Category Archives: My Ramblings

I’m Hitting The Road …

cuckooThe Boss (aka Best Friend) has been a huge support throughout this whole DWP nightmare.

Every day over coffee, I bore him with the next instalment, picking over and analysing every tiny thing, such as, ‘the assessor smiled at the cat, surely that’s a good sign?’

So last week, when I was munching on a healthy carrot stick (I’m trying) during a break, he asked if I wanted to go to Switzerland. In light of what I know goes on in certain places there, I was momentarily concerned.

I ran through other possible scenarios in my mind – the mountains? The lakes? The clocks and chocolate?

None of these. Did I want to drive from Wales to Switzerland to visit … the Geneva International Motor Show?

Erm. Hmm. I like travelling. It would be amazing to get away. I don’t have to do anything, except sit there, which I’m really, really good at. He’d do all the driving, sort out the tickets, plan the route and all I’d have to do is be a back-seat driver and eat Gummi-Bears. I wouldn’t have to worry about anything for six whole days.

I’m going spare at home, fears and anxiety swirling around my mind. I wake in the wee small hours, wondering how to live on a negative income despite working, how to make four cans of baked beans last a week, whether the cat could adapt to a rice-based diet. I’m in a weird kind of limboland. Again.

The Boss could have said anything – car show, tool fair, fly fishing – and I’d have leapt at the chance, metaphorically speaking. The chance to get away from all this is too alluring to pass up. And now that The Teenager is safely ensconced and thriving at Uni, there’s nothing to hold me back.

Except MS. Comfort zone. Sofa.

However, if there is one positive thing to come out of this whole ghastly DLA/PIP reassessment process, it has made me realise just how home-bound I am and just how much I don’t do any more. From someone who used to hop on planes like they were going out of fashion, I’ve been reduced to watching the clouds pass by through my window, while I lie on the sofa scrolling through Netflix films.

I like the idea of seeing different clouds and breathing in different air. It feels like a stay of execution, but if it’s in Switzerland, maybe I can handle it at a distance.

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16 Weeks Later …

disabledOur Government never lies.

So, when you receive an indefinite award for Disability Living Allowance, you tend to believe them, especially as MS is incurable and degenerative.

As it was for me back in 2012. The money, as stated, went towards the extra costs a disability can bring. And life went on.

We still had a lot less money than before, as my working hours had substantially reduced, but the DLA provided a cushion of sorts.

Until October last year when The Letter arrived. It was entitled, ‘Your Disability Living Allowance is ending’. So it wasn’t ‘indefinite’ after all – ‘this affects you even if your DLA has no end date’.


Imagine the uproar if people receiving the basic State Pension (by far the biggest benefit paid out – for costs associated with being older and probably not working) were suddenly reassessed:

DWP: You’ve been claiming your pension for years. Indefinitely, we say in Government Speak. Subject to change, of course.

Pensioner: Well, yeah?

DWP: Ah, you see, not all pensioners are the same. Some need more support but most need far less. So we need you to fill out a massive form, gather evidence and put yourself through a degrading assessment where we will decide on the spot whether you are deserving or not.

Pensioner: Okaaaaay?

DWP: And that automatic Winter Fuel Payment you get? You know, the one you have if you were born before 1953? Even if you’re a millionaire? Don’t worry, you get to keep that. Not worth the backlash. It’s only £550 million a year. We normally target disabled people to get some money back in to the coffers. Makes for the most sensational headlines. 

Everyone under 65 receiving DLA or PIP for MS will have MS for the rest of their lives. Yet, they are all reassessed. One-third will lose their benefit, according to latest figures. They’ve taken £6 million off us people with MS so far, and counting.

Everyone receiving the State Pension will receive the State Pension for the rest of their lives, no assessment needed. Neither are people on DLA over the age of 65 reassessed. It’s an automatic roll-over on to PIP.

I have absolutely nothing against pensioners, I’m merely using their particular demographic to highlight the gross injustices within the entire DWP system. Here’s the latest figures:

£171 billion spent on all benefits, of which;

£90 billion spent on the basic State Pension

£36.7 billion spent on disability benefits

£2-£3 billion spent on Winter Fuel allowance for all pensioners living in the UK

£550 million spent on free TV licenses for people over 75

The whole system seems somewhat arbitrary? The assumption is, when you reach pensionable age, you are due benefits, regardless of any other factors.

As for working, which most of us with disabilities try to do as long as possible, 46.5% of us still work. 10% of people with the basic State Pension still work. In fact, we are pushed in to work, no matter what our disabilities. Figures show at least 90 disabled people a month are dying after being found fit to work. Again, imagine the outrage if the demographic group was different?

My face-to-face PIP assessment took place yesterday. I had, after much consultation, filled in the huge form, adding as much information as I possibly could, a brutal and inhumane exercise in its own right. Apparently the one hour the assessor spent with me will count towards the Final Decision the DWP will make – to continue disability payment or not.

We’re told this kind of assessment forms but a small part of the DWP Final Decision. I’ve heard otherwise and I have no idea whether I ‘scored’ enough points (yep, that’s what they do, they score you).

The weird thing is, I am fighting to remain poor, to retain the same benefit between DLA and PIP. Mine is not a new claim. If it wasn’t so tragic, with the possible outcome being so life-altering, I would laugh.

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Less Is … More?

lessFor a couple of months now, I’ve been getting used to a much reduced income, despite fairly similar outgoings.

This will only get worse if I fail to move from DLA to PIP, and drastically so.

With this in mind, I’m tightening the belt even more – if my waist was as small as my budget, I’d be a very happy bunny.

