Imagine you are struck down by an illness; an health problem that incapacitates you. You are debilitated so much so that you cannot work. You cannot work for some months or even a year or two or longer. What happens when your statutory sick pay runs out. How are you going to pay your bills. How are you going to pay your mortgage or rent, the utility bills, food…..the essentials. If you have a working partner then the burden will fall on them no doubt but what if you don’t, what if you are the only wage earner, what happens?. You may well have a little bit of savings but not much, enough to see you through a few months maybe or even a year or two if your lucky. You may be able to turn to your family for help, that’s if your family are in any kind of position themselves to help you financially.
We would all I should think, turn automatically to the benefit system. To the State, the welfare State to see us through this difficult, stressful time. After all haven’t we been paying our National Insurance to cover us for such eventualities. We would expect the State to help us wouldn’t we, us being genuine cases who need assistance. Well if you can spare 25 minutes or so have a look at this edition of Channel 4’s Despatches from a few weeks ago it may change your mind as to how “ caring ’’ our benefit system really is. It came to my attention when I heard the programme mentioned in a discussion last week on Radio 4.
From my own experience I know how tough and impersonal the new ESA ( Employment Support Allowance )benefit assessments are and in this programme we are shown secretly filmed footage as a doctor goes undercover to train as a medical assessor with the multi national IT French based Atos. This is the private company that now evaluates every claimant for ESA.
Here are some notable quotes from the programme.
From a doctor working for Atos as a trainer “ My speciality is not recognised in this country, so I decided to join Atos”.
Again from the same trainer, “ We should remember that ESA was meant to take people off the benefit”.
And again, “ If someone has no legs but good hands they can propel themselves in a wheelchair, they don‘t get anything”.
And again “ If you lip read or use Braille you are fit for work”. “ As long as you’ve got one finger and can press a button you don’t get anything”.
As a result of pressure from charity groups the Government have launched a review into how people with cancer are being treated. It clearly shows in the programme that certain treatments for cancer, even chemotherapy is no guarantee that you will qualify for benefit under ESA.
So let us hope and pray that you or a member of your family are never struck down with a sickness that stops you from working because the way it looks at the moment the State isn’t going to help you. My ESA benefit stops from 5th October this year. I am deemed fit for work. My appeal is still pending.