Please note: This was originally written in January 2016.
I never thought I would be on benefits, unless I radically made it to that point in life where I had convinced another human being (my preference being the male variety) to put up with me for the rest of their life and make a small human being that could possibly resemble me (a miracle, I know). Then I thought, well possibly the government might have some sort of child benefit (mainly to try and stop the next generation costing as much as the previous ones, by investing in them before there is no return from bad habits, poor health and a reckless attitude towards education and work). But I wasn’t utterly convinced that either the former or the latter would actually occur. The only other time I thought I might receive some benefits from the government was when I made it to great status of ‘old age’ (although lets face it, I’m 27. By the time I’m ‘old’ I will be 93 and it would have been expected of me to work until I was 92. That surely would have killed me off by then).
However, it turns out life, the greater powers and my dress size (which stubbornly refuses to go below a 12) had other ideas. No the future did not look like my size 10 body, flaunting it around my work place, with ever growing confidence, skill, capability and money (although I work for the NHS so lets face it, the money was never going to correlate with my skill level). Instead I have ended up a size 12 (14 after sitting on my arse and eating cake like it was my cure) unable to work, with some crazy stupid illness, with little skill and far less money. And so at the grand old age of 27 I am now entirely dependent on benefits. Life goal achieved, said no one. Ever
I won’t claim to be a veteran at this. I only started receiving benefits 3 months ago and for only 1 month have I lived entirely by the support of my dear country. But I have to tell you, it is an experience like no other. It appears entirely illogical, insistent on removing all hope and makes one consider throwing oneself under a bus a ‘positive’ life choice. I believe buying into the fact that mono brows are becoming fashionable and furthermore displaying such a monstrosity on ones face (these beauties made a spring 2016 catwalk appearance), would be far more intelligent than believing this warped system main priorities are welfare. Welfare of course implying that they care about people, individuals, you and me.
Firstly I encountered how much I would be living off. Well, lets just say the grand total is enough to live on, if you eat baked beans uncooked, from the tin, in the freezing cold, smelling strongly of body odour and embracing a Nokia 360, in some bizarre Bear Grylls experiment to attempt to spend minimum on food and nothing on cooking, cleaning, heating or water. The ideal way to help someone improve from health conditions I’ve read. Of course this research is entirely evidence based and probably interpreted by some highly educated, highly paid health minister. And if your health condition won’t improve, it will undoubtedly improve your quality of life. As you sit there shivering, considering eating your hand rather than the 50th tin of beans, alone because your personal hygiene is at a low point to say the least; you can consider what a wonderful experiment this is, what an adventure, what fun.
What I didn’t realise is that this would be the highlight of my experience. From then on it deteriorated somewhat. Housing benefit was up next. The grand total would allow me to live in a field, with an old tent. So long as the farmer didn’t catch me, I categorically could not afford a campsite! But no I live in the South. The South East in particular. And not just anywhere, but in a town where a one bed property costs £170,000 minimum to buy. So to rent a one bed property it would cost me £700 or upwards. So on benefits I could rent less than half a one bedroom flat. Would I choose the toilet and the kitchen? Or toilet and bedroom, and just have a microwave considering my diet now consists solely of baked beans? Tricky.
I share a house with my friends. As it happens, the house we rent has a spare bedroom. So logically the housing benefit I receive gets REDUCED. So now I need to take even more money out of my weekly living budget and inject it into my rent. Goodbye my faithful tin of beans. And by the way does anyone want to buy my blanket that kept out the searing winter cold? Sf/pf home. Open to offers. Please comment below.
At this point I feel logic has all but left the building, not stopping to pass go or collect 200. ‘Oh yes, giving them less money will surely make them unable to pay their rent, which will hopefully lead to homelessness, which has been proven to be very cost effective as we know that putting people up in an emergency Bed and Breakfast is much cheaper than giving adequate housing benefit. Furthermore, this is shown to be a great method of improving health conditions and the most desired environment to raise children to be effective members of the community…’.
And then the real low comes. If you thought all of this was illogical enough, here comes the cherry!! The big red, crushing cherry. The benefit that I was receiving I can no longer get, as I do not meet enough points to fulfil that criteria. Right. So what other benefits should I claim? Job seekers. Right. But I am actually employed. I do actually have a job. A GREAT job. I just can’t do it. Because I am SICK. This isn’t some year of travelling around the Bahamas you know! Unless you count getting a wheelchair as your new mode of transport as adventure, which I totally made all the rage in 2015. Fiat 500 cry your cute little heart out. And using children’s plastic cutlery when your so weak you can’t use actual metal cutlery, that could be category new experience. Indeed, the inability to read more than 500 words effectively is very similar to intoxication, I agree, so heck, it is kind of like I’ve been enjoying cocktails! And the high level pain relief I take daily to cope can make you feel a little woozy, surely that must count as getting high. And I spend far more time horizontal, so that could be classed as sunbathing. You know, I don’t know what I’m complaining about. THIS IS A BLAST.
But you see, the thing is that none of this means you can’t work according to the government. Nope, I am fit and ready to start seeking employment for at least 16 hours a week. How fabulous. I know all you employers are raring to employ me. Because the exciting thing about my health condition is that it s VARIABLE. Key word here people, pay attention. So the fact that I can read, even if slowly and with little attention span, means I am able to work. The fact that I am able to write with my hands, even though that hurts like a stab to the knuckles and tendons and can render my hand powerless, the FACT that I can do it, means I can work. And the fact that all these exercises will require rest, because every activity I do has to be factored into this Einstein style equation of input and output otherwise it leads to further incapacitation. Indeed, while I’ve been writing this I’ve had lovely symptoms of burning pain on my limbs, because I have had the audacity to engage my brain for more than 5 minutes, and in the following next 72 hours my brain and body are likely to function on a significantly lower capacity due to this extravagant expenditure of energy. But this means nothing. Absolutely nothing. I should quit complaining and get on working.
And I don’t believe the health professional who assessed me is responsible here. She got it. She apparently wrote a 23 page document on me (that could be true for everyone but it seems an awful lot of work!). But the problem is I don’t tick enough boxes. Therefore I don’t get enough points. So because it appears you can’t make a decision based on logic, they are made by a cruel points system set up to fail every one but the beheaded.
So a large thank you is due to the benefit system. For now not only am I theoretically on my merry way down the path to further poor health and homelessness, I now get to apply for jobs whilst I do that. Thank you. Thank you indeed.
I’m cross. I’m really cross. For me, but also for everyone else out their battling to survive when their sick. Or unemployed. Or whatever the situation. And I may have a flare for the dramatic which is especially creative when I am emotional. So I haven’t actually eaten only baked beans for three months, I have had a wash and I still enjoy heating. I won’t end up homeless. But the rest is true. It is not helping my health. Money is tight for healthy food which is truly evidence based to help ill health. The appointments, phone calls and stress are energy black holes.
But…I do have hope. I’m cross but I am not scared. I’m broke, but I am immeasurably rich. And that is because I know a great, huge higher power called Jesus and he’s got my back. So I have got hope for today and tomorrow. Looking forward to the seeing how that works out in this benefit minefield!