Opinion: I need the Liberal Democrats to stand up for me when Conservative ministers denigrate me

I want to share with you how I feel when Conservative government ministers talk about welfare claimants in disparaging terms. I hope that I can bring a bit of understanding about the problems people like me face.

Before I begin, I should give a trigger warning for rape, self harm and sexual abuse. The details are upsetting but I feel you need to know the whole story.

I was raped and abused as a child every single week for 12 years. On numerous occasions I would wake to find myself being raped and suffocated by my abuser, who was later imprisoned for 8 years. It has left me with a severe, permanent mentally disabling disorder.

I have tried o try and make a life for myself, I have worked and been quite successful at times, but my mental health disorders have always come back with increasing severity.

At 21, I started to use drugs as a way of escaping the reality of abuse that I had suffered. My career began to suffer until I had a nervous breakdown and could no longer work.

I managed to get off the drugs  but I was  living as a total recluse. I felt judged by my community.

I ended up moving to Australia to be with my boyfriend. I hoped that a new life where nobody knew me would help me escape the past, but it wasn’t that easy. We both returned to the UK.

I was unable to work because of the Depression and my annual medical  for my Incapacity Benefit was a nightmare. Every year I had to go through the humiliation of explaining my situation to a complete stranger. I was often found fit for work and would have to then tell my story to a Tribunal which always restored my benefits.

Within 4 years, I had recovered enough to go to college. Sadly, a serious brought my ambitions to an end. This time it was worse than ever, with horrific nightmares and flashbacks of the abuse. I attempted suicide several times.

I also developed a debilitating and incurable physical condition which was exacerbated by my self harming.

The annual humiliating ritual of claiming benefits restarted.

Finally in 2009, I was offered therapy. I was given 15 sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but that was all the NHS could offer me.

I had no choice but to privately fund my weekly therapy sessions, which I’ve been doing since then. These therapy sessions keep me going. Without it, I doubt I’d still be alive. The £40 weekly cost is a huge drain on my income but luckily my Disability Living Allowance helps me pay for it.

Even with the therapy, the effects of my illnesses are distressing, debilitating and life-limiting. Every day is a struggle.

I only leave home to go to medical appointments or to visit family and even then only if my partner is there to support me. I cannot be left alone because I get very fearful and end up in a complete panic or suicidal thoughts take over.

My disabilities cost us a fortune, from added heating costs, grocery delivery, car costs and therapy.

I will not be offered more NHS treatment  unless I threaten to kill myself again or I threaten someone else. The NHS refuses to fund the treatment recommended for me and I can’t afford to meet the weekly £220 cost of paying for it privately.

When I was reassessed for Employment and Support Allowance, I had to fight yet again to be put into the support Group. Initially I was told I would have to attend work focused interviews despite the abundance of medical evidence given to Atos. I had to go through the ordeal of another appeal and yet again I was forced to humiliate myself and expose myself by revealing my traumatic past.

I’ll have to go through it all again in January 2014 when my ESA comes up for renewal and when I am re-assessed for Personal Independence Payments, the successor to DLA.

The assessment asks me whether I can pick up a pen, reach with hands over my head, use a washing machine, answer a telephone and take a simple message, can I use one finger to reach out and push a button. It has no relevance to my daily struggles.

I am petrified by these changes to welfare and the deeper segregation that it is causing in society. I feel penalised and ostracized for being unwell, like I’m a burden on the state

The awful language that is used by Conservative ministers to promote these policies makes people increasingly resentful to anyone who is on welfare.

I am hurt that I am living in a country where the government of the day seems to be fuelling that hostility.

I feel pretty worthless as it is, I don’t really need to make me feel worse than I already do. I’d like to hear the voices of Liberal Democrats call the Conservatives out when they denigrate me. Is that too much to ask?


* Matt is a reader of and contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice who is not a member of any political party

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  • Simon Bamonte 2nd Oct '13 - 2:06pm

    Thank you for this, Matt. A brilliant and brave post.

    I work for a charity which helps vulnerable people in many different ways. We help mentally ill people with benefits, legal advice and getting the support they deserve. We offer food parcels as well. Of course, we’re barely keeping our heads above water and it gives me no satisfaction to say that since this government came in with their draconian and often Kafkaesque sanctions, our work is barely making a dent. It breaks my heart to see people who are mentally ill or have learning difficulties, who do not have the ability to understand and follow to the letter every DWP legislation going without food because they were sanctioned for being 2 minutes late, for example, to the Jobcentre. Most of these people are actually completely unfit for work, but ATOS saw them pick something up, so that means, in their eyes, they can work. They often lack the ability to support their own cases and we do all we can, but we cannot help everyone as our funding is limited. These are people the government should be helping, but instead they are treated like dirt by this government.

    It appears to me, this whole system the coalition has brought in is designed to abandon those who are vulnerable or mentally ill with its multitude of tricks and traps. These people already live rather chaotic and uncertain lives and the government’s welfare reforms have taken an already bad system and made it ten times worse. They are treated like dirt by ATOS, by the DWP, by Tory ministers (which silence from most LD ministers) and, of course, smeared in the press for being “scroungers”. Many of these people would have in the past been in institutions. Many should now be sectioned for their own health but the mental health services simply aren’t there for all of them.

    Of course helping the seriously mentally ill is not a sexy business or a headline-grabber, but the fact is that their lives have intentionally been made worse by this government, which seems to have discarded them like some rubbish on the street. Any ounce of compassion which remained in the DWP after Labour left office was then eradicated by this government. Suicides have increased, public attitudes towards the mentally ill and disabled have been hardened by the press, disability hate crime is up, etc.

    I’ve worked with vulnerable people for over 30 years and it has never, not even during the dark days of Thatcher’s reign, been this horrible or depressing for some of the weakest members of society. And I truly wish the LibDems would speak out or do something about this silent epidemic, but I guess they dare not anger their Tory “friends”. And, yes, this is a silent epidemic which will blow up at some time. People are becoming more and more desperate by the day. And you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned.

    So, please, while you’re still in government…do something.

  • Thank you guy’s I appreciate it.

    I really did feel that I needed to write this article.
    I do not particularly like exposing myself and my vulnerabilities the way in which I have in this article, however, I strongly feel that I had to get past my own vulnerabilities and speak out against the Tories , these welfare changes, but more importantly the awful language that is being used by Tory Ministers and the right wing media to promote them.

    I do recognize that some of the content that I have said would be difficult for some people to read. I also know that some people would be reluctant to engage in such topics through fear of offending people on such a delicate issue.
    I would please ask people not to be put off by engaging in this thread.
    I respect everyone’s right to their view or opinion.
    I am happy to answer any questions people might have on what I have written.

    I am willing to share my personal experiences with the DWP and the Mental Health services within the NHS.

    I am also keen to get across why it is so important that we put a stop to the Conservatives Ministers who uses language that denigrates me and those like me. And for that I am appealing to the Liberal Democrats for support

  • Agree with others, who have posted – Matt, a brave article.

  • Well done for speaking up, Matt.

  • Now it’s our turn to speak up.

