The Help Given To Disabled JSA Claimants
July 15, 2015

In the budget last week George Osborne noted that “…those who are placed in the Work-Related
Activity Group (WRAG) receive more money a week than those on Job Seekers Allowance, but get
nothing like the help to find suitable employment…”

He was leading up to the cut in Employment and Support Allowance, and this article does a fantastic
analysis of the problems with that announcement.

But as a disabled JSA claimant I wanted to tell people about this help I’m receiving.

Making The Claim

The first time I claimed the Disability Employment Advisor tried to persuade me to go onto ESA
instead. Perhaps this was her idea of trying to help me but she didn’t explain her reasons and
it felt like she was trying to get rid of me. Since I am genuinely looking for work, I can
meet JSA’s requirements and I don’t want to go through a medical I prefer to be on JSA.

When I made my second claim I was temporarily housebound as I was waiting for a repair to be
done to my wheelchair. Knowing how the Job Centre had never shown willing to do interviews over
the phone in the past when I’d been stuck indoors waiting for a district nurse, I decided to
wait until my chair was repaired before making the claim and asking for back-pay. I explained
the situation but they refused back-pay because they said I should have claimed straight away
and they would have done the interview over the phone.

Accessing the Job Centre

Apparently customers aren’t allowed to use the lift so I meet my advisor on the ground floor.
Not a problem as such, but I do question the purpose of having a lift when those who actually
need it are forbidden to use it.

The Job Centre used to be on the High Street, a location I could safely get to alone when
needed e.g. if PAs were away and I had nobody to cover the precise time of the appointment.

The Centre has now relocated to a place where I need help because I have to cross a busy road which has no dropped kurbs or pedestrian crossing but does have many potholes.

I was once permitted to miss an appointment because snow meant that I couldn’t get my chair
down the street. On the other hand, there has been no flexibility of appointment times or
permission to miss an appointment when:

  • I was stuck indoors waiting for a district nurse to come and change my catheter.
  • For one week in the year my PAs were away and I had nobody to guide me
  • I was waiting for a new wheel to be put on my chair (it having come off in a pothole) so
    couldn’t get out.

Sound familiar? “You should have made your claim earlier. We would have done a telephone
interview”.

Getting Careers Advice

I’d heard good things about the National Careers Service from a friend and thought speaking to
a Careers Advisor was worth a try. I asked my Jobcentre advisor about getting some advice and
it turned out the Careers Service was based in the same building, yet nobody had even thought
to tell me about it. Having requested it myself, I was then sent a very formal, strict letter
from my Jobcentre advisor saying an appointment had been arranged for me, it was compulsory,
failure to comply would result in no payment e.t.c.

I asked about interview practise and was told they “don’t really do that”. Later a different
advisor did set up a mock interview for me. But this wasn’t an interview for a specific job
and was only confirmed a couple of days beforehand so its usefulness was rather limited. It
turned out not to be a proper mock interview but a chat about my CV and suggestions which
contradicted those of the Careers Advisor. So no help with interviews.

They did give me a huge list of websites to try. Most of them no longer existed or were irrelevant
to me. In any case I’ve found plenty of sites for myself. Lack of jobs to apply for isn’t the
problem. What might help is some more work experience.

Getting Work Experience

I heard about a program giving unemployed disabled people a voluntary work placement and some
training. I asked the Disability Employment Advisor if I could go on it. She hadn’t heard of
it and was too slow in processing the necessary paperwork for me to get support from Access
To Work. So I had to pay for the extra hours of support I needed to get to the workplace out
of my own pocket.

I am shortly to be put onto “The Work Program”.

The Job Centre is a burden to my work search, not a source of support. The success I had, and
hopefully will have again, at finding work was despite their “help”, not because of it.

Yes I Can
February 15, 2009

I initially thought this entry would be impossible to write. I wanted to rise to the challenge posed by this blogger I often read of writing something about disability and sexuality for Valentine’s Day.

But I’m not in the mood. I find the topic fascinating and important in
lots of ways but my emotions are rather delicate at the moment so I
prefer not to think about it, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Eleven years ago a drunken man who I couldn’t see, hear properly or
touch in a noisy student club asked a drunken me “Can you have sex?” And I felt flattered because sex was somewhat mysterious to me and I took the question to mean that this man – who I knew nothing about beyond the fact he wanted to know whether I “could have sex” – wanted sex with me.

These days I don’t go to noisy clubs, and I would find anyone who asked me that question in that context offputting. To me the question “can you have sex” may or may not be asking something specific about the mechanics of one’s body, but at the same time it’s masking the more fundamental question of “are you human?” Because every human has sexual desire and so in my book – yes, everyone “can have sex”.

Of course that’s not what the guy meant! And I wasn’t bothered then about the questions which occupy me now. These include “how on earth am I going to find a partner when I do the same things with the same people week in, week out?”; “how do I, as a blindy wheely, express my desire and how do others perceive it/me?”; and “who can I find to accompany me and share some desire, expanding horizons, new experiences, comfort and support while we’re here on this grubby beautiful planet?”.

Thanks to decent, accessible housing, technology, a substantial care package, brilliant Personal Assistants and many other things I’m actually able to explore these questions – something I seriously doubt would have been allowed to be an issue if I’d lived permanently in an institution, for example, which was a real and frightening possibility at one point.

As my favourite (I’ve tried a few!) dating website, OkCupid, was pointing out recently – we’re in a recession but messages on OkCupid are free – spread the love!

So my (day late) contribution to this topic is to revel in the fact that I can spread the loves, and pains, and anything else that makes us human, whether we’re disabled or not. I hope you can too.