NAVIGATING THE SYSTEM
"I’m being punished for trying! For trying not to look too sick in front of people, I’m being punished for it."
Narratives that stress an idea that benefits claimants may be trying to “game” the state are so prevalent that as a society we continue to accept a system that is designed to prevent people from accessing adequate support that is their right. Without that support, the chances of people being able to work, contribute, and live healthy lives are seriously undermined. Not only is this inhumane, but in the long run it ends up costing society more in health and emergency social care.
The assessment process is deliberately made complicated and assessors are often directed to trip claimants up to the point where it is often impossible to navigate and get the support individuals deserve without a professional advisor or advocate.
These testimonies show the phenomenal resilience and optimism in the face of officialdom and, contrary to stereotypes, a strong desire to work and contribute if only appropriate support could be given:
"My benefit was stopped because I went to an assessment. The assessor and adjudicator decided that I shouldn’t get my PIP (Personal Independence Payment). I filled the forms where it said, went there with my carer, and they would not give the chance for my carer to talk. I was talking so they saw that I had filled it in and said, ‘If you can talk so good, then you don’t need a PIP.’ But that’s not the case!
I’m being punished for trying! For trying not to look too sick in front of people, I’m being punished for it.
I realised the only way to get through is [to have a charity advisor], not pretending as if I can do things on my own, for myself. [I feel like I have to say] ‘Ooh, I can feel it’ and then pretend. . . pretend I’m sick and all that.
I’ve tried to get a job by myself, but they determined that you have to disclose that you’ve got a mental illness. And telling them that means I’m not allowed to work. My other illness is, I broke my shoulder so I had an operation. My vitamin D levels are very, very low, I’ve got arthritis, I have high cholesterol, I have high blood pressure, I am diabetic. . .
But I don’t want to give up. I still want to work, you know? One thing I want to say is that if the government have people like myself who were for some reason diagnosed to be able to step up, come up to a level where they can work. . . There should be a transitional period where you’d be helped.
Some of the assessors made my life so much more difficult. They have to make a decision that is very unpopular, you get what I mean? Maybe, out of ignorance also, they arrive at those decisions.
I believe that the government overall gives them a go-ahead in what direction they should go. And if that’s the case, then the government is losing out. Those people could make a lot of contribution."
Our testimonials are direct transcriptions of interviews with foodbank users. If you would like to know more about our process in gathering testimonials email firstname.lastname@example.org.