Unconnected to Leveson, out of the blue comes an email from a former RAF pilot accusing David Cameron of betrayal over his claim that former servicemen and women will not lose out as a result of welfare changes.
Betrayal is a powerful theme, and the numbers who feel it are swelling. Environmentalists who were promised the greenest government ever, and who can count the speeches from Cameron on the subject on zero fingers, a trend unlikely to be reversed by his appointment of a climate change denier as energy minister. Health service workers and users who were told of his passionate belief in the NHS, and his promise that there would be no top-down reorganisation. Heads, teachers, parents and pupils at schools busy making plans on the basis of a Building Schools for the Future programme axed as soon as he became Prime Minister. Armed forces assured they would have all the resources they needed – remember how he exploited that one against Gordon Brown? – and now having to face cuts bigger than anything ever put forward before.
The list goes on and on, those betrayed over Leveson, like the Dowlers, the McCanns and the Watsons just the latest to join it. And today, former serviceman Martin Oxborrow makes clear he too is part of Cameron’s Betrayed. Please read on.
“No Ex-Serviceman or woman will lose their benefits as a result of these changes”- Prime Minister David Cameron -House of commons 2011
I spent 21 years of my life in the RAF, firstly as an Aircraft Technician and later 17 years as aircrew becoming a C130 Hercules Captain. I travelled extensively around the World and carried out Air to Air Refueling duties in the Falkland Islands and performed Famine relief in Ethiopia in 1985. I was awarded Specialist Aircrew status having completed my initial 16 year contract which meant I would continue flying until I was at least 55.
Then it hit me; I became anxious and developed a fear of heights – not helpful in maintaining my authority as an Aircraft Captain. I was immediately grounded, lost my Flying Pay and was diagnosed with Phobic Anxiety and associated Depression. It was difficult in the Macho environment of the RAF to maintain a normal existence; eventually I was discharged in December 1997; I was unable to continue as an Officer even in Ground Duties because of the Medication I was on.
As soon as I had left the RAF, I applied for Incapacity Benefit – I was somewhat less financially sound on a Pension having earned some £40,000 pa in my last years. Over the next 15 years, I was examined by many GPs, and went through many DWP ‘All Work Tests’. I was always advised that I was unfit for work and should not even attend interviews. I went through many forms of Therapy and Counselling but my condition seemed to remain basically the same.
Life took even more of a dip in 2005 when I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Non Hodgkin’s’ Lymphoma and experienced 9 Chemotherapy sessions. I was lucky and the Cancer had been caught early; I remain very grateful for the treatment I was given by the NHS which was superb (apart from one incident involving a District Nurse who had to be struck off – but that’s for another day…).
I remain in 100% remission from Cancer and my wife and I had changed our lifestyle an awful lot to cope with my illness; we have horses and Dogs which are quite Therapeutic and give much amusement. I still suffer though and up to 2 or 3 days a week I am unable to get out of bed – the anxiety and depression are just too debilitating.
This year I had my 60th Birthday. In the same week I received information from DWP that my benefit was changing to Employment & Support Allowance- “I need not worry; the paperwork said my allowance would not change much if at all”.
Some weeks later I was told that I had been placed in the ‘Work Group’ (as opposed to the ‘Support Group’). This meant that I had to attend ‘Work focused Interviews’ with a view to ‘Returning to Employment!’ To say I was surprised was an understatement; I appealed following all the instructions, and asked my GP if he could write on my behalf to explain the position with some authority–which he did.
My appeal went to a Tribunal; at this stage I wrote to my MP, our Welsh Assembly Member, Iain Duncan Smith and the Shadow Minister for Work & Pensions – I was desperate. The only person to reply was Elin Jones our Plaid Cymru Assembly Member; she offered to write to the tribunal on my behalf.
My appeal was thrown out- I was to remain in the Work Group. I had attended an interview with the local Disability Employment Adviser who could only offer me ‘Surf Therapy’ (!) but he did say my interview would ‘count’.
The final installment of this sorry saga was a request to attend a medical Examination by ATOS in Carmarthen, 20 miles away. I asked for a closer appointment in my local Hospital but they couldn’t do this. I did not want to drive far –my medication suggests I shouldn’t- so my wife drove me and we attended together.
This week I have received the results of my examination and many more letters from Job Centre Plus. The ‘Medical professional’ (she told us she was a Nurse but I don’t think she had any Psychiatric qualifications) stated that I attended on my own(!) and she awarded me no points or ‘scores’ in any of their tests. None of the questions asked related to my symptoms or illness, so I have nothing wrong with me. She was more interested in whether I could stand on one leg or not.
The accompanying letters told me my benefit would be stopped, but I could appeal. I should, it said, ‘contact my former employer and ask to be re-employed’. I do not consider that the RAF would be interested in a 60 year old Hercules Pilot on Medication, Type 2 Diabetic, and unable to get out of bed 3 times a month!
I have appealed (again) but do not hold out much hope. My wife says that all this stress has put me back 10 years. I do not consider that this is what was intended by the Prime Minister or any of the Coalition Ministers when they changed the Benefit System. I heard the Prime minister in the House of Commons state very clearly that “No Ex-Serviceman or Woman will lose their benefits as a result of these changes”; well I am very sorry to say this Mr Cameron, but you lied. I and others are living proof of this.
** Martin left school at 16 with 5 ‘O’ levels and completed a full Apprenticeship as a Skilled Mechanic working on Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Aston Martin vehicles prior to joining the RAF. In 1991 he married Gabby, a Sqn Ldr Catering Officer in the RAF and they have a daughter Holly, now at University studying Mathematics .He has two Sons from his first marriage and three Grandchildren.He now lives in very rural Wales finding the pace of life, beautiful scenery and wildlife suits his illness and occupies himself with his cars,horses,dogs,the internet and occasionally plays his Guitar.he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org