  • Mark Yeates 2nd Oct '13 - 3:35pm

    As a person who is suffering from clinical and chronic depression and associated disabilities, I am fully aware of the hatred and the bile that comes from the Conservatives toward us ‘feckless’ claimants. Your article is brave beyond words, and one can only imagine the horrors and nightmares you suffer. It does prove however, that no case is as BLACK & White as IDS would have the public believe.

    I always thought our party would speak out against such generalisations, but those in government either support the policies wholeheartedly or they refuse to oppose these pernicious and damaging policies.

    every year when the ESA form arrives, every year when the ATOS interview is held fills my life with utter dread. It is not only soul destroying it is dehumanising.

    I hope you find some peace Matt and thank you for the article.

  • My experiences with ATOS under WCA and the former PCA have been awful.

    I have sat in floods of tears during an assessment trying to explain how my disability affects me.

    It has been my experience that the “health care” professional will not deviate from their script of questions that they have to ask.
    Most of the questions are pointless and it is almost impossible to give a direct answer which explains how your disability affects you, especially when it is to do with mental health issues.

    I always have a support worker with me to help me through these assessments. My support worker tried to intervene during one assessment and explain to the “health care professional” why I am the way I am and how this has affected me.
    Without even looking up from the computer screen the response was along the lines of, We are not interested in the reasons why you are the way you are, only what you can and can’t do.

    Needless to say this just felt like I was being kicked in the gut’s and I was being treated like I was a fraud.

    That was one of the medicals where Atos and the DWP found me fit for work, despite me having an in-depth Physiological report from a clinical Psychologist which states that I have a severe permanent mentally disabling disorder, Statements from my regular therapist and statements from my GP.

    I had to go through the ordeal of yet another tribunal in order to get my benefits back and endure the humiliation of exposing my traumatic past to complete strangers.
    The Tribunal are always a lot more thorough, they ask you exactly what your day is like, the difficulties you have and how your disability affects you.
    They are also in my experience a lot more understanding and compassionate in the way in which they question you about your illnesses.
    The Tribunal have always restored my benefits and have expressed their horror in the way I had been treated by ATOS and the DWP and their concerns that my benefits had been denied in the first place.
    The Tribunal Chair also gave the representative from the DWP a stern telling off and look for the way that she questioned me.

  • That should have said “Psychological” report and not Physiological report, obviously

  • Matt, a very brave and moving article. Combine the effect of IDS’s changes and Cameron’s comments today about the under 25s, and you see the real Conservative Party – the “Nasty Party” of Teresa May – rearing its head again. I’m not aware of the details of the ATOS test, but if it’s only looking at the physical ability to work and not the mental ability, then it’s not worth the paper its written on. We need to speak up on this more.

  • @Keith Legg

    “I’m not aware of the details of the ATOS test, but if it’s only looking at the physical ability to work and not the mental ability, then it’s not worth the paper its written on.”

    There is a website called work and benefits who have the ESA test online. You can find it here


    I would urge you and others to please take 2 minutes out of your time and please have look at the questions that are asked.
    I think you would be shocked, The physical descriptors are bad enough and is especially worse when you see the mental health section.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Oct '13 - 4:44pm

    I imagine that there are many more people than we imagine who have had this kind of distressing history, to a greater or lesser extent than described here. Not all of such people are on benefits, and indeed Matt explains that it is possible to work even so, although perhaps sporadically.

    I’d guess that many of us have mild mental health issues throughout life. Paradoxically, talking to individuals with slightly more severe mental issues, though not as severe as Matt’s, seems to suggest that part of the personal solutions involves developing self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and healthy relationships with others, in ways that leads to those individuals preferring to refuse further help, rather than continuing to rely on it.

    It seems that the present test for disabiity is inadequate – as Matt indicates, people with mental health issues can often do most everyday tasks, except if their issues are perceptive or cognitive or emotionally overwhelming. What should to be done to fix the test?

    Not everyone on benefits has experienced this kind of history, probably not even a majority. Nor has everyone with this kind of history necessarily experienced it at the same intensity. Aside from fixing the test, what other policy measures are recommended?

  • Mental health issues are very difficult to assess with what is essentially a box ticking exercise. In truth the notion of assessing how serious trauma impacts on the ability of an individual to work is positively Kafkaesque in its convoluted bureaucratic and yet reductionist cruelty. ATOS gets most of the criticism, but really it’s down to the government and the willingness of bodies such as the DHSS to inflict this quota filling nonsense on real people with real problems. Mental health assessments really need to be undertaken case by case with a .lot more understanding of the effects on people being assessed.

  • A point I really do want to get across, is the importance to put a stop to the language that is used by Tory Ministers supported by the right wing media in order to promote these welfare reforms.
    Language like Shirkers and Strivers, Feckless, “Something for nothing culture”

    All this language is used in order to stir up hostility towards welfare claimants.

    Those words tend to be used against the unemployed rather than those on disability benefits. Which is wrong in itself.
    There are people in all communities across the country, who are in receipt of benefits, be they unemployment benefits or sickness benefits.

    People are not necessarily aware which benefit someone is receiving or why they are receiving it. They just see someone claiming welfare and buy into the Governments propaganda that they must be workshy scroungers.

    I get really upset when I hear the language that is used around the workfare programs ; I worry about the public perception and attitudes that the government is trying to create towards those on welfare.

    It is a living hell for some of us who feel as though we are constantly under siege.

    Take David Cameron’s Speech to conference today.

    “Our fellow citizens working every hour of every day to put food on the table ask this: why should my taxes go to people who could work but don’t? Or to those who live in homes that hardworking people could never afford? Or to people who have no right to be here in the first place? I say this to the British people: you have every right to be angry about a system that is unfair and unjust – and that’s why we are sorting it out.”

    This language really worries me. Our Prime-Minister is deliberately using language to stir up hostility towards people claiming welfare. It appears to me that he is encouraging this hostility towards the most vulnerable people in society who through no fault of their own might have fallen on hard times be it through unemployment or illness. He is telling them to be angry.
    The Tories are playing a very dangerous game with vulnerable people’s lives.
    I ask you, is it right to stigmatize and ostracize people like this. Because that is what he, the Tory party and the right wing media are doing.
    This has to stop and I hope the Liberal Democrats will do all they can to stop it and to challenge the Conservatives when they do it.

  • Thank you Matt, sharing such personal details, even anonymously, is never easy.

    Hopefully all the comments you get here will be supportive, but it isn’t the individual responses here that count.

    The reason many people have turned away from voting Liberal Democrat is because they have enabled the Tories to make life significantly harder for many who suffer health problems.

    Your message needs to be heard by Clegg, Alexander, Laws and all those who are sitting back while this happens.
    For many, 2015 and the chance to vote against the party will be too late.

  • nuclear cockroach 2nd Oct '13 - 6:12pm


    You have been very brave writing this here. I wish you the best in the recovery of your health, however long that should take.

    You are certain to receive a positive welcome here on LDV. Might I ask if you could be even more brave? Have this article published in the Daily Mail. It is there that it would have the most impact. Those who unthinkingly support the ATOS testing ought, at the very least, be shamed into silence and introspection.

  • I also hope the Liberal Democrats will stop the conservative’s attacks on people as soon as they become vulnerable in some way.

