Sunday, 1 December 2013

Benefits Overhaul: The System is Unfair and Cruel

Benefits Overhaul: The System is Unfair and Cruel

Iain Duncan Smith is fooling himself if he thinks companies will choose to employ sick and disabled people

Iain Duncan Smith is delusional if he thinks most sick and disabled people are employable, when companies can pick and choose ("Duncan Smith 'targeting seriously ill claimants' in benefits overhaul", News). Even with a numerate first-class degree in a field for which visas are issued, I am unemployable.

A mentor confirmed that I was the only applicant for a mundane job for which I was still not interviewed even though I had the relevant experience. Going to an employment tribunal would be pointless, as my medical history could be reported and means testing would ensure a pyrrhic victory.

Being sent on a fool's errand with a private training company does nothing to improve my health. My limited odds would be improved if the Department for Work & Pensions simply cut out the middle man, so that we could send out certificates explaining the support on offer to prospective employers, including thousands of pounds if someone held down even a part-time job for increasing periods of time.

In three decades, my benefits have fallen by two-fifths compared to wages. Disability premiums would have to rise by more than inflation for my total income support not to fall further behind. To say otherwise is another outright lie.

Name and address supplied

I was recently put into the work-related activity group without so much as a medical. I suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I sent in various pieces of medical information from my GP and family and it was all completely ignored. I am appealing to be put into the support group.

In Kettering in Northamptonshire, the waiting time for an employment and support allowance tribunal is 40 weeks when the national average is 17 weeks. Last week, a DWP official telephoned me and tried to persuade me to drop my appeal. I will not.

Atos and the DWP's behaviour has been an utter disgrace and disabled people are the easiest targets of "welfare reforms".

Scott Speirs



Your article states: "The work and pensions secretary is pushing to scrap a part of the benefits system that helps sufferers of recent illnesses get back into employment. These individuals are covered by the term 'work-related activity group' (Wrag) and are regarded as being capable of work in the future."

While this description of the Wrag is often used by the DWP, it is inaccurate and highly misleading. The rules determining which claimants are placed in the Wrag make no reference to the date of the onset of the condition, nor its expected duration, and so it is wrong to say that it applies to "sufferers of recent illnesses".

The regulations do not make any reference to the expected functional ability of the claimant at any future date, and so it is also wrong to say that they "are regarded as being capable of work in the future".

The only reference to the duration of illness in the regulations is the rule relating to people with terminal illnesses who are not expected to live for more than six months, who are then placed in the support group and not the Wrag.

I have been ill with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME for 17 years and am currently in the Wrag. I am expected to attend meetings at the Jobcentre and work towards returning to the job market even though it is unlikely that my health will improve.

Charlotte Mulliner



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