Being ill ain’t what it used to be, you know. These days, it involves a bit more than just being, well, poorly. These days, you have to prove how ill you are to just about anyone who wants to know.
The reason for this is because, in Tory Britain, there is no such thing as illness. It’s not allowed. Read on, and you will see what I mean.
First, you have to get an illness. How about a bit of cancer somewhere, or perhaps bi-polar disorder? Perhaps kidneys that decide to fail, or a badly mashed-up leg after a car accident?
Second – and this is very important – it’s a good idea to choose an illness that everyone can see. The mashed-up leg works. The rest don’t, really.
Pick the cancer, and nobody can see it but at least the treatment might make you bald or something and you can deny that your new look is a fashion statement. Choose the bi-polar, and not only will nobody be able to see it, it won’t get seen by a psychiatrist for a very very long time unless you come to the attention of the criminal justice system. Get renal failure, and you have a bit of a problem because nobody can see it and the dialysis you need is no longer a prescribed treatment on the NHS.
If you have a job, you can take time off sick. Possibly – obviously, you can’t be a part-time casual worker, or a zero hours contract worker, or self employed – but never mind as that only applies to millions of people. Whilst off sick, you might get sick pay. You might get it for a while on the strength of your GP’s certification and your contract of employment, if you’re lucky enough to have one.
But within a few weeks, your phone will ring and it will be the Tories’ Health And Work Service, brought to you by Health Management Limited, a company not unrelated to Maximus. These people will attempt to make you go back to work before you are ready and with no regard whatsoever to what your consultant or GP has to say.
If you don’t have a job – or if your sick pay runs out before you cease to be ill, or the Health And Work Service has told your employer you are malingering and you lose your job – you can get benefits. Well, that’s the theory.
As there is no such things as sickness any more, there is no such thing as a benefit for sickness. There is only employment, the lack of it, and support for it. That is why we have Employment Support Allowance, because sickness or illness are words that no longer exist in Tory Britain.
(To be scrupulously fair, they ceased to exist in the last two years of Labour Britain, in fact. Thanks, Yvette)
There is work, there is limited capability for work, and there is limited capability for work related activity – the latter has never been defined, but obviously means something-or-other involving work. Like picking up a pound coin or having friends who are not scared of you or being able to watch the telly for half an hour. As we know, this means that you can do real work.
In order to disprove your illness and refuse to give you any money from the insurance you paid into all your working life, the Department for Stealth and Total Obscurity will require you to attend a thing called the Work Capability Assessment. During this assessment, you will be expected to admit that even if you cannot walk at all without help and you don’t own a wheelchair, if you did own a wheelchair you could mobilise (so work could be an option with the imaginary wheelchair, obviously); you will be expected to agree that if your chemo or dialysis is on a Monday, you can recover all day Tuesday and be raring to go and stack shelves on workfare by Wednesday (let’s not quibble about the immunosuppression and the vomiting and the collapsing shunts and the blocked hickman lines, shall we); you will be expected to concede that you are not so very hypomanic that you are danger to yourself, and that drinking vast quantities of Red Bull as you stay up all night doing online shopping for hats – and only hats – that you cannot afford whilst doing your bit for world peace is perfectly normal behaviour (which nobody would ever notice in the office).
Oh – and that mashed-up leg? Now that the medics say you have to have it amputated and will be rehabbing for months, you have to admit that you can actually put a pen in your jacket pocket so you can work really. Whoops! Even illness you can see isn’t such an easy ride after all…..
Every day in Tory Britain, many thousands of people have a Work Capability Assessment and thousands of them will fail it. Every day in Tory Britain, thousands of people are denied benefits that they are entitled to. Every day in Tory Britain, thousands of people will want to appeal that denial but will have to wait for a mandatory reconsideration which has no time limit.
Every day in Tory Britain, people who are ill are being harassed, vilified, portrayed as scroungers, denied help, expected to do workfare, required to explain their personal difficulties in excruciating detail to strangers whose job it is to refuse to accept what ill people and their doctors say….every single day.
Every week in Tory Britain, there is at least one untoward death of someone claiming benefits – and nobody knows how many deaths there are of people who are ill but died destitute because their benefits were denied. Every week in Tory Britain, 576 ill people are sanctioned for failing to comply with some kind of DWP instruction ordering them to work for free or attend some useless course.
Every month in Tory Britain, there is a suicide – people who are already ill are being driven to their deaths by deliberate and cynical government policy.Every month in Tory Britain, thousands of ill people are expected to comply with mandatory indefinite workfare. Claim JSA and your maximum workfare is 780 hours, commit a real crime and your community work sentence will not exceed 300 hours – but be ill and you will work indefinitely.
And every month in Tory Britain, Maximus is paid £16,500,000 – yes, sixteen and a half million pounds – to provide the evidence DWP needs to stop paying £72.40 or less to a poorly person.
A person with cancer, a person with bi-polar, a person with renal failure, a person with a leg so damaged it has to come off – and millions of other people with life-threatening or life-limiting illness, people with chronic or degenerative illness that will never ever get better, even people who have something that takes a bit of time to sort out and all they need is a bit of support while they recover so that they can go back to work – all those people are caught up in a system that is designed to prove that illness is not real, that the unreal illness does not stop you from working, and that the unreal illness doesn’t exist.
If you are ill, you have to explain yourself to everyone – not just the friends, family, doctors, nurses, and workers who care for you – but to faceless DWP clerks when they deign to answer the phone; the probably unsuitably qualified or unqualified drones who work for Maximus; the jobcentre advisers and work programme providers who will never accept that you cannot possibly comply with workfare because they have targets to meet.
And worst of all – you have to justify your illness to the general public who will call you a scrounger and blame you for the deficit and accuse you of malingering and pretend that none of this could ever happen to them because they are living in fear that they just might end up like you and they prefer to live in denial.
This is how to be ill in Tory Britain.
Be as sick as you like, choose any illness you like, but do not expect to be supported while you are ill and do not expect to be fairly treated by the system you pay for. Do not expect empathy or sympathy – expect only sociopathy from the people you pay so handsomely to serve you. Understand that illness is now nothing to do with your health but everything to do with your choice to be feckless and workless and a drain on society. Understand that death is nothing more than the failure to attend a Work Capability Assessment.
I’d get better if I could.