    Become a jobseeker, and you lose your home – I hope the Liberal Democrats will reverse the cuts to housing support – particularly the severe cuts affecting the under 35s which have been implemented.
    If you cannot jump their endless hurdles, you also lose all the other social security support – This is horrific and surely against the human rights act.

  • @nuclear cockroach

    ” Might I ask if you could be even more brave? Have this article published in the Daily Mail. It is there that it would have the most impact. ”

    I would be to frightened to do anything like that. The Daily Mail does not exactly have a very good record when it comes to things like that.
    I find leaving the safety of my home extremely difficult as it is and only do so to go to medical appointments and visit family and only then if I have my partner with me.
    Having the Daily Mail stalking me outside my home would put me over the edge for sure. I would not be able to cope with that.

    I wish I had the courage to do something like that, if not for myself then for the benefit of others.

  • nuclear cockroach 2nd Oct '13 - 6:35pm


    It’s okay, I understand everything that you have written. It would quite possibly be a horrible experience.

  • Martin Caffrey 2nd Oct '13 - 6:46pm

    @Simon Bamonte

    Is your charity nationwide? If so, could you perhaps tell me the name as I know of someone who is in desperate need of advice.

  • Martin Caffrey 2nd Oct '13 - 6:49pm


    I think you should approach the Guardian or the Independent. And thank you for posting.

  • @Martin Caffrey

    Unfortunately it is not that simple, I have to think about the welfare of others.

    I was not the only one abused in my family, my 2 brothers where also subjected to the same abuse, though none of us knew at the time what was happening to the other.

    This has been traumatic on all my family and I could not risk causing them any more pain.

    It would not be fair to my brothers if I were to go public which ended up exposing them again.

    People can be so cruel, even people in your own community who you grew up with. Hence the reason why I have shut myself off from everyone apart from my Family and cut all social ties.

    I struggled coming out with my sexuality, because of the sexual abuse. I feared people would not understand.

    I was right, there was comments from some people in my community who said “did I consent”

    My elder brother was also later subjected to taunts in the pub from “friends” who said that he must be gay as well, Because I was sexually abused and I turned out to be gay.

    Whether people are just being ignorant or just being cruel, those comments and taunts really tear you apart inside.

    As much as I would like to be brave and take a stand, I just don’t have the courage and i do not have the right to risk exposing my brothers to more public scrutiny.

  • Philip Rolle 2nd Oct '13 - 7:29pm

    There must be MPs and noble Lords reading this. Tell us, please, what you propose to do for all those in Matt’s position.

  • I really am touched and extremely grateful for the kind and supportive comments.
    I do not want to come across as rude or ungrateful though but I really do not want to detract away from what the article was intended.
    I did not write the article to be about “me” as such, my sole intention was to raise the important issue of the Tory Ministers and its friends in the right wing media who constantly denigrate those on welfare and some of the most vulnerable people in society.
    I only wrote about myself in the hope of raising the issue and getting the awareness for others.
    I know it sounds defeatist but it is true to say that I do not really care about myself as much as I do about others.
    I have taken so many knocks over the years; I have been at rock bottom so many times, I have lost count the amount of times I have had to crawl my way out of the darkest pits. I have been kicked so many times while I have been down by society, I do now feel as though I have no place in it, so to speak, and I have resigned myself to the fact that I actually no longer want too. I cannot go as far to say that I am content with this decision. However this is the “safest” decision for me. I do find life a struggle and it has very little meaning for me at times, I have however made a commitment to my partner and to my Mother, that I would not leave them in the dreadful position of them having to cope with me taking my own life. Those are the bare and simple truths and facts. In order for me to stay true to my commitment to them, I need to do this in a way that makes me feel safe.
    I do realize that this sounds awful to most people and please believe me I do not say it to seek more sympathy.

    Even though I do not care about my own place in society, I am extremely concerned for others. I feel it is my duty to do what little I can in the hope of sparing others from the same fate as my own so to speak., which is the sole reason for me writing the article.

    The greatest honor you could do for me, which would mean so much more to me than personal sentiments is to discuss the very important issues that the article raises.
    The denigration employed by the Tory Ministers and Right Wing Media against welfare claimants.
    Reform of Mental health services and a different approach to CBT
    Better ATOS assessments especially for those with mental health disabilities
    Creating a fairer and safer society for the vulnerable.
    I really think Liberal Democrats can make a difference to these people who are feeling vulnerable, stigmatised, ostracized and segregated. And these people desperately need you to highlight these issues and discuss them openly.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Oct '13 - 10:51pm


    “My experiences with ATOS under WCA and the former PCA have been awful.”

    I have had the dubious benefit of successfully gaining the estate of a dead man his ESA at tribunal after the ATOS system failed him. ATOS was brought in by Labour and has made a fortune for its founders. The scandal is that the Coalition has carried on with this system and deepened it (including an absurd complaints process).

  • Matt

    I cannot add anything that hasn’t already been said above but my thoughts are with you & our law makers should be made to read your post whilst imagining a friend or family member being treated in this way.

    Liam Byrne (yes I know….) has been talking about a ‘tell us once policy’ that sounds like it may be helpful to long term sick & disabled whose conditions are unlikely to get better any time soon. Whether it is a policy that comes to fruition any time soon however is yet to be seen.

    In the meantime, I can offer you is a virtual hug – albeit that it doesn’t help you in any way at all.

  • Hywel Owen Davies 3rd Oct '13 - 1:32am

    Thank you Matt for your bravery in telling us your story.

  • Thank you Matt for your personal experiences. I also suffer from depression (but my life hasn’t been as trying as yours) and I often wish the NHS would provide the care I need to make a recovery and maybe one day to be able to get a job. I feel that I am to blame and that I am a scrounger.

    I think the Liberal Democrats should not only be standing up for those who have mental health issues but should be ensuring that the NHS provides the care needed for people to lead a better life and provide the support the mentally ill person says they require.

    There are many ways that the work capability test could be improved and I suggest that all ATOS medical reports are sent to claimants to comment on before a decision is made and the decision maker would have to get more evidence if there is a dispute on what happened. Of course disputes would happen less often if the decision maker could hear the answers given by the claimant rather than having them edited by a nurse who often has no experience of mental health issues.

    @ Keith Legg
    There are some simple changes that could be made to the mental health test to give points where something happens over 50% of the time and remove the idea that it has to happen 100% of the time.

    @ Philip Rolle
    I expect some of our Lords do read this but I am not convinced that any of our ministers read this. Maybe one of their workers will and will get them to read this and the minister will leave a comment here.

    The wider point is that Tory ministers attack those who are unemployed and of course this started some time ago. Maybe my memory is at fault but I feel it got worse under the Labour government. Liberal Democrats should never talk of the long term unemployed as choosing to be on benefits they should talk about the lack of work and the difficulties that the long term unemployed have in being hired. They need to address the first and my wish is that we could have a policy aim of full employment to do so. Instead of taking benefits away from those who have difficulties with the system the government should set target for employers to employ these people and if employers fail to meet these targets they should be fined. Of course the government does need to provide support to help the long term unemployed back to work but it should be tailored to each individual and be FREELY entered into by the claimant.

