*Guest Post* Our Joint Claim for ESA

2 07 2012

I was going to blog about this myself but one of the people involved asked to do so instead. This is her account of trying to claim ESA for her sick partner. I was present during both phone calls made and was disgusted with the result. I have not been so angry in a very long time. This guest post is written by my real life friend and Dragon Dictate, spell check by WordPress and me. Names changed.

EDITED TO ADD: we have no idea if what Thomas’s partner was told by the DWP call centre is actually correct and haven’t been able to speak with anyone yet to have the situation clarified. If you can clarify please do so in comments at bottom of page. Can do so anonymously. Will update when we know more.

Our Joint Claim for Employment Support Allowance.

My partner, Thomas, recently became severely ill with a relapse of Bipolar Disorder. He had been getting more and more hyper and one day he woke up and was psychotic. I had never seen him like that before and was shocked at how quickly he changed. He couldn’t move for fear of everything real and imaginary. He was diagnosed Bipolar over a decade ago but hadn’t been too ill with it until recently. He was unable to work and lost his job and it was suggested by Citizens Advice that he applied for Employment and Support Allowance to tide him over until he was well enough to return to work. I, myself, am in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living allowance for degenerative illnesses and disability.

Thomas made the phone call to apply for ESA using our mobile phone as we do not have a landline. We are waiting to see how much it will have cost us. It took almost an hour to complete the call and when he hung up he broke down in tears. Throughout the call he was holding back tears as they asked him violating and very personal questions about his illness, his work, his income and everything else. Oddly they asked about my illnesses too, and my inability to work and my income. Not once was Thomas told why they needed my information, even when he asked the lady direct. When the application arrived a few days later we both looked over it and a lot of the information was wrong. They also wanted letters of proof from both of us on income matters. I did not understand why they wanted my income proof so we called the ESA line again to ask for advice.

I spoke to the most helpful man I could have hoped to get. He bent the rules quite openly and was honest about a lot of things relating to ESA that I didn’t expect from a member of DWP staff. At first he didn’t understand why they had asked for my information too but eventually he discovered that it was a joint ESA claim. Something we were never informed of at the start of application or by Citizens Advice when they told Thomas to apply.

The DWP man asked what Thomas’s illness was and then said this joint claim was a really bad idea. He told me that someone with Bipolar Disorder wouldn’t pass the Work Capability Assessment so we would both lose our money, regardless of how ill I was. He said we would probably have to wait for an appeal before Thomas would be awarded ESA and that would take about 6 months, and that my illnesses would not be taken into account. After checking with his supervisor he suggested cancelling the claim and adding Thomas to my Incapacity claim as we would be financially safer and better off and that we would not be put through the stressful assessment until I was to be transferred. He then put me through to the Incapacity Benefit people.

The lady working on the Incapacity Benefit line was less than helpful. Her attitude was completely different. She was rude, abrasive and always on the defense. She wouldn’t let me talk or ask my questions and instead got angry at what the man on the ESA line said. While she did apologise for the false information the ESA line gave me, she did so with a sense that somehow I was at fault and was stupid and not them. She told me I could not add Thomas to my claim, that the ESA department had their information all wrong and we would have to apply joint for ESA. She also told me that there was no way the man on the ESA phone line could have known whether Thomas would pass or fail the Assessment. I’ve read the stories, I know who I believe, I know she is technically right but I felt the ESA phone line were being more realistic and honest with me. She also told me we had to put in a joint ESA claim and that we would be better off doing so. I tried to ask her about the make-believe situation where if Thomas failed the Assessment would I lose my money too despite being ill? She would not answer this make-believe situation, instead repeating we don’t know Thomas would fail and giving me confusing information about me still getting Incapacity Benefit credits while claiming ESA. When I asked would I still receive my money? she would not answer and kept giving me information faster and faster making it harder for me to keep track of what she was saying. I told her countless times I was getting confused by all this but it didn’t make her give me information any slower or in clearer words. She also told me that I wouldn’t be on Incapacity for very long anyway as everyone was being transferred to ESA, so why was I worrying?

