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Department of Sickness and Suffering

The DSS enjoy making people's lives a misery - and that's official! Or so claims retired Naval officer, Bernard "Tort" de Fleur.


He claims to have proof of it. I can exclusively reveal the contents of several leaflets intended for public circulation in the near future.


Unfortunately, "Tort", 93, was not able to produce the originals, but he did manage to show me several handwritten notes, which he pulled out of his pocket and put on the bar after his fifth double whisky (which he insisted on beforehand). These, he said, were copied out in secret during a clerk's lunch break.


They read as follows:
'Dear Claimant, I am writing to tell you that there is a new Scheme available for claimants like yourself who have come to regard the DSS as your only source of income.
'The scheme will offer you ten pounds a week over and above your normal dole money (a generous offer, though I say so myself!), which means that you will be able to become even better off.


'Please call in and see one of my underlings on (date) for a discussion. Don't forget that you have been specially selected for this offer from a list of quite a few. Hurry, or you may find yourself losing benefit!
'There'll be loads of free tea and coffee on the go! Yours truly,---'


Along with each sheet was a folded broadsheet stapled to it, which looked like a comic or cartoon book. In the first frame of the cartoon there was a workman in a flat cap and overalls, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth getting out of bed, saying: 'Is that the time already? I nearly slept in again, but I'm not used to getting up before noon.'


The second frame showed him with a collar and tie on, shaving and a bubble coming out of his mouth saying: 'Tra, la, la!'


The third frame showed him standing outside a big building on a bright, sunny day looking hard at what appeared to be a map in his hands. Behind him there was a sign saying: 'Restart. This way.'
Next it showed him turning round and asking a passer-by the way to the Restart place.


By the next frame, he had managed to find his way up the stairs and was sitting in a room full of people laughing, smoking and drinking cups of tea. A sign on the wall said, 'Thank you for coming.'


They got progressively stricter. The next read:
'Dear Claimant, I am writing to let you know about your predicament. You have been out of work for some time and have either attended several Restart interviews without a favourable outcome, or have not attended them at all.


'I am therefore advising you to attend our latest scheme. It is called 'Kickstart', and under the rules, anyone who does not respond may find themselves being interviewed by the local Fraud Squad in a back yard with the aid of bits of hose.'


Failing this, their benefit would be stopped: 'Dear Claimant, I am writing to let you know that I am stopping your benefit (you may call it 'Dole') because you have refused to avail yourself of a reasonable training opportunity.'


The last crumpled bit of paper he claimed was a reply to threats of suicide:
'Thank you for your letter about your intended suicide.
'We would be grateful if you could complete the enclosed form beforehand, as we may need to know about you from your former self, in order to assess your eligibility in the next world.
'After you have returned the suicide questionnaire, we will then be able to tell you if you are due to any benefit, but don't forget that you must return your Girobank cheque if you have committed suicide, or intend to commit suicide, before the end of the period it covers (except for any days of employment you have already told us about). You may find it convenient to appoint a beneficiary to help you do this.
'If in doubt, ask us.'

NURSE At this point, he was taken away by someone in a white coat.


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