free bus travel for all ESA, JSA and Universal Credit claimants.

There is a Petition on the Government website that is asking the Government to : To fund free bus travel for all ESA, JSA and Universal Credit claimants. It was created by Maria Nelson who lives with back and joint problems and due to her semi-rural location has a 12 mile circular trip to the nearest jobcentre and a 16 miles round trip for medical and support services. Maria attends various appointments for both health and support, and with a daily bus pass being £7.50, a busy week can cost her over a quarter of her ESA.  Realising she is not alone she decided to start the petition 

Empathising with Maria’s situation, I am supporting this petition through this post; to  give you a proper insight as to its importance, below is the rationale in Maria’s words.

My name is Maria Nelson and I created this petition to ask the Government to fund free travel for people claiming  ESA, JSA and Universal Credit (UC)
The reasons are many and varied, to coin a phrase favoured by the DWP, the  Conservative Government claims it wants to support sick and disabled people, the low paid and job seekers; but the  reality is very different.
Many claimants live in rural and semi rural locations, not within walking distance to shops, advice services or the jobcentre, further many are disabled or suffering chronic pain and assorted illness and so rely on public transport to comply with UC compliance rules such as attending appointments, assessments, jobsearch programmes and training.
These same claimants often need to access support and advice services to fill in UC, Pip, ESA and other claim forms and for help with appeals; these services are usually at locations which aren’t local or within comfortable safe walking distances. JSA claimants and wrag (work related assessed group) also need to attend jobcentres to search for work and attend interviews.
Sometimes  people can claim travel money back, but obviously they have to pay it up front, also jobcentres and assessment centres won’t tell you this unless you ask?
Sick and disabled people also need to attend medical appointments and travel can be costly for this too; for example I have appointments on  both 10th and 11th September and this will cost me £12.00. The cost of travel has sky-rocketed in the past 8 years, but our benefits do not go up according to the cost of living  or inflation; many chronically sick and disabled people are living well below the poverty line, defined at 60% of average income.
I’m at currently living at about 43% below the average income, but others such as those on JSA are far worse off. Many claimants are surviving on income so low that after council tax, bedroom tax, and the money to make up Housing benefit shortfall for rent can’t afford bus travel and are forced to walk many miles. This becomes a real issue if you are one of the many middle-aged, sick, and, or, disabled who cannot walk long distances.
A  further point to note is if claimants could access the free travel scheme ran by most Councils, it would save the DWP and its many training schemes and work provider deliverers a whole lot of clerical hours and paper when paying out individual travel claims.
I feel having concessionary travel passes and it is not the least important,  many disabled people live alone and don’t have access to a car; I can personally vouch that struggling with shopping  because you can’t afford the travel cost is detrimental to health. I pulled my arm joint struggling to get a trolley on a bus; living in a village I have to use the bus to get to and from the supermarket. I also feel completely isolated, which is detrimental to and already has damaged my mental health. Other than essential travel to shop, get to medical treatment I can not afford to get out.
I would also, as per Human Right Act, like to occasionally partake in community and social events when I feel well enough.
Their are millions like me.
Regarding UC, many on benefits will be changed to UC  next year. How on earth are we meant to access help with no income for 5 weeks and having to save to pay the rent for the duration? How are we supposed to access food banks, charity support, advice without travel?
There are so many more reasons a travel pass would free us.
 Please sign my petition  and share it, ask friends to help. Don’t forget to Confirm your signature in the email from Parliament or it doesn’t count.”
On behalf of Maria Thank-you

Another Government ‘Fag packet’ proposal for Benefit Sanctions & Cuts ?

Rarely do I come across a Tory Policy proposal that makes me both Smile (albeit at the irony) and Shudder (with fear); but today’s report in the Telegraph does exactly this; “Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression“, this worries me on several levels.

The article quotes their source as saying “We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment“; I totally agree with the closing proviso but the apparent claim CBT works for depression and anxiety is False.

Firstly Depression is not a ‘one size fits all’ disorder, there are different types of this debilitating illness, and a notion it can be conveniently summed up to enforce potentially damaging treatment is downright dangerous as well as being futile.  This position applies equally to Anxiety, again there are different types of Anxiety disorders which require different specialist treatments; therefore this all embracing decision, being discussed by Politicians based upon saving money is, to me, terrifying.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works to enable people understand the relationships between their feelings, thinking, behaviours and environment, and to identify ways in which these can become problems; ergo CBT only works when depression and, or anxiety arises from internal conflict. Personally I have found CBT to be of little or no use when clinical issues, i.e. schizophrenia, is  the primary causes of the disorder; further where external factors are reinforcing the disorders, I personally have found CBT only has limited benefits.  I am not purporting CBT has no use in supporting depressive or anxiety sufferers, but it is not the only form of treatment necessary for enabling improved mental health. Given the mandate for this scheme is the ” loads of people who claim ESA (for Depression and Anxiety) who undergo no treatment whatsoever“, it is difficult to understand how the Government is to utilise fully trained CBT workers anyway?

