“ESA for people who could be expected to get back into work was never intended to be a long term benefit.
“The time limit of one year strikes the best balance between recognising that some people need extra help to enter the workplace and that the taxpayer cannot afford to support people indefinitely who could return to employment.”
Marilyn Blakeman was initially told she was now permanently on incapacity benefit. But Iain Duncan Smith, proud of his ability to change people’s lives and get them off benefits, has indeed changed her life and will soon get her off benefits. Of course that would mean she’s living on nothing, but that would certainly be a life-changing experience, wouldn’t it?
“You must attend and take part in work-focused interviews if you are asked to do so, to qualify for your benefit. You may also have to carry out work related activities that your adviser thinks will help you be able to return to work in the future.” If not: “Your payment can be reduced by £14.07 a week, rising to £28.15 a week after four weeks, until you comply. We call this a sanction.”
Marilyn Blakeman has an underactive thyroid, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, arthritis – she’s had both knees replaced – and carpal tunnel syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. She also has permanent damage to her back caused by a fall down the stairs.
All of this means she can’t travel far to get to work, climb stairs, stand or sit for long periods of time, or – because of her IBS – ever be far from a toilet. She’s 58 and will reach retirement age in 8 years time. According to a beneficient Tory government, proud of the changes it is making in people’s lives, she can now be expected to return to work. Oh, and:
Two “clouds” have also been discovered on the front of her brain which have led to her suffering short-term memory loss.
Blakeman lives in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan. The unemployment rate in the Vale was 3.9% in November 2011. Within the Vale the highest rates were found in Barry (ranging from 6% to 8.6% in the hardest-hit wards).
But, as Iain Duncan Smith happily informed the Conservative Party conference this year:
Now we are toughening up the penalty for failure to seek work. Where claimants fail to meet their clear responsibilities, benefit will be withdrawn for 3 months for the first offence, 6 months for the second and 3 years for the third.
At last, gone are the days when doing nothing was a long term option – a choice under Labour that someone was free to make. Whether to work, or not to work…
Well from now on the message is clear – you must work. And if you won’t work with us to find work – you will lose your benefit.
So when we toughened up on those shirking work, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it.
Can’t have someone who can’t breathe properly, can’t walk far, can’t sit properly, can’t stand for too long, and needs to live on a liquid diet and constantly have access to a toilet “shirking” her responsibility to work hard and pay for Iain Duncan Smith’s MP expenses for the next eight years.
— EdinburghEye (@EyeEdinburgh) January 20, 2012
2009 was the year Iain Duncan Smith took six months off work to support his wife through breast cancer. You see, IDS believed people like himself and Elizabeth Fremantle, daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe, deserve that kind of open-ended support. Someone who’s worked for decades and is now chronically ill in an area where at least one in twenty people are unemployed? That kind of person deserves to be told they’re a shirker and ought to be sanctioned til they get back to work.
No matter if they can’t find a job.
“I used to be a Conservative but now they have done this to me? No. We have lost faith in them and their way.” Now she does not know who she would vote for. “I’m very much concerned, not just for myself, but I am deeply concerned for other people that could be put in my situation,” she said.
Marilyn claimed she could “easily have had a heart attack” on being told her money was being stopped.
“As it was, I had an asthma attack and had to go onto the system so I could breathe,” she said.
Iain Duncan Smith proclaimed:
“If we care for our country we must care for all our people, for they are our country. That is why our reforms must improve the chances for the very least of us.”
That’s Tory compassion for you.
“The reforms to disability benefits, which will tighten the definitions with a more simplified system assessed by medical experts, will be accompanied with a programme to help disabled people back into work. Many think mistakenly that they cannot return to employment without losing the help. One of the things we are trying to do is make sure there are much greater levels of support available, so there are positives in all this because we will be bringing forward some major reforms that help people get back to work.”
It would be a mistake to think that Marilyn Blakeman is some kind of exception. Iain Duncan Smith’s talk of “help” and “making work pay” specifically means ensuring that someone with multiple health problems and disabilities is to be financially penalised if she doesn’t spend her time in a Job Centre (near a loo) looking for work – while cutting benefits so that employers can offer lower wages. Betsy Duncan Smith wasn’t made to work while she was recovering from breast cancer, but for Iain Duncan Smith and the Tory government the daughter of landed gentry deserves to be treated nicely when they’re ill: the working classes need to be made to get back to work no matter how ill they are.
I’m sorry, does that sound like class warfare? How aggressive of me. I mean, of course, that cheap-work conservatives
don’t like social spending or our “safety net”. Why. Because when you’re unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, they want you “over a barrel” and in a position to “work cheap or starve”.
Or just starve. That’s a life-changing experience.
Avaaz Petition: End UK Welfare Reform Work Capability Assessments