  • mike cobley 3rd Oct '13 - 10:28am

    It is said that courage is not finding the strength to endure but enduring even when it seems that all strength has fled.
    Now, in a democracy the people have the right to expect their government to look out for their interests: if they do not have that right then they are not living in a democracy. The Coalition – ie the DWP – is not merely cutting benefits and narrowing eligibility conditions, they are also making the process of claiming itself into a denigrating gauntlet in which it is made clear that claimants are second class citizens who must be prepared to obey all and any demands made of them. Like servants indentured to a feudal aristocrat, they have no dignity or self-esteem – it has been made starkly clear by IDS that virtue and self-esteem comes from having a job, regardless of what it pays. And god help you if you have to claim benefits for extensive periods, as many disabled do – a very special assault course awaits them, one seemingly designed to inflict trauma and distress on those least prepared to weather it.

    Matt’s story confirms what is common knowledge in disabled support groups, that the WCA/PIP is a denial machine through which claimants will be cycled and chewed and pummelled until they either give up claiming or die, whichever comes soonest. It is this party’s participation in a government happily at one with itself on IDS’s malign department which makes me wonder if there is in the end any chance of redemption for the Liberal Democrats.

  • Being disabled myself, I can understand some of the problems Matt has identified, and no offense to people posting, to compare what Atos did under Labour or pronounce it was labour that introduced Atos just makes you look very silly when facts are revealed.

    It is all about the remit of what Atos was and is paid to do, the changes made to this remit once the coalition came to power was stunning, the aggressive nature of the tests since 2010, the moving of requirements to pass the tests all contribute to the alienation of the people who are already separated from society by their sickness/disability.

    As Matt as pointed out the rhetoric used by the government and the press has caused a massive amount of distress to those who are most vulnerable, add to that the way parts of the public in general have taken this on board and disabled people find themselves stigmatised even more.

    Because of this rhetoric used it has raised certain problems for disabled, the anger towards disabled people is quite astonishing; the attitude has definitely changed towards disabled people.
    Disabled people see this in many ways, this stands out more now when the simplest things such as parking on disabled spaces at a supermarket, whether it is people abusing the blue badge scheme or people just ignoring the fact they are disabled spaces, I can honestly say I have been subject to abuse several times for parking on the disabled car spaces at my local supermarket, so much so that now I let my partner do the shopping and only shop myself if I have to(my partner works away) and then its late at night/early morning when there are very few people to cause problems.

    I am sorry to say this but go back 6-7 years and it was not as bad as this, it is the rhetoric used by the present government and the press which is causing these problems, I often wonder if this is similar to how the Jews persecution started in 1933.

    From Wikipedia
    “Government statistics reveal that between January 2010 and January 2011, 10,600 sick and disabled people people died within six weeks of their benefits having been ended. Government statistics also revealed that in terms of those who had been found ‘fit for work’ in particular, 1300 of those people died shortly after being declared fit for work by Atos.
    Atos and the UK Government have usually responded to the 10,600 figure by questioning its authenticity, but its advocates vehemently defend the number’s accuracy and allege that if anything, the number is not less but more, as the figure keeps increasing through to the present day. In mid-January 2012, there was a significant scandal as media were alerted to the fact that Atos had found a man in a coma to be ‘fit for work’.”

  • Nigel Jones 3rd Oct '13 - 12:36pm

    What a horrible system that causes someone to go through so much bad testing !
    If someone is certified as having a mental health problem, even on a temporary basis, they should be dealt differently and supportively.
    That does not mean they cannot be assisted to find gainful employment or gainful activity, but that is not the same as expecting someone like Matt to fit in to some predetermined job. To be active in some way can itself be a therapy, but each person is different and there should be ways of engaging Matt which treat him as someone with something to give, without assuming he has to give it in a predetermined way. He clearly has the ability to write; I recently read the book of Richard McCann, whose mother was the first vicitm of the Yorkshire ripper and he states how writing from his feelings and experiences was one part of his emergence from a very depressed life.

  • One of the problems with the so called “safety net” is that….. Especially for people with mental health disabilities, is it is not a safety net at all.
    The Tories like to use the term “safety net” to mean that someone on benefits should only have benefits to support them when they have fallen on hard times and should not be used as a “lifestyle” choice. And that the benefits should be set at a bare minimum
    They also like to push the perception that everyone is “trapped” on benefits because they are somehow better off out of work and in receipt of benefits, which is completely untrue for the vast majority of claimants.
    What they are missing is that there are many people with mental health issues who are trapped on benefits not because of the amount “money” that is received. But because the complete lack of support there is should they take risk and try to re-enter training or employment. A claimant is well aware of the hoops that they have had to jump through in order to get benefits in the first place, being assessed by a process that is highly skewed against them, many have had to fight tooth and nail to access disability benefits and many more have had to go through the traumatic process of appeals and tribunals.
    This installs a great sense of fear for anyone who has been through this process. It makes you then even more afraid to take a risk later on should you wish to try your hand at entering the jobs market again just in case things do not work out and your disabilities are worsened.
    The government will say that anyone who has been on long term disability benefits, should they come off benefits and return to work, but then become too ill again within 52 weeks, they can go straight back on the level of benefits and support that they were on before and there is no 26 week assessment phase.
    That is simply not good enough and it does not give the claimant the confidence in the DWP or ATOS to assess them fairly, especially when they are still using a process of assessment that has been proven time and time again to be unfit for purpose.
    The derogatory language that is constantly used by the Tory Government and the right wing media when talking about welfare recipients strips you of your confidence and makes you reluctant to take risks with your health and the so called “safety net”
    So you see in the claimants eye’s the “safety net” is not about the “money” it is about having the foundations there to support you should things not work out.
    This constant vilification and the language that is used by the Tory Ministers and the Right Wing media is self-defeating. It makes no sense at all to ostracize people and make them feel segregated, destroying what little self-confidence they have. This is the real issues with the “benefit trap” and we need to put a stop to this hostility that is being stirred up by the Conservatives.

  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Oct '13 - 2:38pm

    Matt, your voice needs to be heard on this and there needs to be a party that tackles these issues.

    The elephant in the room when ‘disability benefits’ are under discussion is the complete lack of vision in any party for what a reformed UK mental health structure could or should look like, and how the different benefits, social care, acute health, specialist health, community health, public health and charitable sector agencies (whew! it’s that comlicated) may or may not be able to work together effectively to support people whose mental health is variable / vulnerable.

    The Tories in particular (but they are not alone) want to amp up the capitalist culture of obsession about measurable success through money and effort and micro-efficiency gains which is one of the biggest creators of an overwhelming level of generalised low-self-esteem, stress and insecurity in our culture at present; this is an exclusional and divisive culture that can hurt and break most people, let alone those made more vulnerable by abuse or trauma.

    Oliver James is a very good writer on this subject; any chance of the LibDems commissioning him to write a report, or contribute to part of an overall rethinking of what the NHS and care systems might look like? Some new, system-wide thinking on this, fresh and separate from what Lansley and IDS are doing to their respective areas of disaster, would be inspiring. At the moment Labour and the Tories seem to use the care, health and benefits systems as their football and the LDs seem to avoid the topic (this may not be in reality fair, but there seem to be few people who really have a vision in the party for this area of policy.

  • Simon Banks 3rd Oct '13 - 3:17pm

    Matt: thanks. I hope you’ve convinced some people.