Minsters are already piloting different ways of implementing this scheme, four JobCentres are currently “combining “talking therapies” with employment support“; soon we will witness  “group work” to help build the “resilience” of individuals who are out of work and suffering with poor mental health” the “hiring specialist private organisations outside the NHS and welfare system to take control of providing a combination of psychological and employment support to claimants” and finally “online tests and therapies at improving individuals’ health and job prospects“. These four trials will then be assessed, presumably with cost effectiveness, being the primary focus’ so no prizes for guessing which ‘approach’ the Government will adopt – more work for the nudge unit coming up?

These trials are a joint effort between the DWP & Dept of Health, and emerge from the report Talking Therapies: a four year plan of action  and initially was targeted at people 18-65  as an “economic case on which it was based showed that providing therapy could benefit not only the individual but also the nation, by helping people come off sick pay and benefits and stay in or return to work“. There we have it another quick fix based on Finance First and presumably will form the basis of yet another area of Cuts in Welfare; but once again aimed at sick and disabled people

As I acknowledge at the beginning of this post, the Government Ministers making these decisions about how mental health sufferers should be treated, deny participation in these trials will be mandatory, seeming to recognise willingness to participate is central any talking treatment working. However the Telegraph states “Conservatives could include the proposal for mandatory treatments in the party manifesto next year as part of the next phase of reforms to the welfare state” and I can’t help but think they are probably accurate in this.

Will this turn out to be yet another example of how the Government says one thing and then does another? If you agree with me in this Join the TRUTH campaign

#NOWPetition #ImpeachDWP

“The poor cannot sleep, because they are hungry, and the rich cannot sleep, because the poor are awake.”

Yesterday I was in court (for the third time) because my Local Authority Housing Benefit (HB) Dept are inept; they have for the past 2 years been playing with my HB account suspending/releasing and finally after 14 month closing my HB account! payments. My supportive Housing Association officer has done everything she can to help sort this to no avail hence the Court involvement.

To cut a long irrelevant story short this was our third appearance in court and the judge had at the last meeting called the Director of Housing to come before her to explain the situation; we arrived to find HB had sent a Team Leader (TL) as a representative who in front of the judge could only reply with the obligatory “I don’t know”! To say the judge was unamused is an understatement and the upshot was yet another adjournment with an order that HB must prioritise my new claim (submitted yesterday afternoon).

It was at the point the fun started, as we left the court room someone said ‘if only my ESA was income related my claim would be passported’, which means an automatic entitlement to HB, and I admit I lost it; I stopped and very firmly stated “It is”, everyone stood still, the TL very quietly said “for how long” and at my reply of “3 years” his face dropped. He started to bluster about me having evidence of this, and both my rep & housing officer beat me to stating the on screen records of communication with the DWP would show this. At this I was ready to explode and my body’s response to real anger is I start to shake; my partner caught me before I fell and I was taken away to a quiet area to sit and breathe!

After I’d stopped shaking my rep said I could go to the local JobCentre+ (2 buildings away) and ask for a letter from them proving this, but, I had to pretend the court had sent me and I needed this immediately to avoid eviction; he then stated “DO NOT tell them its for HB otherwise they’ll refuse and say they should look it up” !

Entering the JobCentre we went immediately to the desk where I quietly explained to the person on reception what I needed, his immediate response was “you really need to phone for this information”, using the script from my legal rep, I said it was urgent and that I would really appreciate his help ; he began to bluster away about process, systems and staff not having time to do things immediately, and then said something so sincerely I had to bend over ‘coughing’ to cover up laughter  “we do get taken advantage of”. I forced myself to thank him and reiterated my appreciation and he said he’d go and see if someone could help me.

Waiting there, with nothing else to do, I started to count the number of staff chatting of the 25 of so staff I could see only 5 looked as if they were actually ‘working’ the others were in small groups laughing, nodding and talking; and it didn’t look like work; and this was whilst 9 people sat waiting!  If this is usual, I understand why claimants with regular appointments are angry, being met with either jobs worth attitudes or ignored!.  After around 10 minutes I was called by a woman who had provided a 2 line letter stating what benefit  I was in receipt of.

This snapshot of a small personal issue raises real concern  – if the behaviour of my HB Dept. is indicative of others nationally with them unwilling/incapable of using the current IT system which already links directly to DWP to determine benefits, and choosing to ignore DWP Policies such as ‘passporting’; and if the attitudes at my local JobCentre+, considering ‘customers’ as problems who take advantage or to be blatantly ignored is suggestive of others; I’d be really interested to know

The other outcome of yesterday for me was, the whole fiasco resulted in me going into shock and I saw every half hour last night because I know I’m to go through it again in another 3 weeks or so!

To conclude I rediscovered the quote I  used in the title that sums up the current UK & Global situation for me ““The poor cannot sleep, because they are hungry, and the rich cannot sleep, because the poor are awake.” Nigerian economist Sam Aluko  1999.