In the continuing war of letters between me and my MP, ex-employment minister and Iain Duncan Smith apologist, Mark Hoban, I received two great wads of letters. They were from various sources denying that a) schools aren’t in any way reluctant to help children by either taking on kids with statements, or by putting them forward for statements in the first place, and b) a continued denial that ATOS are finding sick people capable of work and that Tories might be utter shits. Here is my most recent response.
Dear Mr Hoban,
I thank you for the letters I received today. Unfortunately they do not marry with the situation I am experiencing. In the letter from John Coughlan he states that schools are not reluctant to accept children with a statement, but we have direct, personal experience of this being the case. Indeed, on the three separate occasions when we have found schools with places we have been told about the new funding rules. We have been told that they will not be able to fulfill the stipulations in a statement. It has been made clear that our child is not preferable in those schools. I understand that they legally HAVE to take my son if I name their school on the statement, but I cannot in good conscience and as a good parent send my son to a school where I cannot be assured of the level of support he is entitled to. I would very much appreciate it if I could be given a breakdown of how funding is delegated. I understand that schools have a nominal SEN budget, based on those who have free school meals and a low level in Maths and English, but it would be very reassuring for me to know how much money is delegated to schools on that basis, per head. If it happens that it is sufficient to cover the first £6000 of a child’s needs, without being detrimental to other pupils’ needs then of course the problem lies with the schools, and this culture we are witnessing needs to be addressed, but if it is not then there is a broader issue here. Presently we believe we are going to have to place my son in Heathfield, if there is space, and that we will have to teach my son extraneously to his daytime education to ensure his proper progress. I hope you understand that whilst these things may look fine on paper, the reality can often be something entirely different. I cannot in good conscience place my son in a school who do not want him there, or where he is going to receive the most basic of support so that he might possibly crawl in with the least amount of success possible. I do not want to place him in a special school where I am told aspirations are just as low but where he will receive appropriate support for his sensory processing needs, but I cannot home educate him any longer as it’s making me sicker, I cannot get him to social groups and he’s missing whole days without any learning whatsoever. So I’m stuck, and it makes me sad, with having to choose the special school, and just hope that his experience at secondary school will be more positive if we can get him a place at the Croft. I agree with the letter from Edward Timpson that the situation in the past has been sub-par, I just do not believe that they have found the right solution. I would also welcome more information about how tenders will be selected for extraneous support such as OTs and SALTS, which I believe will be chosen from the private sector, and what regulations they will have to abide by and how they will be continuously assessed, relative to those regulations and assessments currently in place for public sector provision.
As for my “support” with Jobcentre Plus, going on a jewellery course was literally all we could come up with as an activity I might, just possibly, be able to do. I can’t. Firstly, I cannot afford it, I checked. Secondly, my health just isn’t up to regular outside activity. I spent £1000 last year on courses I was forced to withdraw from because of my health, and I am still having to pay for them now. This very Monday I attended a physiotherapy appointment where the therapist was so concerned about the effort it had taken me to get there that she has referred me to the community team who will treat me in my home. Indeed part of her advice was to make sure I am lying down more, as sitting as much as I can is causing problems with my spine as I do not have the energy to sit up straight. If you can find a career I can do from my bed, without attending any external courses, on a very limited budget, then I would love to hear it, though there is only one I can imagine and I don’t believe it’s legally supported. If you can find that, then I will be convinced and converted to the Conservative policies regarding work and disabilities. If you can find me a career I can do where I will earn £105 pw under my current constraints then I would take it with absolutely no hesitation and I will believe the rhetoric. Failing that, I will continue to believe that this government is making ideological attacks on the most vulnerable leaving them suicidal, or finding those who are literally dying as fit to work: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/heartbroken-dad-blames-benefits-axemen-2292176
I will admit it isn’t ATOS that has left me suicidal, but being unable to work which has more badly affected my mental health, but removing financial support from me is going to make my life a damn sight harder. I have 3 people with disabilities in my household. One of whom works full-time, one of whom is a child, and myself. I have to buy cooked food in, I have to pay people to help me with cleaning and I have to pay people to help with my children, all on the one wage of my husband and the benefits I am about to lose. I repeat my challenge to you, Mr Hoban, find me a job I can do to support my family and I will believe this is something other than a cruelty upon those who cannot fight back.
You see the problem is this government is telling very sick people, who are desperate to work, and desperate to be well, and desperate to live normal lives that they are well enough to do it, when quite frankly they are not. I do believe parts of the government message: it was wrong not to have properly working schemes to help get people with disabilities into work. There are some disabilities where it is possible to work with appropriate support. Unfortunately the government are finding people who don’t find it possible to work are capable of work, unfortunately the government have not brought in anything like appropriate support for people with disabilities into work, and indeed they tried to remove the independent living fund altogether. It has relied on a flagrant abuse of statistics by Iain Duncan Smith, and the refusal to call for a cumulative impact assessment. I feel like the government views me and others like me as some sort of Royle Family characters. Sitting in our chairs, eating chips, watching wheel of fortune or what have you all day long, then skipping playfully to our cars, driving to the pub and drinking the money we’ve duped from the government with willful, irresponsible abandon. Of course there will be people like that, but the DWP’s own (and as I’m sure any academic would agree, biased) statistics suggest fraud for these benefits is incredibly low. I would dearly love for what you say about only those found fit for work being those who are healthy enough to do so, and I would love it if the government were implementing genuinely appropriate support to help people with disabilities, but regardless of all spin it’s just not true. I will however be taking your advice about complaining to ATOS, though as they are internal checks and measures I doubt it will do any good. I have consistently relayed my experience to the DWP who intervened on my behalf on a couple of occasions but at the end of the day seemed to lack the ability to make ATOS visit me within my home and properly assess me as they had originally intended.
My apologies for writing to you once more. I appreciate that you are a very busy man and that your caseworker probably has enough to deal with, but I cannot simply accept what is being relayed to me when I have direct experience of the very opposite. I hope you will forgive my tenacity on these issues, it is only because they are so very important to me and millions of others.