As I write, today is Wednesday 9th March and the UK's Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, has just resigned over something of scandal caused by irregularities in expenses she had claimed1 . This makes me angry partly because she has been allowed to resign rather than being sacked, partly because she is still an MP and partly because she hasn't been prosecuted for fraud and still has most of the money an independent regulator said she ought to give back. Mainly, however, I'm angry because I want to know how she managed to get so much damn money out of the Government
At the moment my wife and I are on the cusp of two separate benefits. The first of these is called disability living allowance. This is an amount of money paid to you according to the extent to which your day to day life (as opposed to work) is affected by your disability. Its value is partly in the money, but also in the fact that it official state recognition of the extent of your disability. We got it for R a few years ago (albeit after six attempts) but now we want it altered to acknowledge her diminished ability (improved disability?) which would also, admittedly, get her some money. Also I could apply for carers allowance, because now I would be doing some actual work, rather than just lolling around dribbling. What makes this all worse is that this has been dragging on for 18 months now, partly because they are swamped with appeals against claims and partly because for about two months they lost the paperwork and forgot about us. If we were Maria Miller, we'd have lost our second home by now.
That will be sorted out once and for all next week, hopefully. In the mean-time after I got my job I had to let various people know and, as a result, I no longer get help with prescriptions. I can, in fact, get help with health costs on a low income. This doesn't happen immediately and you're not even told it's an option when the other door is closed to you, I just looked it up online. Anyway, we applied, but they said no, because my wife was still getting a benefit that entitled us to free prescriptions. We told the benefit people about my change of circumstances and they said it would probably cause my wife to lose her benefit but they weren't sure. Three weeks later she phoned them up to check and it turned out they hadn't actually done anything yet. Then they cancelled the benefit. So the help with health costs people and they said, no problem, just send our letter back with your letter explaining the change. So I did. Sorry, by the way, if you're finding this unbearably slow going, but I want to give you the closest approximation to the first-hand experience. Anyway, after two weeks they returned my letter with a blank application form, which I evidently had to fill in from scratch. I was not happy. Still waiting to hear back from them. Maria Miller would definitely have defaulted on her mortgage by now.
So there we are. In a couple of weeks I may be able to write a new column telling you the difference that has been made by these benefits. Or not, we shall see. In the mean-time, I wonder if Maria could join the deparment for work and pensions? We could use her skills there, she'd be a valuable asset to the team.