Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mental Welfare

Two weeks ago the Guardian started a series called 'Breadline Britain'. Across the UK there are many reports of people committing or attempting suicide due to the draconian elements of welfare reform. What kind of society are we turning, where people decide that they would be better off dead than alive? Why not take a look at the short video produced by the Guardian (at the bottom of the page) where claimants detail just how hard life has been due to welfare reform.On the live thread they reproduced part of my comment with regard to the deteriorating mental health of people claiming benefits which I'm reproducing below:

'...It's all the uncertainty that weighs down on you. People feel like they're being attacked from all sides. Yesterday our estate had visits from a housing officer to inform them how much 'bedroom tax' they would have to pay from April 2013. On top of that we face Council Tax cuts and the threat of a great drop in income when migrating to Universal Credit next year. My neighbors profoundly disabled son who has a mental age of about 4 had a serious fit on the day of the housing visit because he keeps thinking he'll lose his home. The £40 every 4 weeks that they will have to pay to stay there will mean they will have to cut down on food or utilities. There is nowhere for them to go; hardly any smaller properties available locally.

I'll have to pay £100 every 4 weeks to stay here, plus any shortfall in Council Tax, and there is nowhere for me to go either. Similar to my neighbor, this will mean that I will have to go completely without heating, or live on rice or pasta; basically an almost nil food budget. I haven't slept well for 2 weeks due to the worry, and I've had chronic depression and anxiety for 2 years due to realizing how welfare reform would affect me. I'm already seriously ill and the anxiety on top of everything, not knowing even if you'll qualify for disability benefits in the future, that even if you do that they will not cover your living costs, the feeling that there's no way out of what will amount to abject poverty for me, makes you think that life just won't be worth living.

I'm having anxiety counseling again at the moment, but no matter what techniques I try to use to stop the symptoms, the cause of them won't go away: how am I expected to be happy when I'm facing the possible loss of my home and any sort of income that provides me with a dignified and stable life? Do they really not understand why so many people are committing suicide?

People I know just don't know who to turn to for help either. One seriously ill woman I know - permanently on morphine along with arthritis drugs and medication for severe asthma - has just lost her DLA. When she approached the CAB for help, she was told that the local authority has refused to fund a replacement for the CAB welfare officer who was on maternity leave. They suggested that she approach other disability organizations, but she was told that they are inundated with requests for help, so they can't take her case on.

This woman is left with £12 a week to live on due to the government also cutting the amount they give home-owners in mortgage interest and along with loans she had to take out for repairs. A few weeks ago she said that her week's food budget allowed for bread or butter, but not both. She can't stop crying and is seriously depressed: hardly in a fit state to fight an appeal. I really worry about what she may do to herself.

People are literally being scared to death. We all knew we'd have to face cuts along with everyone else, but for some people this has already translated into abject poverty, which cannot be right in anyone's estimation.
People at the very least need housing and an adequate amount to cover their living costs.'

Watch the Guardian Newspaper's video interviewing people who are suffering due to benefits either being cut or because they are 'sanctioned'.

Today, the 'think tank' Demos released a report that followed families affected by welfare reform over the last 2 years; among other things how the reforms exacerbated the claimants' mental health. I'm waiting for permission to upload the document, and will write a piece with regard to that in a few day's time.

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