Monday, 21 April 2014

Unregulated Hate


Yesterday a storm erupted. The Mail on Sunday printed an article involving 5 people: Simon Murphy, Sanchez Manning, Ross Slater (the reported mentioned in the article, bravely going undercover in a foodbank), along with Amanda Perthen and Tracey Kandohla, set out to smear the work of foodbanks, specifically the Trussell Trust.

The latter two are credited with ‘additional reporting’ at the bottom of the article. I have no idea who any of them are, but of the fact they are all venal mercenary scum, I am totally convinced. This is one of the nastiest pieces of ‘journalism’ (churnalism) I have ever seen. I am not even convinced it’s honest.

The headline claims that vouchers are given, without checks, for ‘sob stories’; neatly traducing the experiences of those in genuine need. However the third paragraph refutes this utterly; clearly this vain quintet couldn’t even be bothered to do their job properly:

“The woman, called Katherine, who was in her 60s, asked our reporter a series of questions about why the food bank vouchers were needed.”

Does that sound resemble the ‘no questions asked’ access claimed by ‘our reporter’; presumably the pathetic stick insect sat on the grass in the traditional ‘upset pose’ photo-journalists like people to assume. For reference, this is the pose used when papers find any crumb of a story to pimp their hateful agendas; the sort they get school kids, for example, to adopt while holding a letter that claims they were banned from climbing the local conker tree. You know, the tree surrounded by concrete where the lowest branches are 8 feet off the ground where a fall would smash little Johnny’s skull – these stories used to trump up notions of health and safety ‘gone mad’.

So, on Easter Sunday, a man, presumably this Slater character, claims he was given access to ‘free’ (it’s not free, someone paid for it and then donated it – that’s called charity) food after pulling a fast one over a 60 year old volunteer at the CAB. Someone that has also donated something – her time – to charity is the victim of a grotesque fraud on the part of the MoS and refers this liar to the foodbank. He is then given, and quickly (as if the efficiency of this service is part of the problem) supplies before:

“inviting the reporter  to help himself to the soap, toothpaste and hot dog rolls they had spare, the volunteers wished him a Happy Easter and he staggered out of the church with his bags. He later returned the goods.”

That’s right, they had some extras they let him help himself too before wishing him well. He subsequently staggers (presumably meant to represent the weight of his burden of freebies) out and off to sneer, along with his colleagues, at these gullible fools.

Because this government, with its hand up the arse of the press (or is it the other way around) wants you to think that scroungers are all like this; they are all fraudsters spending their ‘entitlement’ on booze bingo and fags and then lying to get ‘free’ food from the foodbank. This is the message the coddled privileged crooks in Whitehall want you to take away, but it says more about them than it does about the genuinely in need.

That’s what they think about the poorest in society. Rich scum with everything handed to them on a plate, the sort that bemoan having to lose their fine dining entitlements in Westminster, projecting their inadequacies on others. Who on earth would pretend they need foodbank help? What for? It doesn’t make sense, but the Tories, and the Mail, all believe that benefits are squandered by the poor – and presumably this is exacerbated at the very least by the existence of these foodbanks. That is, if they couldn’t’ get free food they’d have to budget more responsibly.

We can all guess what that implies, but I think – I hope – there would be merry hell if that happened.

I’d like to think this is actually a sign of an increasingly desperate right wing state losing the argument. They know they can’t attack the issue – that people are in desperate need for food – directly, they know they daren’t attack foodbanks, and so instead slag off the people using them in this way claiming that foodbanks are lax and open to abuse. Even the article refutes this by saying that the reporter was cross examined in the way foodbanks (and others) have consistently claimed.

Fortunately it seems this nasty vicious attack has backfired: donations to the trust shot up yesterday. One assumes this is a response to the vile politics played by the Mail.

We can only hope that the journalist team involved in this hit piece have returned the food. They have fraudulently helped themselves to resources earmarked for those in genuine need. They know that to be the case because, again by their own admission, they had to undergo an assessment (one which otherwise would have had real consequences for fiddling). Give that food back, it’s not yours. You are thieves and liars, that makes you scum.

