He’s proud of his welfare reforms because they are helping people.
He’s proud of his policies because previous government(s) left the sick and the feeble to fester and rot.
He’s Iain Duncan Smith, and he’s changing all that.
So he says; I don’t feel terribly helped.
I attended his Work Programme, but not solely through choice. There was choice, to be sure – the choice between that, Work Choices (the same thing but only for 6 months and then onto the Work Programme, or…) or a sanction. So I chose his scheme but the choice of provider and the availability of different provisions, perhaps specialising in particular issues needs or aspects, was not mine to make. There were two providers, both carbon copies of the same model; different names, different faces, same service – or lack thereof. At no point was I offered any kind of prospectus, and at no point was I offered any say in how my future was to be built. I was not consulted and my best interests were not, and are not being discussed.
I was bullied by Work Programme advisers who not only, according to their own head office, went against their procedures, but ignored my needs. Again my will, wishes and wants are ignored. Mr Smith exhorts his Work Programme on the basis that, as Tory propaganda claims for all their policies, it empowers the individual. No more will they languish and idle, instead they are at the heart of their own development. But there is no development and there is no choice. A so called ‘black box’ approach is talked about wherever the WP is mentioned, but it doesn’t exist. Instead there are rules – compliance – and lots of it. Only they do not tell you this and you find not only are your expectations shattered – you don’t have any say in building your own future – but that if you do not do as you are told you will be sanctioned. This transcends cognitive dissonance; it is downright abuse. It most certainly is not help.
I haven’t heard from the Work Programme since just before my WCA. It is clear they have nothing to offer, but of course that cannot be seen as their failing. The individual is always to blame: that’s what is meant by the black box approach. You are responsible for your own future. After all if Tory millionaires can succeed to the highest offices in the land, why can’t people with nothing? Why can’t people at the frayed fringes of society that don’t have all the advantages commensurate with being part of the aristocracy or the elite?
I attended my WCA but again not through choice, even though the mere act of doing so precludes me from being eligible for ESA, the whole point of the test. The assessment, as discussed, has nothing to do with health. You may provide genuine clinical evidence, from real qualified people, and it will have no bearing per se on the outcome. Instead you are to tick a series of boxes whose accumulated value must total the arbitrary sum of 15. Anything less and your ‘limited capability for work’ (the title of the assessment) is deemed not limited enough – not matter what the conditions or evidence may say otherwise. None of this is informed by or has any relation to the conditions in the labour market at the time. The test will be the same next year as it was previously even though the labour market is not. If you can tie your own shoes and write your own name and understand the question you are being asked, you can not only function in that labour market, but you can do so competitively. To reinforce the point your income is instantly stopped; you are not even transferred over to the Jobseeker’s Allowance you will now need (unless you brought a winning lotto ticket with your last ESA payment). That is what Duncan Smith calls help. That is the support that lies behind the bellicose bullshit pumped out from government.
You can appeal – but wait, what’s that chill in the air? It’s the Ghost of Sanctions Future; the sound of disapproving Tory ministers who’d rather you took their medicine and stopped scrounging – no matter the consequence. So you are fragile, you are fraught and insecure. They don’t want you to appeal. The process itself is mysterious and vague, with no definition. It is amorphous: you are to provide further evidence but you are not told how, or by when. No one contacts you. This is one of the system’s major failings: there is simply no communication at all; not between you, the DWP, the decision makers, and the doctors or clinicians. I cannot, for example, ask them to perhaps wait until I can be seen by the NHS for the diagnosis I hope I can get. I think we can imagine what the answer will be, if I were to do so. It is compartmentalised and serviced by equally small minded jobsworths: the rules are the rules. Instead I have to go through a laborious process like a blindfolded rat in a maze in order to at least try and find some means to move forward. This must be costing the government money, is there no better way? No! This is helping me! It’s stopping me from rotting and festering, remember? Where help and advice are needed the DWP tell you to speak to the CAB – isn’t that incredible: they themselves offer no help to you with their processes when you deal with them. Meanwhile they continue. I wait for my appointment with the CAB while the DWP make a decision before an appointment is even available. This system is a series of cogs, all different sizes all moving at different speeds, all failing to integrate. You are being driven by that machine as it slowly falters and fails. That is your life as helped by Iain Duncan Smith and his irresponsible, ignorant, greedy cohorts.
Sooner or later that machine will not only crash, it will explode. People are already dying. They are already being sucked into the cogs and crushed by the weight of bureaucratic insanity and cold corporate indifference, all informed by unelected ministers with too much power and too much privilege, or the fruits of selfish Tory middle Englanders whose prejudices and fear are amplified by the media the Tories use to reinforce those prejudices and fears. In short, I don’t see any kind of future at all. We are done. We are undone.