    Yes, while I felt our conference on the whole reinforced our credentials for caring about disadvantage, hate and discrimination and putting forward credible policies to deal with these (for example, on race discrimination and low pay), the big silence was on benefits. It’s a huge pity there was no motion to debate.

  • @Matt (Bristol)

    I agree with everything you have said.

    There is also an urgent need for the NHS (GP’s) and the NHS (Mental Health Team) to work together and to share information.

    One thing that I have found is that there is no communication between the 2 at all.

    Let me explain.

    I have been seeing my same GP for over 20 years, He is well aware of my past and he knows the (mental health) & (Physical health) problems that I have for which he treats with (Medication)
    He does not necessarily know though how my mental health disabilities affects me on a daily basis and the problems that I face. This is just not something that you really talk to your GP about. There just simply is not the time. You see your GP, however regularly, for a 10 minute appointment. Usually just for a medication review.
    The GP, refers you on to the mental team who are in charge of the “therapy” and it is with the therapist that you talk about how your mental health affects you and the impact this has on your ability to dot hings.

    I always assumed that the (mental health team) would keep your GP informed of your progress and would also give details to them on how your illness is affecting you on a daily basis and the struggles that you face. {That seems logical to me}
    Unfortunately this is not the case at all. There is no communication between the GP and therapist on this level.
    So you could be seeing your GP for years thinking they had a deeper understanding of the difficulties you are having. But I have learnt the hard way that this is not the case.

    I did not learn this until I gained access to my entire medical file. I was shocked at the lack of information that was held on my file by the GP’s office. I brought this up with my GP. He explained to me that this is not how things work. All the mental health team does is inform him of “progress” and may make “recommendations” for changes to medication. Apart from that, they do not know what is said in therapy and the kind of difficulties you face.

    This did shock me at the lack of communication between the two, I would have thought that it was vital for the “therapists” to share information with the GP. It is vital because it gives the GP a better and fuller understanding of his/her patient.

    This lack of communication does cause problems for people with mental health issues when it comes to GP’s providing medical evidence to the DWP. If the DWP contacts the GP and asks them to give details on how your disability affects your ability to carry out certain tasks. The GP does not have the knowledge of this and so on many occasions the questions go unanswered and the only part of the form that gets filled in is the part that gives details of diagnoses, current medications and how often they see you.
    Obviously the DWP then uses this as an excuse as “lack of evidence” and will turn down claims.

    I also want to make you aware that the DWP does not necessarily have to contact your GP for written evidence, nor do they have to contact specialists or therapists. Despite the fact that they do ask you to give details of this on your application forms. Many people will be unaware that it is actually the responsibility of the “claimant” to gather medical evidence and submit to ATOS and the DWP. A “claimant” is responsible for the costs of gathering these reports because most doctors, therapists, specialists will charge for these reports. Hence the reason why ATOS and the DWP are reluctant to gather this evidence themselves.

    To me that is really shocking and a totally unfair system that is weighed against the claimant. it is especially disgraceful because it is usually very vulnerable people who are already under enormous pressures just coping with their illness on a day to day basis.
    Sadly there are many people that are unaware of this and they are not aware that it is their responsibility to gather and submit the medical reports. That is one of the reasons why so many people have their benefits refused and end up in tribunals.

    This system needs to change. There needs to be joined up communication between the GP, Mental health services and the responsibility should be on the DWP to gather this evidence and foot the costs. It should not be left to vulnerable people who are unable to cope with these kind of pressures.

  • Matt

    Sorry haven’t posted before

    Thanks for having the guts to post such a personal message. I would also like to thanks the posters on here for giving, in general, a supportive hearing.

    I think it is to commend LDV that someone felt confident enough to post this on its blog and expose some very personal details.

    It shows to us that have moved away from the party that the LD is still, at heart, a decent party and we still post on here because we have hope that in time we can come back into the fold.

    Whilst the current leadership remains silent about some of the attacks made on the less fortunate in our society by the Tories and whilst the MPs trudge through the lobbies in support of some of these policies it means I cannot vote for them in 2015.

    I just hope that the rest of the party is more sympathetic, and I remain slightly optimistic after reading some of the posts on here

  • Philip Rolle 3rd Oct '13 - 8:53pm

    Matt makes an important point in regard to the claimant needing to gather evidence. I agree that those with severe mental illness should be protected by the Social Security Regulations. The Regulations should reverse the burden and grant ESA to the claimant until such time as the DWP obtains accurate and sufficient medical evidence.

    If it were down to me, all citizens would have certain health and care rights enshrined in a Health Act. If the state ( in particular the NHS ) were in breach of its duty under the Act as regards a citizen, then the citizen could seek treatment outside the NHS and claim the cost from the state. Once a breach was identified, the state would lose its right to remove or reduce benefits such as ESA until three months after the breach was remedied. This would be funded/accompanied by abolition of the contributory principle, payment of an annual social insurance premium by each citizen and the merger of national insurance and income tax.

    On the basis that the fundamental changes set out in the previous paragraph are not going to wash, perhaps a Lib Dem MP could use a Private members Bill to table an amendment to the Social Security Regulations to require additional gathering of medical evidence for all claimants suffering from sever mental illness.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Oct '13 - 9:18pm

    Best of luck Matt. I would say that mental health services are becoming very hard to access because GPs are protecting their budgets and sometimes even breaking the law by telling people in need that they should go private instead (to protect their bonus, which is what happened to me).

    The idea of giving GPs control over the budgets in an uncompetitive market is unlikely to work. It’s one thing having faith in people and taking a risk, but it’s another by being naive. The same problem applies to cancer scans, the whole lot. GPs should be employees of the state, not running businesses in uncompetitive markets with taxpayers money against the public’s wishes. It wouldn’t be so bad if we never had a state system already in place, but we did and decided to break it up it for questionable evidence based reasons. It didn’t matter that it was a state run monopoly because the state had more control of it.

    Regarding language – the Conservatives are really horribly ignorant in the way they speak about society and unfair the way they often talk about the worst habits of the poor whilst rarely talking about the worst habits of the rich. Most of society can see this.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Oct '13 - 9:36pm

    For consistency and my dislike of employment – what I really mean is GPs should be contractors to the state, but that contract should not give them an open-ended amount of pay depending on how much money they save the practice. In my opinion this is already proving a disaster with many unnecessary deaths.

    Regarding suicidal thoughts Matt – you would be surprised to find out how many people love you and how much. So please stay strong. I know you will be aware of services, but feel free to call Mind or any of the other mental health charities any time you need help.

    I know the policies we espouse sometimes create such harm and it is no good just offering sentimental thoughts after supporting cuts, but we are trying to help, more than I would say those who only ever think about cost and ignore waste in the form of exploitation.

  • @Eddie

    I agree with what you have said.

    On the broader point of mental health services becoming harder to access. I personally found this to be true.

    I would like to see a whole new approach to cognitive therapy because in my experience the current system does not work.

    The problem with CBT and other cognitive therapies is that it is based on the opinion of a select few professionals who are supposed experts within their field.
    A “manual ” if you like has been drawn up for a one cap fits all approach.
    In my opinion this does not work, Cognitive therapy should be directed on an “individual” basis, after all we are all different individuals , with different needs and we all react differently to therapy.
    Some people will take a lot longer than others to build up a sense of trust where they feel confident enough and safe to explore their emotions and difficulties.