In fact, postscript, I contend they didn’t even get access to a foodbank. I suspect that either they were refused or, upon actually realising you needed a proper referral, bottled it. Consequently their article is a fiction; the image is just the reporter surrounded by food purchased from a supermarket and presumed to represent an actual supply that would be given had theirs been an honest claim. This is all a lie in my opinion; they didn’t get access to a foodbank and are just making up spurious claims in support of their vile hit piece. I challenge them to prove me wrong, and in so doing prove what disgusting fraudsters the MoS really are.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

“How’s it going?”



That was how I started my last entry, before going off on a complete tangent.

The purpose was to reason through what I expect from my ‘review’ with the GP tomorrow. That got sidetracked so I’m going to try again here because I think it taps into the nature of the relationship between such people and those of us in my position. It seems, regrettably, that there is a disparity between the two positions: the expert and the patient-on-benefits.

The above question is how I believe this appointment will begin. It defines that relationship by putting the responsibility on my, the patient’s, shoulder. I don’t really think that’s fair because looking for support as someone with problems functioning in the society he finds himself; the form of which he had no influence over, it is unreasonable to expect the patient to be the source of his own solutions.

Society likes to put forward notions of self sufficiency. In an age of austerity and hardship and with the pressures of modern living this is more appealing than normal. Personal responsibility is a noble trope, but like all such notions it is not a blanket that can be thrown over someone by way an assumptions or, increasingly, a judgement. It is not enough to just tell someone to ‘get over it’ or ‘pull their socks up and get on with it’ and so forth. In fact I believe these are more often than not stated by people trying, perhaps subconsciously, to cover their own insecurities. I’m no psychologist, nor do I particularly care for pop psychology analyses of people, but it strikes me that this is what people do when they see these insecurities in others – no one likes to face their own weaknesses, myself included, but we live in a world that increasingly emasculates us; a society of rising tensions pressures and pace.

Asking me how it’s going is a judgement: it’s the GP performing an assessment of my circumstances. The problem here is that this will include the GP’s own prejudices about welfare and benefits as well as his almost willing lack of understanding of the system and the motives of those running it. If I were to sit and say “it’s all that bloody Duncan Smith’s fault” I would be seen as not taking responsibility and probably being a bit melodramatic. If I were to point out the total failure of the Work Programme – and justify my experience as a very familiar one – I would be seen as making excuses. This is the problem. What exactly can I do?

I’m not sure what ‘it’ the GP will refer to. I presume that he means ‘have you got a job yet’. No, my problems haven’t just cleared up like the common cold or a common rash. These are issues that will stay with me for the rest of my life because it’s how I am. These are as much a part of me as my skeleton.

So in the face of the complete lack of ability to deal with these problems it’s easy and probably quite appealing for doctors to blame the patient. This is partly why it’s so appealing to blame others and scorn them for their failings. Unfortunately people do not see the damage that does, nor how much of a vicious circle it breeds.

Ultimately things need to change and patients, those on benefits least of all, are the worst placed to effect that change. We can campaign for it, and many do, but when no one listens who gets the blame? We have a social security system that is influenced by private interests and politicians that listen to money and not need. The Work Programme was, and still is, touted as the saviour of the welfare state that will get even the sick back to work. It has failed dismally, but it won’t be the providers and the politicians that will get the blame. Instead we have a narrow minded DWP that takes a perverse view of helping people back to work: it ignores what people are good and insists they apply for any old rubbish no matter how unsuitable. We have a society that thinks any job is better than no job when people could be doing something worthwhile and fulfilling

‘Beggars can’t be choosers’ they say. Well why are they begging in the first place? 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Confused Rambling of the Day



“How’s it going?”

I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday. As someone with (as yet undiagnosed) learning disabilities (the surgery’s words, not mine) I am called to have a ‘review’ with my GP. I imagine this will be the first thing he will ask, I have no idea what it is meant to mean. What is ‘it’?

I have no idea how to answer? Is it the same as people who greet each other by saying ‘alright’; they don’t really expect an answer. No one wants to hear your life story; it’s not meant as a question. Will he mean “got a job yet?” that sounds more likely?

It’s the assumption that I am playing the game: doing the right thing, without ever having had that explained to me, nor giving me a choice of what game I might like to play. What efforts will I have made, that will satisfy the curiosity of my GP, to improve my lot? What efforts can I make? I don’t live where there is a robust mental health support network, certainly not one without a proper diagnosis. I may never get that either, but I hope that, if I do, it might open more doors. Then again, it might not. It won’t matter; it will always be down to me. One has to pull up one’s own socks these days. If you can’t, well you’re a scrounger.

