Pulling a Sickie…

There’s a lot of political posturing at the moment about the fact that apparently two million in this country people wrongly get incapacity benefit.

This whole situation interests me at the moment, being off work with my squished nerve. This is a complex one, which I’ve seen from both sides through various jobs… I don’t doubt that there are a number of people claiming IB who are able to work. Certainly the system needs a reform, as a vast number of people (many of whom actually do want to work) were shoved onto sickness benefits by the Tories, many years ago in an effort to massage their somewhat damning unemployment statistics. Placing an emphasis on what work people can do rather than what they can’t is a good idea, that’s clear, but one wonders who all these employers are who are desperate to take on people who are likely to be on the boundaries.

Like me perhaps.

And the second concern, is just what these boundaries are- who can understand a person’s sickness?

I won’t repeat all my moaning, it’s here if you are interested. What I will say is that this does occasionally make me aware of the precariousness of my position. To be fair, my employer has been great, and aside from the odd bit of human resources red tape is doing everything to help me get back to work, concentrating on what I can do, rather than what I cant. The fact remains though that in the last 8 weeks they have paid out over £2000 for me to largely drink tea and read books.

Of course, by law they have to do this, providing protection for people who are genuinely ill. The thing that is an issue for me, is that certainly over some of that period, maybe 50% of the time I probably could have worked – I don’t know if that would be the case if I tried, this is what I am hopefully about to find out now, but basically some days I was fine, others I could hardly stand. Of course that is untenable in a job where your presence on a rota is needed, as it just makes it harder for others if you suddenly wake up in agony and can’t work.

Hopefully, I will see some improvement soon, I have finally been referred for an MRI scan, and then maybe either a cortisone injection, or a small non-invasive operation to cauterise the rogue nerve fibres that are causing the trouble. But if this was long term, (and there is a small chance that it may be) there’s two issues, for me at least:

If I was out of work, and looking for a new job, I would have to make this clear. I could try and register myself disabled, and then in theory I could not be discriminated against, but it would limit what I could do if “reasonable adjustments” could be made to my duties to deal with the fact I often wake up in pain. But in reality, who employs someone who may often be off sick.

The second is that my doctor knows this. They have seen me on the good days and the bad. But if I went to see a DWP doctor on a good day, and they chose to not consider too deeply the previous evidence would I pass the incapacity test? I think likely not.

Now I have no plans to try and go in IB, as I am aware it would be a lot of hassle, and as pointed out, it’s very hard when you are on it to get help to get off (other than suddenly being forced onto JSA with no warning). However, if I was off for such time that my sick-pay dropped to half pay, I may well be better off on IB.

The BBC website discussion is interesting, though I despair of some of the people who seem to feel that if you are unable to compete in the rat race you should live in abject poverty (not that most people on IB don’t live in poverty – as an “earnings replacement” benefit, it doesn’t really replace earnings, being way below even minimum wage).

I remember also a conversation on another forum a while ago, where some people were lambasting a regular at on of their parties, who was of on the sick. Sick people, it seems were not supposed to do that in their eyes. Again, this comes down to knowing your sickness. I remember reading an arthritis support leaflet whilst sat in a waiting room somewhere, and a testimony from someone saying sometimes they would go clubbing. They accepted the fact that it would make them in more pain for days after, but on a cost-benefit analysis it was worth it. This is where Talcott Parsons’ sick role falls down. Yes, if sick we have a moral obligation to get well (though of course this is based on fuctionalism’s acceptance of what makes society flow smoothly. If you are not going to “get well” then why should you conform to this pathetic role of the sick. Anyone who has been long term ill will know how socially isolating it can be.

As I have mentioned before, I have been refused DLA. This is another hole in the system. I think if more people were able to get more specific help and be less likely to need to claim IB- i.e. in my case, help with the fact I sometimes need to get a taxi to travel even the small distance (7 minute walk, normally) to work, or address the fact that sometimes I take an hour to cook a simple meal through having to sit and rest, this would greatly help my staying in work.

As I have said, my job are being helpful as they can, others are not so lucky and I can totally see why many people will say: “sod it… …if I can’t get help to work, I’ll get paid to not work.

Just a thought…