The Christmas Lul

A few years ago, you could never have broken my festive spirit. The rain pattering on the windows was merely the snow that is yet to form and the house was full of glitter and tinsel.

As we approach NORAD’s special day though, things don’t seem to be the same anymore. The tree is up and the lights are on but nobody is really home.

You see, I have been busy working on new projects. Leaving hospital radio behind back in May, probably setting fire to all the bridges as I left, I had already missed the boat on a number of things I really wanted to try out. I was making decisions of whether to buy a laptop that allowed me to try and develop the HBA website – I did not feel justified to ask them to supply one – or buy BitCoin.

I am of course, sat here on £1200 of – at the time – high spec laptop now writing a blog post. That is not to say I don’t now put it to good use….

I also missed out of the infancy of my current project; gaming and streaming. For those that are closer to me will know, I now put about 20 to 30 hours a week into this, despite being late to the game, and will never find out if I could have been successful. I started to tinker with it about 15 months ago, the occasional stream a few times a week, trying to get a feel for the games that I play and how I could exploit them online.

Streaming and Gaming?

So yes. I know, I am a bit old and I am probably a bit too mediocre at it.

I like playing strategy games. For those of you who remember Sim City, I play Cities:Skylines, which is like the next generation of that. I play strategy games like Civilization VI, Transport Fever and more recently more simplistic simulations like Airport CEO and Production Line.

You can find what I am currently doing on my Twitch Channel (it’s basically like YouTube, but just for gaming and ‘live streaming’) and I am now working towards a website connected to it where I can put my game reviews, tips and things. Some of the articles on the Golden Blog will probably move across and some of the articles that I have never managed to finish will get completed.

I have been quite busy at this though since starting the computer upgrade back in June. I have to justify what is quickly approaching a 4 figure sum for computer parts – it probably is now I have a new RX580 Nitro+ – not the cheapest of hobbies!

How Can I Be Successful?

Oh behave! I am not doing to be a millionaire success, I probably won’t even make back my investment, but it is nothing to say I won’t try. As some of you already know, the Department for Work and Pensions are not top of my Christmas card list right now.

So all I ask is that I try and make back the £200/month lost to the PIP scandal. Did you know someone who is registered blind is no longer entitled to a single penny in assistance! Of course as I am already hammered by the 40% tax and the repayment of child benefit I will have to clear more than that.

You know of course…. I will never get close

So – HOW Can I be Successful?

Oh right… you mean how do I make money from it? Well.

So far I haven’t.

From nothing, over 12 months (well, since June really) I have had about 2,000 unique views of my output and around 100 ‘followers’ who choose to … follow.

All that has given me enough momentum to be offered an affiliate agreement with Twitch, which means people can subscribe with a number of donations ranging from $4.99 to $24.99 a month. Amazon Prime users also qualify for a free subscription to give out per month, which translates to a little in the kitty. Some channels, including mine, can take one-off donations via StreamLabs (via Paypal) and there are other micro-transaction options.

Twitch Prime also Gets you free games though, on top of ad-free viewing of the rubbish I produce. Recently I have picked up some free Hearthstone cards, which I occasionally play, sometimes you pick up a free game from the retro catalog.

BUT

The lul at the moment is that indeed, I am nowhere near making my first dime. It’s been more than 6 months since the DWP took away the PIP for the good lady and I still have not done anything to make up the shortfall.

I still plug away though, the extra 20 to 30 hours a week trying to make myself a success. It is not in the slightest bit festive though, even if I may wear the red hat and beard.

You can see some of my work on my Twitch Channel.

Have the PIP Goalposts Changed?

With own experience, the outrage on social media and now an article in the press; I wonder if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and ATOS have changed the goalposts for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

There seems to be just so many different claims of payments being rejected either in part or in full. Many then successfully appealed, for some of the strangest reasons.

‘Your Not Disabled, You Can Walk On Your Hands’

So the article that has me thinking about this today is from The Independent;

Julius Holgate, from Hackney, north London, fell into debt and resorted to selling his jewellery and other belongings to survive after he received zero points during his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessment in January.

The DWP said Julius was able to climb stairs using his arms and therefore had “mobility” so he could work. Source

This gentleman is a double-amputee affected by a “clerical error” at the Department for Work and Pensions and through a generic tick-list of tasks based on evidence that is provided by sub-contractor ATOS.

This is an easy Government get out, it was the contractors fault and they are not directly responsible, yadda, yadda.

Has the Criteria Changed?

Back in the days of the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition, there was a Government policy paper on welfare reforms.

Some of the elements of this are still in development. Universal Credit is in trial stages and infancy, while the introduction of caps on the amount of benefit that can be received continues to be adjusted. The section that is relevant to this discussion though is:

PIP helps towards some of the extra costs because of a long term ill-health condition or disability. It’s based on how a person’s condition affects them, not the condition they have. Source

The Disability Living Allowance that it replaces was more aligned to being a benefit meeting the additional costs arising from disability. Notice that there is a very subtle wording difference in that the new benefit only commits to helping with ‘some costs.’

Certainly if you consider yourself unable to cope with work, you don’t (and we don’t) apply for the Employment and Support Allowance. We are lucky that with my wages and what was my wife’s DLA we can make ends meet, albeit with a lot of cost cutting. ESA and fitness to work assessments are apparently just as bad and visual impairment and nystagmous is still

How Can This Be Interpreted?

I think this interpretation is important. If you spend out on adaptations to your home for a disability; it seems that this means that you will no longer need any money to help you. I wonder whether this really basic and flawed theory is what is now pushing eligibility.

For Mr Holgate, this may be the clerical error that led to his initial refusal; he stated he could make it up the stairs using his hands so it was deemed that he needs no further help. It appears that someone has seen sense.

