Thursday, May 27, 2010

Not grasping the nettle

I am somewhat disappointed  in the Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition's planned welfare changes. What they amount to is beating sick people with a stick and threatening to take away their benefits because ATOS is incapable of making a fair assessment of whether they can  work.  This is why so many people appeal and there is up to a 9-month wait for a tribunal hearing.

What I wanted to hear is that the ESA/ATOS system would be scrapped and the DWP would go back to relying on the opinions of the health professionals closest to the claimant who are best placed to know if that person is fit to work or not. ESA/ATOS treats people with mental health issue particularly unfairly, putting them under additional and unnecessary stress. - the coalition really has to ask the mental health charity Mind about this.

Ian Duncan Smith seems to have fallen into the Conservative trap of thinking that work is a cure-all for everything and worse still, that jobs for the unemployed can simply be conjured out of thin air in a recession. There is no incentive or requirement whatever for any UK company to inform the local JobCentre when it has vacancies. Some companies hardly ever advertise OR tell the JobCentre, they rely entirely on internal promotions and word of mouth if they need new people.

People who have a job simply have no idea what it is like living on benefit. A recent TV programme showing an MP living with people on benefit seemed to have little effect. Take my bank Halifax. They have just decided with no consultation or discussion to take away my overdraft. They didn't consider first what the effect would be or ask about it. Now they are expecting me to live AND pay back some of the overdraft and want to take nearly a third of my benefit income to do so. Their customer service is absolute poo. It has so far taken me over 2 hours total phone time to even get to a department who has a tiny bit of sympathy for this problem. They say blandly that yes, they realise what a disaster it is to lose the ability to pay direct debits and standing orders, or just to go and use my debit card to buy food, but I'm darn sure they don't.

In the end they agreed I could have some of my last lot of benefit to pay for essentials and I had to suffer the humiliation of standing in the middle of the bank with other customers around to tell my story to someone on the banking floor, and then being escorted to the cashier who was told in a loud voice how much she could give me and why this was being done. A little trust would have been nice, telling me I could withdraw up to a specific amount via my debit card in the ATM or over the counter without the loud accompaniment.

The overdraft level I am currently on was GIVEN to me by Halifax last year, it was just increased from its previous level. In the circumstances I was in then, I had no choice other than to use it. At that time, they were snatching outrageous amounts of money from me for every transaction if I went over my overdraft. Expecting that the courts would tell them that those charges were unfair, they switched me to a differently named current account but the charges are still very steep and I understand other customers who have been hit hard by them too, are considering another court action. Basically, Halifax charges BEFORE the change of account last December are responsible for me reaching the level of overdraft I am at now. So, when they call me back later in the day to have another discussion about it, I will remind them about that.

Banks need to take a very new and different attitude to customer financial difficulties. At present, this service is phone based. I can't go and talk to someone from the 'customer priority team' in my branch. I wouldn't even mind going to a larger branch a few miles away if they had one person in each big city or major town.

My stress levels have taken a major beating this week and it has taken every bit of determination that I would not give up and self-harm, but I can tell all of my readers that it has come very near it, to the extent of sitting on Hayling Island beach and considering suicide by drowning. Why should I let these heartless bastards win. They can't even run their own business - Halifax having been taken over by Lloyds TSB last year - what do they really know about running mine? Onwards and upwards.


Raven said...

I'm sorry to hear you are having such difficulties. It's hard enough to deal with mental health issues without all of this stuff too. Here in the U.S. I receive Social Security for my disability and the hardest part for me, aside from living in poverty, is the judgment I receive for not working. People seem to think that if I just tried hard enough I could get over my mental health issues and work. Or they think that I'm lazy, etc. It's very frustrating.

Thank you for stopping by my blog, it is always nice to meet a kindred soul. I will be back to read more of your blogs. Hang in there and try to have a good day, or night, I'm not sure what time it is where you are.



drkelp said...

Banking and customer service do not go together in a UK setting. Hang in there and I hope it all works out for you. The DH is meant to be taking a more person centric approach to mental illness and talk to service users. Time will tell.



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