Will you be affected by the weekly ESA payment cuts?
Yes, when they decide to include people on ESA prior to April 2017. And you know they will.
How will the reduction impact your household finances?
The extra £30 is used to pay for a variety of things. It often gets spent on antiseptic liquid, dressings, micropore tape, cottonwool and scalpels. I’m not eligible for treatment where I live so I self harm in order to keep myself alive. If that outlet was taken away from me there would probably be many more suicide attempts or more infections as I would be unable to afford to keep my injuries clean. I spend about 70% of my waking hours fighting thoughts of suicide and self harm. There is a waiting list for very heavily subsidised therapy as I’m not eligible for any of the NHS treatment in my area. The £30 would help towards making a contribution towards that.
It also helps with increased bills because I find it so hard to leave the house. Most people spend a chunk of time at work or school or university but I’m often stuck in my own house using my own gas and electricity. It also gets used on a takeaway or very, very convenient food if I am too exhausted from fighting my illness to cook. Other times it might cover a taxi if I need to get home as quickly as possible because I’ve become too unwell to be outside the house.
It’s a lifeline to me. When I didn’t get it my finances were a complete mess. I had a massive overdraft as well as a huge credit card debt. Gradually I’ve gotten that mostly under control. If I lose that £30 I’d lose control on my finances and it and my mental health would spiral completely out of control again. I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve forgotten to mention. My illness combined with the stress of all these cuts is seriously interfering with my memory and concentration. I now struggle to get dressed properly and have frequent panic attacks as I think, “Did I put my shoes on?,” or “Am I outside in my pyjama bottoms?” or “Did I take my medication?” or “Did I lock the door?” That might seem like a little thing but it’s several times a day. I’m exhausted and sleep doesn’t help because of all the anxiety dreams and nightmares which leave me afraid to go to sleep.
The government claims it will incentivise a return to work, but is this argument justified?
In my personal experience no, it won’t incentivise me to return to work. It will demoralise me and make me feel like I’m completely worthless. £30 a week is nothing to MPs but everything to someone as ill as me. They say I don’t deserve it. Taking that lifeline away is not going to magically make me better or make me suddenly eligible for treatment. (Although, as one of the ways to get treatment is to be in the criminal justice system they might have a point albeit not quite the way they wanted so scratch that.) I won’t get better without treatment and even then it’s only effective in 50% of people who are deemed suitable so not 50% of people with this condition. I don’t know what the final percentage is. I would love the opportunity to get treatment even if it doesn’t work because then at least I’d know and could try to move on with my life. Right now I’m stuck in limbo. Depriving me of £30 a week will not change this situation. In fact it will make me less able to get better and therefore even less able to work. I already struggle with finances because of aspects of my condition. Financial insecurity and welfare reform wreak havoc on my mental wellbeing. All this £30 cut will do is exacerbate many of worst aspects of my condition. My anxiety which was already horrible is now even worse and I didn’t think that was possible. I’m terrified of the post arriving. Opening letters that resemble the DWP brown envelope is a truly traumatic experience. I worry about being reassessed for ESA again and failing to get it. It’s now hard than ever to get. And my paranoia is out of control. Every sound I hear is a mouse and I have to get someone to check the room for me or if I’m alone I lose hours doing it myself whilst freaking out and shaking and crying uncontrollably. This is becoming more and more frequent recently. It’s now almost every day. Every dark speck of anything is a spider and I jump and my heart rate spikes and I have a panic attack. And that happens about 10 times a day at the moment. It’s exhausting. It makes relationships with friends and family harder to maintain especially when I misinterpret every word or gesture they use because my anxiety and paranoia are running riot. It’s even worse with strangers. That’s not what employers want in an employee.
I don’t feel safe at all any more and I don’t know how much more I can take.
ESA was meant to help us but the way it has been implemented by the DWP is only making me, my partner and many of my friends much, much worse.