It’s twelve years now since the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health first appeared. Since then much has changed – and things have got harder.
Has there ever been a more difficult time to be a claimant? Probably not, this side of Beveridge. Certainly for those reliant on benefits paid on grounds of ill health or disability, anxiety is rapidly becoming a way of life rather than a diagnosis.
Some of course have by now come through the first big wave of current change, their migration to ESA completed. So far the process seems to be a bit of a lottery: some have been fairly painlessly transferred to the Support Component without a face-to-face medical, others have inexplicably ended up on the Work Related Activity Component when they should doubtlessly not be, others still have been told that they are fit for work; in fact that’s been the experience of 37 per cent of old sickness route claimants. And it’s not just the actual migration and outcome which are hurting – it’s the sheer worry of it all – knowing it’s ahead and wondering what will happen.
You don’t have to look far to find the casualties; you’ll find people who have been told they are fit for work – and who know that they are not – amongst any community, and here telling their stories on internet fora. Unluckier individuals form part of the 14 per cent rise in the homelessness in England in the last year. And the hardest hit of all find their names recorded for posterity. Be assured that we won’t forget.
And ahead lie myriad more cuts, the replacement of DLA with the Personal Independence Payment and the coming of Universal Credit.
We hope that the book – and now this blog – will continue to help, even in this grim time.