In sickness and the UK government

ukgovt

   Whitehall explains….

I received a reply from Lawrence Osei about how the UK government justifies denying people assistance benefits if they have had the audacity to live overseas for more than two years.

(This is the time of Little Britain after all)

Mr Osei informs me that the ‘habitual residence test’, which is the format they work from when deciding if you are deserving of help, used to be a six month period. (i.e. you had to have been in the UK for at least six of the last 12 months.)

A reasonable amount of time IMHO

But as Britain is in the EU (for now anyway) tests about ‘residence’ could not be enforced because under EU law an EU citizen can live anywhere in the bloc. Which in their minds meant people could claim this benefit regardless of where they were actually living indefinitely.

So looking at this, the bureaucrats decided disabled folk needed to demonstrate their love of the motherland a bit more forcefully, and quadrupled the qualifying period from six months to two years.

The possibility that if someone can afford to live away from the UK probably means they don’t need government help to start with never occur to you?

Your generosity is noted.

 

In sickness and in wealth…

Get sick? Become poor

ms-drugsThis is three months’ worth of MS medication. It costs about $10,000.

If you’re an American reading this then I know I’m preaching to the converted. Health care don’t come cheap. Period.

As I title the shot above – that’s ten grand’s worth of drugs (and doesn’t show the costs of my necessary physio and other medical bits and pieces). And it only lasts three months. So that’s a lot of dough to keep forking out to stay well.

And as many of you will recognise insurance companies treat people like me at subterranean levels of humanity. They don’t want to know.

Some years back I asked Allianz if they would give me private (non-employer related) cover. The answer came back as expected: No.

And from a purely financial point of view it makes perfect sense – no amount of return on any premium I might pay could equal $40k a year.

I then asked them – what about non-MS cover? Broken leg, say?

No.

Broken fingernail?

(Joke everyone) 🙂

So with my personal situation in Malaysia soon meaning I’m going to be paying directly for these myself, I’ve been thinking about a return to the UK, where I can obtain medication on the National Health Service for free.

I’ve been away 20 years, but in that time I’ve paid annual voluntary contributions to the UK’s National Insurance scheme, foolishly thinking it would help me in time of need.

I’ve paid so much the taxman wrote to me a few years back, telling me I’d paid enough and didn’t need to do it anymore.

In the UK there are many things a disabled person can get assistance for. At the sprawling  Department of Work and Pensions there’s a huge bureaucratic masse of benefits you can claim – depending on where you live and how disabled you are.

There’s help to make your home more disabled friendly, you can get help to rent a car or scooter, or even buy one. You might need help washing, dressing, cooking. Do you need special equipment in your home?

In addition to all of that (and you need a good week’s reading to find all the benefits available and how to get them (no one-stop shop sadly)) the government will give you money to pay for it. You could get £350 quid a month (about $560) depending on your level of disability under the Personal Independence Payment scheme

All so far so good, right?

Yep, all good UNLESS you’ve been stupid enough to save more than £16,000 – about $22,000 over your lifetime.

And EVEN if you have NO savings. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Rien. Nowt  you can’t claim ANYTHING if you’ve been overseas for more than 2 years for at least two years. (And having all the assessments necessary may take a further six-nine months).

So that $40k a year I thought I might save by going back to the country of my birth is just a drop in the ocean with all the additional costs I’d have to pay for myself if I go back (with or without a job).

I couldn’t find anywhere on any website either that said you could claim benefits retrospectively once you’d passed the qualifying period. Daft of me to even think it really.

Actually finding a phone number to speak to anyone about this took me three days of searching. (There’s a phonebook’s worth of freephone numbers to call – which you can’t from overseas)

The lad I spoke to was kind enough to tell me that I really needed to speak to another department about eligibility as I’d paid max NI contributions.

Oh ok, what’s the number? I asked.

Ermm it’s only a freephone number.

Which I can’t call.

No, because we really want you to come back first (to tell you in person you’re entitled to sweet FA)

So it all basically means the government will give me jack shit until I’ve got jack shit, if I haven’t by that time become so disabled life is worth jack shit.

I’ve written to the British Minister of State for Disabled People Penny Mordant to ask for the rationale and logic behind the two year exclusion period.

I’m not holding my breath for a reply.

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  • A correction. The Personal Independence Payment is not means tested, but there is still the two-year qualifying period. See my next post for an update on that
  • Benefits like the employment and support allowance are however – still capped at the lousy amount of £16,000