I’ll explain why I was worrying. The assessment rate for couples on ESA is less than I get claiming Incapacity on my own. If on our joint claim Thomas was found fit for work we would have no income. I’d have lost my incapacity benefit and we couldn’t claim Jobseekers allowance as our respective Doctors would never sign us both off as being fit for work. My conditions are never going to improve and I have been told I will never work again. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this and the realisation of having no income at all terrifies us. The guilt of not being able to work or support my family is killing me.

The ESA phone line told me if I was the primary claimant with all my conditions we would not have this problem, as I would have no problem with passing the Work Capability Assessment but as I am currently on Incapacity Benefit we have to wait for the system to transfer me. He did say I could cancel my Incapacity claim but that it would take weeks for any new money to come through after reapplying for ESA and that he wouldn’t advise this.

In the end we stopped the ESA claim and haven’t tried to make any other claim. I do not understand how it can be right that a couple both with serious disabilities can in theory be left with no income because one person is deemed fit for work by a computer system. It seems unfair that the most ill out of myself and Thomas could potentially suffer because the person who can appear well occasionally would pass a Work Capability Assessment.

We could not take the risk of losing our entire income based on a dodgy assessment. Combined with the information the people on the dwp phone line gave us, we decided it wasnt worth the risk. We have decided that we will have to survive on my Incapacity Benefit alone as the financial stress of living off a meagre amount is less than the emotional and health related stress of living off nothing.

I’m disappointed that this is how sick people are treated. We have both worked all our lives until we became ill. We have both paid our taxes and contributed to society. When we need the help most, society is failing us. I’m just grateful for our family and friends who are helping us through this difficult time but we cannot rely on them forever.


*GUEST POST* Odd as it may seem, I do have a mind of my own

27 05 2012

It’s been a while since the worlds favourite bin kicking rodent, Furious Gerbil, has written a guest post for GHL&C. Read to the bottom before having a go at FG or me. I should also point out for reasons of my own laziness that posting here does not necessarily endorse the point of view presented.

And so on to:
Odd as it may seem, I do have a mind of my own

I watched the Eurovision contest this year. Yes, that?s right. Don?t judge me for it. I was, however, wearing a suit made out of tin foil and a pink glittery wig. Judge me for that instead.

?But you like proper music, Furious? I hear you say. Yes I do. ?And Eurovision is just a cheesy campfest, Furious? Yes it is. For me Eurovision isn?t about the music, it?s a chance for people to dress up and be very silly. For many people it?s also a chance for people to join in with the party atmosphere on Twitter ? Everyone knows Eurovision is crap. That?s the whole point. It?s a chance for thousands of people to take the piss and have a laugh. Obviously I exclude the Estonians from that: I got a bit of abuse from the Estonians. Perhaps it was because I tweeted that Estonia wasn?t a real place and that the organisers of Eurovision had just made it up. Some people can be very touchy.

Anyway. I was having a lovely time with Eurovision and my Twitter chums. The music was cheesy, I had more bottles of wine than I could shake a stick at and beside me was a pile of sausage sandwiches so high that the Royal Family could have taken a much needed and well deserved skiing holiday on its lower slopes.

Then it began.

Now. There are always people who will lie awake at night, insomniac because of the nagging worry that someone, somewhere is having fun. Usually I can just block these people out. Or tell them to fuck off (Usually the latter) When they appear on my Twitter timeline they are harder to ignore. I would point out that I don?t follow this type of tweeter ? they are usually retweets from someone else so I can?t avoid them

During the Euro Cheesefest I saw tweets without number along the lines of ?how can you people have fun when there?s been a massacre in Syria?

Well, Fucknugget, I?ll tell you how. BECAUSE LIFE GOES ON.

The Syrian massacre was a crime against humanity, yes. But there are terrible things happening all over the world: Thousands of people (including children) get killed every month in the drug wars of Mexico, People die every day (including children) in Helmand, it seems that every day another youth (A child) gets stabbed in London or Manchester.

Why did you mention those things during Eurovision? I?ll tell you why. Because you?re thick as pig shit and can only concentrate on your ?cause for the day? You?ll have forgotten about Syria now because it?s not on a screen in front of you. You?ll have moved on to a new cause that you think is more important and more topical.

You?re the sort of person who posts on Facebook ?please add this to your status for an hour if you?re against hamster trafficking in the Congo? You do this because it helps assuage your guilt and means you don?t actually have to do anything helpful which would possibly force you to get off your lazy arse.

