Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I am not a scrounger!

Disabled Benefit Scroungers, eh!!
"I know a mate down the pub who stubbed his toe, signed on the 'sick' and the taxpayers bought him a villa in Spain".
We all know someone like that, don't we?
No, not the benefit scrounger but the total gobshite down the pub that makes stories up because he isn't interesting enough to have a life.

Yes, there are people out there fiddling the DLA system. Not very many (<0.5% of claimants if you believe the DWP's figures!!) but some do fiddle it. More people fiddle other benefits, but lets pick on the disabled because they stumble/ wheel/ crawl around with lots of money thinking they're better than us! Right.

Wrong. I DON'T want to be disabled, I never did. I am yet to meet a disabled person who would have made a career choice to be disabled. But, I am disabled. So are lots of people out there.

"Yeah, but it's your choice how you define yourself, isn't it? If you don't want to be disabled, don't be?"
I tried that. Between 1991 and 2008 I acted "normal" although how it can be considered to be "normal" if you are ignoring something as big as that...... I didn't tell anyone I was disabled. People probably just thought I was strange/ eccentric. My memory is "shot", but there are things you can do to work around that - I know (or at least I think I can remember that there are work-arounds!!)!

What changed? In 2008 I came back from Abu Dhabi having been Acting CFO (I was Financial Controller but they sacked my English boss) of a billion dollar leasing company. I lost my job as a consequence of the recruitment strategy out there changing when they got rid of the ex-pats and replaced us with people of a similar ethnic background to the Arabs.You may have heard of the Chief Executive of the parent company of the company I worked for, H.E. Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak.  (yes, his official title really is "His Excellency"!!). It seems he is using a similar business model at Manchester City FC where he is Chairman, in that they got rid of a lot of the English players and........... 

However, when I came back there was a recession just starting (thank you Freddie (I can call him that now, can't I?!)) and jobs were tight. At best I was going to come across as eccentric to people I didn't know and that didn't help me get past interviews.

So, I went to sign on! I was looking for work and needed some support. However, because I had been out of the country for 2 years there was a break in my NI contributions record and didn't qualify for contributory benefits. I had paid in for nearly 20 years but because I had gone overseas to work got nothing. 

BG retired me on an Ill Health Pension in 1997 (6 years after my accident!!!) having reorganised my job away from me. Apparently, the Disability Discrimination Act doesn't offer that much protection to disabled people!!

But, I had an ill-health pension to fall back on which was great, wasn't it. (My pension will be the subject of a later Blog as there are many warnings to other people that become disabled at work in my story, but in summary both British Gas and National Grid screwed me!). No it wasn't great.

I had a mortgage, I had a family and it was less than half of the Benefit cap being talked about now. Also, the fact that I had a pension disallowed me from claiming any means tested benefits.

Still, I had those generous disability benefits to fall back on, didn't I.

I was pointed towards Disability Living Allowance and Industrial Injury Disability Benefit (IIDB) by JCP. I applied for both. I would have been eligible for both since 1991 but because I was working didn't claim them and hadn't even looked into whether I could claim them - does that sound like a benefit scrounger to you? After an ATOS interview which awarded me with 28% IIDB I appealed and appealed, winning at the Upper Tribunal without any legal aid, and was awarded 80% benefit. (c. £5k per year).

DLA should be easy, shouldn't it! All scroungers get that, don't they? I was awarded 80% benefit for IIDB so DLA should be easy, shouldn't it?

My DLA award is zero £0. I can walk!

So how am I scrounging? 

I want to work but can't get anybody to give me a chance.
I have paid over c.£300k in tax since becoming disabled.
Even whilst in Abu Dhabi I paid tax on my ill-health pension.
I joined David Cameron's "Big Society" and have done voluntary work for Charities since coming back from Abu Dhabi?
I currently pay more in tax than I receive in benefit?
Add my pension and benefit together and you get a lot less than the benefit cap!
Apart from my house all I have is a large overdraft!
I am now clinically depressed and on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA (Don't worry, I still qualify for no benefits)).

At least it gets me off the unemployment figures for the Government!

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