Dave's Progress. Chapter 117: Scrounging, Work-Shy Loafers?

If there's one thing that tends to rouse my indignation it's when those experiencing mental ill health (or, for that matter, any other form of illness) come to be regarded, because they have to claim benefits to survive, as lazy, or work-shy, or just plain scroungers.
Recently, in our local paper, "The Sentinel", the journalist Martin Tideswell wrote an article entitled "Means-testing will sort genuine claimants from work-shy loafers". The article gave an example of one genuine case (a man suffering from motor neurone disease), but then went on to say that new measures being brought in by the government which will mean that everyone on incapacity benefit will be re-tested to assess their condition and whether they are fit to work will "force a few malingerers to get off their lazy backsides and earn a crust like the rest of us have to."
Tideswell pointed to the genuinely worrying statistic that 19.1% of working-age people in Stoke-on-Trent were receiving some form of out-of-work benefits, compared to 13.8% in the West Midlands and a more general 12% across England. While Tideswell did acknowledge that our city must be now one of the most deprived in the country, and that we "desperately need help in stimulating investment and job-creation", he stated that the figures also implied an "unpalatable truth", namely that "some people view claiming benefits as a career choice and ill-health as a way of life".
Personally, although I know that there must be a negligible few who abuse the system, the thought of anyone actively "choosing" to claim benefits is anathema to me. Indeed, if this is the case, then surely it comes from living in an environment or culture where you don't even expect to get a job. With unemployment in this country now at its highest for 17 years, and with our well-known economic woes, perhaps such statistics are not surprising. Indeed, I have already spoken in a previous blog of how such social and economic deprivation can actually lead to an increase in those experiencing mental ill health.
What really worries me about such attitudes, then, is that with certain illnesses, like depression, the immediate response of people is to assume that you are lazy or just work-shy. On the other hand, if you mention a diagnosis like schizophrenia, people assume that you are just plain crazy to the point that work might be impossible and, of course, worse, that you are violent and uncontrollable. The difference between how these diagnoses are viewed is indicative of just how much misunderstanding surrounds mental illness, and indeed, presents a problem for those re-assessing people on incapacity benefit, who themselves may be in no way immune to such prejudices. How does one go about assessing someone like myself, for example, who has been given perhaps the most severe mental health diagnosis and yet has a high level of functionality. Would I be assessed as capable of work, or would I just get put on the economic scrap-heap by virtue of my diagnosis alone? Indeed, such an "either/or" situation would not be satisfactory to me. While I do not want to feel that I am of no use at all, neither do I want to be forced into a work situation which may cause too much stress and therefore increase a possibility of relapse.
Indeed, perhaps Tideswell and his ilk are completely missing the point. Instead of looking to the most vulnerable in society as a place for placing some sort of blame, why not look to those who actually caused our recent economic downfall, i.e. the bankers, and go about trying to reform their behaviour. Instead what we have is a wholesale restructuring, and some would say, undermining, of the welfare state.
Let it also be said, that it has been statistically shown that those experiencing mental ill health have the highest levels of "willingness to work" amongst those who receive out-of-work benefits.
So, the next time someone tells you that some of us are just scrounging, work-shy loafers, please think again.


dcrelief said…
Hi David,
Bravo for this!

I just posted a personal note on 'work' for a disabled individual and how storms inspire me to keep hoping. Coming here and reading your post is like 'icing on the cake.'

I agree that those 'worthy of benefits' are struggling to maintain some semblance of life that work had provided them. There's no way these benefits will ever replace the life I had. There simply cannot be a compensation for love of the work I gave up.

So why aren't governments considering the cost of re-evaluation? Even at UK's 12 % that could pitch a few pounds around, you think? You're right... it's the blame game. (Reminds me a t-shirt I have that reads: “I didn't say it was your fault. I only said I was going to blame you.”)

You have nailed it again!
klahanie said…
Dear David,
As I'm sure you will realise, I'm totally in agreement with what you allude to in this posting.
I've also noted, how my son, who has been caught up in the unfortunate unemployment youth crisis has been treated and stigmatised at the Job Centre. Hardly conducive for his mental health well being.
And those that assume those experiencing various forms of ill health, mental and physical, are 'work-shy', is an outrageous assumption and your stats bear this out.
Like Dixie mentioned, "Bravo for this!" You, my illustrious buddy, are most assuredly, spot on.
Very kind wishes, your way, Gary.
bazza said…
Hello David. It's always a minority who attract the headlines.
The MPs who claimed false expenses have given all politicians in the UK a bad image. No wait, that's a bad example!
But you know what I mean. There are undoubtedly many genuine cases. What is much worse, I think, are those who claim benefits and secretly work.
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear Dixiie,
Thank you. You can obviously relate to this post personally, and it is nice to know that you think that I have "nailed it again".
To me, the focus on so-called "benefits cheats" is a bit of a red herring, given the appalling behaviour of those a lot more wealthy. As a friend of mine said, you would think that the government would then go about trying to reform the banking system, but no, instead we get cuts and fingerpointing which affects the most vulnerable in society. Unfair? Just a bit.
Anyway, thanks once again for your interest dc. As always, your thoughts are welcome.
Yours with all the best,
David said…
Dear Gary,
I knew you would relate to this post, and I'm gld you agree.
I think the situation for young people is perhaps even worse, so I wish your son all the very best in his pursuit of work.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
P.S. Sorry I didn't comment on your last, mildly "pornographic" posting. My, how the wee folk have changed!
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, unfortunately and undoubtedly, there are a few who abuse the system, but as I said above, I think that this sort of thing is falsely exacerbated and acts as a distraction from who and what should really be the focus of our derision. It's the more wealthy who have, and seemingly continue to, suck this country dry, and yet all we seem to be able to do is point out the faults of the poor and vulnerable. OK, I know that not everyone is a Saint, but I do thinik such things lead to an overspill of hostility even to those who are genuine.
Anyway, thanks, as ever, for your comments, bazza.
Wishing you all the best,

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