Thursday, 6 October 2011

Am I Benefit Scrounging Scum? Part 1

 By Eclectic_Jax First posted here
I'm sat on the big brown leather sofa, my pint cup of tea to my left and the dog asleep in her bed to my right.  The window is open and the air is heavy with birdsong - it's a truly beautiful sound.  There is a strange tap tap tapping noise, which by straining, I can see is being caused by a blackbird trying to smash a snail shell on the bay window roof below.  There is a faint sound of a passenger plane overhead and the cries of gulls drifting in from the sea.  It's not dark, but not quite light.  It's that sort of inbetween haze.  And that pretty much sums it up.

When I first had my accident, I didn't bother claiming any benefits as I had a very well paid job but after a couple of weeks, I was told that it was best I stayed off for Health & Safety reasons.  There was 2 flights of stairs up to my desk, 1 to the nearest toilet and 3 down if I wanted a drink, my lunch or a smoke (I don't smoke anymore thankfully).  I was immobilised from ankle to hip and on crutches, so was deemed a bit of a liability.  Unfortunately, there was no sick pay as it was only a small Firm so I had to go through the rigmarole of applying for Sick Pay.  Little did I know that 6 weeks later, I'd be made redundant.  Thankfully, I got my normal wage as final payment.  It was a bitter blow, but I was not the only one.  Approximately 200 were made redundant that week.  I spent my redundancy wisely and paid off debts that had built up due to being on a greatly reduced income, filled the freezer and cupboards and made sure that the bills were all up to date.  It didn't leave much, but  I had a holiday booked and thought sod it, I'm still going to enjoy it.  And I did! 

Applying for benefits was a killer.  I'm a proud bird, some would say stubborn (they're right but don't tell them I said so) and to ask for help does not come easy.  Since then, my circumstances have got worse, and I find myself in rather unpleasant territory.  I've admitted that I need help and that I can't cope with the way things are.  Little did I realise just how hard it would be!  Now for those that think life on benefits is easy and you get everything paid for, you're wrong.  Out of my benefit, I still have to pay £25 towards my rent, £8 towards my Council Tax and the usual bills, as well as find the money to get to physio and hospital appointments.  It doesn't sound like a lot, but when your income is only a small amount it's a bloody big dent!  I still don't understand how those who have never worked and are on benefits manage to go out and get drunk & smoke or do drugs (Yes I know not all do before someone picks up on it).  I guess some just know how to screw the system.

It has taken the best part of 16 months to get decent analgesia so that I can be relatively pain free and 6 weeks to get an Occupational Therapy Assessment so that I can finally have a shower safely (I'll come back to this in a moment), sit on the toilet without my kneecap popping out and wash a dish or 2 without worrying about falling over.  I've applied for DLA (Disability Living Allowance), and more recently been made to apply for ESA (I can't remember what it stands for, but it's essentially the same form as for the DLA - this is a blog post on its own so I'll come back to this at a later date, suffice to say, Google is your friend).  I'm still waiting for a decision on DLA.  They have to get a report from my Surgeon and GP, which I don't mind as I have nothing to hide.  

Now, as already stated, things have got worse and so I found myself requiring more help.  Having been told that it was a long wait for an OT Assessment, I was advised to "use baby wipes" to wash myself as it was unsafe to use the shower (I was taking the crutches in with me for stability which wasn't the best of ideas) or stand to have a strip wash, and had I got into the bath I'd have either needed Trumpton or Prince William and his colleagues from RAF Valley to winch me out.  Housework had become all but impossible - the simple act of hoovering generally results in me falling over as I can't hold the hoover and the crutches, so something has to's usually my knee.  Doing the dishes and cooking a meal is the same.  Because of this, I asked for a "Home Help" (not sure what it's called these days, I'm sure it's some daft acronym).  The problem is, because I have used my nouse and adapted to a small extent, I appear to have shot myself in the foot.  

When I make a meal, I put it in a tupperware dish and poke it into the living room with the crutches as this saves me from either dropping the plate/bowl and burning myself or ending up face first in it.  The same with a cup of tea or coffee - I put it in a flask and roll it into the living room.  To collect my post, put the bin bag out, let the dog out, go to the hospital etc, I go down the 28 stairs on my arrse (I've already fell down them and ended up rugby tackling the wall, resulting in a damaged shoulder.  Martin Johnson would have been impressed had I been in a scrum though).  I have a wheelchair for when things are extremely bad, but it's outside my front door - 2 flights of stairs up!  Thankfully, they are aware of the need for more surgery, and know that my needs will increase in the next few weeks, but I will still have to wait a few days for everything to be put into place.  I wait with bated breath for their decision.

I intend for this to be a temporary blip in my life.  No matter what the outcome surgically, I intend to be back at work as soon as possible, paying all the money back in that I've taken out so far.  I'd like to think that I'll get the help I need, but I won't hold my breath.  Maybe in the meantime I should develop a drink or drug problem (well I'm already on morphine so surely it's just a step up...scrap that, I have more self respect), I'd get much more money and help then!  I'll just have to continue to adapt and overcome. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't tar all that are on benefits with the same brush.  Some of us have worked a day in our lives (over 20 years in my case) and will continue to do so, with or without the help that is supposed to be in place for such circumstances.

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