Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Homeless in London, who cares?

My clients yesterday included a 44-year-old mother of four who suffers from incontinence and told me that "I am claiming [benefits] for them [husband and sons]".

She's one of the thousands the government is trying to move off Incapacity Benefit (she was classed as severely disabled) back into work (JobSeekers Allowance). However because no one in the family works, for her to lose her benefits would mean the family would struggle to survive.

This is despite one son and husband also claiming benefits. She "claims for them" in the sense that she is entitled to most. When I probed further she said that she is a bit embarrassed by her problem and so does not feel that she could work.

She also mentioned depression. I wonder if the depression is a result of her not working or her reason (excuse?) not to work. Similarly her son who trained as a plumber could not find a job -- and is depressed -- and so has signed on.

Before I met this lady I didn't think incontinence is such a big problem that it would be categorized as "severely disabled". Let's put it this way: us women are "incontinent" for a week in every four, dripping blood, and we manage to remain in work.

It appears that this lady is not using the right kind of support, using sanitary pads instead of incontinence aids, to control her problems (smell, eg). She's only 44. She has another 27 years, possibly more, to state retirement age.

Twenty-seven years! That is a long time. She could do so much during this time.

Her grown up son who trained as a plumber, he's sitting at home waiting for a job to come to him. Is this a symptom or a result of the welfare state?

Why does he not go to solicit for business? Everyone is looking for a good plumber. Why not ask to work for someone for free, a charity for example, helping to fix plumbing for old people? He sits at home collecting his JSA, and gets depressed.

Worklessness in this country contributes to poverty, not of the pocket, but of the soul.

Another client arrived from France and went to claim benefits the following day. And was rejected. He had been thrown out by his wife*. I don't know the details.

Nepali woman who does not speak a word of English wearing very "blingey" glasses. She applied for pension credit and was awarded it for several months. Then some hardworking civil servant (hurrah! there is at least one) finds out that she is not actually eligible.

Her daughter has sponsored her visa. Her daughter has undertaken to maintain her. Somehow someone told her that benefits were to be had if she applied. Now she's slapped with an "overpayment" bill. We advised on how she could settle the bill.

I had to warn her that if she made too big a fuss, they could just deport her.

Student next, paid an enormous amount of money to a "college" offering something like an "MEP" (Masters Entry Programme). This young man spoke with such a heavy accent I could hardly understand him. The college threw him out, saying that he was not a good enough student. They also dismissed about half his class. Student wants his money back. This is, believe it or not, a consumer issue.

Room got a bit cold, so I shut the window. Big mistake.

My next client was a man who has been sleeping rough. He had not washed for two weeks. He came in and promptly removed his shoes to show me his problems.

He arrived in this country on a spouse visa. His wife is supposed to support him. But somehow he managed to antagonize her enough she threw him out*, and this man has also been given conditional police bail -- whatever that means. He had come in two weeks ago and another volunteer tried to help him. And now he's back.

[*Women are so keen to throw out their husbands, it seems. Why?]

Because he has "no status" in the country he is not entitled to any benefits. So some "charities" would not touch him as their costs could not be recouped from government departments. We rang around, my manager and I, and I finally found a nice young lady who advised that he could get to a day centre the following day where they would give him some food, he could have a shower, wash his clothes, and they might even be able to give him shelter.

"Uhm, what if he has a history of violence?" YMCA has rejected him on that basis, so I thought I should check.

Lady checked. "Uhm, yes, it's OK. We love everyone here."

I managed to stop myself asking, "Are you, by any chance, a Christian charity?"

CEO gave us permission to give him money for a night at a B&B. Manager had also made him a cup of tea and given him some food.

I hope this man managed to get to the day centre and I hope they are able to shelter him. But it led me to think: If his wife promised to be responsible for him, but is not, should she be given the bill when he is finally sorted out?

Why should I, as the taxpayer, pick up her bill?

I came home and looked up the day centre and discovered that they are indeed a Christian charity. There was something in the way that lady spoke, or something she said, which gave the game away.

I also cannot get over the smell.

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