Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Benefit Scroungers R Us

I am seriously worried about the future. Not so much for me, because I am blessed to have the support I have, but for those people suffering from chronic illnesses and disability who are running out of options.

You may think I am being somewhat over dramatic here, but in reality, there is a problem, and it is being hidden, and there is a systematic assault on the very people who need protecting most. But the news doesn't report this. The voices are dim, the fights are weak. The most vociferous are often the most suffering. And this is wrong.

A couple of weeks back there was a march against the DLA/ESA reform in London, called the Hardest Hit. It barely featured in the 1 O Clock news, let alone the 6/10pm slots. Was almost one of those afterthoughts - those 'aah, isn't this nice, people in wheelchairs out for the day' type things. And then came the Daily Mail type comments; 'if they can get down to London to protest, they can jolly well work and stop scrounging off the taxpayers money'. There is a lack of empathy pervading society that shocks me and leaves me cold, and yet this could be just round the corner for any one of us.

I had a look at the new proposed criteria for the 'Personal Independence Plan' and only became more worried about the narrowing of criteria and the loss of dignity this will inevitably bring. I fear that many will now be caught in a trap; that of not being 'disabled enough' to gain disability benefits, and yet being too ill to be employed, not being able to get JSA because of not being able to get to the Jobcentre due to illness or lack of mobility, having lost mobility allowance....and so on, and so on. A vicious circle of ever decreasing proportions which may leave some at best housebound and despairing and at worst - well, let's not go there. As a society which prides itself on looking after its most vulnerable citizens, we are in danger of falling into a pit of unseen depths. If you still think I am being dramatic, please take some time to read this to see how this is already affecting thousands.

For me as a Christian, this is affecting me so much because of how we see people. Are people valuable, or are they commodities? Do people matter because they are people, because they are who they are, or because of what they can bring to society? As someone who believes all are made in God's image and all are inexplicably precious and amazing, it feels like these reforms may be devaluing and cutting off those who cannot fight for themselves, and this is utterly contrary to God's ways.

For me as someone with chronic illness, this is affecting me so much because I am reliant; on my family and on society as a whole to live. Perhaps for those who have no support system their thinking will soon verge on whether they have any value at all, whether it is worth fighting, whether it is better to give up, and stop burdening others.

I am worried about the future. The future looks cold. What are we going to do about it?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Why I love Brussians

I went to a meet up this weekend with a few people from the website 'Bronchiectasis R Us' which was set up a few years ago by the lovely Charlotte as a way for people suffering from this rare disease to connect and share information and support. We've been having an annual meet up for a few years now. These guys never cease to amaze me with their zest for life amidst such suffering.

You may be thinking these meet ups must be depressing, talking about illness, sharing symptoms etc. So far from it. It's a chance for us all to let go. I think that we know we can simply be ourselves with each other, because we share such a deep bond. We understand each other - we don't even need to say anything, we just need to look at each other and we know. We get it. It's like a breath of fresh air (no pun intended) Lovely family and friends are wonderful in their empathy and compassion but there is something about spending time with those going through the same as you, something liberating.

And you know, we don't sit moaning and grumbling (not too much anyway) ;) We have a giggle, mainly. There are people there who have more to contend with than 'only' bronchiectasis, they have other chronic illnesses, and yet there they are, smiling, encouraging, being there for others. I wanted to write this post as a tribute to the bravery of Brussians, and to their general attitude on life, which is positive, affirming, fun. Brussians don't go under, even with the most hideous of circumstances. Of course we all have times we scream and rant and moan and cry, but the support that comes from other members during that time is amazing, even when these others are yet again in hospital or struggling to breathe. Knowing these people has changed me, changed my outlook on this disease and you know what? I thank God for them.

So Charlotte - thankyou, thankyou and thankyou again, because you setting up this little site those years ago made many lives that little bit happier. And I am so glad I know you and the other Brussians. Sometimes I'm even grateful I am ill because of meeting you all, lovely, brave people. God bless. xxx