No one offers any help; no one seems to even want an alternative to the existing system that, in being so narrow, is inherently self defeating. There was a panorama documentary two days ago about the effect of the welfare cap on families in Brent. I didn’t watch all of it (I didn’t even know it was on), but what I did see was depressing. It was clear that this cap was being used as a cudgel, with errant accuracy, to push people toward work: one woman, a single mother of five, was compelled to apply to Avon, selling slap. How on earth is that going to achieve anything? But if these people found work, they wouldn’t be forced out of their homes. Another woman, a mother of three, was turfed out into a hostel and left to rot. How can any of this make sense?

An Ethiopian mother, who’d been resistant for twelve years, was exiled to Luton. Her 16 year old daughter refused to follow and the family is split; she stays with extended family back in London while the mother makes the best of it in the birthplace of the EDL. How is such short sightedness going to help heal the sort of division those slugs feed on, when they see perceived ‘foreigners’ turn up on their doorstep? Will they understand that she had no choice in the matter? Will they care?

One family was sent to High Wycombe which ended up costing the father £400 (according to him) to get back into London to work, as well as ferrying his kids to school. He went back to the council to complain about the state of the house which seemed to have an insect problem. The DWP officers didn’t really seem to me to be terribly bothered: deal with it, was the message, or find a better place off your own back. How can he when rents are going through the roof, which is what, gave rise, inexpertly, to this mad policy?

The message that came through was that government policy cannot override community. No amount of economic engineering – rearranging people, carving up families and turfing out children – will ever be compatible with human relationships. The end result is a lot of damage: confusion, heartache and resentment. This was plainly evident as the credits rolled to the sound of the Deputy PM (interesting choice of scapegoat) rationalising this as part of one of his many and forgettable speeches.
He claims welfare is about forcing people into work.

I do not agree. Those are separate issues. Welfare, properly social security, should only ever concern itself with taking care of people. It should not be used or manipulated, certainly not by the rich corporate class, to compel behaviour. You cannot make people work anymore than you can happily rearrange their lives through a welfare cap. Cutting her benefits won’t guarantee her a job with Avon, even if such a job (no doubt a self employed zero hours trap) were suitable.

Now you might want people to work; we might want community members to work together to do things that are necessary (selling cosmetics in an industry that plays on female insecurities, programmed over generations?). That is a separate discussion that can only be had when people’s needs are taken care of without judgement or guilt. If those needs are not met they will only ever exist in survival mode: concerned, quite rightly, with foraging and shelter, fight or flight.

Social security is the correct name because taking care of the needs of society’s members is paramount to a healthy society. It benefits everyone, not just those that directly receive it, but we have lost sight of this and have allowed people like Nick Clegg to follow a particular line and pursue rearranging social security to a nasty agenda (largely American in nature). This will only ever lead to more division and a further need for social security. It will not foster a greater understanding of the issues faced by people with neuro diverse conditions, aspergers, autism spectrum conditions, or learning disabilities/difficulties. “How’s it going?” I don’t know, I can’t make head nor tail of this society. The people in charge have broken it.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

We Have a Religion not a Government



I get the sense, these days, that we are living adrift; that these are times where opinion is up for grabs. No one seems to have a solid claim on what’s right, what’s wrong, or how things should be. Instead there is power and there is the lack thereof. Those who have it enforce their worldview by economic force; those who don’t are being viciously marginalised with increasing fervour.

Maria Miller’s job prior to the culture brief she handed back yesterday was to shut down the Remploy factories her government had decided were no longer worthwhile. With that a swathe of people otherwise not cut out for society as it is through no fault of their own are set adrift. This is a woman with an expression like a waxwork dummy; of all the Tories in the current bitter crop, she always struck me as a particularly stony buttress.

These are ideological times. They are times where people do not seem to know themselves what should be done. Mrs Miller didn’t seem to know what to do while racking up mortgage debts of £45,000 other than to charge them to the taxpayer. I find this staggering. How many people don’t know what is happening with these kinds of sums? Most of us might overlook a few pence here or there; I don’t really care if she claimed for a bag of crisps. I do care that she was allowed to claim for a house that her entire extant family seemed to live in, which itself seems bogus. Why would she choose to live with her parents when she could easily afford not to with her own husband and kids? I doubt she did.