The point I?m trying to make is that I?d rather you didn?t force your half baked and poorly thought out opinions on me. Don?t expect the world to stop because you?ve just read something sad and you feel you should be outraged about it and you want everyone else to be sad and outraged too.
The Twitter is a great place. I like it. You can have your opinions, no matter how wrong they are ? That?s what free speech is all about. But do not ever tell me what to think or how to behave.

Right. Sausage sandwich, anyone?


*Guest Post* Befriending or escort?

6 03 2012

I have a disability (cerebral palsy) that means I have trouble getting about on my own and I don’t get to meet people. I don’t have any family support nearby after my mam died so I rely on outside agencies to help me go places. One of the things I’ve been offered again recently is a befriending service which is where someone is paid to come and be my friend. I have for a long time refused. There is something wrong when a disabled person needs to have someone employed to be their friend don’t you think? I tried to talk with my social worker about this but she didn’t understand why I might be so upset at having a “befriender”, she didn’t understand why I felt someone being paid to be my friend wasn’t really my friend at all. She didn’t quite get the concept of not liking paying for friendship, because I don’t get these services for free. I get money to buy in care and they “offer” this service to their care package users as a “free service top up”. As far as social work are concerned a friend is a friend whether paid to be or not and I should be happy with that.

Why should I be happy with this? Non disabled people don’t have to pay for friends and those that do get frowned upon for using escorts. Why is it fine for disabled people to use escorts (of the non kinky kind)? I don’t think it is ok. I would like a situation where it was easy for me to make my own friends and to be able to see them regularly without the circus of getting me to where I would need to be. There used to be a day centre nearby but it was closed a few years ago even before the cuts. It was like babysitting for disabled people, somewhere for us to be left a few hours a day to stare at different walls or to do some boring activity as a group, clapping was the group leaders favourite activity. I am 23 years old, I want to live my life to the full and just now I feel like I’d be better of dead. I’m not saying I’m not grateful for the small opportunities I do get just that I want them designed to meet my specific needs. I want to go somewhere where I can meet like minded people, I don’t want to have to pay someone to be my friend. I don’t want a “friend” who clocks off at 4.30 without another thought for me. I would like someone I can chat to on the phone or on to hold my straw when we go for a coffee or who doesn’t mind having a conversation with a machine that sounds like a female stephen hawking. I would like a friend on a Sunday afternoon not just office hours. I would a friend whose main motivation for being there is me and the bits they like about me and not a pay packet at the end of the week. It does nothing positive for my self esteem knowing the only reason I am socialising is because someone needs to feed their family and not because I’m nice and they like me.

I know these services are invaluable and without such services I’d be stuck in my room 24 hours a day. I am worried about all the cuts to local services and care and how that will affect me. People my age are out in clubs and pubs having fun. I would like that same fun. Just because I am disabled doesn’t mean I don’t want to live like everyone else.

P.s. I know there are voluntary befrienders too but I hate feeling like a poor charity case and that someone is volunteering to be my friend because it makes them feel better about their own existence and not because I’m someone they’d have a drink with in the pub on a Friday night.

P.p.s I know I’m sounding like a miserable old moo but I needed to get that out of my system.

**Guest Post** Slaves to Political Correctness

13 08 2011

***Guest post by @Mustafashiite***

Slaves to Political Correctness.
(Thank Allah for the British!)

You continue to allow yourselves to be abused due to your trade in slaves and your emergence as a colonial power in Africa.

If only your people knew the facts…you were so very late to join in.

Talk to your friends and they will almost all agree, sheepishly, that the African Slave-Trade was probably a British invention.

‘Nonsense’, you should tell them, ‘Arab-Muslims got there first, over six hundred years before us. They had a healthy trade in West-African slaves long before King Harold lost to William the Conqueror’. Man also are ignorant of how non-African traders acquired their slaves. They were caught by and sold by other Africans! Yes my friends, blackAfricans played a major role in the slave-trade.

Hallelujah Europa!
Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to get involved as early as 1441. Indeed the Pope virtually granted them a monopoly in 1454. (‘That cannot be correct,’ I hear you say, ‘a Pope with rascist tendencies!.’) The Spanish soon followed and the French, Dutch and Germans were all involved before you traded tour first slave in 1555.

