We all have that One Relative, or know that One Person, who sits at home watching Jeremy Vile, scratching their arse, chainsmoking and eating their own bodyweight in Doritos whilst gleefully living off the state with absolutely no intention of finding gainful employment.
We’ve all seen those little groups of (mostly) men and the occasional couple, gathered outside the entrance to the Job Centre in expensive clothes and with expensive dogs (generally Staffordshire Bull Terriers – no wonder the poor animals have such an unwarranted bad reputation), with their cans of Heinekin and packets of Old Holborn – openly laughing and boasting about how “cushy” they have it because they’re living off the tax payer.
Sorry to put it so baldly, but there it is. The majority of people on Jobseeker’s are genuinely job seekers (as was I, before I had to admit defeat and accept that my epilepsy had ended all chances of a career for me), but there is this small minority that the Government ought to be targetting. Please mark my emphasis on “ought to be” before you continue reading.
On the other side of the coin are people such as myself – those of us who would bite somebody’s arm off at the merest hint of a job offer if we were only well/able/mobile enough to accept it. You know, those of us who are dependant on walking aids, wheelchairs, even help with personal care. Those of us who are on first name terms with our doctors, practice nurses and various paramedics and A&E staff. Those of us who see more of our specialists than we do of our friends and family.
Neither D nor myself are out of work through choice; I am disabled and he is my carer – and so, naturally, when a new library was built literally across the road from us (when the leaves fall off the trees we’ll be able to see our house from the window in the picture I’ve used), he jumped at the chance to volunteer. It would give him a bit of respite whilst still giving him the hours required for him to claim Carer’s Allowance (his portion of our ESA) and he would feel useful again. As an added advantage, he can be home within moments should I need him, or I can even go across the road to sit and read where he can keep an eye on me if I’ve suffered a seizure the previous evening.
According to the DWP, D can volunteer for up to fifteen hours without my part of our ESA being affected. “Fantastic!”, we thought, and so D went ahead and applied for the role. He filled in the form we were sent (about paid work, which immediately rang alarm bells with me) when he was able to confirm that he’d been accepted as a volunteer and we promptly forgot all about it as D relaxed into being a member of society again and I made friends with some of the other volunteers. One of the volunteers even shares my love for a certain Timelord, and so she and I were delighted when D introduced us to each other.
It’s lovely to have a husband who – after more than six years together (not all of them married) – is still so proud of you that he wants everybody to know who you are. That would give any wife a boost, I know, but especially an epileptic wife with half her teeth surgically removed for medical reasons. Not that you can tell that my partials are actually partials, but that has nothing to do with the cautionary tale I am here to tell.
On Saturday, 19th October, D was at the library and I was enjoying a lie-in. Sleepily stumbling down the stairs I was setting myself up for a nice, relaxing morning. I sat down, opened my laptop and put on my glasses.
Which is when I saw the brown DWP envelope sitting on the coffee table. Knowing that nothing good ever came of a letter from the DWP arriving on a Saturday, my heart sank into my slippers – and rightly so.
According to the letter we have had a change in earnings, and D is earning £72.85 a week for unpaid voluntary work! This means that a princely sum of £52.85 a week is being taken from my ESA, in spite of the fact that we do not actually have this money coming in!
This is where David Cameron would probably tell us to rely on the undeclared savings that we almost certainly have stashed away somewhere. Because every person on benefits is a liar, and therefore must have money that they are hiding.
We used to have savings. I inherited a sum of money from my grandmother when she passed away four years ago, and that’s exactly how long I was able to make that money last. It was primarily used to pay for trips to visit my profoundly autistic son, and petrol and guest houses happen to cost money. I must have spent literally thousands on new clothes over the last few years due to different epilepsy medications playing with my weight and body shape. I paid off some debts and bought a Wii Fit Plus so that I could safely do some gentle exercise at home, and I bought a Kindle in order to make reading on the move easier on account of my also having to struggle with a stick when I have luggage to deal with.
I’ve helped with car tax, MOT and repairs, used it for online grocery shopping when the car was out of action… and have always used my DLA to put back as much as I can in order to afford to see my little boy. I also treated D to last year’s Discworld Convention as a belated wedding gift – with the member discount we got on the rooms I was able to afford it easily. I probably could next year too, if I saved up hard enough and no emergencies were to arise, but we’ve already elected not to go. After all, washing machines, boilers and past-it mattresses don’t mend or replace themselves. The mattress and washing machine issues were addressed – mostly by me – but there is always still plenty around the house to go wrong without warning.
So, no savings here Cameron – and when we had them we declared every single penny. And don’t go thinking that any of my “geek toys” or my pet Tarantula came out of those savings either; I saved up my own damned money for all of those things, just as I use my ESA and DLA to save for everything that doesn’t have to be bought or repaired immediately.
We now have to appeal in order for me to gain back money that is rightfully mine. We played by the rules, but the Government and the DWP do not. They lie.
Please reblog and retweet this story as far and wide as possible, as my husband and I do not want others to fall into the same trap. Cameron wants more volunteer workers, but this is what happens if you dare to step up to the plate; if he can’t get the DWP to take money from you, he will get them to take it from your partner.
It doesn’t pay to be honest any more, and to me that just isn’t right. Why should anybody have to lie by omission in order to keep what is legally and rightfully theirs?