She has had to pay back a tenth of that money and ‘had’ to resign from her job – no, wait that’s not entirely true. She resigned from cabinet. She is still an MP; still someone paid to represent the public. Giving up her job as culture secretary is meaningless quite frankly (the media are already, largely, right wing scum as it is, they won’t want for her help). Paying back a tenth of the money she made illicitly is equally meaningless. What message does that send (at the same time the government wants the power to steal the homes of benefit fraudsters)?

Also on the 7th, in the Guardian, the latest slice of DWP pain comes from Esther McVey, queen of the Gish Gallop and harpy in chief of DWP hyperbole. In fact this is quite telling: there is to be increased conditionality for jobseekers who will have to provide evidence they are looking for work (including a CV) before they can even make a claim. Now this is something that’s been in the pipeline, to be fair, but McVey reveals this is ideological by saying that, as the labour market recovers (hah!) it is reasonable to expect more of people claiming benefit. So it’s acceptable for ministers to safely reap the benefits of office, but a claimant that, doesn’t have a CV through lack of computer access for example, is denied the help they need from the organisation that should be helping with that. If they can’t even start a claim then they won’t even get access to the Work Programme that McVey thinks exists for that purpose; a most vicious circle indeed.

“With the economy growing, unemployment falling and record numbers of people in work, now is the time to start expecting more of people if they want to claim benefits. It's only right that we should ask people to take the first basic steps to getting a job before they start claiming jobseeker's allowance – it will show they are taking their search for work seriously.”

So anyone that needs help to find work will be caught out by not being able to access that help because they can’t look for work effectively enough – which is why they are asking for help. Not only that but why is conditionality dependent on the state of the labour market? What this means, again, is that the government is blaming the unemployed for their circumstance. This is the same tone taken by Simon Heffer last weekend in the Mail when he said that the ‘feckless’ (the first word of the entire article including the headline) should have food stamps and not ‘cash’ (use of the colloquialism doesn’t go unnoticed – it further implies a particular attitude on the part of the poor). If someone loses their job, the surrounding economic conditions are irrelevant to them and certainly not their fault. Why then should they be placed under more scrutiny because they lost their job during boom times and not bust? The answer: because we assume they cost themselves the job (which, if true, could happen under any economic condition). This assumption betrays the ideology involved. That there is an election doesn’t get by unnoticed as well: “dear Hobbiton, we’re tough on scroungers!”

And like Hobbiton, the hairy footed pipe smokers of middle England love nothing more than the hypocrisy of sitting back with a pipe or pint of Old Toby (Toby Young?) and calling everyone else feckless.

We don’t have a government; we have a religion one born of wealth privilege and capitalism.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

More Terror From the Dark Lord of the Smith



Another day and another offensive in the war against the poor – just as the general election season starts. This article (linked from the excellent Ipswich Unemployed Action) originating in the Torygraph sets out the Dark Lord’s latest vision of a fair society (not):

Welfare cheats will be forced to sell their homes and pay higher fines to reimburse taxpayers for the money they have wrongly claimed, under plans to tackle benefit fraud.

Perhaps this is some belated April Fool’s; a satirical masterstroke in the same week that Maria Miller was caught fiddling. The former minister against the disabled ‘over claimed’ on her expenses by £45000 to cover a mortgage – but, astonishingly, only has to pay back 10% of that amount! So while a ‘welfare cheat’ is to be forced to sell their home (maybe they could quickly sign the deeds over to a spouse, in the way Phillip Green signs his profits over to his missus), Mrs Miller gets to profit to the tune of forty grand for overcharging the taxpayer for her home. I doubt even Private Eye could invent this.

“And pay higher fines” – that’s just an added kick in the nuts. It’s the nasty party living up to their foul reputation. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, we’re going to hit you even harder, even though fraud is really no issue at all. The bigger question is, of course, how much money will be spent pursuing all this?

It doesn’t matter; this is electioneering. It’s propaganda, though nothing this government does surprises me. It just upsets me.

