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How the Department of Work and Pensions Fails U.K. Citizens With Disabilities

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I dislike having to deal with the Department of Work and Pensions (U.K.).

A simple statement, and one no doubt repeated in some form by many tens of thousands of people all over the United Kingdom. Yet without further clarification it offers little save to highlight that dealings with the DWP are in some way less than pleasant.

I’ve been aware of the difficulties faced by those dependent on the DWP for many years. Indeed, my mother worked hard long after her illnesses had taken hold, due largely to repeated failures on her part to convince the DWP that she was worthy of receiving disability benefits. I recall the day she finally succeeded. As she read the letter announcing her receipt of DLA (Disability Living Allowance), she broke down in tears. They were tears of shock, joy, and more than anything else, relief. Relief that she would now be able to provide for herself and for those closest to her, and relief that she had finally been believed worthy.

This is a recurring theme: worth, or lack thereof. We are conditioned to believe that one must work hard in order to be worth the time of others, to be worthy of even existing. The very phrase “to earn a living” implies that if one does not work (and by association earn) then one is somehow lesser, inferior to those who do. Certainly there are parasitic individuals who seek only to support themselves at the expense of others, caring nothing for where their money comes from or the harm that may come of their devious and deceitful ways. Some of them can be found in Westminster, but I digress.

A person’s value should not be assayed from whether they can do a job, perform a service, earn a wage. For some people life itself is a job, and one that takes a great deal of effort, above and beyond what would be expected of a “normal” individual. Contrary to some beliefs, our species is not ruled by “Survival of the Fittest.” Were it so, we would abort every fetus with a genetic condition, and cast all disabled people into camps for eventual annihilation. This very thing has recently been attempted in our history, so recently in fact that one would not believe it could happen again, or at least not so soon. Alas, humans as a species are remarkably good at self-deception, as well as allowing themselves to be lied to by those in power over them. But I drift from my primary thought.

In the years following my mother being granted DLA, I feel the behavior of the DWP has noticeably worsened. There has been a marked increase in animosity, lack of empathy, and in some cases outright deceitful obstruction of those who are not only entitled to state benefits, but of those who desperately need them in order to survive. The news reports on former government employees, sickened by the orders given to them and driven by a genuine desire to assist those in need, leaving their jobs after finding it impossible to continue handing out sanctions to those who make up a particularly vulnerable portion of our society. They are of course the minority, but one finds it difficult to cast blame on those who remain employed in such work. They are only human, and they need their jobs to support themselves and their families. Besides, one can hope that at least some of them continue to resist the demands of higher government in a valiant attempt to give aid to those in need.

The processes governing how people receive state benefits have changed, and not for the better. There is a sense of oppression, of fear among many who receive such benefits, a fear that they could be made destitute at a moment’s notice. This is a very real and genuine fear, for so many people have already suffered such a fate and gone on to pay the ultimate price, that of their lives.

Of course when confronted directly with facts, the spokespeople of the state will repeat the usual drivel. “These systems are in place to help people,” they will say, astonishingly with a straight face. “We have to be certain that claimants are genuine,” they might add, further implying an unsavory element lurks in the ranks of the “crippled,” seeking to suck the lifeblood of the state and weaken us all. “If you think you’ve been treated unfairly, you can appeal the decision,” they magnanimously offer.

Yes, you can indeed appeal. You can appeal to the very people who decided to mark you down as unworthy, and they will in turn refuse you a second time. And what can you do then? Well, you can arrange to appeal the decision to an independent tribunal, who will, if you are extremely fortunate, find in your favor. If they do not, you starve. You become homeless. You die.

Is this an extreme view of the situation? Not especially. Twenty years ago I watched my mother fight with this system in order to have the means to live. More recently I have watched my beloved battle with the monster it has become. Now it appears to be my turn, though thus far the beast is merely testing the waters of my patience, of my resistance. It is currently making it extremely difficult to complete what should be a simple enough form, though the document is bogged down with seemingly endless, pointless questions, the relevance of which is questionable to the greater majority of the citizenry of this land.

It seems as though the onus is no longer on you to provide evidence that you are entitled to the essentials of life, but rather you must now prove you are not some criminal scum attempting to play the system like a violin. They ask intrusive questions about your personal accounts, far beyond what should be considered necessary, and make demands for documentation difficult (at best) to acquire, and at times costly and impractical.

Am I fit for work? Yes, by the definition of some. Someone, somewhere will always believe almost any person is fit for work. The definition of the word itself can vary tremendously. On a bad day I am useless, utterly unable to do anything requiring a modicum of strength and complex thought. On a good day I am at least capable of attempting to care for the person I love, and I am forever grateful to what gods there may be that she does me the honor of tolerating my bumbling efforts to make her life more bearable. She is my job, and one I am happy to wake up to every day.

“But what of proper work?” I hear you say. “It’s only real work if you get paid,” you might continue. I heard that a lot when growing up, and I chafed against it even then. Money is a sad requirement of the world we have created. It has value because we have given it value, and until we place more value on human life and the betterment of ourselves as a species, we will continue to pray to the god of coin.

In closing I shall ask you this: Cui bono? Who benefits from the suggestion that those who do not work are inferior and should be looked down upon? Do you? Do I? Not likely. The true beneficiaries are those in higher places, who long have sought to sow dissent among those they rule over. It is a lamentable fact that the masses continue to subsist on this diet of lies and intolerance, while those above grow fat on the misery they cause.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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Originally published: May 24, 2017
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