I receive a benefit here in the UK called Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which is a benefit to help those ill or disabled who are unemployed or working under 16 hours a week. There are two groups into which claimants are placed, the work-related group, or the support group. There has been a lot of issues recently concerning disabled rights here in the UK, and many people who felt they should be placed in the support group have been placed in the work group and been unable to manage, and it’s been a very difficult time to get changed. Many disabled people have struggled to get ESA in the first place as well as disability allowance (for which I lost my appeal last month), and there have been many awful stories about various people who have been sanctioned by the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) for the slightest little thing; to give the most awful examples, a man was sanctioned for “leaving the assessment” when he had a heart attack during it! I read of a mentally ill man who was not only sanctioned but arrested for making a joke in the Jobcentre.
Anyway, as such, I was getting very anxious about the first appointment with my work adviser, as I closely follow much of the benefits scandal and disability rights, and I thought because I was put into the work group that they would give me many mandatory workshops etc., and push me into work beyond my capabilities. Well, I got very lucky, and got a lovely adviser! Before I went, I was thinking, “I’m going to put all of the lurid details about this appt on this blog; people need to know!” Yet thankfully I have a positive experience to relate.
She was very sympathetic toward lupus, and listened to me as I explained the limitations it has, particularly the unpredictability and having to avoid going out surrounding scheduled events; as an example, I had been hoping to get back to volunteering the day before the interview, but explained to her that I decided against it as it would risk me not being able to get to the interview.
As of now, I have no mandatory tasks. I am free to find part-time work under 16 hours a week if I can as long as I let them know. I told her how I’m looking into further study too, part-time. If I need any further help, I’m free to drop in – the biggest issue for me is being able to find a sympathetic employer because of the unpredictability of the disease; not many are going to be happy with an employee who doesn’t know whether he can work until the actual day!
I am so relieved that I’ve been one of the lucky ones so far, and my heart goes out to everyone who has been screwed over. I very much want to work and I hope that with my adviser’s help I can find a manageable position for me, even if it means working at home on my own hours. I am applying for PIP (Personal Independence Payment, basically the standard disability benefit after DLA was removed) after losing my DLA appeal, and although it’s stressful as hell, I’m not going to give up. No matter how long it takes, my needs are my needs, and I’m going to try to not let them grind me down so far into not bothering anymore!