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners who fail to declare their full earnings from private pension schemes will also be targeted as fraud investigators trawl through HM Revenue & Customs records.

So what are we going to do, fill up the gaols with old folk now branded as common thieves? Look, you nurses and teachers, old Mrs Jones is stealing your wages! That’s the message to the swing voters who might be stupid enough to fall for this crap – and they will be, that’s why they do it. Again, how much will this cost? Hasn’t HMRC been cut? Don’t they have bigger priorities, like chasing up the billions owed in avoided tax or larger fraud? No of course not! Don’t be stupid!

Ministers will highlight the scale of savings to taxpayers, announce a tougher stance on fraud and detail further action to limit welfare for migrants. Polls suggest that even Labour supporters now regard state benefits as too generous.

The scale of savings! While it might be acceptable to pursue the kind of fraud that was reported (rightly or wrongly) in the Metro the day the Miller scandal broke (misdirection!), these are extremely rare cases. Yet they project that, from this expensive undertaking, they will save money – paying off the national debt that, guess what, the last government left behind. Round and round the circle goes, constantly decreasing. This is the most venal thinking ever, never mind the tired immigrant angle.

Ministers aim to reduce the proportion of benefits lost to fraud and error from 2.2 per cent in 2010 to 1.7 per cent by next March.

By focussing, it seems, on the smaller part of that equation. How on earth does that make sense?

This month’s package of plans represents the Government’s last realistic chance to meet its goal. The reforms include:
:: A drive to recover debts owed by fraudsters. Ministers will work with private debt collection firms “to make greater use of bailiffs to seize assets” and “force house sales where appropriate”, officials said. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) expects to recover at least £414 million as a result of the initiative. 

This is after the government legislated somewhat (though with good reason) to curb the excesses of bailiffs. How do you force a house sale? You can’t force someone to buy a fucking house can you? Or does this mean it will be flogged off for sod all making the entire affair completely worthless? Will this happen to people who get sent down or will the government explain how it plans to rehouse these people – or will they just be left to live on the streets as a punishment! Never mind the court costs involved in all of this (and the profit some will make selling these houses on behalf of the DWP).

:: Higher fines for cheats caught committing benefits fraud. Officials can already impose a £50 spot fine on individuals who mistakenly and carelessly provide inaccurate information in their claims, and fraudsters face a minimum fine of £350 as an alternative to prosecution. Plans this week are expected to set out new financial penalties.

I don’t know if anyone has received such a fine, on the spot. I would be very interested in finding out how this works. Does the JC adviser just slap you with a fine while you sign on? Does someone get sent round your house to serve you with a fixed penalty notice? What a total waste of time – and to punish people in stressful situations for, as the article says, mistakenly or carelessly being found in error? Is this what we’ve come to as a society? Instead of recognising a genuine error (it does happen, despite what IDS believes – and he should know as he’s often wrong) we don’t seek communion and understanding; we seek to exploit and penalise? I find this sickening, and it must be stopped. I thought the Tories opposed all this nanny state crap – oh my mistake, that only applies when they are at fault. It is purely a mark of capitalism that seeks to penalise financial mistakes (including, to be fair, genuine fraud) by financial penalty. This is wrongheaded and stupid.

:: A publicity campaign, including posters urging claimants to report those whom they suspect to be cheating the system, and letters warning individuals to check they are not receiving too much.

Here we are at last: this is about sending a message, pre election, no matter the cost.

Don’t think about claiming, don’t you dare. If you think you’re ill, you’re not. If you think you have problems, you don’t. If you are unemployed, you’re lazy.

When will it end? This I suspect is more about ESA than JSA. They don’t want you starting a fresh claim, troubling them with your malingering. That’s the message: you can work, so get off your arse! Fuck that! It’s a stupid message because by assuming that everyone can work, which is the implication of the WCA, everyone can do anything.

This is clearly not the case at all: we have teachers striking because, amongst other reasons, they don’t want to be fronting a class full of kids in their seventies. There are plenty of jobs that plenty of other people simply can’t do – for a variety of reasons, physical, academic, or otherwise. So even fit people can’t do everything, and thus they can’t do anything.

