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To think if you can volunteer you can work?

(82 Posts)
BoyMeetsWorld Fri 19-Jul-13 22:35:59

Now I may get flamed for this, not sure, but I'm not saying it as a personal dig against ALL people on benefits - obv every persons' situation is different.

But my DM is on a full wack of benefits for disability. Her disability is based on being scared of public situations (lots of people) & that she can't handle stress. So she doesn't work & she gets circa £28k per year.

Recently DM relocated closer to us because we are seriously struggling with childcare costs with baby 2 on the way (who isn't!) obv that's our problem, not hers, and we were exceptionally grateful for any childcare help - but as she literally does NOTHING else with her life (gets up at 10am most days, goes back to bed 3pm, plays on the computer all day) it didn't seem too unreasonable.

Fast forward few months & she was claiming she didn't want to get up in mornings to do any school runs. Fair enough though annoying - again, not her problem. Then she announced the stress of doing ANY childcare for us had given her a nervous breakdown. Cue days of slurred speech, acting oddly, lots of guilt tripping. We found a fulltime childminder - all pressure removed. 95% of our salary gone on house & childcare but, again, that's the same for hundreds of couples.

Found out today that she is volunteering 2 days per week at a very busy local animal sanctuary / tourist attraction. A)how can she claim benefits as cant be around people, then work somewhere with hundreds of tourists per day? B)how can she claim benefits for being unable to work as it causes too much stress, but is fine to spend 2 days volunteering? (she has no plans to ever work again btw)? So she lives 5 mins away from us but can't help us with any childcare yet is happy to help the animals.

Whole thing boggles my brain AIBU?

ArgyMargy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:57:14

£28k? I doubt it. And she doesn't owe you childcare. Leave her alone.

expatinscotland Fri 19-Jul-13 22:57:20

What boggles my brain is whoever is starting all these vile threads tonight.

Amitolamummy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:58:59

I think voluntary work is great for people who plan to work again or do not need to work, but if I was in a position to have an opinion on this I would be a bit peeved. I don't have anyone to help with childcare and it's very difficult, so if I did have a family member who refused to help due to ill health but was able to volunteer I think I would also be questioning things. Maybe she finds childcare too stressful, but I guess it would be better to tell you that. It does sound like you need to talk.
I think a lot of these responses are very harsh. Wondering if there is more to this about the way she is or your relationship

Remotecontrolduck Fri 19-Jul-13 23:00:22

Well yes theoretically that's true, they can, but often employers simply don't want to employ anyone with health issues or someone who hasn't been in 'proper' employment for a while. Not a lot they can do about that really. She says she doesn't want to work but you don't really know what's gone on, it could be a front and she's been rejected countless times and feels crap, as anyone would.

Volunteering will give a reference, build confidence, give a sense of worth and importance. And it is a valuable thing to be doing.

If you think she's taking the piss with the benefits, report her and she'll have them taken away. I doubt she's getting anywhere near what you're saying she is though.

Remotecontrolduck Fri 19-Jul-13 23:01:28

And you chose to have the kids, you pay for the child minder I'm afraid.

PoodleFlavouredFreddos Fri 19-Jul-13 23:02:19

I am on disability benefits. I have mental health problems and physical health issues. I get quite a lot of money every week and it makes my skin crawl. I feel as if I should be living hand to mouth, because there are people that work who have less than I do. I hate it.

I am working toward doing volunteer work as a step to work.

I want to work in care, so I am looking to volunteer with adults with special needs - high pressure, busy, around people. I can see why people would be hmm I really can, so I am going to try and explain this.

In order to go back to work, which i desperately desperately want I need to take small simple steps.

If I volunteer two days a week I can spend the other days hiding in my house, 'acting out' my panic - it is a tip from my psychotherapist - i give myself time to feel awful and not be able to get dressed/function. Then when I need to function, I have the mental and emotional reserves to do so.

I struggle a lot with having to do things perfectly, I have OCD and anxiety disorder, as well as depression and an eating disorder. In a volunteer role It is more 'okay' not to be perfect straight away because I am not getting paid and there are 'proper' people to defer to. If I make a mistake I literally can't cope, I tried to go back to work too soon & was in such a state I slept for 1 hour in 5 days, I was harming myself & feeling suicidal. So I was signed off by my GP & am back on benefits.

