I served in the army from the age of 15, including front line active service in Aden and Northern Ireland. Despite paying into a pension during those years, I am not entitled to claim because you need to have been in the armed forces for 21 years before 1979 to qualify. A crazy ruling.
When I left the army, I worked in a variety of jobs, then went to university when I was 30. With a first class honours degree and post-graduate degree under my belt, I started work helping develop coalfields after the pit closures of the 1980s, managing a number of innovative projects at strategic, regional and community levels. I still now see the impact of my work on Britain’s regions.
Ill health has changed my life considerably.
I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my time in the army, as well as diabetes, coeliac disease, osteoarthritis and clinical depression. I had some appalling experiences with the Department of Work and Pensions at the end of which even their own doctor declared me unfit to work, but every experience with them has been criminalising, appalling, humiliating and brutalised.
The pension scheme I paid into for 20 years was designed to mature at 25 years. When I could no longer work, I had to draw down from this and it means I receive a much smaller amount than I would have if I had been able to leave it untouched for another five years. The money I get from it, after all those years of contribution, covers outlays which the benefit system would otherwise cover. The notion that I was building up security for my future turned out to be a nonsense.
When you live a life of managing debts you feel yourself starting to go under. It’s so wearing, so debilitating. It takes horrendous energy and willpower to keep going
In the system you face, there’s no room for humanity. You spend hours waiting in queues on the phone trying to speak to a real person, and hours sending emails to addresses you later find out are no longer in use.
Successive governments, although most seriously the present one, have removed from me every recognition of a life of effort, service and community contribution. On behalf of all of us living in poverty in our old age, I am thoroughly ashamed of the Government for what they have done to me and so many like me.
Have you been affected by any of these issues?
This blog represents one individual’s experience; personal circumstances differ – if you have been affected by any the issues in this blog and want some advice about your own situation please contact Independent Age’s Helpline on 0800 319 6789.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age