The WCA doesn’t attempt to find out what kind of work you could do. It imposes no filters of any kind; if you fail then you are deemed merely ‘capable of work’ which therefore must means capable of any work – and, again, thus capable of every kind of work. That’s the rules for JSA: you must be up for anything (though I always found it curious you can’t actually phrase it that way).

What then happens, we all know, is that, having been labelled ‘capable of (every kind of) work’ the individual is cast adrift. The DWP would say they have lots of systems in place to help, but at the very least they require a genuine claim for JSA (unless you want to suffer any of the above) and many feel they can’t deal with that. So they are just abandoned. Even then, with schemes like the Work Programme, what help is there?

The upshot of all this, having read this vile article (and without knowing the timetable for implementing this crap), I’m afraid to step outside my house. How do I know that some DWP spook, or even a neighbour, Matrix style, won’t be thinking ‘hang on, he looks fit to work? What’s going on?’; this campaign won’t give a damn about the finer points of mental health, neuro diversity or even a warped metabolism, and you can be sure the general public won’t be compelled to think more deeply about the people around them.

This has to stop. Historians look at the rise of fascism in Germany and rightly ask how it happened; how did that society allow the rise of a genocidal maniac at the cost of millions of lives? Yet if you dare to compare Nazi Germany to modern Britain you are instantly dismissed as being utterly facile and completely over the top. While that might seem a lurid comparison to make, it is precisely because people did nothing and allowed themselves to become powerless. Some might argue that Germany’s situation was unique because of post war economic strife, but the war on terror that has lasted longer than both world wars combined is costing billions (as well as toll in lives that transcends mere economics). The point is that, without sufficient and effective opposition, what might seem mild, by comparison to Hitler’s policies, will get worse. If the Tory agenda is allowed to continue it will certainly lead to the almost complete rollback of the welfare state. The signs are there: people conditioned to believe benefits are generous, that claimants are scroungers, that there is no excuse or need for them, or that people shouldn’t need financial support and should get a more authoritarian intervention instead, controlling their lives in what can only be described as fascism, through concepts such as food stamps and payment cards.

This is about a system of unprecedented control over people’s lives ideologically and physically and it is only the beginning of the end. Remember the majority of the cuts have yet to come into effect.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Meetings With Remarkable Advisers



As previously mentioned, I was due a Post Work Programme appointment at the jobcentre. However I rang the Work Psychologist to talk this through because I am (and I daresay always will be) apprehensive about dealing with the Jobcentre. Isn’t it sad that its forever a hostile environment and that dealings with its agents have to be guarded?

I didn’t think she was much help. Typically she is, on the face of it, supportive, but ultimately somewhat ineffectual. However she did suggest I ring and speak to the person concerned (dubbed My Adviser) as, according to her, he is a decent bloke.

So I did. Turns out (or so it seems, time will be the ultimate arbiter) he was actually pretty decent. He offered to conduct the interview on the phone, which was a big help. When I told him what I though of the Work Programme (which I am officially no longer enslaved to as of last month) he wasn’t surprised at all. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say and my interest in writing – which is more than can be said of the Salvation Army.

So that’s good news. I explained about my upcoming Psychologist appointment and he booked another phone call for early May. It just goes to show: if you treat people with kindness, understanding (it helps if you realise there’s a better way of doing things beyond capitalism) you get more results. It’s so sad that DWP creates an environment so otherwise counter productive.

In other news, a letter cam through from the local Libdem campaign office. This is what it said (emphasis theirs):


Dear Ghost Whistler,

I am sure you know there are lots of great things the Liberal Democrats have achieved since being in government.

In our Constituency for example, we have created 3,030 new apprenticeships. We have introduced the pupil premium and made sure that 6,892 infants receive free school meals, helping all children get the best start in life.

The Liberal Democrats we working for a Stronger Economy in a Fairer Society.

But we face a massive barrier. When asked about our achievements in government, the majority believe we have only delivered a few of our policies. This is why I am writing to you.

With the European elections just around the corner and a General and Local elections next year, we need your help to tell the people what we have achieved.

There are roles in our campaign to suit everyone, whether you’re able to deliver publications, donate or canvass people. You could write letters, fold leaflets or stand as a candidate.


Are they having a laugh? I certainly was when I read this nonsense, of which I will speak later as I’m trying to find out a bit more regarding the figures mentioned.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Is the Honeymoon Over?