This is hard to explain and rationalize, because I know most people can easily do things i find really really hard.

I have spent the last ten years involved with intensive mental health services, and have been in and out of hospital. Two years ago I spent and entire year living in one room in my parents house, too depressed to wash or get up & my anxiety meant leaving that one room was impossible for nearly six months.

I have worked really really hard to get to the point where I can go out in public, occasionally alone & not come home with a bag full of tablets to overdose with, or having to resort to self harming in public toilets because I can't get through the day without it.

I have worked really really hard to control my eating disorder so that I can function like most people and seem 'normal'.

I am now nearing a point where I can do volunteer work - and I have been studying for a Masters degree which has meant I have had to go out & go to seminars once a fortnight and be around people. That was my step to volunteering, the step after volunteering is a job - which I would love more than anything.

But doin ten hous of volunteer work is going to be hard work. It is a massive achievement for me - I have come far - and then people seem to think I should get a job immediately and I feel so inadequate and awful. It is a horrible feeling, knowing you are trying so so hard & yet people still judge you and look down on you.

I have no friends, I have no social life, I don't even have my own house anymore, my mental health problems have ruined every goal I have ever aimed for - I wrote my undergraduate dissertation while on a section in hospital. So even that 'achievment' has been marred. I am doing a Masters not for the qualification but because I feel safer in academia then in the 'real' world and it was a way of at least getting out the house once a fortnight for seminars.

I don't know if this has come out right, but I hope you can see it from my point of view. I want a bloody job, but at the moment even volunteer work is hard, really really terrifying - and I am going to o it anyway. but then people judge me & think I should be better, stronger and less worthless.

I can't begin to tell you how awful I feel or being on benefits. I don't spend it all by the way, my DP has to buy me stuff like new shoes or food behind my back because I hate spending it.

I'll watch this thread. I don't mind questions, but please be kind. I feel a bit iffy even writing this, but I wanted to ive a view from someone who is there.

Binkyridesagain Fri 19-Jul-13 23:02:20

I am sure that volunteering at a sanctuary, where you can work at times that suit you, is a lot less stressful than looking after someonelses children, on what I assume is a regular basis with no/little flexibility.

ParsingFancy Fri 19-Jul-13 23:03:43

ESA (formerly Incapacity Benefit) is up to £106.50 a week.

So the maximum on ESA would be £5,538 pa (possibly a little more if she's protected in transfer from Incapacity Benefit, but actually probably less than that, if you've described her capability correctly).

She's incredibly unlikely to be getting any DLA on what you've described. But even if she were getting the highest rates of both care and mobility, the maximum total would be £6988.80 pa.

So I'm calling bullshit on the £28K pa benefits. She might have had private insurance, but she certainly won't get that amount on benefits.

Monty27 Fri 19-Jul-13 23:03:51

Perhaps you're not sympathic towards her op.

Perhaps that enhances whatever condition she has.

You sound selfish quite frankly.


katykuns Fri 19-Jul-13 23:05:29

My Mum doesn't have mental health problems and I don't expect her to look after my children.
and you fail to see why she can't work when she volunteers but how much pressure did you put on her to be childcare?
I also think her daily routine sounds utterly miserable and wouldn't be surprised if her mental problems extend past her agoraphobia, , what with the slurred speech and massive amount of sleeping.

MrsDeVere Fri 19-Jul-13 23:07:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

imademarion Fri 19-Jul-13 23:08:12

When asked she just gets very aggressive or starts slurring her words. Same with any type of confrontation or suggestion she's doing anything wrong.

She sounds a bit of a silly-arse TBH.

I'd be pleased my kids escaped being exposed to this type of behaviour and just chalk it up to experience.

Best of luck, horrid to be let down by someone you should be able to rely on.

Binkyridesagain Fri 19-Jul-13 23:10:23

No wonder Mental Health is still a taboo subject.

WestieMamma Fri 19-Jul-13 23:11:06


I'm autistic and have been in and out of work my whole life. I can't hold a job down. The stress builds and builds and then I crash and become so ill that I can't even take care of my basic needs. The last time was 6 years ago and the crash was so massive that I still haven't recovered enough to return to work. I have however continued to volunteer with the same organisation that I've been volunteering with since I was 15 (ie for 30 years). Volunteering is more like a hobby and therefore theraputic. I have the advantage of not being on benefits though so get to avoid all the judgment.

