Yesterday I visited G, a woman with anxiety and depression. . She had been very well for a good few months but of late, I’ve stepped up my visits a little as I can sense a downturn in her mental state. She is beginning to feel very low in mood.
We talked about benefits together. She receives Attendance Allowance. I see lots of people who claim Attendance Allowance and she falls right into the ‘absolutely eligible’ category, but she is concerned that before her health fluctuates, she is not entitled to receive the payments when she is ‘well’.
This has been a cause of great anxiety to her and in the context of politicking through the conference season targeting those who claim benefits for disabilities, she is feeling not only anxious but guilty. She is worried and concerned that she will be checked and discovered ‘on a good day’ and that her entitlement to these benefits will be rescinded.
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There is no way that that would happen in my opinion because I have seen so clearly the effects that her illness has on her over a long term period.
A part of me though can’t fail to feel angry that both the government and the opposition are targetting those with the lowest income levels and with the highest level of needs in their ‘benefit fraud’ campaign. In my experience, those who do not claim that which they are entitled to, WAY outnumber those who fiddle the system but the scare tactics and villifications have led to a real fear among some people who have every right to claim from the ‘system.’
The DWP (Department of Works and Pensions) report that
In 2007-08 benefit thieves stole an estimated £800 million from public funds
While the BBC report that
Up to £10.5bn in income-related benefits went unclaimed in Britain in 2007-8, government figures reveal.
I wonder if the amount of fear and terror that is placed in the hearts of those who are rightfully claiming benefits is considered by the DWP. Believe me, I don’t condone benefit fraud, not in the slightest, but the focus of press attention needs to be brought onto those, like G, who feels terrified that she is claiming a benefit she is more than entitled to. And the many others who don’t want to claim because they fear the stigma attached to hand-outs, even though the option is abject poverty.
It makes me angry that the politicians who without any exception are, by definition of their salaries, living very comfortably with their juicy expense-claims, see fit to target those who can least afford it rather than just raising taxes at the higher echelon wage-earners.