Tag Archives: Employment Support Allowance

“I’m from the Government and I’ve come to help you.”


I’ve mentioned the three great lies before.

Of course I’ll still love you in the morning.
The cheque is in the post.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.

It’s just that yesterday I was with a group of people whose long term aim is to overthrow society as we currently know it, and the discussion came round to the state.

Let’s be clear about this, having spent a lifetime in agriculture I don’t need convincing that the machinery of government is designed to run for its own benefit and the rest of us are just grit in the wheels that will have to be cleaned out or crushed to dust, (it doesn’t really matter which.)

But I realise a lot of people are under the misapprehension that it’s their government and should in some way represent their ideals. At the very least they expect it to treat them with respect.

We were told yesterday that government has decided to bring in Civil Penalties. If you make a mistake on an application form for benefit, they can fine you £50. This isn’t because they think it was fraud, this is just for making a mistake and wasting the valuable time of petty officials with far better things to do than cope with the ignorance of the public who pays their wages.

When told that my reaction was ‘Only £50? In agriculture they can take up to 30% of whatever they’re paying out, even when they accept it’s unintentional.’

Another thing that was commented on by several people was the need for advocacy. If you have an ‘ordinary member of the public’ dealing with the bureaucracy, things tend to go badly. But if they take with them an ‘advocate’, perhaps someone from CAB, or some other charity, then suddenly things are done with speed and despatch. The medical inspection is done absolutely by the book, or the official admits that, yes, actually, she can deal with that now and she cannot understand how it was that the ‘client’ was given the run-around previously.

Problems that dragged on for months (with the ‘client’ getting more and more out of pocket) are suddenly resolved in minutes.

Last year I claimed Employment Support Allowance twice, both times for a fortnight. This is because I was off sick for that long after my cataract operations. In the process of dealing with the bureaucracy to get this money (because I’m self employed and have no employer I cannot get sick pay) I was lied to, misinformed, and dealt with people who frankly didn’t have much of a clue about the regulations they were supposed to be implementing.

At one point I was told that I couldn’t be paid because I hadn’t filled in a certain form in time. When I told them that actually, on the previous occasion I had been paid without filling in that form; I was told I might be prosecuted for fraud. To this I replied that I would expect to be sharing the dock with a number of that person’s colleagues who had advised me wrongly and would ask for the telephone logs to be supplied as evidence.

At this point it was suddenly decided to resend me the form so I could fill it in and nothing more was said about time limits.

I’m literate, well read, cocky and frankly I probably have a bad attitude. I had got to the stage where I’d paid my stamp since 1975 and I was going to get the money I was entitled to if I had to pick up the First Lord of the Treasury, turn him upside down and shake him until the money fell out of his pockets.

A lot of people out there do not have my advantages. Who is willing to be their advocate?


There again, what do I know, just ask the dog


As one of the reviewers commented “Wit, wisdom and just a wee dram of whisky

This is a delightful collection of gentle rants and witty reminiscences about life in a quiet corner of South Cumbria. Lots of sheep, cattle and collie dogs, but also wisdom, poetic insight, and humour. It was James Herriot who told us that ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet’ but Jim Webster beautifully demonstrates that it usually happened to the farmer too, but far less money changed hands.

Welcome to the Muppet show

I mentioned some time back I’d had cataract surgery. They did one eye and about ten weeks later they did the other.
Because after the operation I couldn’t drive, get dirty or lift, I got signed off on the sick for two weeks.
First time this happened I filled in the form over the phone for the contributory element of ‘Employment and Support Allowance.’ I’ve paid my stamp since 1975 so I’m entitled to something. But there’s a non-contributory element. Because the minute I go sick and stop trading my working capital becomes savings, I know I’m not going to get that.
I told them this, but hey, what do I know. About ten days after I filled the form in on line, along came the B16 form. I took one look at it, realised it was for the non-contributory element and phoned up.
“Do I have to fill it in?”
“Yes or you won’t get the non-contributory element of the ESA.”
“I won’t anyway, and anyway I cannot fill the form in yet because some information isn’t available till our year end and if I ask the accountant to do it he’ll charge more than you’ll pay.”
“And in three days I’ll be back at work.”
“No problem, ignore it.”
So I did. My B16 remained stoutly not filled in but more importantly, the money was paid.

Anyway after the second operation I went through the same procedure. When the B16 arrived I phoned the appropriate number. The lady on the phone was helpful.
“Well if you’re not claiming, you don’t have to fill it in. Why did you ask for it?”
“I didn’t, Bathgate just sent it.”
“They did? Why?”
“A good question, so I don’t have to fill it in.”

And on Friday, through the post came a letter saying I wasn’t going to get my money because the law says they cannot pay it.
So I phoned, got a call centre who told me someone would phone, and today they did.
“We cannot pay because you’ve not filled in your B16.”
“I was told not to, twice, by your people.”
“But until you fill it in, we cannot pay you.”
“Well you managed ten weeks ago with no apparent problem.”
“But we cannot pay until it’s filled in.”
”According to the letter you cannot pay because of the law, will any of your staff be prosecuted because of paying me?”
“I’ll have to check details with my colleagues, can you hold please.”
I held. William came back to the phone. “We’ll send you another B16, we cannot pay until you fill it in.”

So I await my B16, but when I get it I’m going to phone again to see if I need to fill it in, which could be fun.

Anyway, you really need a good book to read whilst you’re waiting. So in paperback or on kindle

When Storth arrives home after a long absence, there’s are a few things that need sorting out. Sometimes they can be more complicated than you initially thought.
But at least there are opportunities for an honest man to make money, with maidens to be rescued and tyrants slain, or was it the other way about.
And who uses energy carbines any more? Military fashions have moved on.


“You are Storth, ex-pilot and thief.”

“I have done rather more than that.” Storth sounded genuinely aggrieved.

“Yes but this is meant to be an identity check, not a charge sheet. We also felt mercenary, smuggler and thief verged on the tautological.”

“Oh, well I’m Storth.”

“And you are Hutton, wife of Storth, just a thief.”

“You could call me ‘Hutton, wife of Storth, housewife and thief’ if it makes it any better for your records.”

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