Where is the humanity? Where is the mercy? October 6, 2015Posted by Phil Groom in 5 Quid for Life, Mental Health.
Tags: Daleks, Davros, Department for Work and Pensions, Doctor Who, DWP, Employment Support Allowance, ESA, Iain Duncan Smith, WCA, Work Capability Assessment
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EVEN DALEKS UNDERSTAND MERCY. But not, it seems, the DWP, the Department for Work and Pensions.
That’s the conclusion I reached this week as I signed yet another cheque from 5 Quid for Life for someone whose benefits have been axed after a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). No matter that they’ve been diagnosed with mental health difficulties which affect their ability to hold down a job: the DWP’s decision makers decided that they’re capable of some type of work and can therefore no longer be paid Employment and Support Allowance, ESA:
No matter that they’re out of work with no job prospects on the horizon: they’re capable of some type of work and can therefore no longer be paid ESA.
No matter that this leaves them without enough income to live, without enough to cover the basics of rent, heating, utilities or even food: they’re capable of some type of work and can therefore no longer be paid ESA.
No matter that finding work is hard enough for those who are fit let alone for someone being starved by the state: they’re capable of some type of work and can therefore no longer be paid ESA.
Nothing matters, it seems, except the points scored on the WCA scorecard: score less than 15 and you may as well be facing a Dalek repeating its mindless mantra: Exterminate — or as pronounced by the DWP, ESAterminate.
This, my friends, is wrong. Worse than wrong, it’s evil. It dehumanises and degrades. It turns human lives into number crunching exercises — and for those whose lives are already blighted by mental illness, it drives them even further into depression and despair. It’s no wonder that ESA has been described as “the most bewildering, unfair and badly designed benefit since the abolition of the workhouse.” (Benefits and Work)
But it’s not only the victims it dehumanises: it also dehumanises the decision makers, turning them from fellow human beings into nothing more than DWP Daleks. Any compassion or care they may feel for their victims is overridden by the system as all discretion is taken away: the numbers are all that count. Like Clara Oswald locked inside that Dalek shell screaming, “I love you,” only to find her words translated by the Dalek interface into that nightmare word Exterminate, all they can do is fill in the blanks on their form letter and say, ESAterminate!
It’s strange: when I first started composing this post in my head, I was angry, more angry than words can express, angry at the DWP decision makers destroying people’s lives. But now, reflecting back over what I’ve said, that anger’s been ablated to something more like pity, pity for these DWP workers: I find myself wondering what it must be like for them at the end of their working day, knowing that they’ve successfully trashed yet another vulnerable person’s dignity? What kind of job satisfaction can there be in the knowledge that you’ve driven yet another person to the foodbanks? Or to suicide?
But more than the DWP Daleks endlessly repeating ESAterminate! ESAterminate! I pity their Davros, Iain Duncan Smith, and wonder what it must be like to be so lacking in the human graces of compassion and care? To have no understanding of mercy? To be responsible for so much destruction of hope and so many lives laid waste?
For in this, the real world, there is no time traveling Time Lord who can go back and show him mercy: there is only the dissolution of the present and the bleak landscape of a future in which there are no more benefit claimants to process because they’ve all been ESAterminated. Would that be the DWP’s final utopia, I wonder: a nation without people in need, created not by meeting their needs but by destroying the people?
Yes, I know there’s an appeals process: the ESAterminate letter says so. But the need is now, not in ten weeks time or however long that torturous process may happen to take (although if you’ve been ESAterminated, it’s definitely worth lodging an appeal).
The need is now — and that, my friends, is where you come in, lights in the darkness, driving back the despair to bring hope and life: as one of those 5 Quid for Life has helped recently expressed it, “You’ve restored my faith in humanity.”
Whether you’re supporting 5 Quid for Life financially or by sharing the word that the project is there, you’re making a difference. Please: keep that support coming and keep on sharing so that when the DWP strip away their support, the people who need a mental health safety net can find the help they need.