants. That’s all benefits, not just disability benefits, which thanks to the vast hurdles of medical proof and “assessments” is very difficult to claim.

Sure but that is the Social assessing themselves. What we have seen from this latest round of Disability assessment is something like two thirds of people on various forms of Disability either drop their claims or are assessed as being able to work. In other words, it has been massively abused.

as long as the additional financial burdens of disability are offset, I can work and pay MORE taxes than I get back as DLA. If I don’t get DLA, I will not be able to do as much taxable stuff. Simples!

So why bother with the middle man? Why not cut your taxes and allow you to keep the money you would have paid in income tax to get some piddling return as DLA? It is inefficient and wasteful.

43. Leon Wolfson

@42 – So you also oppose state pensions, healthcare and education. What a surprise!

“I don’t think people claiming disability when they can work are like me.”

Never mind that many of the benefits are in-work benefits, of course. Better to have the disabled, in your world, rot out of your sight.

There might be a bit less parroting from the invariable partisans if someone pointed out that the assessment system was designed by the *previous* government.
The assessment would be sensible *if and only if* it was carried out by someone who understood the health problems of the individual claiming incapacity benefit. If that occurs it is purely by coincidence. That is what is wrong with the system.
SMFS points out that it is 40% of those appealing win their appeal not a 40% error rate BUT a large %age of those rejected appeal – and more would do so if the appeal process didn’t involve so many pages of paper to fill out: the error rate is unacceptably high and the consequences of every wrong rejection is too painful for the victim (yes, victim) of this flawed system.
The first thing that needs doing is replacing the current system with one where the assessment is carried out by someone who actually understands what they are doing.
It is practically inevitable that there are some people who have recovered sufficiently that they should no longer be eligible for incapacity benefit but are still claiming because they can’t find a job (e.g. Middlesbrough where more than 1 in 5 of the workforce is unemployed since Tony’ friend Mittal closed the steelworks). Money will be saved by transferring these people onto JSA but a competent assessor would save just as much.
@42 No, you are wrong – it *is* a defined benefits system: if one pays NI one is entitled to healthcare and state pension and (unless one is self-employed) to unemployment benefit, incapacity benefit etc. Just because Nye Bevan said that the beauty of the NI Fund was that there was no fund, that doesn’t stop it being a defined benefits system. Paying income tax doesn’t entitle anyone to anything but paying NI does and if Lynne paid income tax she also paid NI.
*You* may not have noticed but NI is only paid by workers, not by pensioners or rentiers. Just because Brown used it as an extra tax on earned incomes after promising not to raise income tax, that doesn’t change the contract made by Lloyd George and Attlee. The whole point of insurance is that it pays out when one needs it if one has paid the premiums (in its initial form NI paid to widows if their husbands had paid the premiums). Sue paid NI when she was working, her husband still does, so she is entitled to claim benefits under the NI scheme. It is NOT “something for nothing”. “Something for nothing” is when I send a cheque to the Leprosy Mission, not when I pay my car insurance premium. I wonder whether you know the difference between “Defined Contribution” and “Defined Benefit”…

45. So Much For Subtlety

44. John77

The assessment would be sensible *if and only if* it was carried out by someone who understood the health problems of the individual claiming incapacity benefit. If that occurs it is purely by coincidence. That is what is wrong with the system.

That is an absurd claim. ATOS has been processing people for years. They employ real doctors. There is no reason to think they do not understand the health problems involved.

BUT a large %age of those rejected appeal – and more would do so if the appeal process didn’t involve so many pages of paper to fill out: the error rate is unacceptably high and the consequences of every wrong rejection is too painful for the victim (yes, victim) of this flawed system.

People who are getting charity are not victims. A reasonable percentage appeal. Most do not. Most who do fail. They have to fill out some forms? Come on. If this is so bad they are contemplating suicide, they can contemplate asking a spouse to help them with the paperwork. The error rate is lower than the only other alternative on offer.

The first thing that needs doing is replacing the current system with one where the assessment is carried out by someone who actually understands what they are doing.

There is no evidence ATOS does not.

It is practically inevitable that there are some people who have recovered sufficiently that they should no longer be eligible for incapacity benefit but are still claiming because they can’t find a job (e.g. Middlesbrough where more than 1 in 5 of the workforce is unemployed since Tony’ friend Mittal closed the steelworks). Money will be saved by transferring these people onto JSA but a competent assessor would save just as much.

It is inevitable. It is also fraud. We need to identify these people and move them off disability.

Good article Sue, and I can empathise completely. I had to leave work a few years ago because of my chronic medical conditions, and although I’m trying to get back into work at the moment, I’m still dependent on benefits (and thus just another ‘scrounger’ in the eyes of many).

The WCA is a joke, it absolutely does not test a person’s ability to work. One of the ‘tests’ is being able to walk or ‘mobilise’ (for those in a wheelchair) for 30m. Now, what exactly does that have to do with a person’s ability to do a job for enough hours a week to feed/house/etc themselves? I’d love to have a job where all I had to do was walk 30m once a week, but sadly I haven’t seen this position advertised yet. I remain hopeful.

In all seriousness the gap between what the WCA tests for and what is actually involved in working for a living is so huge that I can only assume that the people who designed it are a) morons or b) actually evil.

