A couple of days ago I received my renewal form for incapacity benefit. It's a hefty old thing and will take a few days to complete because fatigue and cognitive dysfunction mitigate against information processing. This morning my DLA renewal thudded onto the mat and now I am in a high state of anxiety. I have two forms to complete and my 'performance' in both will impact my quality of life for the next few years.
For those of you not in the UK, incapacity benefit is the basic state support for those unable to work through illness. If you were temporarily incapacitated you could claim IB and there's a slightly higher rate for the long term sick like me. DLA or Disability Living Allowance is an extra, scaled strand of welfare payments for those with special needs - for example unable to walk or needing supervision. DLA is hard to get. If you apply you can expect to be refused on the first try. That seems to be routine. I was lucky enough, and I use the term 'lucky' advisedly, to be supported in my second attempt by my then GP. The extra income makes a huge difference to my life. I would not be able to run my car without it for example.
The whole system for supporting those out of work through illness is being changed in this country as it is costing our government millions and billions of pounds to maintain. Incapacity Benefit now only exists for those who have been on it for a while and it is being phased out and replaced by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). They want to empower people and make them less dependent on benefits. Notice the use of the word 'employment' in there. All well and good, but the default position seems to be that the applicant could work if only they pulled their finger out. This point of view is common in the media over here. The application process is a little like the medieval 'trial by ordeal'. If you are well enough to fill in the forms you are too well to receive any money.
For all the years I have been claiming these benefits the government has not once asked me if there is anything I need to help me get back to work. Everything I have done I have done for myself. I paid for a private consultation in order to get a diagnosis and a referral to an ME clinic. That intervention is now over and it helped a little but I've had no recognition of the efforts I have made. I am angry that a woman of my intelligence and potential has been parked up in the disabled lay by of life. I would gladly give up my paltry stipend for regular therapeutic intervention and a reassurance that everything was being done to find a cure. I feel like screwing up the forms and shoving them where the sun don't shine, are you listening all you number crunchers at the Department of Work and Pensions? Put that in your bureaucratic pipe and bloody smoke it, you four wheel drive owning, weekend home owning, two holidays a year enjoying bastards!