I was thinking how that would affect our family life. We have had the Daily Living component of DLA rejected for a PIP claim, despite the report seemingly talking about a completely different claim at times.

Our report stated that no assistance was needed for preparing a simple meal because we have a mandolin for preparing ingredients and magnification to read instruction on packets. The facts pointed out that even then most use by dates and many instructions are still too small was ignored, similarly the statement that in a large number of cases, to keep a varied and healthy diet, I prepare many meals for my family before I go out to work.

It does not seem to occur to ATOS that buying and continually using a slow cooker, because that can be the easiest way to cook a simple meal, means it has to be replaced more often. Nor do they realise just how specific microwave or oven has to be to cater for someone who s all but blind.

It also does not seem to occur to the DWP that being able to use a timer does not mean that the chicken breast will be cooked through, when it has been in the oven.

More Evidence

This is not something new, you can see in social media the number of claimants that have bizarre refusals;

 

The Government Has Made PIP a Shambles

It has off-costed third party contractors into a role where they have no accountability but make hundreds of millions of pounds of decisions a year. It then appears to have forgotten a core of why the Personal Independence Payment is there, to help disabled people adjust to being an included part of the community.

The vast majority of PIP claimants don’t want to profit from their disability; just don’t want to fall deep in debt trying to cope with it.

What To Cut First ? – How PIP Leads to Change

I am look at the spreadsheet. Where do I cut £300 a month from without it breaking anyone’s heart.

The Department for Work and Pensions have decided that the wife is no longer entitled to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and have cut her DLA off. Apparently, being mostly blind, partially deaf and nystagmus making her ability to concentrate massively reduced; she is independent enough to not need financial assistance.

That means that I now have to make some choices. It will probably be Virgin Media getting the chop; 5 year old will lose most of her cartoons and won’t understand why, I won’t be able to try and kick start an income streaming gaming for cash anymore and the spiral will begin.

The ATOS Interpretation

So the crux of the issue comes down to a few things, such as:

The claimant claims to have difficulty in working out when food is cooked, however can use a timer on the oven to tell her when it is cooked; therefore she can cook a simple meal.

Of course, the timer on the oven can check whether that chicken fillet is cooked in the middle. It can tell when a plate is dirty and allow a short person to levitate in order to complete food preparation at a worktop.

The claimant can hold attention with the interviewer and maintain eye contact, however can not see more than 1m away in distance.

Yes, but this is the communication section of the assessment, the failure to point out that I had to repeat the question in terms that could be understood and then I spent more than double the time of my wife answering the questions because she did not know how to.

Oh – and ATOS and/or the DWP invented a claim about washing, grooming and toileting. I mean completely invented, the NO Assistance Required was clearly ticked, the face-to-face assessor was clearly told that it was not a problem, yet the DWP stated that claimed issues with washing and bathing appeared to be unfounded.

So What Options?

Well first and foremost we are appealing the decision. Someone has thoughtfully suggested contacting our MP as well – after June 8th of course.

Getting A Job

The obvious one is to sign on and get a job. My wife has not worked for 4 years, since her disabilities stopped her continuing work as a nursery nurse, something she had done for 15 years. So for a mid-30’s to re-train, okay, but:

  • any job would need to be within school hours
  • any job would need to pay for childcare of an under 1 as well as making up the missing money
  • any employer would need to be flexible to the regular (at least weekly) calls from school to investigate a head injury around a 5 year olds ventricular-peritoneal shunt

So that is massively restricting to start:

  • text based work would have to be minimum of 26pt font
  • VDU based work must be suitable for a screen 800×600 resolution
  • customers will have to speak up into the right ear in order to be heard

You can see the massive number of jobs just jumping out at you now. The job center rubbing their hands together at the unemployable list.

Because PIP  has been refused, there is no entitlement to Educational and Support Allowance either.

Working from Home

Again a lot of the options involve me getting involved. For example something like Avon, Betterware, etc involves people writing orders on very small order forms in small writing; try to read spidery handwriting through a powerful magnifier with nystagmus!

Delivering phone books and the like is a great idea, until you factor in that being blind means no driving licence, so lugging boxes of leaflets or catalogs onto the bus with a pushchair and screaming baby?

Home-based data entry is another great idea, except to get any actual money you have to be efficient at doing it. Most data entry companies rely on more than 800×600 screen estate these days and the concentration levels of the nystagmus would be prohibitive – trust me, we have tried it!

Me Earning More

The other obvious one is for me to get another job. Indeed I was told that I should get a second job such as (and I quote directly) “data entry or something, that you can do while you are at your other job doing nothing, it might be less than minimum wage but it will be something”

Good Idea

So what I am going to do is find a second job, that will take me not only further into the higher tax paying bracket, paying back a larger percentage of child benefit that we get for the kids and risk losing my first job by doing it at work.

For those wondering, I earn around £53k a year, for a job where I make one slip and I could be on a manslaughter charge of a few thousand commuters…

So, to earn that £300 I am likely to have to earn around £700 extra a month gross. An extra two or three shifts every month to reach that, and in punishment, my children will have to give up all of their child benefit payments.

We Are Out of Ideas

We apparently just have to sit and wait and hope that an appeal is successful. I would have to put in another 30 or 40 hours a month, us having to get the wife a job that pays less than the childcare for a child, or just paying the mortgage, eating and … not much else.

I know you are reading this, saying ‘but you earn more than £50k, how the hell can you be poor’ but it’s really is that mediocre wage between getting every penny on the dole and getting every penny as a rich Tory. We are entitled to nothing, if we are foreclosed on our mortgage because we start struggling we are entitled to nothing, Education and Support Allowance and Job Seekers Allowance…. nothing.