It’s not been a good week for me. The sort of week when you smile at people when you really don’t feel like it, and to make it worse they are very pleased to see you and tell you how well your life seems to be going, but of course they really don’t have a clue how your feeling.
Not that you particularly want to tell them of course as really they wouldn’t want to know.
So you keep up the pretense as long as possible.
But the cracks start to appear eventually.
The thought of the future being the same old same old is not exactly inspiring whilst the fear of it is almost enough to keep ones head permanently under the bedclothes. You make a certain choices in life and then proceed to make the same mistakes over and over again. Every time you think you got it sussed its like a game of snakes and ladders, mostly you end up back where you started from or pretty close to it anyway. At which point you say “Well I tried” and if your lucky you get the consolation prize, which is actually not that consoling as it turns out. 4 steps forward two steps back so it almost feels like progress, but your never going to reach the that prize are you?
Somewhat disappointed about my own naivety. Doing favor’s and trying to be altruistic is seen as a sign of weakness by many it would seem. I will write on the blackboard 100 times “Must remember not to take things on trust as people are likely to abuse my good will”.
The coroner said that when David Clapson died he had no food in his stomach. Clapson’s benefits had been stopped as a result of missing one meeting at the jobcentre. He was diabetic, and without the £71.70 a week from his jobseeker’s allowance he couldn’t afford to eat or put credit on his electricity card to keep the fridge where he kept his insulin working. Three weeks later Clapson died from diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin. A pile of CVs was found next to his body.
I’ll resist calling Clapson’s death a tragedy. Tragedy suggests a one-off incident, a rarity that couldn’t be prevented. What was done to Clapson – and it was done, not something that simply happened – is a particularly horrific example of what has, almost silently, turned into a widespread crisis. More than a million people in this country have had their benefits stopped over the past year. Sanctions against chronically ill and disabled people have risen by 580% in a year. This is a system out of control.
A petition for an inquiry into benefit sanctions, started by Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, is now on the verge of its 200,000th signature. This Thursday there will be a day of action against benefit sanctions across the country. If inspiration is required, you need look no further than the latest Department for Work and Pensions pilot scheme launched last week. The unemployed are set to have their benefits stopped if they don’t sign in at a jobcentre in the morning and spend the whole day there, every day. Breach the rules once and you’ll lose four weeks’ worth of benefits; twice and you won’t be able to feed your kids for three months.
Sanctions are a product of an attitude towards benefit claimants that says they are not people struggling to find work but suspects: lazy, stupid and in need of a DWP-kick to get them out of bed. The lazy are going hungry. Eight in 10 Trussell Trust food banks report that benefit sanctions are causing more people to need emergency food parcels. This, I suppose, is what Conservatives call motivation.
It doesn’t matter that sanctions are disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable. Nor that the DWP’s own commissioned report says that they are being imposed in such a way that vulnerable people often don’t understand what is happening to them, and are left uninformed of the hardship payments to which they are entitled. Six out of 10 employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants who have had their benefits stopped have a mental-health condition or learning difficulty. Are these the chosen victims of austerity now? By definition of being in receipt of ESA, many will struggle to do things such as be punctual for meetings or complete work placements with strangers in environments they don’t know. It is setting people up to fail and then punishing them for it.
Sanctions are not an anomaly. Rather, they are emblematic of the wider Tory record on welfare: one of incompetence and, at best, indifference. The work programme fails to find work for 95% of disabled people, but enforced, unpaid labour or loss of benefits is the DWP’s answer. More than a quarter of a million people are still waiting for PIP, the benefit needed to help cover the extra costs of disability. Seven hundred thousand people have been left waiting for an ESA assessment. Locking people out of their rightful benefits is becoming a theme for this government. The consequences are human; the response from the government is inhumane.
Clapson had only left his last job to care for his elderly mum, and before that had worked for 29 years. On the day he died he had £3.44 to his name and six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines in his kitchen cupboards. Benefit sanctions are aimed at ending the “something for nothing” culture, as the DWP’s press release brags. I vote for ending the demonisation of the unemployed, disabled and poor.
I now live in a world that I could not have imagined
Low-paid Britain: ‘People have had enough. It’s soul destroying’
Yes, they have jobs … but the five people featured below are typical of millions who have no security, no holiday or sick pay, limited hours, and no dignity at work