Benefits Britain – Joining the Ranks

J and I have a guilty pleasure. We like TV shows about people on the dole and bailiffs repossessing flats. We were watching one last night and I said “that could be us soon!” He laughed. I wasn’t entirely joking.

I’ve never claimed benefits in my entire life. I’ve always worked and when I’ve briefly been absolutely down and out poor, I’ve been lucky enough to have help from my parents. My family aren’t rich but they have enough to help sometimes.

Because my illness has been dragging on undiagnosed for an eternity, my right to sick pay has expired. So while I’m still technically employed, if I want any income then I have to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which is easier said than done. My employer supplied me with the required paperwork from their end so I called up to make the claim. Except because I have been a self-sufficient little lady, they didn’t have enough information on me to process my claim. They sent me out some paperwork which I had to complete and return promptly. I returned the encyclopaedia of Ren along with my fit notes, paperwork and pay slips. Then I realised my fit note was due to expire so got a new one from the GP. Apparently in the UK it is unheard of for anyone claiming benefits to be proactive and so when I called up and waited an aeon for a human to speak to me on the phone, I was told they’d send me out an envelope to send the new fit note in. Okay. It came. It was sent.

Then I got another encyclopaedia to complete regarding the details of my illness. I’m waiting until I see a rheumatologist on Tuesday before I return this due to my GP being a sack of shit that doesn’t know his arse from his elbow. Then the next day I got a letter telling me that I don’t qualify for ESA based on national insurance contributions. What? I’m 27 and have worked and paid tax for ten years. Surely ESA is for people exactly like me? For the last two years my income hasn’t been fantastic because I work for a charity – a science centre to be exact. I have also been sick. That’s the thing about ESA, you can only claim this when you’re sick long-term so why on earth they calculate your eligibility from the term you have been sick and paid peanuts is anyone’s guess. Previous to working for a charity and being sick I worked as a dental nurse for 5 years, it really wasn’t badly paid so I couldn’t see how I possibly didn’t qualify?! This was a huge, gigantic stress and I didn’t have the energy left to dispute it, sometimes I just agree that life sucks and leave it at that to save my energy. On top of J’s impeding redundancy, I would have absolutely no income. Money worries on top of health worries and feeling like a generally crap human being… Smashing.

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Then on Friday morning I got a text, they had received my fit note and I would be paid £140 that day to cover the past two weeks. Wait? What? STOP FUCKING WITH ME. Right enough, the DWP had paid me ESA. So I called yesterday and spoke to a nice lady who said that any rejections are double checked and I do actually qualify for contribution based ESA. I was still sort of sceptical about this and was convinced I had been paid in error and they would want the cash back. Nope. I got a letter today basically saying “oops, our bad, have the money”. So, yes, I claim benefits. I am a scrounger. It doesn’t even cover half of our rent but it means I can do our monthly food shopping – the one thing J absolutely cannot budget for. Seriously, that man has no concept of how much food should cost, and don’t get me started on how much he would happily pay for toilet paper!!!

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Now, if rheumatology could carry on the tradition on Tuesday and be a glint of positivity, that would be just great.

Ren x

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