Well, I've got plenty to say on the theme of employment, which will be the next great debate on Thursday, given that I have been looking into starting some work again after a long period of ill health. I haven't worked at all for over a year, and prior to that was doing the odd bit of paid writing (I am a writer) under the Permitted Work rules in the UK. The rules are there supposedly to govern how much you can do, how much you can earn, and for how long before your Incapacity Benefit is affected.
The idea is a graded return to working and earning. The reality is somewhat different.
Now I ran into an interesting situation when I resumed some work, for a short time after becoming ill. I'd stopped working when I went on to Incapacity Benefit, but after a time wanted to do a bit of work again. I followed the rules, wrote to my local JobcentrePlus office, contacted the Incapacity Benefit office, and was promptly turned down for Permitted Work.
On what grounds? The Decision Maker (God I hate that term) decreed that I wanted to take up work that I was doing before. This wasn't allowed. What's wrong with that, you may ask? Well, according to the people who make the rules, you can't just go back to your old job. In my case, I worked from home, am freelance and have such restricted energy and mobility due to my condition that the ONLY work I can consider taking up again is short bursts of online work. Such work is out there, but this didn't seem to fit with the rules.
I wrote them a letter, with a supporting medical letter, explaining that I wasn't returning to my old job in the true sense of the word as I was taking on writing that didn't require me to leave the house. Online work, rather than out-and-about work. No meetings, conferences, just me and a desk, a computer and (on a good day) maybe a phone. I didn't hear back, did a few bits of work with my health continuing to decline and then had to give it up anyway.
I was left with a sense of frustration, to put it mildly, and thought of all those people out there who want to resume work, but are not allowed to because they want to do what they have trained for, built up a business doing, and want to do again.
What is the problem? Have I got it wrong? It seems not.
The latest version of what you can do, and how, when thinking about returning to work is here
The main issue I have is that when you've not been working for a while, they automatically assume you need your hand holding when approaching the big bad working world again.
The fact that someone may be prepared to rebuild their career from home, start paying tax again and generally feel more useful and, well, employed, kind of passes them by.
You seem to have to, and correct me if I'm wrong, enrol on a workshop, do some voluntary work, work in a hospital and suchlike to become employable again.
Or, you can only do two stints of Permitted Work at 26 weeks each (adding up to a year) followed by a year's break. Why?
My confusion over the rules tells its own story. It becomes very difficult to know who to approach, what advice to ask for and how to resume the work you WANT to do, and that fits in with your ongoing ill health, when things are this unclear.
The fact that I am self-employed should not complicate matters or prove a barrier to me working again. On the contrary, it should be encouraged.
Basically, I want to write again. I want to stick within the allowance of £86 a week or whatever it is, and build it up until I can inform the Incapacity Benefit people that I don't need it any more. That would be nice. It would make me feel good.
But with the prospect of being channelled into a 'scheme' for which I am entirely unsuitable given the fact that I have to rest for long periods each day, I am not inclined to give them a call.
I have to choose the best moments in the day in which I can work. As a freelance, self employed writer, I can potentially do this. Lucky me, if only the rules weren't getting in the way.