The Price of Austerity.

A short while ago, my good friend Gary, over at his blog, Klahanie, wrote of how our coalition government is re-assessing those receiving disability benefits and, in the process, causing a great deal of needless suffering. Gary had a personal interest in this subject for he is currently going through the re-assessment process himself, and, unfortunately, it is also causing him unnecessary distress.
After filling out the re-assessment form and then going for a face-to-face assessment, Gary was awarded his benefits, only to find that just two months later, after receiving another re-assessment form, he will probably have to go through the whole process again. To Gary, who has experience of depression and anxiety, this is a nightmarish situation. Perhaps he feels a little bit like he is caught up in a bureaucratic Groundhog Day, or some sort of Sisyphean punishment, rolling a rock to the top of a hill, only to have it fall back to ground-level and have to push it up the hill once again. To those who experience mental ill health, such things take on an aspect of mental cruelty, and Gary says that he seems to be living now in a perpetual state of anxiousness, forever wondering if his benefits are going to be rudely withdrawn.
To see the full extent of the suffering which is being caused by the government's policy, one need only read Gary's blog, "All in this Together?", which makes it clear that some have been pushed so far as to take the most drastic action and end their own lives, a situation made all the more abhorrent by the fact that this predicament has been brought about by the greed and moral turpitude of what my friend at the Pathways Group called "delinquent" bankers. So, while doing little to stem such behaviour by the very wealthy, our oh-so-caring incumbents have instead chosen to demonise benefits claimants and victimise some of the most poor and vulnerable in our population.
As if this were not bad enough, it seems to me that the process of re-assessing people is not even having its desired effect of saving money and returning those who are capable to work. For a start, the recession has meant that finding work is extremely difficult, with few jobs to be had. So, even if people are deemed fit to work, where are the jobs which are suitable for them given their disability going to come from? Also, many who are being assessed as fit for work are appealing such decisions and winning, a process which is all costing precious money in these times of austerity. Could it be that the process of re-assessing people will actually cost more in the long-run than just leaving those who are obviously too unwell to work alone?
Further to this, and going by my own and Gary's experience, the whole process of re-assessment seems to be being carried out in a random, arbitrary fashion. While I have been receiving ESA for what must be now around seven months without any requests for further assessments, poor Gary, as is stated above, has received another assessment form after only being granted ESA in April. Some, who have had mental health problems, seem to be receiving significantly more money than others. How is this all worked out? How can this be fair? When Gary made enquiries about why he had received yet another assessment form, he was told not to worry as this was "standard procedure". But, if this was indeed "standard procedure", why didn't I, or any of my other friends getting ESA, receive such a form after such a short time? As Gary rightly says, if one were paranoid and in his position, one might feel targeted, or victimised. Indeed, it might be a case of the old saying - just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
But, by far the greatest indictment of the government's policies is the human suffering caused by them. I have written this post to highlight Gary's predicament, which is indeed causing him a great deal of mental distress. However, one shouldn't forget the many others, some of them severely physically disabled, who are having similar experiences, and in some instances finding things so unbearable that they take the most drastic action. Cutting the deficit may, then, seem like the right thing to do at present, but what is the true cost? Indeed, the price of austerity may well turn out to be human life and dignity.   

Comments

D. Jean Quarles said…
So sad. Yes, it does make one wonder.
Dixie@dcrelief said…
Dear David,
I know that Gary and others certainly appreciate your willingness to post, and kindness of expression.
Your compassion and statesmanship make my day. Be well.
Dixie
David said…
Hi D. Jean,
Firstly, thanks for commenting, and yes, it is indeed sad to see people treated in this way. Our current incumbents are trying to persuade everyone that we live in a "something for nothing" culture, but the real statistics don't tell that story. Instead, we see a of the most vulnerable in society paying the price for the behaviour of the most privileged.
And I do hope that this makes you wonder. Just a little, maybe!
Thank you and Best Wishes,
David.
David said…
Hi Dixie,
It's great to hear from you, as I fear that with my lack of regular postings and also failure to comment on your own, we may have become somewhat estranged. So, I'm glad that I can still "make your day", hopefully not in a Clint Eastwood sense, but with the power of the pen instead!
Thanks Dixie. I hope you're well too!
Very Best Wishes,
David.

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