DevonCiderPunk Fri 19-Jul-13 23:11:29

Round of applause for PoodleFlavouredFreddos

Sleepshmeep Fri 19-Jul-13 23:11:43

Very simply, volunteering can be a great building bridge for people recovering from an illness, in a supported environment to build confidence and skills. Lots provide training and expenses and pave the way for better employment opportunities.

Cannot believe I have had to spell that out.

joanofarchitrave Fri 19-Jul-13 23:12:31

I'm really hoping that dh might be able to volunteer in a few weeks' time. He's been ill all his adult life, worked full time until about eight years ago, part-time until four years ago or so, and since then has been unable to work. He does do quite a lot when he is well, housework, dog walking (our dog, our house) and is around for our son after school. He is some months or years away from even a few hours' regular paid work. I would be frozen with horror if he suddenly got a job as a childcare worker even a couple of days a week, he is incapable of doing this, and a cursory glance at his sickness record would stop most employers putting him top of the list. A voluntary job might allow him to continue contributing, while being able to take time out if he has to.

Why do you even want someone who shows vivid signs of mental and emotional distress at any confrontation or stress to look after your children?? You appear to think she is making the symptoms up and that work would 'sort her out'. Really? Do you know what the ESA/Work Capability Assessment process is like? We pulled out of it after the first round and appeal, despite dh being awarded full benefit, because it caused a horrible relapse for months on end. If your mother has been awarded this benefit, then rest assured she is not fit to work and you should be heartily glad she's not working, frankly.

BreakOutTheKaraoke Fri 19-Jul-13 23:14:06

Poodle and all others in that situation, just wanted to say how brave you are for doing what you are doing, and not just giving up.

bimbabirba Fri 19-Jul-13 23:19:33

She probably comes across to you as "difficult" because she has MH problems. She probably can't help herself and it is very sad that your insight into someone so close to you doesn't go far enough.
To answer your question, I've worked in the same role (doing exactly the same things) on both voluntary and paid basis and the difference was staggering. When I was a volunteer, I used to be thanked at the end of each day by the duty supervisor, no one raised an eyebrow if I was 15 minutes late because of heavy traffic, I could take my own time to do things or simply refuse to do certain things I didn't like, I could take holidays whenever and however long I wanted, etc.
A lot of people with MH problems struggle to hold down a job because of the stress involved. Doing the same job asa volunteer in immensely less stressful.

ReallyTired Fri 19-Jul-13 23:20:51


Anxiety is a real and seriously debilating condition. It sounds like your MIL has been through hell.

I don't understand why you would want someone with profound anxiety looking after your children. Do you want someone with the potential to get aggressive to look after your children? Your MIL is medically unfit to babysit.

Your children are your responsiblity. Its up to you to either look after them or pay for proper childcare.

I imagine that doing some voluntary work is part of your mother in law's rehabilation. I think its a really positive step.

NotInGuatemalaNowDrRopata Fri 19-Jul-13 23:20:54

If your kids are anything like mine, I don't blame your mum for choosing the comparative serenity of a wildlife sanctuary.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 19-Jul-13 23:27:51


They are your dc and childcare does cost a lot. Yes thousands of parents pay it, others can't afford to work and pay childcare.
Think yourself lucky that you can afford to work and not on another thread being called names.

Eyesunderarock Fri 19-Jul-13 23:28:25

The difference with an anxiety or depressive illness is in the choice.
Feeling trapped by a situation and unable to leave makes the illness so much worse.
She can drop volunteering in a heartbeat with no repercussions if the pressure is too great. You sound like a very intense person to have a relationship with.

katykuns Fri 19-Jul-13 23:29:26

Welldone Poodle... I suffered with mild depression and anxiety, thankfully I was lucky I had support and felt better when I found work. I have no idea how life would have gone if I hadn't found my feet... but I have the utmost admiration for people fighting to get their lives the way they want/need it.

biological Fri 19-Jul-13 23:30:15

A brave and eloquent post there from PoodleFlavouredFreddos.

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