This is a promise. After 14 blog posts on the subject since September 2012, I hereby promise that this is the last post I’ll ever write about my housing benefit battle. One last thing to get off my chest and you’ll never hear from me on the subject again.
Actually, the core of this post is about “spin”, triggered by the conclusion of the HB saga. On Thursday, I received wads of paperwork from the council detailing how they have worked out the reinstated benefit. I missed it first time but there is a recalculation sheet from 4th June 2012, four months before they stopped the HB. This is where the spin comes in.Hillingdon were interviewed by the BBC, The Guardian, The Times & the Uxbridge Gazette at the time and gave pretty much the same statement to all of them – ” Mr Neary notified us of a change in his personal circumstances, which led to the decision to terminate his claim”. The inference is that I instigated the change. Worse, they linked one change as an excuse for their big decision. As I said repeatedly at the time, the change I told them about was that from June 2012, my income had reduced because I was having to pay higher room hire charges for my counselling practice. Nothing at all to do with the reason why they stopped my claim – they believed I should sell my share of the house that my unwell wife was living in. This is classic spin. Putting two unrelated facts together to disguise a darker truth. Southern Health are experts at this dark art.
So it was a surprise reading their latest letter, to see that not only have they had to reinstate the HB for the entire year that they stopped it, they’ve had to pay me arrears going back to the June when I told them about the change. Their spin came back to bite them on the arse.
Having to deal with spin by the organization that is causing you so much pain is horrid. It is hard to hang on to your truth. Even though you know that the spin is a sign of desperation, the power imbalance is so wide, you are knocked for six by the spin. Think of any press report about a battle between an individual and officialdom – the official statement always appears at the end of the article. The spin has the last word. Back in 2010, Hillingdon’s statement, to justify why they kept Steven in the ATU, was always: “Mr Neary was unable to cope with caring for his son”. No mention that I was only not coping for a few days because I was ill. I won’t even revisit their evil press release where they painted such a despicable picture of Steven. I remember Jerome Taylor from the Independent showing me the press release outside the Royal Courts of Justice and how I nearly threw up all over the pavement. That’s what spin at its worst does to you – it rips your guts out.
The happy ending to the housing benefit saga is that I am now in a position where i will no longer need HB. The money Hillingdon have just had to pay out will cover the cost of the support workers’ wages and the cost of a minibus hire for our holiday in the summer. There is some sort of rough justice in that.