Disability, employment, (ill) health and debt
As the government launches its Green Paper on work, health and disability, Rob, a disabled person and activist, tells us about his experiences of work in the current system.
Until recently, I wasn’t working. I was really frustrated looking for a job, I have a Masters degree, I’m well qualified but all the traditional routes to employment feel as if they have been closed down to me.
I was claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and I also received housing benefit. But I got a zero hours contract as a part time researcher which pays me around £500 a month on average. I kept the Department for Work and Pensions informed of my work and income and they stopped my ESA which meant that my housing benefit was also suspended and I fell into arrears with my rent. The housing association began the process of re-possessing my adapted home. With the help of the housing charity, Shelter, I negotiated a minimum payment of £3 a week and they have assured me that they won’t evict me, but it was very stressful, especially as I live with anxiety and depression.
The upshot of all this is that I’ve been earning £15 a week above the permitted amount for someone on ESA. This means that I have to pay back £3,000 in benefits, and I am not allowed to go back onto ESA, if I stop working I’ll be on Job Seekers’ Allowance which means that I have to sign on every two weeks. As a power wheelchair user, I can’t use the bus to go to sign on.
I just wanted a job, but because I got a job I am in debt for £3,000 and I am worse off.
I don’t think the Green Paper will change anything for me. It says nothing about employers and their discriminatory attitudes to disabled people. Yet again, it puts all the onus on the disabled person to go out and find a job and that’s what I did … look what happened to me.