With a thud a brown envelope hits the doormat. Ominous.

It's contents are a DWP summons to a post Work Programme support interview with 'Brian', at the Jobcentre on the 3rd of April at a time not conducive to bus travel. This alone will have to be addressed otherwise I will either be 20 minutes late or 45 minutes early. Of course the idea that they ought to book these appointments (done without my input) with more foresight is unreasonable. What else can we expect; I don't imagine asking them to change the time will be easy (I don't imagine even getting through will be).

So we're back to dealing with the unpredictable scrutiny of the Jobcentre. Though as I knew my time on the wholly useless WP was ending, this is not unexpected.

I have no idea what will come from this; it might be benign - or it might be a prelude to the kind of intense compliance that has been touted by the government. Consequently I am dreading it. The thought of having to attend, or even wander aimlessly around an empty town centre for 45 minutes waiting, makes my stomach churn. This is really down to two things: 

Firstly, I am being seen by someone who (presumably) is not trained in mental health and has no real understanding of the relevant issues. I could bring along the letter from the NHS telling me about my next Aspergers assessment appointment. Hopefully the words 'Assistant Psychologist' will carry some weight, but I fear that, being in the Work Related Activity Group (be careful what you wish for, Ghost Whistler!), may well be no defence against whatever horrors await.

Secondly, and following on, I am being seen by someone representing a system that makes certain demands, and demands certain results. This is made worse by the aforementioned lack of understanding: I have to assume they want something from me. In which case it is likely they will advocate wayward and possibly unhealthy courses of action - workfare even, and, by way of justification, will resort to dangerous assumptions and ignorance of my capabilities (and indeed interests - much as the WP has done so far). They will say such things as "other people with (aspergers/anxiety/paranoia/terminal indolence) work", which is a hackneyed favourite that only serves to avoid any responsibility to help.

The uncertainty as to what to expect is unforgivable in my opinion. They know they are dealing with someone that has issues, but woe betided giving them any stake or input into this process. From the process of making the appointment, through informing them (except with the usual threatening caveats about loss of benefits - the only certainty present), to explaining what is involved and how, I have no say - and yet it is all supposedly for my benefit, ironically. Presumably then I will be seen in the open plan office, not a private room (I could ask, but again will it be more trouble than it's worth), in full earshot of others. I will likely have to wait to be seen even at the time allotted (as well as prior), again in a place I do not feel comfortable being in anymore.

All of this is the same as having to attend the Work Programme: it's the same guarded secretive process where the only thing that is explained are the brutal consequences of not attending. I would need 'good reason' not to do so, another certainty is that I won't be able to give them anything near satisfactory. The same irony as the ATOS assessment: attendance = losing the battle while non attendance = complete failure. It is a horrible bind; the modern catch 22.

Just like the Work Programme I will be isolated, alone. I will have to live with the everyday terror this invokes. Okay that sounds rather melodramatic; what I mean to say is that this whole process is singularly alienating. It instills a pervasive level of stress into one's life that just never seems to end. I remember making my way to the Salvation Army church hall and feeling utterly sick. Granted there are certainly people far worse off than I (and that is another certainty), but all that knowledge does is further compound the isolation. This is what they want; this is how the poor and the feckless are meant to think - don't be an outsider, get off your arse and work for £fuck.all (if you can find anything of course, never mind the barriers created by health issues). Individuals going through all this - and one of the reasons I started this blog - are kept isolated; kept alone with the fear created by government's threatening rhetoric and the insecurity of not knowing what awaits them. 

I can only hope that what does await me won't be as unpleasant as my initial appointments (of the few that I had - I guess the adviser that took over at the end of last year just gave up) with the Work Programme. But who knows. I'm also conscious that the Work Programme may well have been asked to give feedback on my time, which, I'm sure, will not look good. Sadly in my experience there is precedent for this; as well as the bullying adviser I saw, they lied to the JC after my GP wrote and asked the JC what they were doing for me. In some ways I rather wish he hadn't bothered; how was he to know that doing so, probably with noble intentions, would be like kicking an anthill; rocking the boat. 

I suppose there is no getting out of this. I just wish I could be left alone to get on with my life. Why is it deemed so worthless that I must be bulled into dreadful situations for someone else's gain?