Liam is the lone parent of a nine year old son aged who came to live with him several years ago after he was removed from his mother's care. He has been receiving employment support allowance (ESA) for a number of years due to depression and mental health issues as well as mobility impairment. In late 2012, following a work capability assessment, his ESA was withdrawn for the first time.
After he had his ESA withdrawn this first time, he was without income for a number of weeks until he was put on to the lower rate jobseekers allowance (JSA). Liam appealed the assessment decision and after four months he was successful in having his ESA reinstated. During this lengthy process of benefit withdrawal, appeal and reinstatement, which was a significant reduction in income, Liam tried to make cuts, to the detriment of him and his son: ‘It's hard when you have to make choices. Do you cut down on the electricity you’re using or do you cut down on the food? And when you're cutting right down to the bare minimum it's hard to cut back any more’.
Liam was forced to use a local food bank. He describes this experience as 'a bit intimidating, you're going in and people are asking you these questions and it's humbling, that you're taking this (food) that people have handed in for charity. I'm a great believer in giving something back, so, the first time I got money sorted out... I got some tins and gave something back, gave a contribution back (to the food bank)’.
After Liam’s ESA was reinstated, he had to undergo another work capability assessment some months later whereupon his ESA was removed for a second time. Once again Liam was forced to use a foodbank due to the sudden dire circumstances he found himself in. As before, after an appeal Liam’s ESA was reinstated but not before it had caused him and his son, not only financial straits, but also emotional upheaval and anxiety. He says: ‘It’s been a nightmare, an absolute nightmare’.
Liam has struggled very much to provide his son with a decent standard of living during this time of benefit withdrawal, appeal and reinstatement, so he applied for a loan from the Provident as a buffer; protection from this removal of ESA. This debt now amounts to more than £3000. Liam is now struggling with loan repayments on top of an insecure, constantly changing benefit situation.
Liam feels that his anxieties have deepened due to having ESA withdrawn, being put onto JSA, then this being reversed again before the whole process is repeated. He feels that it has had a negative impact on his health and has made his stress-related conditions flare up again. Consequently he has been visiting his GP more often, has been referred to the hospital and is receiving treatment for anxiety.
Liam also feels the stress is having a detrimental effect on his son too. His son’s anxieties have increased and his bedwetting returned after a period of dryness in the night. His son is accessing children’s mental health services to help him with his anxiety and emotional issues, which, while not caused by their current circumstances, are very likely exacerbated by them.
At the present time Liam is receiving ESA but is expecting it to be removed again imminently, starting the cycling of benefit withdrawal, appeal and reinstatement for a third time.
Due to this flux in his income, Liam has had to access numerous statutory and voluntary services: GP and hospital for his worsening health conditions, mental health services, voluntary support agencies, foodbanks, clothing banks, children’s mental health services for his son and lots of engagement with the DWP/benefits agency/JobcentrePlus.
Names have been changed to protect anonymity and photos of models are courtesy of © NHS Scotland 2011.