I, Autistic Hermit

Some thoughts on the present UK benefits system and being moved to a lower benefit for reasons that need to be coaxed out of the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) via the red tape of a “mandatory reconsideration”. Also on a film that every single MP, Lord and DWP type needs to see.

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Just over a month ago I was reassessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). I had been sent the re-application form back round September and got it sent off ironically just before Damian Green, the present Work and Pensions Secretary announced that people with chronic conditions would not have to re-apply anymore. Chronic, for the uninitiated, does not mean severe or bad but lasting for a long period of time – note similarity to ‘chronicle’ and ‘chronology’

Just over a week ago I got a letter telling me that I had been moved from the ESA Support Group (i.e. not having to look for work anymore) to the ESA Work Related Activity Group (i.e. being expected to work constructively towards becoming employable without actually being obligated to apply for anything). No reason was given for this other than “A change in circumstance”. They didn’t even say which one, me and my trusty support worker had made it totally clear to the assessor that there had been no improvement in my condition be it medicinal, miraculous or otherwise.

At any rate I got a polite phone call a few days ago enquiring why I had not made it to an appointment that day (they don’t have to be as strict about missed appointments as they do with Jobseekers Allowance). I could only tell them that I had received no letter or text informing me of said appointment which just goes to prove that the DWP do not practise what they preach in terms of punctuality and efficiency. Mercifully I was able to rearrange but there are still questions that need to be asked.

That evening I attended a screening of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake. I won’t spoil it for you but it totally shows up the present system for the sick, heartless box-ticking monster it has become. I know Tory voters who agree with me on this – what does that tell you? I can only share with you now my own take on the theme.

I, AUTISTIC HERMIT demand that the Department of Work and Pensions consider the following:

  • Being fit to do tasks is one thing. Being able to do them in such a way as to meet the standards of an employer who has a target to meet is quite another. I have never been good at combining speed with accuracy in a high pressure environment so please do not assume that any of your so-called workshops are going to therapise that out of me.
  • Most of the so-called proper jobs that can be accessed on the doorstep and that we can afford to commute to are temping jobs. Personally I do not cope well with being phoned with a potential booking, often with only a few hours notice. The last time it happened it was with so little notice that I was unable to emotionally prepare myself for it after a traumatic few days recovering from other bits of dung life had thrown at me.  The result was that on the second day, when I was suddenly and unexpectedly required to work without a trainer (I’d been told I’d have one for the week), I was so stressed with trying to meet the required pick rate accurately that I could barely even absorb what other people were saying who wanted to help. Two of them got shouted at as a result and one never forgave me and by the end of the contract was blanking me every time he walked past.
  • I need my evenings. Seriously why is it that this side of 1997, 9-5 or even 8-4 jobs in warehousing (not that I’d fit in anywhere in these target driven days) are about as common as rocking horse dung? We all rely on our social life to some extent to keep us sane and if the only times I am free are when Tupperware parties and ladies’ coffee mornings are happening then what does that do for my feeling of relevance to society or even for my need to be around like-minded people. The 6-2/2-10/10-6 pattern is alright if all you want to do is go clubbing and get hammered at the weekend but otherwise forget it. I reckon the demise of the industrial day job probably has a lot to do with New Labour which came in at around that time. I’m no Tory but I left a warehousing job in late 1997 to do a year out and when I came back, found even my old company had fallen victim to the target-driven mentality. As it is, the latterday Conservative administrations love it but then Tony Blair did have a reputation for out-Torying the Tories on some matters.
  • The majority of jobs I have held from 1998 onwards have been terminated by the employer, mostly because I couldn’t be both fast and accurate (a multiple focus issue). Even a degree has done little to amend this matter because the only ready work it got me was in the educational sector where one mistake and you’re out of the door usually for reasons the school asked the agency not to repeat despite the seven kids you helped with their English and the lad who told Learning Support personally how helpful you were with his Maths.
  • Do you really think that workshops (so-called) on CV writing, interviews etc are anything new to me? The fact is that employers want to see your FULL employment history and however hard you try to disguise it, they can always tell when you’ve had a string of sackings, redundancies or what have you. 1999-2001/2001-2/2002/2003-4/2004-5 and that’s before you add in the temping. Throw in a degree and a couple of postgraduate qualifications and even then I feel trapped by the social housing situation us raspberry ripples tend to find ourselves in. You can’t just up and move to the city and do voluntary theatre in education or whatever because a move in the public sector is much more complex than just jacking in one shared house or lodging for another. Add in the fact that my father lost so much money on fraudulent investments that I can’t even afford to part-buy a flat in the capital and you have a recipe for benefit street and temping agencies.
  • With all this in mind I must ask that whatever you do, you never EVER put me on Jobseekers Allowance again. At least not until you drop the requirement that we prove 35 hours of job-related activity per week. Do you really think with all of what I’ve put above that there are that many jobs I can realistically fill that amount of time applying for? I will do my best while in the Work-Related Activity Group but you can take it from me that this may mean a lot of volunteering and just occasional ventures into paid work like maybe a voiceover or two – perhaps even a book. But I am no longer 19 years old and the “Get a proper job first” thing has not worked for me so I am now more than entitled to a little of what I fancy (and I don’t mean mattress-warming).
  • I refuse to work to any hidden pressure to either be in an unsuitable job or back on JSA within a year. It is one thing to expect us to either sh*t or get off the pot. It is another thing entirely to chain us to the pot and force feed us with figs and prunes.
  • If I ever EVER again apply for a job under pressure from yourselves and it doesn’t work out then I demand that you put me straight back in the support group and leave me there until I give notice of any miraculous change.I remain respectfully my own. Not yours – except when I turn up to tick your boxes. My own person.

    Autistic Hermit

    P.S. And that’s before you get to the sick new policy that new additions to the Work Related Activity Group will get paid the same pittance as those on Jobseeker’s Allowance from April 2017 (which I’m grateful to have just missed). Damian Green are you really so keen to boost the use of food banks?

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