Friday, 30 November 2012

Sick and disabled braced for enforced work-for-benefits programme

This evening the Guardian published an article on their website, talking about the decision by the Department of Work and Pensions to allow, from Monday 3rd December, members of the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) claimants of Employment Support Allowance to be placed in the 'Work Programme', or Workfare as it is also known.  Now, of course, this type of story would be of interest to me as I am, currently, in that exact position.

Of course, I have another reason to be interested in the story.  It leads with me at the top of it.

This is really strange for me.  I'm not used to media coverage - my dealings with the media have been two short BBC childrens' educational programmes with Carol Vorderman when I was 11 years old and two very brief conversations on BBC Radio 5 Live earlier this year discussing the rising fuel duty.  Not exactly a "media darling", I'm sure you'd agree.  So, I hope you'll forgive me for being a little overwhelmed.

This is unbelievably important to me though.  My story is there in black and white and I won't re-hash it.  I've also detailed my physical problems before in This Blog.  But more importantly is the fact that these changes are coming on Monday.  Three days from now.

In theory ill and disabled people could receive a letter or phone call from their local JobCentre Plus from Monday onwards calling them in to do some form of work.  Remember, that is people who are receiving ESA, meaning that they have some sort of illness or disability that their General Practitioner feels is bad enough to warrant them not working.

Now take a moment and re-read that last sentence again, then think of this:  When did the word of GPs and other medical professions become almost worthless in this country?

But I digress.

If the unlucky person, already stressed and concerned with their own medical situation, gets this letter or phone call and has to attend, they will have virtually no choice but to comply - if they don't, they will be sanctioned, potentially losing up to 70% of their weekly money.

I'd love to see a politician try and live on £28.15 a week.

I stated to Shiv Malik, author of the report for The Guardian, exactly where I stand personally on this.  I'm absolutely petrified.  I'm currently appealing my placement in the WRAG, and have my Tribunal on December 11th, and yet it still scares the life out of me.  I can only imagine how others feel. 

And, in a way, I'm lucky.  I have an idea of what is coming.  Many, many others do not.  They don't have access to social media, and have absolutely no idea just how they could and probably will be affected by this.  That's why I'm desperate to get the word out, to raise awareness, and thankfully I'm not alone - there are many Bloggers, Organisations and many others trying to do the same.  And we will continue to do so.

I'd like to place on record my gratitude and appreciation to Shiv Malik for an excellent piece and for reporting on something many other journalists and media organisations seem to be shying away from.  I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be involved and to tell my story.

Let us hope that someone in Government can somehow see sense.  I sadly won't hold my breath.

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