Benefits helped me turn my life around

I’m bipolar, and benefits aren’t just a handout – they allowed me the time I needed to manage my illness and build for the future Seaneen Molloy Guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 December 2010 13.30 GMT Much has been made of the benefits-dependency culture allegedly rampant in Britain; the image of those on benefits is one of people greedily pocketing cash then resigning themselves to lives beneath the duvet. But time on benefits does not have to be time in limbo; it can be a time of growth and recovery. In 2006, I was a 20-year-old freshly discharged from a psychiatric ward, newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In the previous six months, years of mental ill health had culminated in a psychotic breakdown. Prior to this, I had worked since I was 17 in increasingly temporary jobs the more ill I became. As soon as I was discharged with a punishing regime of psychiatric medication to control my condition, I was advised to find a job. It would give me something to do and besides, living with my employed boyfriend, I wasn’t entitled to benefits. Despite being noticeably manic, with difficulty caring for myself and a tenuous grasp on reality, I looked for employment. In between my grandiose applications for gym instructor roles, I found a job with the help of a friend. I was barely able to wake up in the morning due to the sedating effects of my antipsychotic medication, which gave me embarrassingly noticeable hand tremors. I slurred my speech, and was routinely asked at work if I had been drinking. Though I had disclosed my illness to...

Anne Gray – Green Party

Response to ‘21st Century Welfare’ from Anne Gray on behalf of the Green Party.   The Green Party of England & Wales broadly welcomes the response below by Anne Gray. More detail of the Green Party position here 1. What steps should the Government consider to reduce the cost of the welfare system and reduce welfare dependency and poverty? The direct costs of the welfare system depend on a number of factors, only some of which are considered in the proposals:- 1) the number of claimants, which crucially depends on the state of the economy. The downsizing of the public sector is far less of a fiscal saving than it appears when the direct and indirect impacts on unemployment are considered. The future of the welfare system cannot be divorced from overall fiscal policy. To try to secure any substantial reduction in claimant numbers by tightening eligibility criteria, or by increasing sanctions and conditionality, during the deepest recession for a generation is a cruel way of placing the burden of fiscal adjustment on the unemployed themselves. This burden needs to be fairly shared by upper income groups, in the form of higher taxes on those who can afford it. 2) the length of time for which claimants remain benefit dependent. This is not merely a question of the effectiveness or otherwise of Job Centre Plus and private providers of ‘back to work’ programmes, still less of the ‘lifestyle choices’ of the unemployed. It also depends on claimants’ state of health (including mental health) the attitudes of employers towards disadvantaged or long-term jobseekers, the extent of competition from migrants coming from elsewhere...

Work, disability and real change

Piece submitted to Compass CarerWatch is a group of unpaid family carers. We have many members with severe and enduring disability. We work closely with Broken of Britain which is a campaigning group for disabled people. So we know what it is like at the coalface of disability. We would like to congratulate Compass on the truly excellent think piece ‘Dark Times for those who Cannot Work.’  We have been campaigning in a climate of ignorance and misinformation about work and disability for so long that this research is like a blast of fresh air.  read in full here email below received from Steve Griffiths Nov 5th 2010 Updating and briefing following Compass Thinkpiece: Dark Times for Those Who Cannot Work                           This is a brief summary of the response to this Thinkpiece so far, followed by a briefing on four things that have come up in the last two weeks which I hope some friends and colleagues will be able to use.       There have been quite a few messages of support and undertakings to use the research material. Interest and support have come from MPs of three parties (not the Tories) and a Welsh Assembly Government Minister, with requests for briefings. There is discussion with the Guardian, with some major charities, links (with and without supportive messages) on some key websites, and lots of forwarding to MPs.  I am not more specific, partly because the success or otherwise of this Thinkpiece is not the point, and partly because some initiatives are ‘in development’ and I don’t want to quote what are confidential emails.    What the piece hasn’t achieved as far as...

Neil Coyle, Disability Alliance and Mark Shrimpton, RADAR

Carer Watch are right to highlight that the Government agenda does not answer how or where disabled people will work, only that the system is being re-jigged to move people from one benefit to another (or to none at all). This is despite the significant support needs and higher costs of living many disabled people experience. The absence of consideration and commentary on carers when changing disability benefits is also alarming;  it is inevitable who will be relied on to fill the ‘care gap’ – undermining carers rights, opportunities and ability to work. Disability Alliance supports efforts to highlight these problems within the Government programme. RADAR is extremely concerned about the moves to cease DLA mobility payments to disabled people in residential care. This change will in effect mean that people in this setting will be robbed of their independence and have four walls only to contemplate all day and night and that further responsibility will be given to carers.  We are additionally concerned about the numbers of multiple assessments for benefits, the wastage of public money involved and the trauma experienced by disabled people and carers.  This must stop  – for the benefit of disabled people and the taxpayer. Neil Coyle                                                                                         Mark Shrimpton Director of Policy                                                              Deputy Chief Executive Disability Alliance                                                                                           RADAR...

PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR MP

The program of welfare reform and cuts is proceeding with alarming momentum and the needs of carers  and  disabled people are being lost in the fiscal crisis.   Carer Watch are asking carers, disabled people and every one who cares about them to send this letter to MPs – and to disability charities and to post this letter in the media and to blogs. Change or adapt it any way you like.  But please, please send it. Suggested e-mail /letter   The program of welfare reform and cuts is proceeding with alarming momentum. The thought behind it is that the only way out of poverty is going to be through work. I am writing to ask you to step back from this one size fits all thinking and to remember that there are some people for whom work is unlikely to be a realistic option. Please remember the duty of care to them and imagine how they are feeling as this pressure to work is heaped upon them. They feel that for them the covenant on welfare seems to have been broken. They have been caught up as collateral damage in this push back to work and they feel very afraid. They had never expected that the Conservative, Labour and LibDem Parties would all abandon them like this.  No party is demonstrating any understanding of their situation or offering them any reassurance or protection. They cannot believe that all three main parties continue to sign up to the delusion that they can be forced back to work by pressure and removal of benefits. Unrealistic and cavalier talk of ‘helping’ them in to work is ill informed and adds to...