Good luck Job Centre, you’re gonna need it…

I have to go to the Job Centre on Friday. In fact, I have to go to the Job Centre every Friday because I’m now on JSA.

My mandatory reconsideration for my ESA claim was denied, which I already knew it was going to be. I could appeal, but I got 6 points out of 15 so it seems a bit pointless. Normally I’d be the first one going “no, you must appeal, try everything you can!” but to be honest I’m a bit knackered by the whole thing and after not being successful at my PIP appeal last year I’m not massively inclined to go through another one. So, hurrah, the system works! Y’know, the one where they keep saying no until you’re too tired and generally exhausted to try getting them to change their minds.

So I’m on JSA. I have a Claimant Commitment and I’m on Universal Jobmatch and I’m just waiting for the ideal job to come along…the one where I can be paid a full working week’s wages for three hours work conducted mostly while sleeping. That job.

In a fantastic twist of irony I’m actually better off now than I was on the assessment rate of ESA – assessment rate ESA is the same as the base rate of JSA – £73.10 a week – but on JSA I get “extra money because you’re disabled” (that’s literally what the extra is called on my JSA letter) bringing my weekly JSA up to £105.35 a week. Today my fatigue and pain were enough that I couldn’t walk from my sofa to my kitchen (for context: I could fall off the sofa and almost touch the kitchen they’re that close but I’ve just moved house and have no carpets so that would be a risky move). But of course on JSA you have to job search and “be available for work” which I guess I am if the work involves sitting on the sofa in my PJs knitting socks.*

*I would like to state for the record that I will happily take any job that involves sitting on my sofa in my PJs knitting socks

So I guess I want to wish the Job Centre good luck in finding me a job, I suppose. My tactic currently is to turn up weekly and say “nope, didn’t find anything I can physically do this week, sorry” for the foreseeable future and see what happens.

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So now I’m a job seeker.

How do you tell the job centre that the issue with finding work isn’t the “finding” part, but the “work” part? Finding a job isn’t the issue. There are jobs out there in my sector – not as many as there were but there are some. Believe me, in fleeting moments I have looked at different job roles and thought “if I wasn’t ill I’d be so good at that job”. I could have a job, a managerial post, with a salary. If I did that I’d be able to rent a flat privately, I wouldn’t be sitting on the council waiting list because the Local Housing Allowance won’t cover a private rented flat and I’m pretty sure life would be a lot sunnier.

Funnily enough, I’m not in this non-working position because I don’t want to work. Far from it. I’m here because I’m ill.

I’m here because I get about two hours functional working brain time a day, on a good day. I’m here because I currently can’t cook a meal, can’t clean my own flat (vacuuming and washing up both involving a level of standing and arm-usage I’m really not able to achieve right now), am fatigued to a level where I sometimes have to have meal replacement shakes for dinner and a bus ride to the local job centre and back leaves me in bed for the rest of the day. And sometimes the next one. I don’t do this because it’s an easier life. An easier life would be working a good full-time job and being able to take care of myself.

Yesterday I discovered I hadn’t been successful in my claim for ESA. Out of a required fifteen points, I had scored a measly six. For mobility. The pain, the fatigue, the general crapness of my ability to function wasn’t so crap that I would be deemed unable to work.  I’m going for a mandatory reconsideration of course – especially as the decision maker on the phone told me “you put that your condition is variable, which means sometimes it doesn’t affect you” and we all know that’s not what variable means, for me variable means “sometimes I can put on clothes and leave the house!” – but in the meantime I’ve been transferred over to JSA and I have to attend a “work-focused interview” on Monday morning at the Job Centre.

Y’know, the one that puts me in bed for a day, that one.

I’m already exhausted.


Never ending or beginning like an ever spinning wheel.

And just when I was all excited that I would have to fill in any more forms.

After just under a year of trying, failing, trying again and finally succeeding to get PIP, welcome to the sequel: ESA. Yup. My circumstances have changed, and now I have to make my own ESA claim. It’s like deja vu all over again. I’ve been sent a “Capability for work questionnaire” with the famous “Can you pick up a £1 coin” question, I have my sick note from the doctor and I’ll have not only a “Capability for work assessment” but also a “compliance interview” (because I’m going from being on someone else’s ESA claim to going onto one of my own and apparently I have to Do That The Right Way).

Are you ready for months of fun exciting blog entries about my third trip through the wilderness with the Department for Work and Pensions? I know I am!*

*At this point I’d like to personally thank the Department for Work and Pensions for giving me months, nay YEARS of material to blog about. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Going Beyond the Barriers

They say things always come in threes…today seems to be no exception. Today a government minister showed us that you can in fact steal thousands of pounds from your boss and still expect to be in a job. Today is also my two month PIP-iversary. Bring out the cake!

But, most importantly, today is the release of the Spartacus Network’s second major report into benefit reform, Beyond the Barriers. This report describes in detail the failings of the Employment Support Allowance system, the major failings of the Work Capability Assessment and, crucially, makes recommendations for changes in the system so that instead of being a barrier to finding work, the system supports those disabled people who can work into appropriate work.

Currently we have a welfare and support system for the sick and disabled that pretends to give with one hand and takes more away with the other. ESA was supposed to be a way for disabled people to get into work. Yet Access to Work schemes are underfunded and poorly run, and this week it was also announced that the Disabled Student Allowance – a vital means of support for sick and disabled students to continue accessing university and higher education – was to dramatically cut down on the list of things it would provide, meaning services such as note takers in lectures would now no longer be covered. With a welfare system designed to punish rather than encourage, it is clear that the ESA and WCA are not fit for purpose.

Beyond the Barriers sets out a visionary review of Employment and Support Allowance, making recommendations such as having a case worker that supports the claimant through the process of acquiring work rather than leaving them with no support whatsoever. It also suggests that claimants should be able to manage their own budgets so they can direct the funds where they would find most useful – getting appropriate equipment etc., and making sure their return to work is tailor-made.

This is a ground-breaking report. This focuses on treating sick and disabled people like people, not figures. This proposes a positive attitude by the system towards returning to work, rather than penalising those who can’t. It is vital that the ESA process accepts the fact that some people will never be able to undertake work. The stress and fear inflicted upon those who are pursued by the DWP means that ESA is viewed as a punishment for sick and disabled people, rather than a means to a better way of life.

See the full Beyond the Barriers report HERE.

Find out what you can do to support Beyond the Barrier and the Spartacus Network on Sue Marsh’s blog HERE.