My letter to David Cameron, Prime Minister. 1st March 2013

My letter to David Cameron, Prime Minister. 1st March 2013

FAO

The Rt Hon. David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street

London

SW1A 2AA

Friday 1st March 2013

Dear Mr Cameron,

I write to you today because I am confused, upset, and disappointed with the circumstances I and my family have been left in, due to your welfare reforms. I am hoping you can give me some reasoning behind your decisions and more importantly some hope for my future and the future of so many others like me.

Let me give you a brief run-down of my situation. I am 42yrs old and I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since school age and I also suffer from depression. I have unfortunately had long periods when my illness has prevented me from working but I have worked when able, including the time when I was a single mother of a school-age child with learning difficulties. I am currently living with my partner and our three children. Until last year I was claiming Incapacity benefit, but then you implemented the ESA system, I got myself to my assessment (due to my anxiety this appointment caused me stress and I was quite ill on the lead up to this appointment and I had panic attacks during the week after this appointment). My partner had to come with me as I cannot go further than the corner shop and my children’s school and playgroup without support. Following this assessment my benefit was stopped. I was told that I could appeal but this would have caused my mental health issues to deteriorate and I could not risk this happening because it would have impacted on my family, as when my anxiety is bad I cannot leave the house at all and my children’s social and educational well-being would have been affected. So instead I waited for some form of contact with regards to someone helping me to find employment (bit of a challenge since the ATOS Assessor stated in the letter that I cannot go further than the above stated places without support). I’m still waiting, clearly it seems that your Government don’t deem me worthy of any help in getting a job. Maybe it’s now you have me suitably in the crack between the statistics of “Unemployed” and “On benefit”. Does that make me totally invisible now?

My partner was in work until January 2012 when he was unfortunately made redundant, initially when he was laid off in November we were told by someone on a dwp ‘helpline’ that we were not entitled to claim any benefit unless we had a letter from his employer, which we struggled to get. Then one day in December I phoned the helpline to be told we could have indeed claimed earlier and to request a backdate. The backdate for JSA was refused, then the backdate for Housing Benefit was refused…. and guess what… so was the Council Tax! Still while I am struggling to pay my debts (caused by being misinformed by one of your depts) I am happy in the knowledge that the incompetent person offering advice to people in need has a secure roof over her head and her children are well fed.

So we come to today… the here and now. We are struggling to pay our bills and debts. Myself and my partner often eat 10p noodles because we have had to cut our food bill and we want to make sure the kids eat ok. The car is in the garage and hasn’t been used since November because we can’t afford to MOT and tax it. I am becoming more and more housebound because now we have no working car I cannot leave the house and take the kids somewhere ‘people-free’ where I am less likely to have a panic attack. Which means the kids quality of life is poorer. Oh and now I am stuck at home day after day, the heating has to be on constantly, which of course costs money.

Today the Postman brought me a letter from Peterborough Council informing me of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ (yes I know you don’t call it that but let’s face it… it is what it is). Now I have 2 double bedrooms and 2 single bedrooms in my house. My partner and I share one double bedroom, my 4yo son and 2yo son share the second double bedroom, My 15yo son has one single room and my partner’s 12yo daughter uses the other bedroom on her regular contact weekends. Because she is not a ‘regular resident’ in the household you don’t count her as requiring a bedroom. But if she doesn’t have a bedroom, her Mother will take us to court to stop contact on the grounds that she has no private space and we WILL lose her if that happens. My partner will lose the daughter he had to fight to get back in his life and my children will lose the Sister they love so much.

I invite you to come and meet me in my home and see how I live, in fact it’s not how I live because to ‘live’ would infer I have a life. I don’t… I merely exist.

And I can’t guarantee just how much longer I can exist, when I have no hope.

Yours faithfully,

Sarah Tomkins

cc. Rt Hon. Stewart Jackson MP, Peterborough Constituency.

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