    At present there is such a high demand for cognitive therapy and so little resources. The system is totally bursting at the seems and is failing many vulnerable people.

    When a GP refers a patient to mental health services, the norm at present is to only offer a patient between 12 and 15 sessions of CBT.
    The experts within the field who have made these recommendations believe that this is adequate enough time to tackle peoples mental health disabilities in an short intensive course.
    From what I have been told by my current therapist this is because the experts also seem to be of the opinion that this is also to protect the patient from developing to much of a “relationship” with the therapist and becoming dependent on the support.

    I personally found this approach deeply unhelpful and if I were brutally honest, more harmful than good.
    For me it was all about trust and feeling safe, I needed to feel safe, safe enough to explore my emotions with a complete stranger and I needed to learn to become confident with the environment.

    I will try to explain what I mean, but I might struggle and babble, so please bare with me.

    When I was first referred for CBT therapy, I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was a person who did not like to leave the safety of my house and if I did then I was accompanied by my partner.
    Starting therapy meant that I had to visit a building on the outskirts of the city center, to a place that I was totally uncomfortable with, a location that was busy with people. this in its self was a complete nightmare for me and my worse case scenario. Waiting rooms are a major issue for me and i feel very exposed and vulnerable.

    I was told at the start of my first appointment that I would only receive 15, 1hr sessions of CBT and this was supposed to be adequate enough time for me to come to terms with consequences of the abuse that I had suffered.

    I am a person who has kept my depression to myself for years, I never spoke to my family about details of the things that had to me for all those years, I couldn’t, I always wanted to protect them from the pain and suffering of knowing the details , and besides i felt so ashamed inside, ask any abuse victim and I am sure they will all say the same, you feel a sense of guilt, that maybe you were to blame in some way.
    You try and bury your feelings deep in your gut, not daring to let them out, not daring to admit you fears and feelings to yourself let alone to anyone else

    All of a sudden you are expected to magically set t aside all these fears and talk freely and openly to a complete stranger. Sorry things just do not work that way, you have conditioned yourself over the years not to be that way.

    The first few weeks of therapy where more about being in a complete state of panic and fear because you are in a strange environment, with strange people and you feel completely exposed. You certainly are not in the right state of mind to start discussing the root cause of your illness.
    I think from memory it took until about week 4 before I even really started to talk about the abuse and things that happened and even then I was very reserved in what I was prepared to divulge.
    The trust in your therapist and even within yourself has just not had that time to form.
    I was constantly bothered by the fact that hear I was opening up, talking to this woman and exposing myself, not only to her but also to myself and at the end of the hour I would have to go home where i would be all alone again with my illness and in an even more vulnerable state than what I was when left the house in the first place. It was daunting and terrifying.

    Anyway, as the weeks were progressing, I was constantly reminded by the number of sessions that I had left, it was an enormous amount of pressure to be under, I felt like I was almost being forced to talk about things way before I felt ready and comfortable in myself to do so. And I have to be honest with you, I did felt like I was being a burden on the resources and I was failing myself by not progressing as quickly as what was expected of me.
    Unfortunately this just made me clam up even more. I just was not prepared to take the risk of exposing my vulnerabilities and bringing them to the surface, only to be dropped at the end of 15 weeks and be left in a worse position than what I started.

    I really do not want to put anyone off from having cognitive therapy, because that would be the last thing I would ever want to do and it would certainly be counter-productive to my whole intention of the reasons that I wrote this article, Maybe my experience was unique and others have had an entirely different and more positive experience with mental health services within the NHS. I have not really spoken to anyone else in a similar position to myself to be able to compare.

    Anyway, after my CBT came to an end, I was politely told that there were not the resources available to offer me any more sessions, However I could be referred again in the future if needed.

    In the end I ended up going private and paying to see a therapist to the cost of £40 a week, this is a huge chunk of money to find every week out of my benefits, but l use the care component of my DLA to fund it.

    I have got to say that in my personal experiences, that the treatment that I have had “privately”, outside of the confines of the NHS has been far more beneficial to me. I have been able to be in more control of these sessions and been able to take things at a pace in which that I feel that is safe and I am comfortable with. I have also been able to form a “relationship” based on “trust” with my therapist which in my personal experience has been vital for me. I needed a strong foundation based on trust, respect and confidence in order for me to be able to express myself and get anything positive out of therapy.

    The point I am trying to make is that I think cognitive behavioral therapy should be based on an individual s needs and not on a conformed set of principles with a one cap fits all approach that is currently adopted by the NHS. I believe there needs to be a drastic change within the NHS when it comes to cognitive therapy. More funding needs to be found in order for better research and hopefully coming up with a better policy than what we currently have.

    Really, I only needed to say the paragraph above but have needed up rambling like I warned I would do.

  • I had used to have counselling and it did help my depression but my counsellor retired and I didn’t believe I could find another one who I could pay £5 for a session. The use of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is recommended by NICE but it is only provided for a short period of time. The government should investigate the failure of short term CBT and ensure that for those who need more therapy it is provided and not just CBT but the whole scope of therapies based on the individuals requirements.

  • David White 4th Oct '13 - 2:09pm

    I’ll stand up for you, Matt. 100%. No question.

  • Matt, as many other have said thank you for a brave post. Sadly this government, like the last one, seem to base their systems (and certainly a disproportionate amount of their speeches) around those who abuse benefits rather than those who desperately require them. I believe society is judged by how they treat those most, on this basis we are continuing to fail and have done so over successive Governments. A would love to see a liberal party putting social justice at the top of its list of red lines forcing a better system through in a post 2015 coalition (with either party). Sadly with some of the characters at the top of the Lib Dems I don’t see this happening…

    On the subject of those who abuse benefits, find them, charge them and punish them. They hurt the cause of those like you who need a decent welfare state.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Oct '13 - 12:40am

    Hi Matt, thanks for explaining your situation. You have made some interesting points (especially around the mental pressure and limited sessions possibly doing more harm than good in some cases). The whole issue of healthcare is a very difficult one and one that I do not have the answers to. However your comments will have helped our understanding of the problems and complexities of the issue.

  • Robert Wootton 5th Oct '13 - 9:25am

    I have tweeted this post to @David Cameron and the @bigquestions.
    The main thrust of Conservative policy is to prevent fraudulent claims for benefit. In the RSA YouTube video talk by David Stuckler titled the Body Economic, he states that the government figures for the estimate of fraudulent DSA claims is £2 million pa. The cost of the contract given to the firm that calls in benefit claimants for re-assessment is £400 million pounds!
    The problem with DLA assessments is that it assumes that the physical ability to carry out a task is all that a job requires.
    This is 19th century Industrial Revolution thinking when people were literally and actually called “hands”. Factory hands. This seems, from the article, the basis for deciding whether a claimant is able to work.
    A job requires a person to have the mental as well as the physical health to carry out employment tasks and also a level of educational attainment . Assessments should take all these factors into account.

    Of course the other problem is that the NHS is totally inefficient when it comes to providing healthcare. Since “the market” was introduced into the NHS, it has become as efficient as the Banking system is in running the economy.