So, I’m squeezed from every possible angle. You can only imagine my happiness when I had a letter through stating that my water bill was now £20 a month instead of £25.60 – due no doubt due to the reduction of Teenager showers and endless washing machine loads.

And the thing is, I’m quite comfortable living with less. I’ve lived a fabulously wealthy life and an incredibly poor life over the years and both have their plus points. However, I would definitely say that having oodles of money does not always equate to happiness – far from it.

In these days of straightened times, kindness comes from unexpected quarters. A friend sent me a pizza. Another friend gave me a plant. And my mum popped down today with a bag full of food, plus a sachet of Dreamies for the cat. Knowing I have £40 to last me eight  days, this is a god-send.

In the news today there is a report that people are spending a fifth of their income on rent. I spend over a third. Well over. It’s by far my biggest outgoing. Council tax, at almost £100 a month, is another significant payment. And that’s before the other bills.

Don’t get me wrong, living frugally is depressing, anxiety-ridden and downright horrific. I’m just about coping at the moment, but that’s with DLA in the equation. Take that away and deny me PIP and I’m in a whole other realm.

It’s weird – I work, pay Council Tax, pay my bills on time religiously every month and yet if I lose DLA, I will be in absolute poverty, rather than genteel poverty as per now. What I fail to understand is that the government plans to get 1 million more disabled people into work whilst simultaneously stripping them of the financial means to do so. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

Being disabled isn’t cheap and it’s not a lifestyle choice; I certainly didn’t choose to have MS at 37 and for  it to totally change my life’s path. In an alternate reality, I would (after years of low-paid unemployment to be available for my son) now be a fully-qualified teacher/social worker/lecturer. Well, that didn’t work out.

I’m resigned to MS now, but I’m not resigned to being poor.

Plans are afoot …

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Home Is Where The Heartache Is …

aloneOur Government is probably completely disinterested to know that since April this year, over 50,000 Motability vehicles have been removed from people with disabilities.

Happy now? Did you claw back that money? Come down hard on those who ‘con the system‘?

Contrary to popular belief, these cars are not ‘free‘; people who qualify surrender most of their disability benefits to pay for them. They have no doubt carefully weighed up the options and decided that independence is worth the financial sacrifice.

It’s no coincidence that Personal Independence Payments arose at the same time as Austerity, aka, The Banking Crisis. Unwilling to blame those who should have carried the can (Bankers), our Government decided instead to target those who played little, if any part in this debacle.

However, at times of financial crisis, it’s always easy to blame the weak and powerless (as history has proven time and again), and our Government, in collusion with the right-wing press, has stoked the rage. How many times can you read the same article about a so-called benefit cheat who is actually a trapeze artist? A mountaineer? A stripper?

Over and over again, the Government perpetuate and encourage these stories – about us – that are simply untrue. Poverty-porn programmes now fill our TV schedules – Benefits this, Benefits that. Cheat, charlatans, wasters.

However, back to those 50,000 vehicles removed. Result? What do you think these families do now? Because 50,00 vehicles equates to at least two people per vehicle, and probably more. So, at least 100,000 people with a disabled person at home now have no access to a car. Or independence.

What do they do? Well, they revert to the bad old days when they relied on a complicated network of favours. So they do less and less as the independence simply isn’t there. They stay at home.

Home should be a safe haven. A place of comfort and family, yet now it is more akin to a prison.

And even there, the claws of right-wing nastiness strikes. I’ve read the comments on social media after every poverty-porn programme – ‘well, they all have massive tellies, they can’t be that poor.’ 

Here’s the thing. When your options are limited, when you’re shoved back into your little box and the door is slammed shut, a TV is a window on a world you simply don’t have access to, and it’s probably being paid for week by week through some money-grabbing company such as Bright House.

The bigger the better – and why not?  All the better to see what we’re missing out on. And it’s a cheap and effective way to educate the kids, to encourage them to aspire for more – look – there’s a world outside of this box we can’t leave, now our car is gone.

Am I angry? You bet I am.

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This Is Not A Joke

a jokeA friend sent me what I thought was one of those online jokes this morning.

Except it wasn’t. It’s real.

I present to you the Department of Work and Pension’s ‘6 Tips for dealing with stress’.

These are the people who will soon determine whether or not I still have MS or if I have been miraculously cured. If cured, I stand to lose what little is left of my disposable income.

So, now that I have a huge form to fill in and am beyond stressed, what do they suggest?

Helpfully, in their introduction, they point out that, ‘too much stress can be unhealthy – around 9.9 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression or anxiety.’ Would that be the same stress, depression and anxiety they themselves are currently putting me through?

Anyway, the first tip is to ‘Address the Causes’, with the unhelpful and rather sinister tip, ‘it’s also important to learn to accept when things are out of your control.‘ Are they actually, seriously having a laugh?

Tips two and three  – Schedule Your Time and Take A Break – basically say the same thing – have lunch outside. It’s that simple. Apparently this can ‘prevent blockages‘ (huh?) and ‘inspire new ideas‘.

Tip four – Stay Healthy (lol) – again, suggests going outside (I think they are slightly obsessed, which is weird as they’re taking thousands of Mobility cars from people, who now cannot go outside).

Tip five – Keep in Touch – build a support network. And laughter is an excellent stress reliever, apparently. So is banging my head against a wall, if only I had the energy.

Tip six – Do Something you Enjoy – basically, do something you enjoy. They suggest reading or gardening.

Well, hopefully after reading these six tips, you all feel a lot less stressed. I know I don’t.

When this government department is snatching lifetime awards for incurable illnesses from people and pushing countless others into poverty, homelessness and worse, it seems callous in the extreme to publish such a flippant post.

Is it me? Am I missing something?

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