For most of 2019 I have been fighting with the Department for Work and Pensions, trying to find out why they are persisting with a rubbish benefits system that simply doesn’t work for people with mental health disabilities.
Initially the fight was regarding Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefits, in particular the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) they use to help determine if you are capable of working or not. The fight has now gone onto a second front, this time regarding the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) benefit that they stopped awarding me in December 2019; in particular the assessment they used to decide that really there is nothing wrong with me.
The way I see it, the current system actually punishes those with mental health issues from trying to make an effort; the greater reward comes from actually not doing anything.
Every effort you try and make, from getting out of bed to dressing yourself; from forcing yourself to cook to leaving the house, actually counts against you.
Financially I would be better off if I simply didn’t try.
Oh! And apparently you have to be on prescription medication in order to qualify, irrespective of whether the side effects are making your anxiety worse.
The DWP’s complete lack of understanding of how an illness like anxiety actually works is staggering. They also believe that the nature of the illness is not important; it is the effect the illness has on your life that counts.
How can they truly know the effects when they don’t understand the cause?
“Cause and effect are two sides of one fact.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I mentioned most of the issues in my blog about ESA benefits; it is just doubly frustrating that I now have to fight twice as hard with the same organisation. I am tired of having to constantly explain myself to these people.
I recently wrote to my local MP, Richard Fuller and he has agreed to meet me to discuss the issues I have with the benefits system. It is only a surgery appointment (sounds painful) so I am sure it will be brief, but it is a start. I have put together a pack of documents which highlights my frustrations, gives proposals that I think could help, and most importantly gives evidence as to the damaging effect the current system has on people’s mental health.
Most of the evidence I found relates to the WCA. The number of reviews for this alone is ridiculous, and shows how ineffective the whole system is.
The WCA was introduced in October 2008; since 2010 there have been five annual reviews conducted by Professor Harrington (2010, 2011 and 2012) and Dr Paul Litchfield (2013 and 2014), we are talking hundreds of pages of findings and suggestions, and still the assessment fails people, as evidence from the Citizens Advice Bureau shows.
Citizens Advice Bureau Evidence
My hope is that Richard Fuller MP will take up the campaign to get the system changed for the better. My aim is to try and drum up support locally (Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire), from other MPs, mental health charities, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the NHS and most importantly residents who have experienced the system first hand.
I have tried by myself and fallen flat on my face, so I am hoping that Richard Fuller MP will be up for the challenge, and can lead the way in pushing for change.
I will keep you posted.
Thank you, thank you, thank you