    The NHS is ineffective in delivering the healthcare needed for treating people who are drug addicts, alcoholics and from morbid obesity, which are usually the symptoms of an underlying mental health problem.
    I am aware from broadcasts on television that people who are registered alcoholics with their GP qualify for either the higher or lower DLA depending on whether their alcoholism is classified as acute or chronic.
    All this does is to fund their alcohol consumption, support the Brewery industry, and cause social and nuisance problems by street drinking etc.
    People with long term mental and physical health problems should be under continuous monitoring and assessment by their GP and Consultant. Assessors should get their evidence from the claimants GP and Consultant.
    Perhaps we should have Isolation hospitals where people can be sheltered from the stresses of modern life while being treated for their ill-health.
    What the government could also do is to make their departments interactions with their citizens stress free and user friendly. At present they are a major cause of stress and anxiety.

  • There is an article of the BBC News site this morning
    Courts failing child sex abuse victims http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24399138

    This is an area I would like to touch on if I may.
    What I want to say is not necessarily about the court case itself, because my abuser pleaded guilty at the very last moment which spared us the ordeal of the trial. But there were failings in my experience from the time of reporting the crime to the time it reached trial. I would like to see some of these practices change.
    When the truth about my abuse came out, it understandably shook my entire family to the core and my parents went to pieces. One of my brothers was also on the verge of being sectioned, When my other brother turned up, that’s when we wound out that it had happened to all 3 brothers. This happened quite late at night. The police took “brief” statements but we were to give fuller statements the following day.
    Thankfully this was done not at a “regular” police station but at a “family protection suite” it’s set up like a normal house so as not to be as intimidating as an “interview room”
    This was certainly a very good idea and one which I welcome.
    The only problem that I have with it now was the location, as it is something that has become more of a problem as my depression has developed and worsened over the years. The family protection suit was far too close to my own home; in fact it was on the very same road that I lived on.
    Every time that I have to drive past that family protection suite, I am instantly reminded of that day, it causes flash backs of PTSD, remembering the harrowing experience of giving evidence. It is also in this suite that I also had to go under a forensics examination, where they had to examine for any damage or proof of the constant abuse, removal of pubic hair for DNA samples among others.
    I do recognize the importance of the forensics team having this evidence. However, it is now that I wish this was done at a location that was much further away from the family home.
    I think this is vital for victims of a violent crime, so they do not have to suffer the harrowing experience of reliving the trauma, reminder, every time they pass the building.
    It is my experience that if this would have been done in a different town possibly, It could have possibly prevented one trigger that I now have for PTSD which is the constant reminder when having to go past the building now.
    It is something worth looking at now, If the police and the Government can learn from the experiences of people like me, then it may be possible to prevent “triggers” of PTSD for others in the future.
    I also was not happy with the amount of time it took from me and my brothers reporting the crime, the police taking the evidence and the Police making the arrest and taking him in for questioning. My abuser was my Brother-in-law and he was still with my sister at the time of reporting.

    The police took a week, from the time it was reported to the time he was taken in for questioning. Obviously we could not tell anyone what is going on during this time. I do not know how my family coped with that.
    My sister and her husband {the abuser} pulled upside outside my Mum & Dads one day and my other sister had to run out to the car and come up with an excuse why they could not come in the house. I hate to think how traumatic this would have been for my sister and how on earth she managed to look at our brother in law and not lynching him.
    It was also harrowing experience for the rest of the family who had to carry on as though everything was normal with my sister (Who had no idea what her husband had done).
    I do recognize that the police have to have the time to gather everything before making an arrest, but in my experience this was just far to long. And a better process needs to be put in place to protect families during this vulnerable time. There certainly needs to be a lot more support.
    After he was arrested and held on remand. I really did find that there was not much support at all.
    My doctors now realized the root causes of why I was suffering from this depression for so long, but there was still no support put in place. I was not giving or offered and therapy. I don’t know whether this is because they do not wanting you starting therapy whilst criminal proceedings are taking place. I just don’t know but I hope there is some valid reason for this.
    The only people we saw , was the officer from the family protection unit who was dealing with the case. I do not want to knock that lady because she was marvellous, very supportive and understanding and kept us up to date with how things were progressing with the looming court case.
    In our case, at every plea hearing, my abuser kept pleading (Not Guilty) but also not asking for (Bail) I understand the reasons for this now, it was because whilst being held on remand, you got more privileges in prison.
    This really kept knocking me for six every time this happened because it looked like we were going to have to undergo the trauma of going to trial and giving evidence on the stand.
    There was still no support from the NHS at this point; I was just prescribed stronger anti-depressants, Tranquilizers and sleeping tablets.
    Right up to the last minute, the week before the trial was due to take place; he then changed his plea and entered a plea of guilty. This came as a huge relief to me and the family as we were not going to have to take the stand. However, this process took a year and we were put through hell during this time and the trauma believing we were going to have to give evidence.
    Because he kept entering not guilty pleas just so he could stay as a “remand” prisoner for as long as possible. When he changed and entered a guilty plea (a week before the trial) he was automatically given a 3rd of his sentence and it was reduced from 12 years to 8.
    I was really angered by this to be honest. I do not think there should be such leniency on a conviction for someone who has right up until the start of trial, kept entering a plea of not guilty, just to stay on remand with “extra privileges” to then be able to get a sentence heavily reduced by changing the plea at last available moment.
    I am not saying that there should not be leniency on people who at the first available opportunity admit their guilt, because I think there should be. The least amount of trauma the victim has to go through the better. But I do not think it should be given to people who have not done this for the sole reason to spend as much of their time inside as a “remand prisoner” which comes off their sentence as time already served and then get half their sentences reduced again for good behaviour.
    I found it very difficult to cope with the fact that my abuser, who was convicted of 12 serious sexual offences and asked for a further 26 to be taken into consideration, managed to get away with spending just 4 years in prison, only 3 of which was spent as a “convinced” criminal.
    That is something that I find very difficult to come to terms with.
    When you are abused as a child, it’s like being murdered, your whole life is taken away from you, your life is not your own, it belongs to someone else. You become a puppet on a string where you are manipulated and controlled. Those strings are not cut and you are set free the moment someone is convicted. It just does not work that way unfortunately. If only it that simple.
    It is very difficult not to believe that the abuse is what defines you as a person.
    For me personally this is an area where I have really struggled with my mental health issues. I didn’t know who “Matt” was. This has caused me a lot of difficulties over the years and this is why “therapy” should have been given at the earliest opportunity.
    Not knowing who I was and where I fit into society, I felt even more exposed and vulnerable. That’s partly the reason I believe why I have failed so many times when I have tried to make a life for myself. The thought of being out in the “real world” is terrifying, especially when you are feeling so exposed and vulnerable. I did not want people to see that inside me.
    My way of coping with that was to move away from my home town where people did know me and create a “character” for want of a better word. It was a person to hide to behind so that people did not see the “real person” inside. That way people only judged the character rather than the person I really was, a scared and vulnerable person.
    Obviously, this does not work and is extremely harmful and one of the reasons that I kept failing every time.
    Every time my depression would worsen and come back tenfold.
    When I was finally given CBT therapy {11 years} after the abuse was first reported. I was and still am most of the time a complete an utter mess.
    One of things that I have tried to explain to my current therapist is that I now feel like an undressed Mannequin. You look at the mannequin and you just cannot tell the “personality” that it is supposed to portray. It needs clothing (Layers) to define who or what it is. Without those layers it is just raw and exposed. This brings me back to my earlier point when I said. “It is very difficult not to believe that the abuse is what defines you as a person” In a sense you are still that puppet on a string.
    It is an extremely long process to work through, which takes a very lot of time. That is why early intervention is so vitally important, because it is so much harder the longer that it is delayed. It is also why I believe there needs to be a different approach to therapy.
    More importantly I think early support and intervention is needed to lessen the impact of mental health difficulties that manifest and develops over the years without this support.