Many of the West Indies were ruled by other European Superpowers of the time, long before you took them into your British Empire and as a result they already had large black-African slave populations. Examples being Jamaica and the Bahamas which became British around 1655-70.

Anti-slavery plays, novels and reports flowed freely and were published by your countrymen. These continued in ever increasing number over the following century. Unfortunately, not enough important people agreed with their content and your country dominated the slave-trade, along with Portugal and France for several decades in the mid-1700s. During this time, readers, an increasing number of people of influence became better educated as far as this abhorrent behaviour was concerned and numerous bills were brought before both of your Houses of Parliament. Initially they suffered defeat after defeat before eventually one was passed in 1807.

Things can only get better.
Your government then began a long and forceful campaign to put an end to the slave-trade around the entire globe using both diplomacy and it’s mighty navy. Both methods achieved slow but significant success. The United States soon joined your Royal Navy’s Atlantic- blockade helping to bring to an end the Atlantic slave-trade north of the equator by 1820. The fact that it was another twenty years before the Vatican condemned the practice may well be due to the fact that the countries still benefitting were predominantly Catholic!

The number of transported slaves dropped year upon year as the British signed treaty after treaty with other Nations in order to bring an end to this evilness. Unfortunately the Crimea (1853-56) needed a large Royal Navy presence and during this time trading increased! Post-Crimea, the end of the slave-trade was inevitable as so many countries now deemed it revolting and many now helped patrol the seas.

A major step forward came in 1869 when Portugal, who over four hundred years earlier had started it all, finally agreed to stop.This coincided with the Arab States agreeing to bring to an end their slave-shipping from Africa’s east coast in 1870.

Brazil, or rather it’s Portuguese plantation-owners, refused to stop and continued for another twenty years. Portugal must, if anybody should, hold it’s head in shame as approximately 75% of all African slaves transported across the Atlantic did so in it’s ships and ended up in Brazil. Of the remaining 25%, Britain was responsible for less than half!
Mucho grassy-arse pet! Mustafa. Over and out!


GHL Editorial Comment: Left spelling mistakes in – too lazy to change them

*guest post* What happened to celebrating the individual?

25 07 2011

Bit of an odd guest post, not sure if it will work or not. This was written via a Skype conversation. It is in essence a guest post with a GHL addition every so often. EP’s commentary in quotes. GHL’s contribution no quotes.


What happened to celebrating the individual?

“Today I am mostly pissed off. Pissed off with cliques and cliquish thinking. I’m seeing people I like being hurt for no reason other than they are being themselves and true to their individual opinion.”

“Most humans are social animals and its only natural that groups of people form. It’s a good protective barrier from the nasty outside world who don’t agree with us. Yet, by doing this people are shutting off from an entire world of diverse thought and opinion. It’s far safer socially to keep the company of like minds than to spread yourself across a diverse range of different, individual minds.”

Individuality is not embraced in society.

It doesn’t matter if that individuality comes in the form of a haircut, an outfit, a musical taste, a political following or an opinion on a matter. If you don’t go with the flow, beware the repercussions.

“So if humans are indeed social animals, what’s the worst kind of response to individuality or not quite fitting into the clique?

Social isolation!”

I’ve seen it in almost all social interactions I have ever had. Someone is a bit different from the acceptable norm and they are deemed outcasts. Someone dared to disagree with group leaders and suddenly social acceptance is withdrawn. Someone can go from being liked and respected to an irritant in one brief break away opinion from ‘the clique’.

“Worse is when one person decides another is no longer worthy of inclusion in ‘the clique’ and the rest must agree. The lies and backstabbing that go on to ensure the ‘other’ is discredited is unbelievable and it doesn’t matter if the clique is a group of friends in a coffee shop reading group or a group of political activists on the internet. If person A decides Person B is no longer worthy of inclusion, the lengths to ensure this is the case can be great. It’s a form of acceptable bullying.”

This is one of the things that really disappoints me about humans.

In childhood and teens, people are just learning the ropes. All kinds of behaviours are trialled to find the most effective. In adulthood we teach our children social alienation and lies are wrong,” yet adults are often the worst proponents of this behaviour.  “Adults knowing full well the strength of the rumour, discreditation and alienation, put these behaviours to great use.”

