Incapacity benefit challenge: Looking back

I’ve come to the end of my challenge to live on the equivalent of incapacity benefit or the new version, employment support allowance, and it’s been a really eye-opening three weeks for me.

Obviously I can’t pretend that my challenge has given me anything more than the tiniest insight into the lives of people unable to work due to disabilities or illness. As many of you have pointed out, it’s impossible to understand what it’s really like to live with a disability or sickness day in, day out, 365 days a year unless you are genuinely disabled or care for someone who is. Plus the challenge was only for a few weeks, so it doesn’t show what it would be like to live on these benefits for an entire year, with all the ad hoc outgoings or one-off extras that you might have to cover over 12 months.

However, while I know that some claimants receive less than the £89.80 I lived on, or more because of other benefits available to them, such as mobility and disability living allowance, I have no idea how people manage. We were only able to do so assuming that DJ covered the mortgage, while the IB equivalent only really covered the shopping, the phone bill and most of the heating bill. You would spend your entire time worrying about every little expense and whether you can afford it, and it would be virtually impossible to go out or enjoy life unless the activity and the transport to it were free. Lots of claimants are in constant pain and don’t need the additional aggravation of worrying about their finances. But just sitting still at home costs money in heating and electricity, too. And if you’re too ill to work, you have to entertain yourself somehow otherwise life is pretty depressing.

While there are obviously some fraudsters out there who need to be clamped down on, I think it’s time we were more understanding of people who are genuinely on benefits. Money is a very emotive subject, especially at the moment when there are so many people struggling to make ends meet or facing redundancy. And it’s played upon by the media and politicians who want our votes. A number of you have said on the blog that in addition to the pain of your illness or disability, you felt that people looked down on you and treated you like a scrounger because you were claiming IB.

It’s easy to look at our neighbours and assume that the grass must be greener on their side of the fence. But is it really? I hope that I’ll look at people who are on IB or employment and support allowance very differently from now on. Thanks to everybody who left messages on the blog telling me about their own experiences of incapacity benefit, or those of friends and family.

Could you live on £89.80 a week? Has the recession made us less tolerant and more envious of other people’s money? Leave a message and let me know.

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6 Responses to Incapacity benefit challenge: Looking back

  1. Bill says:

    Those not currently in employment have no hope of any, unless they are willing to work as a temp, with some agency. Then we have to remember that even the agencies will only take us on their own terms. I have seen contracts, signed by "employees", for the hair-raising sum of £1.75/hr, in various factories & warehouses. It is extremely difficult for me to believe that these Employees are in any way, shape, or form, literate.We imagine that the Inland Revenue are aware of these terms, by means of the relevant P45.What P45?I do know, that in my case, of twixt the legal minimum of £3.50 & £10/hr., I had a P45, on P60 terms, for 5 years in the late 90\’s. I also fully understood that I was only taking no more than 50% gross of the true gross turnover. Whatever our gross pay, the agencies charge the consumers twice our gross pay.Those on Incap have even less hope of ever working again. When they first receive Incap, they have already been "written off" by the police state. If they really wish to find any form of employment whatever, they have to lie through their teeth with an agency. A the very commencement of the interview (interrogation), simply "imply" that you have to give your "existing" employer at least 14 days notice. The interview is then almost over, they will not ask for references, or where/what you currently work. Long before you leave the extremely shortened interview, the job is already yours, just as soon as you can leave your "current employment".You then have to stall the P45 for a few weeks at least, but they never complain when they see it, & spot that you have been unemployed, or Incap, for so many years. You have cost them nothing, they run the agency, "no money down", therefore they have only made a profit out of your lie.I have an acquaintance who has been off work, through nofault of his own, for almost 1 year, & is climbing the walls every day, in the hope of a return to employment. He attempts to remain polite, but slowly grows slightly more anti-social with each passing week. After 10 years I am long since past that stage now. I no longer search for employment, but have a fairly long list of offers, if it ever does become legal for me to return to any form of employment. I would certainly not go back direct, on a P45, & would not go back to the agency rip-off, at any price. If I do return to employment, then only in my own business, on my own terms. Not much chance then.I have just been refused a 5 year county council lease on an agricultural property, despite my Business Plan showing a respectable profit in each year, even with a slightly rough cash-flow. With at least 30 applicants for every vacancy, most only half my age, all in current tenancy or employment, it looks grim even before I attend the viewing.Sadly, these other applicants already have a stable income, they also have homes, I have neither. Therefore I should have some priority, as the county council system was set up, nationwide, just a century ago, as a Social Enterprise, to assist such as myself into self sufficiency, or even better. Currently they would not appear to be taking any unemployed, or homeless, but only consider those who have at least £1,000/acre loose cash available. The monthly lease is ca. £100/acre, @ 50 acres minimum, this is at least £5,000/annum, & there are so many other expenses throughout the year. Even the outgoing tenant looks for at least a £10,000 handshake from his successor. Beef production, heavilly favoured by the leasing committees, is the least efficient/economic form of meat production, & shows no return for at least the first two years.We would then need at least £60,000 working capital for a 50 acre holding, which from size alone, would be barely viable. If I throw my entire pension in, I could possibly find £90,000 loose cash, & have lived off just £8 above my Incapacity Benefit this last quarter, including £120 of diesel fers me wheels. I sill yet have possibly £30 of that left in the diesel tank. I do not smoke or drink, maybe that helps.It is also impossible to find a mortgage on a residential house for the same reason. For whatever reason, we are not working, & therefore have no hope of any loan or credit, even in the good times. We must work at least 2 years unbroken, & remain in employment, in order to obtain any form of credit. My own credit rating is almost clean, at least 95%, despite this I have no chance. Finding Partners, or Mentors is also impossible. The only social loan I could get, would be for my own funeral. I am bemused as to how they would expect me to repay it, with, or without interest, post-humously.Do they not see, that some of us not only have so much ability, but also the wish to pay any small loan back, in record time, with almost record interest. Following my plan, in my fashion, I may not need a loan. But sadly they appear to judge us all by their own pathetic standards. They would never do a 12hr shift, 6.5 days/wk. they would never even get their Sunday suit off, let alone break sweat. They can only sit there reminding me that it takes eggs to produce an ommellette. How boring.Have they never heard of the Vegan ommellette?I already know that I would have no income, only loss for the first 6 months, & am more than happy with that. I could even give spasmodic driving tuition, at least p-time, as necessary, which would be helpful, or I could even do an occasional night shift with the Post Office & other firms.Those who are too ill to work are even worse off, not only is the entire Benefit system in a state of total collapse, the NHS is in a much worse state. They also suffer complete arrogance, ignorance & total insolence from the neighbours & the entire public transport system.

