Monday, 18 April 2011

A Note To Disability Sceptics

It might sometimes seem as though disability campaigners are asking you to take an awful lot on trust.

We tell you that we are not opposed to all welfare reform, yet only write about the parts we disagree with. We point out that genuine support to find rewarding employment would be welcomed, but ask you to believe us when we say that it is the system put in place that fails us - and you.

You watch TV programmes and read newspaper reports that claim virtually all on sickness benefits are "scroungers" or "skivers", yet we keep pointing out that in fact fraud is the lowest of all social security benefits at just 0.5%. Perhaps we should spend a little more time acknowledging that many people on sickness or disability benefits would like to work and would welcome the chance to try.

If you happen to be aligned to a Conservative viewpoint, it's hard to continually hear that a policy is not only chaotic and mis-informed, but potentially dangerous and cruel. As a Labour leftie, I know all too well how frustrating it is when you have the best of intentions in government, but face a constant wall of opposition. If you believe passionately that work is the best medicine, it's hard to hear that for some, that just isn't the case.

Nonetheless, when something is wrong, it's wrong.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit) was wrong when Labour introduced it and it's just as wrong today. It was based on flawed assumptions and spurious research. In 13 years, it was the first thing I openly opposed my own party over. It was clear that it would cause great suffering and injustice and I simply could not let it go unchecked.

Worst of all it might just sound like self interest : "Don't cut our benefits, don't make us pay."

Some ask how I  (and my campaigning colleagues at The Broken of Britain ) manage to write so passionately or find time to research our work, yet don't take a "real" job. Well this is why.

We are making ourselves (more) ill. We are pushing ourselves too far. Daily, we take on too much and fight too hard.  Yet at some point a kind of fatalistic "nothing left to lose" attitude crept over us. We don't have wealthy supporters or powerful voices to fight our cause. If someone wants an "expert" for a radio show or newspaper column, it has to be us. There is no-one else. If someone wants an article within the hour on a particularly pernicious benefit story, we have to write it. There is no-one else.

But we're doing it for you too.

Sickness or disability can happen to anyone at any time. You might think that you would cope, work on through, but we who have been there know that sometimes there comes a time when you simply can't. We know that life can change in a heartbeat. That cancer or car accidents, disease or despair can strike anyone at any time - from the CEO who has a breakdown that he thought could never happen to him to the student diagnosed with leukaemia.

We know that skis can come lose or motorbikes can spin into ditches, crushing our hopes for the future as surely as our limbs. We know that defective genes or delinquent organs can lurk as surely in a lawyer as a clerk.

And we know, through terrible experience that when, God forbid, the lottery of life comes calling, you have a right to dignity. Not wealth or special favours, just a little basic provision and a knowledge that we live in a society that won't let you fall.

So, we have to fight. We have to be controversial. We have to grab your attention. We have to find ways to have our voices heard by a media and political class who largely don't want to know. But I just wanted you to know that we're fighting for you too.

Originally posted here 


Anonymous said...

'Normal' people dont want to focus on 'THIS COULD BE THEM' as they refuse to accept how one day your life can be great - You can work and run and do everything you ever wanted to do.
The next day you could be confined to a bed, a wheelchair, a house that becomes your prison. They refuse to accept this could be their fate - as it has been for oh so many of us.

When I think of England now - I no longer think of a place that is 'Mother country' I now look upon it as a country of hate, not a country of care. They seem to care for other countries, but for their own people - They no longer care. For the disabled they no longer care. This makes me ashamed to call myself a Brit - Because I DO care.

Cameron has changed this country into a place where disabled people are shunned from the community and not accepted and helped. He and the Govt have made disabled people ashamed to be themselves and ashamed to laugh andf smile lest people assume they are acually HAPPY.

Oh no - disabled people should be all locked away from sight unless brought out into view for a small viewing scripted by the Govt to 'up' themselves for their oh so caring attitude (not)

The Govt should have cared, they should be caring instead of attacking those with the least tools and strength to fiht back.

I still pray daily that someone will get them on Human Rights rules/laws. But I fearthat now - We no longer HAVE any human rights - because we are disabled, and we are inhuman and below them, and scum.

Anonymous said...

well said. I still care.
We care.
We are greater than they.
We will be at peace with ourselves xxx

Robert said...

Look at Germany, I'm half German and have relatives in Berlin and Gera and well all over.

They get 80% of the wages they earned the year before, after two years your accessed if your 50% disabled no legs blind deaf or have other major problems you get money given to you as a pension, but if you cheat and your caught it's jail. Oh yes your GP accessed you not some private firm....

But working every firm with twenty employees must take on two disabled people who are then protected, you cannot be laid off or sacked without asking the German job center if they do not agree you have had it.

A company with a 100 workers must have ten people who are deemed disabled and again protection comes in plus five to ten days extra holidays, you also keep some of your benefits because as we know being disabled cost more.

Yet Germany has one of the highest number of disabled people looking for work, because although people who employ the disabled tend not go above the recommendations so if you have to employ ten then you only employ ten, this leaves a large number of people unable to find work.

My uncle lost his leg in the war WW2 he was employed by the council to cut the grass, thats all he did was drive his hand only controlled grass cutter, he cut verges, playing fields and what ever needed doing, during the winter he drove this cart for the council workers to pick up litter, he did not retire he loved his job because it was real.

When I worked in the NHS for a short period I nearly went mad doing nothing, they had nothing for me to do, just move this bit of paper from here to here and then move it back, it was not real and I hated it.

never mind life will go on. said...

I've found you all - Broken Of Britain - I've been looking for a while - hoping that you were out there somewhere, I was just waiting for that day! Along with agreeing with pretty much everything I've read today, on here and SameDifference, I've been encouraged, nay galvanised - we do have a right to dignity, it's a right that's being ignored, along with us and our (to them, baneful) problems. We do have to fight, we've no other choice and I really hope someone can help me find all the people in my town who are 18-54years old, long-term sick and/or disabled and struggling to get suitable housing. I don't know where to start! I won't need names or addresses, no personal information, just an e-mail address, so you could tell me what you've experienced and I could anonomously include the factual data. In my quest for adequate housing I've tried getting the local MP and a social worker I was discharged from after three months involved - to no avail. Even with other problems like previous domestic violence and nuisance neighbours upstairs making my life a misery with their excessive noise (who I believe are such a nuisance to me because they are those narrow-minded losers who like to pick on disadvantaged people, resenting the fact they have to work for their living when what they don't realise is I would be so grateful for reasonable health and the daily grind) I simply cannot get out of this 1st floor flat (no lift) to a disabled-adapted bungalow so I can live in peace, have my operation and eventually go back to school. I've got Endometriosis, Inherited Degenerative Spine Disease, ME, Fibromyalgia and Clinical Depression. The council would only let me bid on suitable accommodation if I was 55 years or over, or, get this, mentally ill. So what's Clinical Depression when it's at home? They said they can't bend the rules for anyone. I'm frustrated angry and sad - I need a positive outlet for this, I think the only way forward is for me to find people like me in Luton, Bedfordshire, so we can lobby the council for accessibility to adequate housing, for us, I feel desperately isolated and unfulfilled. I dream of someone saying "here's the keys to a bungalow - all you have to do is live here in peace, get as well as you possibly can and get on with your life". Mum says if wishes were horses beggars would true, but why do we have to be the beggars? Why do we have to fight so hard - demean and embarrass ourselves to be heard, taken seriously, to get scans, diagnoses, any kind of positive attention has to be grappled for. It's not right and I want to do something about it!