“I’ve seen some really fantastic people sent to Coventry by mediocre human specimens for minor misdemeanours against the norm and Coventry is a bit of a dump. I’ve spent more time than I care to mention there for no reason of my own.”

“I get so annoyed with this behaviour. I hate seeing others get hurt by it and often I wonder whether those who join in alienating or ignoring someone because of their disagreement with another, realise the extent of hurt their behaviour can cause.The utopian belief is that they don’t know what they’re doing and are just caught up in the moment. The reality isn’t quite so fluffy, people are often well aware of their behaviour and actively participate in such behaviours to ensure acceptance by ‘the clique’ rather than speak out at their discomfort at it and face alienation themselves.

“It’s like a form of social self-preservation. It’s pathetic really.”

*guest post* East Dunbartonshire Council and Freedom of Information Requests

18 06 2011

I have the authors full permission to reproduce this email, as is. Instead of backstory, I’ve created links within the email to the relevant discussions or posts.

Dear *Grumpyhatlady*,

Just thought I’d update you on my problem with East Dunbartonshire Council and the passport to leisure scheme.

As you’ll recall, I initially raised an issue regarding East Dunbartonshire Council’s policy on disabled people being refused entry to their sport centre without their carer… I made a freedom of information request in the hope to get some answers from them.


They didn’t reply beyond acknowledgment. I gave them plenty of opportunity to reply and in the end had to request an internal review.


They didn’t reply to that beyond acknowledgement either.

I’m now having to submit an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

And wouldn’t you know,


When I made an FOI request about how East Dunbartonshire Council deal with freedom of information requests, they have delayed the response beyond acknowledgement for that too. Internal review will be requested by the end of next week.

Now I know they’re answering other requests as the website shows the successful ones. I can’t believe it would be that much hassle to reply with a simple refusal email.

If you or any of your blog readers have any information or advice for me, please let me know.

Yours sincerely

***** *******


So there you have it. East Dunbartonshire Council are refusing simple FOI requests without so much as a reason. Can anyone offer help or advice to this guest poster? Either comment or email me at yahoo dot com.

Who really has the sexual power?

28 04 2011

**Guest Post by @ohrosiejones**

This whole sexual equality malarkey has ruined what it really means to be a woman. Both male and female humans come in various shapes and sizes, and levels of intellect, but they are far from equal and it is about time we all accepted that. Women are becoming confused as to where their place is in the grander scheme of things. They want it all and they want the choice to have none of it. They want to be strong and independent but complain that chivalry is dead. While both sexes are free to express feminine and masculine attributes- women have one thing men do not. Most do not realise how much power they hold and while they fight for complete equality they lose more and more of this power.

Allow me to let you into a little secret- women enjoy using their sexuality as a tool in life. I know, shocking right? Well it is true- take Italian Prime Minister and professional dirty old man, Silvio Berlusconi. He has been at the mercy of women for probably his whole life and now it has gotten him into a heap of trouble. Italian women are baying for his blood and why? Because he is a man who cannot control himself when confronted with a beautiful woman who doesn’t mind having sex with him for a shit load of cash. There is a fuzzy moral line between who is being exploited, and whether it really matters…

The power women have over men, and sometimes other women, is incomparable and almost always under estimated by themselves. Those who spit venomous words about Page 3 girls and other such glamour professionals are, to coin a cliché, jealous. We all wish we could harness our sexuality as they do but those who cannot have this resentment building up until it explodes into a 4 page rant about glamour modelling, pornography and even erotic photography being degrading to women.

Well, tiny, lacy pants to them!

Women should let go of that old bra-burning rage and embrace the fact that they are the softer, sexier, sensual side of the human race. With birds the males are the seducers with their plumage and attention seeking chirrups, lions and stags are majestic and grand compared to their plainer female counter parts; human females need to face up to the fact that they are the seducers and there is nothing wrong with that. To be a seducer you must be the beautiful one, the smarter one, the one with the power to get what you want- be it a job, a mate or the last cupcake. Women- as well as being as smart and as witty as you are; flutter your lashes, present your cleavage and smile sweetly to get ahead, to express yourself, and to ensnare a mate.

There is no shame in it. It is nature at it’s best, and you cannot fight Mother Nature- she is a woman, after all.