They’re off again…

Yesterday morning, I caught a snippet of BBC Breakfast News where a guy was talking to a nice lady who’d been on disability benefits then retrained as an AA repair person. I didn’t see it all, so I apologise if I’ve missed something crucial in this. Later, I searched the BBC website for the story. It took a while, but there it was, nestled on the side of the page. Unfortunately, it seems to be a rehash of something that was published a few months ago, and contained little further information, aside from “it’s happening”. At the time, I wrote about it, and got a couple of emails from people who were scared that they would end up losing benefits because their health meant that they couldn’t attend training etc.
Yet again, the government is trying to pidgeonhole people with disabilities who are on benefits. Making everything black and white, accountable, measurable. As I’ve shown previously, even just looking at people with mental health problems throws out a myriad of symptoms that cannot simply be assessed with yes or no answers. This whole idea of work based training means that there is every chance that someone who can’t manage that training because of their health problems will be seen as not even trying. They can’t even get doctors who correctly assess benefit eligibility, so who exactly is going to assess the appropriate-ness of a particular training course? How will that assessment be made? Will it count that I’ve managed to teach myself html, css and the like? Or would I be sent to do some basic mundane thing, because the general impression of mental health clients is that they’re stupid? Will it make people’s health problems worse, because the Benefits Agency can’t possibly be expected to understand all the little nuances of their claimants mental health condiditons, and could technically send someone with OCD to work in a dirty garage?
Plus, would job based training end up being like the vocational training courses of the late 1980’s and 1990’s? I did one of them – I got paid my unemployment benefit plus £10, and worked full time for a year. I did it to get work experience in the field that I was interested in at the time, but when my colleagues were getting paid three and four times as much for doing exactly the same things, it seemed that many of my VT peers were doing this because “the dole office said so” or as a last ditched attempt to regain some of their employment dignity at a time when jobs were scarce.
We shall see. I have often said that if the government put more money into mental health services, and accepted that healing from past traumas etc takes time, it would be much better. People can wait up to two years to see a clinical psychologist, and getting to see someone you ‘gel’ with, and learning to trust that person can take a hell of a lot of time In the meantime, my experiences so far of dealing with the Benefits Agency have left me feeling incredibly anxious about all this. I have already proved that it isn’t the case that “genuine claimants needn’t worry”…
More info on epolitix. (which I can’t look at, because I just want to smack Hutton’s smirking face, and might break my monitor…)

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