The whirlwind of conference season has passed relatively harmlessly for another year and the lid has been firmly locked on those irritating, grass-root humans that invade a politician's alien world once a year.
But just before that particular circus gave those of us that attended emphysema from so much smoke and mirrors, David Cameron reshuffled his cabinet of clowns.
Us sick and disabled people, whose political-football-lives can in some cases be totally controlled by the actions of a few MPs, got a new "team" to play in the semis.
So, our new "Maria Miller" - Minister for Disabled People - is Esther McVey
A tough, Liverpool lass, again, went to a state school (though seemingly a glowing example of one of the first Academies) who believes in SMEs and family business. She was working at the DWP anyway, under Chris Grayling. She has already had several meetings with Kaliya Franklin (@bendygirl) and arranged a meeting with Ian Duncan Smith at Tory conference. As magic-dust would have it, she is also Kaliya's MP. So far, she has listened very carefully to everything we have to say.
But the new "Grayling" - Minister for Work and Pensions - is a Mr Mark Hoban.
A comprehensive boy Tory with a strong history in finance. In my experience, Tories who went to comprehensives are the most sensible ones. Usually one-nation Tories who can ground conservatism in it's real values through experience. If nothing else a finance guy would surely look at the kafka-esque farce that is work provision, outsourcing and welfare policy in this country and believe in seconds that almost all of the money could be better spent? Spent on actually
doing what we're supposed to be doing with every last pound of taxpayers money - supporting and enabling people?
So far, I've heard two comments from Mr Hoban in his new role. The first conceded that it is, indeed ridiculous - as we've argued all along - to make cancer patients look for work. After all, it's not a tricky one for actual human people to see that that is a spectacularly ludicrous thing to do, is it? Could it be that Hoban is actually human? A human Tory? I'm struggling with the concept, but time, I suppose, will tell.
The second comment came from this story from BBC News.
Hoban admits that the WCA process is not working. Too many people are being failed by the system. It is inaccurate. This in itself is an enormous step forward. At least Hoban acknowledges there are problems not yet solved by Harrington.
However, I wanted to explain to him about "evidence" and his suggestion that the claimants themselves have a duty to provide all the evidence they can when they first claim. Hoban thinks that if we only submitted all that evidence in the first place, we wouldn't be declined benefits and have to appeal at all.
So, Mr Hoban, as an introduction, I'd like to paint you a picture.
Imagine Bill. Bill has worked for 36 years as a postman, but now his spine is crumbling and there's nothing more doctors say they can do for him. For years the pain had been getting worse and worse, but he'd delivered his letters until he could barely walk. The Post Office had done all they could to keep him on, finding him an admin job he could do from his new wheelchair and reducing his hours, but the pain became too much and Bill reached the point where he simply could no longer work.
Imagine that day, Mark Hoban. In excruciating pain - pain he had no concept even existed in his "old life" - Bill stays home on his first Monday morning for 36 years, sits at the kitchen table, on his own, suddenly in a wheelchair 54 and unemployable.
His world is falling apart. Suddenly his "job" is doctors appointments and surgeons appointments and scan appointments and x-ray appointments and tablets in the morning, tablets with lunch, tablets with dinner and tablets for bedtime.
And surviving the pain.
Bill finds it extraordinary that just pain alone takes so much effort to survive in this new life.
On the kitchen table is a looooong claim form for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). A claim for sickness benefits. Out of work benefits. Bill feels ashamed of it.
He just wants it done and gone. He answers the questions honestly but with little detail - he doesn't know what a descriptor is or the secret code of letters that magically allow an oh-so-rare- successful claim. He doesn't know the traps that lie in wait for him on that form!! Why would he? He thinks it's enough to say his back is crumbling and he suffers terrible pain daily and now must use a wheelchair. It isn't.
a normal, human person think that wasn't enough?
He sees a sentence about "submitting evidence" and cringes at the suggestion he is somehow under trial for breaking down. He thinks for a minute, searches out an old repeat prescription form that proves he relies on morphine simply to get out of bed, signs the form, seals the envelope and does his best to forget all about one of the hardest days of his life. The day he had to beg for help.
The following week there is another 40 page form, this time for Disability Living Allowance, but Bill doesn't know you have to say different things on this new form to qualify. He thinks it's enough to say his back is crumbling and he suffers terrible pain daily and now must use a wheelchair. It isn't.
The following week there is a social care assessment that concludes Bill doesn't need any help at night. In deep deep shame, Bill whispers, barely audibly how he will get to the toilet now his daughters have all left home? The assessor says not to worry, they'll provide him with nappies, he won't need to go to the toilet at night any more.
Broken and desperate, at the lowest point in his life, Bill starts to get letter after letter telling him he is fit for work, not eligible for any support at all. No ESA, no DLA, no care package, despite facing gradual paralysis and a dependent future.
Now think about appealing Mr Hoban. Imagine that you are Bill. Would you even have the strength to appeal? Might you just believe that they are right, these terribly official, medical sounding "experts"? Might you be so exhausted and beaten down that you simply give up? Might you feel you just can't face the shame of begging? Begging Mr Hoban?? After a lifetime of work and paying tax and "striving", we make a million Bills BEG for support? How many do you imagine don't appeal at all?
At appeal, Bill has an advocate, recommended by the local CAB to steer him through the whole process of his
appeal. (Incidentally, millions will now be denied even this justice as legal aid has been scrapped for benefit claims and Advocacy services face huge cuts.) They explain to Bill that "evidence" means letters from your consultant or GP or other people who know you well. That he can't just say "his back is crumbling" but that he he has osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. They explain that he must answer each question in full sentences and in great detail, even if it means constantly repeating himself.
They explain that he must lay himself totally bare on that form and admit in the tiniest detail just how disabled he has become. To strangers. He must admit to the incontinence, nappies, suicidal thoughts, all of it, right there on that form, exposed. You have to write things you may never have told another living person.
On the day of his tribunal, a judge took one look at Bill, one look at the medications that came tumbling endlessly from the carrier bags Bill came in clutching, as instructed and awarded him ESA at the highest rate.
The DLA tribunal is exactly the same and finally after 18 of the worst months of his life, Bill can hope that the nightmare is over. He can rest, finally grieve for the life he lost, focus on what his new life might be.
But just 5 weeks later, a brown envelope containing an ESA claim form falls through the door and the whole process starts all over again. Bill will never be free of it now. This is his life. Assessment, rejection, fear, long waits for an appeal, winning an appeal and then assessment all over again.
So, Mr Hoban if you've read this far, and you are even a tiny bit human, tell me hand on heart that you're not horrified by Bill's story? And the millions of "Bills" just like him. How is this in any way an efficient use of taxpayer's money? You may as well have written a chemistry degree and told everyone to sit the final papers. The current system is almost exactly that random with around 94% of new claims found fit for work of some kind?
As an outsider, I can see why you might walk in, look at an overview and conclude "Ahhh, they're not sending in enough evidence when they claim" but the truth is rather different. They don't imagine they need to prove anything at all until the full inquisitorial nature of the system becomes clear to them. They are giving their word.
Why would any, honest, human person think anything else?