The Truth about Benefit Scroungers

Isn’t it interesting? The paranoia about benefit scroungers, I mean.

In the “Today” programme (BBC  Radio 4 , 13th January), it stated that the Government’s own figures  record that  0.5% of Disability Living Allowance claims were fraudulent.

This means that they are needlessly harassing 99.5% of claimants  to SAVE money. How does that work, I wonder? How is this fiscally prudent? We have seen that systems anywhere can be abused: look at the banks or  MPs expenses, just to give an idea.  If  MPs could be so righteous about their expenses, claiming that there were hidden costs, why can they not see that disability is expensive? This is what DLA  is for: it is not means tested: it has nothing to do with employment.  It is to cover the hidden costs of disability.

People will try to fool many systems:but Disability Living Allowance?  PLEASE, be serious.  Anyone who has to fill in the intrusive and humiliating questions would not do so if there was an alternative.  Nobody wants to record in writing how he/she goes to the toilet for a stranger to read. No-one would want to put themselves in front of ATOS , unless there was no option. I know of those with severe disabilities who will not claim, because they prefer to keep their dignity.

We hear of are those who are claiming without justification, so let me tell you my story.

I have had epilepsy all my life.  Regardless of this, I trained in Nursing, eventually becoming a Ward Sister. I worked and saved throughout my life to avoid dependency on Benefits at any time. I had Insurance Policies for every eventuality: I believed that I was bullet proof.

I did not take account of  becoming unemployed before I required to access these policies. Once I was no longer in employment, no policy for disability was valid. Cunning.

In 2006, my lifelong condition of epilepsy deteriorated, and became very unstable. Unable to find employment, I took up voluntary work with the Police, and trained in disability support, holding a voluntary Consultant post with them for two years. For the first time in my life I claimed DLA.

In 2007, after a review at ATOS, my DLA was stopped, as I was considered “not disabled”. I had been reviewed by a doctor who was not English, and who told me that my epilepsy would “go away” within a year.(I wonder what other fairy stories he read?) When I enquired about why I was disallowed,  I was told that I would have to appeal.

“How long will that take?” I asked.

“Oh, months and months” was the answer, which beggared belief.

During this time, things had become so critical that I had to draw down part of my lump sum from my pension that was earmarked to pay off my mortgage. When this draw-down hit my bank account, the wonderful systems that we have in this country were triggered, and I was investigated for fraud. I had to explain that the money was to pay off debt that was being incurred from having no income. I was exonerated, but I was furious at the implications, and I had to inform the Police that this had occurred, because I did not know if I would still be acceptable to them……………..In the meantime, my husband became ill.

Once my money had been reinstated by the tribunal, it was my husband’s turn was judged to be “fit” – surprise, surprise!- and  his ESA was stopped for nine months. He has been disallowed DLA twice, so far, although he has  a terminal condition. We had to eat, pay bills and the mortgage. It was around this time that any amusement in the experience disappeared and I upped the gear to survival mode. Again, we mustered our arguments: again, we fought at a tribunal. Again we won within minutes. It is all gets very time-consuming, and prevents any normality.

I defaulted for one month on a credit card and lost my credit rating due to the lack of Income – so there is no slack. We struggled through 2010 and 2011, but with all the savings now gone, we need to consider what we can sell.

Yesterday, the finance company dealing with my pension sent me a statement.  £22,000 has been wiped  off my Pension Fund in the last six months. So, despite taking care and making provision, it is not looking exceptionally optimistic. The postman has become “the messenger of doom” all financial envelopes I call “death notices”. It is very important to be able to laugh.

I have learned to make jellies from windfalls: to make chutneys from older fruit and vegetables: I have found an old pram, which my husband took the wheels and handle from to  use in the manufacture of a roof ladder so that he could repair the roof. We could not afford Christmas presents this year; we saw  no-one over the Christmas period.

I am only one of thousands: there are many people who share my pain and who could tell similar stories. I urge them to do so.Only through such real life experiences is there any hope of some light being shed: of some realisation that the wrong target is being hit.

 Next year, if we have not resolved it, we will become homeless.

This could happen to you.

This is what Government does not see.

Living beyond the Limits

And if Government wants outcomes like the above, it must empower its  less able citizens: it must foster independence and autonomy. Nothing will be achieved through creating an environment of poverty in which nothing can thrive.  The attitude of  “make them poor and keep them poor” is at the core of a very deep resentment and a smouldering

We, too, are citizens. We, too, have contributed all our lives.

We insist that any fraudulent behaviour does not lie at our door.

© Linda Jane McLean


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