Dave's Progress. Chapter 45: What Would The Tories Do?

As one who has experienced mental ill health, and yet is in so-called "recovery" (I am not cured, but my illness is rather "controlled" by medication) I find myself in the peculiar position of being relatively well and yet, because my diagnosis is regarded as a severe disability, perhaps unable to gain any meaningful paid employment. As some of you will know, I do work voluntarily for the Media Action Group for Mental Health, write articles for an occupational therapy magazine and also this blog. I do what I can, then, to fill my time, and to my mind, this is good for my mental health, maintaining a structure to my life and giving meaning and purpose to it. After all, most of this blog is about mental ill health and trying to combat the all too prevalent stigmas which surround diagnoses such as mine.
As I have, perhaps, written before, it is a continual bugbear of mine that those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia find it hard, nay almost impossible to find paid work, not only because of the stigmas which surround the diagnosis, but because there seems to be so little support out there for people like me to return to work. Despite a known high rate of willingness to work amongst those with mental ill health and despite many of us experiencing long periods of well-being (I would say I have been mentally fit at least since 2006) it seems that many of us, at relatively early ages, are put on the economic scrap heap, and the abiding impression one gets of the system then is of a massive waste of potential and talent.
In my frustration, then, I actually wrote a letter to the Conservative Party and their leader, David "just call me Dave" Cameron, in which I expressed my opinion. Believe me, writing to the Tories is not something I would normally do. Since the days of Margaret Thatcher I, and come to think of it, most of the population of Stoke-on-Trent, have been vehemently opposed to the Conservative Party and its policies. However, with Gordon Brown's popularity seemingly fading by the day, the spectre of an imminent Tory government looms large on the horizon. It was mostly out of curiosity, then, as to what they would perhaps do about people in my situation, that I wrote my letter.
To give them credit, I did receive a quite quick and full-page response to my concerns. However, on close reading, it would seem that the Conservative Party is loath to give any details of what "support", other than being on benefits, I would receive in my quest of some form of economic independence. In the letter, it stated the party's concern with the "cycle of long term benefit dependency that has grown up under this Government" and indeed, went on to say, that "we would retest everyone on Incapacity Benefit" (at present I do not even have to go for a check-up because my diagnosis falls into the category of "severe" disability). Those found well enough to work would be placed on Job Seeker's Allowance. The letter ended by stating- "we believe that those who can work should work and those who cannot work...should be properly supported by a compassionate society that believes in social justice".
OK, so far, so vague. If I wanted to return to work, exactly what support would I get, other than being just moved to a different area of the benefits system, one which, it must be remembered, pays less in benefits than Incapacity. Nowhere is there mention of measures which might actually make a difference, like those suggested by Professor Graham Thornicroft, such as support from job coaches (employment advisers), providing structured psychological treatment, encouraging health and social care agencies to see the experience of mental illness as a positive attribute when hiring staff, developing new roles in which former service users are employed in a mental health team, and the introduction of "reasonable adjustments" as cited in the Disability Discrimination Act.
The above changes might actually make a difference to me in experiencing some form of success in the open market. On the other hand, the Tory policy of simply, if it was that I were found fit to work, moving me on to Job Seeker's Allowance, would seem only to result in me receiving less money. The stigma which surrounds my diagnosis would remain, the difficulties in finding paid work perhaps not alleviated. So, what would the Tories do for people in my situation? According to this response, not near enough.
That's all for now from your normal, average, paranoid and delusional man.

Comments

dcrelief said…
Dear David,
Could the word, 'never mind' ever mean more?
It is the daily living that harbours our desire to live better. As a 'diagnosis' I share your disappointment. As a 'human being' I appreciate the great lengths you go to to 'question' those who've been 'assigned' to govern.
To be thought of, continualy, as 'less than' is incredibly wrong. Governments need to assest their strength from the ones who understand loss. It's a sure way to determine what makes us happy; moves us forward.
"Just call me Dave" needs to take care he doesn't end up in the same boat. Then again, he would finally understand what you were asking. Hm?
A very nice post; so glad you shared this.
In empathy,
Dixie
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thankyou for your understanding and compassionate response. It is indeed frustrating to be in this position, seemingly with no "middle ground" where one could perhaps contribute but not be put under so much stress that one risks relapse. And it is, indeed, a great wrong to be thought of as "less than", but unfortunately that is what the diagnosis I have appears to mean, no matter what the real truth of the matter is.
Until next time and with many thanks,
David.
klahanie said…
Dear David,
Another interesting and informative posting. Having noted the comments between you and Dixie; regarding your posting, I shall briefly add one extra perspective.
The proposals made by the Conservatives in regards to those on DLA and Incapacity Benefit; I think that could potentially cause unneeded stress and alarm for those who are unable to do work in a so-called 'mainstream' capacity.
Anyway, shall wait to see what comes of this proposal.
With kind wishes, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
I certainly take your point, and I would never condone putting people back to work who are simply too ill to do it.
However, having been through the mental health system, I do get the impression that there is simply a lot of wasted talent around which, I feel, could be put to good use, and I do feel work can be therapeutic and aid recovery. It has certainly done so with me.
So this remains a tough nut to crack and one, I would say, the Conservatives just don't have the impetus or political will to do much about. Unfortunately, it seems there aren't many votes in mental health, so getting the changes I would want to see is not going to be easy.
Thanks for the comment, Gary, and wishing you, as always, all the best,
David.
Christine D said…
Both you and Gary make excellent points. Those who are unable to do work in a so-called 'mainstream' capacity shouldn't be harassed and stressed because of it; those who can work and want to work clearly need proper, real support to do so, and much of the problem lies with society's attitudes and the employers.

Excellent blog.
Christine D said…
BTW, found the link to this entry here:
http://beingonbenefits.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/50/

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