Once you actually get to a point where you *want* to try to get off benefits and into work again, it doesn’t exactly get easier. My medical conditions aren’t going to go away, so I need an employer who is sympathetic to the fact that e.g. I am going to need physical adaptations to a workstation, I may need time off for medical appointments now and again, I may need to work from home one day a week, etc. That cuts many employers out from the off because they just are not prepared to be flexible, and there is no law that requires them to be.

I tend to target the public sector when I look for jobs as they seem to be more understanding – but even then, it’s a struggle and I’ve been rejected for everything I’ve applied for thus far, even though I am very qualified and experienced. I saw a job spec for a university position recently that flat-out said they didn’t want anyone who had had a bad sickness record in their last job. Nice one.

In my last job I literally worked until I could no longer stand up, and now I am trying to get somewhere and can’t get a break no matter how low I aim. Anyone who dismisses benefit claimants like me, you or anybody as ‘lazy’ needs a reality check. Come and live my life for a day, or your life.

47. bridgetdprice

I felt quite pleased with this bit I wrote and feel it also pertinant here.

unfortunately people in power, being largely composed of psychopaths (outwardley charming with no moral compass) are very adept at transfering blame from themselves onto another group. This time bankers et al are managing to manipulate governments and many of the populace into believing that the financial troubles are all down to the very lowest echaelons of society. (Something for nothing is innapropriate for poor people because the rich should have the monopoly on it).

So far they are winning. We can only hope ‘Occupy’ which is uniting people globally, can have some effect.

@46 Nails it.

These same people proclaiming how wonderful the WCA is at assessing capability to work will doubtless be the same selfish bastards who with their other face on will refuse to employ anyone who is not 100% fit and seek to remove all employment protections.

49. theophrastus

Nicki @ 41

I’m not talking about fraud – though working in social housing, I think the fraud figures are a gross underestimate! – but about welfare dependency.

Being disabled is obviously not the same as being self-absorbed. But when you read Sue’s piece, don’t you get the impression that it’s all about her feelings?

And, as Sue almost admits, she can survive without state help. As most of us could if misfortune befell us. Bleating about state provision is so pathetic and demeaning.

And, btw, NI is not a route to entitlement: it’s a tax on jobs, and as such should be abolished!

50. Leon Wolfson

@49 – So you’re using personal experience rather than statistics. Typical.

“And, btw, NI is not a route to entitlement: it’s a tax on jobs, and as such should be abolished!”

Right, and with it everything funded by NI. Typical far-right views.

We need more people saying what George said @22 IMO.
I mean all you have to do is think up the most cliché-ridden hackneyed right-wingnut response to any subject whatsoever, and you will have a perfect carbon copy of what SMFS will write in any given thread. Anyone that pipes up in agreement with hin can be instantly dismissed as a lack-witted tosser as well.

52. So Much For Subtlety

51. Cylux

I mean all you have to do is think up the most cliché-ridden hackneyed right-wingnut response to any subject whatsoever, and you will have a perfect carbon copy of what SMFS will write in any given thread. Anyone that pipes up in agreement with hin can be instantly dismissed as a lack-witted tosser as well

Then it ought to be easy to explain why I am wrong. I notice you don’t. It sort of immediately follows from that there is every reason to think you can’t.

Then it ought to be easy to explain why I am wrong. I notice you don’t. It sort of immediately follows from that there is every reason to think you can’t.

Yeah, can’t be arsed more like it. George said all that needed to be said at 22.

54. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

I mean all you have to do is think up the most cliché-ridden hackneyed right-wingnut response to any subject whatsoever, and you will have a perfect carbon copy of what SMFS will write in any given thread. Anyone that pipes up in agreement with hin can be instantly dismissed as a lack-witted tosser as well.

I think it might be a bot tbh; it can’t seem to reason, it doesn’t deal well with new information nor does it feel shame or embarrassment.

@45 “they use real doctors” – well I’m glad to hear that they aren’t just pictures of “House” from American TV. It’s just that you seem to think that ATOS employs an army of super-geniuses each of whom is expert on every single disabling condition under the sun. You might as well expect me to solve Fermat’s last theorem because I’ve got a maths degree.
“People who are getting charity are not victims.” The victims are those who are not getting the financial support to which they are entitled – anyone who pays an insurance premium is entitled to claim on the policy – due to a failure of a badly-designed system – they are not “getting charity” they are the ones *not* getting anything. This seems to be evidence that you are a troll hired by some left-wing propagandist to smear New Labour and the Tories.
“There is no evidence ATOS does not.” Rubbish rubbish rubbish – there is vast quantities of such evidence (even anecdata is evidence)

It’s a nightmare. The media and govenment conspire to provoke hatred of the ill. I worked for the government when I was able to work. I was a ‘decision maker’ but I was constantly criticised for being too liberal, for not taking the hard line ‘with these people’ (foreigners). My job prospects were destroyed because I tried to apply the law rather than make decisions based on the Civil Service culture of the time. The pressure made me have a relapse, and I could no longer work, and now all I hear is the constant abuse leveled at the ill. This is turning into a very sick society. Right wing NWO agendas are being followed and no one seems to care. Oh well, it will all implode soon.

The Daily Mail is an obscene publication guilty of hate crime.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. reubenturner

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  2. helenlp

    @MindCharity @libcon http://t.co/vQPM93Vx This is very moving & helps remind us all about the real individual people behind the headlines.

  3. Aeryn Isherwood

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    @MindCharity @libcon http://t.co/vQPM93Vx This is very moving & helps remind us all about the real individual people behind the headlines.

  7. David Gillon

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