Dave (“normal, average delusional and paranoid man”) writes an excellent blog on trying to combat the stigmas which surround diagnoses of mental illness.

He says he is relatively well at the moment, and would like to make the return to work.

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

So, Dave wrote to Tory leader Dave Cameron and asked what exactly the Conservatives proposed to offer to help people in his position.

The answer?

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.

As usual, the politicians issue simplistic answers which do nothing to combat the real problems faced by people with various disabilities. They offer plenty of stick, in the form of threats to reduce our income, but nothing in the way of carrot, in the form of meaningful reform of the way people with disabilities and mental health problems are treated (in or out of the workplace). Like the Labour party, the Tories’ response is to increase the stress of living with a disability, which is entirely counterproductive as stress is one of the things guaranteed to make any kind of mental illness even worse.

David CameronWe are not surprised that Conservative leader David Cameron has no idea what life is like when you rely on incapacity benefit, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in his complete fail at basic maths, either.

The Tories say they intend to reassess everyone on Incapacity Benefit to see if they are fit for work, within three years of a Conservative election victory.

Aethelread the Unread takes a look at the maths and works out what that would cost.

So, let’s review. David Cameron is proposing

a minimum £14,565,600 increase in the annual public sector wage bill;

a 148% increase in the number of publicly-funded medical examination centres;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants in the DWP to process the additional paperwork;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants required to process an unquantified number of appeals against the removal of benefit.

This is all based on the presumption, for which he has advanced no evidence, that a staggeringly high proportion – one fifth – of those receiving Incapacity Benefit are capable of work, and that these hundreds of thousands of fraudsters (assuming they exist) will be flushed out by this process. This is despite the fact that every single IB claimant has already been through multiple medical assessments of the kind he is proposing, and has been repeatedly found to be incapable of work.

Of course, a good politician would never let anything like the facts get in the way of a policy suggestion designed to thrill the readers of the Daily Mail.

And of course, people on incapacity benefits are a safe group to take a stab at – we are inherently unlikely to be able to gather together in large enough numbers to make any kind of publicly visible protest. Even if we were well enough, we probably couldn’t afford the travel costs, and would be too afraid of having our benefits stopped to risk putting our heads above ground. Most of us have to spend all our energy and other resources getting through life day by day. Politicians are safe to pontificate and lie about us, knowing they’re very unlikely ever to have to walk past groups of us protesting, and if they did there would be Daily Mail readers aplenty to shout out “why don’t you just go and get a job?”

And that will probably be the subject of my next post.

In her Open Letter to David Cameron, blogger Crimsoncrip takes the Conservative leader to task for the way he talks about people on incapacity benefits.

Officially economic inactivity is not being employed, and not looking for work. The frequency with which it is bandied about by some, makes it seem less ‘clean’, than that, as if perhaps those who meet the definition do not contribute to society, or the economy.

David CameronCrimsoncrip goes on to talk about some of the ways people with disabilities contribute, such as volunteer work, a good deal of which is done by people on benefits who can manage a few hours of work a week.

There’s another point to consider here. Unless you take yourself completely out of society, no one is economically inactive. You spend money, you are economically active. People on benefits spend money (and pay VAT or sales taxes), in fact usually they have so little money they do the most economically active thing possible, spending it right away rather than saving it. The money we get goes right back into the economy.

People who’ve lived on benefits for a while usually can’t get much in the way of credit even if they want to, so we have less tendency to do the things that really damage the economy, like running up ridiculous huge debts which banks sell on to other people until the whole thing crashes and the government gives the banks billions of dollars or pounds. We, quite simply, are not the ones shitting all over the pot in this situation.

Paid work isn’t possible for some disabled people, because of their condition, or because they can’t find an employer to employ them within their limitations. This does not mean we don’t want to work, but equally we don’t see removing benefits, or restricting them, and forcing us on to activity programmes, as a real alternative either. We want to be in control, and make this decisions for ourselves, without fear of penalty if we decide we can’t manage. We don’t need to be forced to be responsible, and productive, within our limits many of us, are responsible active citizens, who make a real contribution to society. Why is that contribution not recognised?

Yes, Mr Cameron, why?