  • Many really important points here.

    I emailed Norman Lamb’s office asking for a reply to this article. His assistant said that he and Steve Webb are aware of the article and want to post a joint response.

  • @Stephen Robinson

    Thanks for that.

    I really hope this article is doing something positive.

    I am not going to lie to you, this has been a really really hard week for me. I am having to dig really deep to write some of the things that I have shared with you all. It is not easy and it is making me feel terrible to be honest with you.

    But I have been trying to put all that aside and carry on.

    If it can make a difference to someone else lives, then it would have all been worth it.


  • Andrew Suffield 5th Oct '13 - 6:46pm

    people who are mentally ill or have learning difficulties, who do not have the ability to understand and follow to the letter every DWP legislation going without food because they were sanctioned for being 2 minutes late, for example, to the Jobcentre

    Not to distract too much from the subject of the article, but this is not and never has been legal – it hasn’t changed under the coalition at all, it was not allowed under Labour either, and it’s been happening anyway for as long as JCP has been around. Nobody can ever be legally “sanctioned” in a way that causes them to go without food. The benefits system does not permit this to happen.

    Every time this happens it is because jobcentre staff are breaking the rules and/or not doing their jobs properly.

    (If people are wondering what the point of “sanctions” could be – they can only really be applied to people who have savings or surplus income, but they do add up on account to be eventually paid off if the applicant ever gets a job that does give them surplus income)

  • ‘Andrew Suffield

    Sorry I am not sure I am understanding what your trying to say.

    Can you elaborate please, especially on your last paragraph.

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Oct '13 - 7:32pm

    I don’t really see what’s unclear about it. JCP is obliged to make sure that people have enough money to meet their basic needs – food etc. If they don’t have savings or income, and can’t use a food back or similar services, then they have to be given sufficient money for food, regardless of sanctions or anything else.

    You can get JSA even if you have several thousand pounds in the bank, and in that case they can sanction you all they want and don’t have to give you anything. If you don’t have any money then all they can do is give you what you need and have you pay it back if you can afford it at some later date.

  • @Andrew Suffield

    I assume you must be taking about the hardship payment?

    Which someone can apply for if they have had there benefits sanctioned or they are awaiting a decision on benefits.

    These hardship payments are paid at a reduce rate of JSA.

    I can not find a link with details of the exact amount you can get as a single person, but I am pretty sure that it is around the £20 mark
    I personally have never been sanctioned but I know my nephew was and was sanctioned for 8 weeks whilst he was on JSA

    If you think £20 is enough for someone to feed themselves and keep themselves warm for a week. Then I am pretty appalled .

    I don’t think the attitude, oh well there are charitable food banks people can turn too if hungry is a healthy attitude for our society

  • richardheathcote 5th Oct '13 - 10:35pm

    What worries me about sanctions is that the job centres have a target from what i was told at the job centre by a member of staff its not supposed to be official, but it is expected they sanction 5% of people claiming benefits.

  • richardheathcote 5th Oct '13 - 11:20pm

    As for Matt it was brave to post about the abuses faced as a child
    my wife has had similar experiances, She was abused by her biological father from the age of 5 till she went to live with her mum at 11 years. she then struggled with school as she didnt really know right from wrong and was promiscuous from an early age. This made her a target to a man when she was aged 16 who she ended up having children with , her family turned her back on her at that time. Her partner was similar to her biological father in a lot of ways he had a previous rape conviction and he abused her and forced her into the sex industry. At the age of 25 she suffered the after effects of an attack where he smashed her head off a wall causing a stroke and leaving her with right side weakness, sight impairment and post stroke epilepsy as well as memory and recall problems. She has had numerous admissions to the mental health services as she has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, Bi-Polar, Depression, Anxiety possible PTSD and she has been waiting to start a programme for Dialetical Behavior Therapy. We have had a nightmare with benefits over the last 3 years Atos appointments, DLA downgrading to low rate personal care even though i had to pack in work to care for her, I have worked from leaving school at 16 til i was 41 and took over caring for my wife. I sleep 3-4 hours a night due to her self harming i am responsible for her medication so i have to keep an eye on her through the night. i look after her and 4 children fulltime day and night. I appealed the dla decison when downgraded and lost. i just accepted that and left it for 18 months when i was talking to my wifes cpn she suggested that that was wrong as my wife needs a high level of care. so i wrote to dla again who agreed she should have been on high rate but they wont be able to back date it. It seems like the DWP do their best to stitch you at every oppertunity. All the while you get demoralised seeing the stuff in papers about the feckless and workshy when life becomes more difficult all the time. Another example is council tax i was penalised as my eldest was over 18 and had to struggle with a penalty for non dependant adult in house, i found out later on that as my wife is registered disabled we shouldn’t have had that penalty, but getting money you have paid back is difficult. Services have changed recently also with phsyciatric and phsycological services merging and no one really knowing what is happening there is a lack of resources and coordination. Over the last 3 years services offered by the NHS have declined getting treatments has been difficult, support for carers is nonexistent i’ve gone from earning a good wage all my life to £60 a week carers allowance. I just wish things where getting better as it certainly doesn’t feel that way

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Oct '13 - 12:46pm

    I assume you must be taking about the hardship payment?

    There are several rules for working it out, that’s the one which is used when you’re entitled to JSA but (for whatever reason) aren’t receiving it right now. There are other rules for dealing with other situations, several of which are processed by JCP and the rest are done by your council.

    I can not find a link with details of the exact amount you can get as a single person, but I am pretty sure that it is around the £20 mark

    For hardship payments, it’s 60% of the usual JSA allowance, or 80% if the applicant is pregnant or ill (but not so ill that they are unable to work, or they will receive IS at the full amount). For this to come out at around £20 then JSA would have to already be substantially reduced from the full amount, due to savings, capital, or other benefits, in which case it seems unlikely that the applicant would be unable to afford food.

  • nigel quinton 6th Oct '13 - 11:01pm

    Matt – just wanted to say a massive thank you not only for posting the original article but also for contributing to the substantial discussion it prompted. My heart goes out to you, and I think this thread should be read by everyone concerned with health & benefits policy in the UK. Congrats also to Stephen Robinson for making sure Norman Lamb and Steve Webb get to see this.

    A salutatory reminder that there is so much to be done to improve our society. As someone who has been deterred from working for the party in recent months due in no small part to the lack of belief in our current leadership and direction, an article like this reminds me why I got involved originally, and why I should probably stop using that as an excuse and get back to trying to make a difference.

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