  2. Cinderellas-Wedding says:

    I know of many people who for one reason or another – be they disabled or just come from failed relationship – have turned to a new way of finding things for their homes that they need, so that their money can be spent on other more important buget items. They have turned to the new wave that has swept the UK since September in the form of http://www.ilovefreegle.org – where you find new homes for items you no longer want or need and you give them away to others that do need them. The main point of the exercise is that the items do not end up in landfill, so they are being "Environmentally Friendly" as well as giving and receiving items. I hope this helps out some of the readers of this article.

  3. Unknown says:

    Many of the problems we face in this country are due to the unbelievable inequality in income. At one end of the income scale there are those on £89 a week, and at the other end there are those with incomes measured in millions a year. We simply cannot go on indefinitely like this. Many day to day costs are the same for everyone, like the unit costs of gas and electricity or petrol, but although richer people are likely to live in a larger house and drive a bigger car, their overall essential living costs are probably no more than 3 or 4 times those struggling to survive on next to nothing. Rich people probably eat more expensive food, but the quantity they eat is not likely to be so much more or they would all be obese, which is clearly not the case. So why the inequality? I don\’t believe that any one person is worth any more than 5 times any other person, whatever their employment (or otherwise) so why the huge difference? If several million pounds a year, plus further millions in bonuses is a fair and reasonable income for one person, how on Earth can anyone justify paying someone else just £89 a week?? Alternatively, if £89 a week is all that is needed to provide an acceptable standard of living, why do some receive pay-packets of several million a year? Nobody will ever justify that to me.

  4. AK says:

    I had to fill out the IB forms but was not allowed on it, because I haven\’t got enough NI credits, due to the fact I haven\’t worked because I have been ill for a long time before claiming the benefit. During that time, I lived off the personal savings my mum had scrimped and saved for me, a meagre £2,000. It did last me a long time: over two years, because I spent it carefully.I was put on IS, and I\’m now living off the higher rate of £78 a week. At first they put me on the lower rate, which is hard to live on. I had to really watch the pennies. It\’s easier at £78, though. It hasn\’t been too bad for me because I was raised by a scrooge of a father who kept his money to himself, and a frugal mother. From this, I have become pretty frugal and made my pennies go further. I find if you are constantly out for a bargain, you can\’t afford to have loyalty to any shop.I am Bi-polar, and have tried to work before, but failed and ended up suicidal and ill. I\’m getting back on track with some new tablets and and going to start volunteering and hopefully find a job after that. I don\’t want to sit on my arse reaping benefits all my life. I need to give back through NI credits with the needed help the government has given me.

  5. lee says:

    Its not only the £78 or £89 or whatever its what goes alongside once you get one benifit you get access to a host of other benifits council tax help with this help with that if you have kids the system is even better school meals uniforms ect ect and most benifit as such is tax free if your £120 council tax bill is covered to pay this you need to earn £140 yes some who are disabled need more help and more money isnt always the answer but theirs plenty who do well out of this and other benifit systems !

  6. lesley says:

    COME ON YOU GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS MUCH OF THIS IS "ALLOWED" -FRAUDULENT misuse of this particular benefit is sooo despicable-depriving the really "needy people -who have enough to contend with-

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