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?


  1. I to so worry about the future, although for Z not me, as long as me and his dad are around we will do our best for him and I'm sure after that his sister will do her best to, but being reliant on family Z may miss out on the benefits of independence, as he gets older that government support may be able to offer, support which I doubt will be there. Already Z has been signed off from the paediatric service because the few doctors they have are so overwhelmed, so the patients who are doing better (but still obviously have a disability) get discharged. We're waiting to see if he'll get an increased support package at school, which everyone says he needs but once again, only so much money and so as he is not struggling 'enough' we've been warned he may not get the extra support.

    I think in general that this government is taking away support where there is often no support mechanism to replace it, it's all very well talking about Big Society but in the area I volunteer in (school fundraising) it can be hard enough to get people to bring some (shop bought if necessary) cakes in once a term for a fundraising cake sale, I can't imagine those same people volunteering to go and drive the elderly to the shops. Both you and Z are lucky because of family but in a society where more and more people live on their own, like you say disability or chronic illness could happen to any of us.

  2. You're right about the march; I didn't notice any media coverage.

    I don't know what your chronic illness is but I can certainly sympathise when you mention people being too ill to work or sign on, yet deemed to be well enough to work.

    I'm in a bit of an unusual situation having been recently diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - a condition which is difficult to classify and one which the benefits system isn't always prepared to acknowledge even exists.

    I'm 49 years old and have never had a job [not that unusual for people with a diagnosis since we face a higher unemployment rate than any other disabled/disadvantaged group] and although I've done voluntary work for many years and have done everything and more than has been required of me by the jobcentre or training providers, I still feel so guilty that I'm having to live on benefits. There is so much that I'm capable of doing, so many ways in which I can contribute and participate...but no-one has ever been prepared to give me an opportunity to prove myself.

  3. Thank you J and A Lee. My heart goes out to both your situations.
    A Lee, I have chronic lung disease, but it is one of those invisible and flutuating conditions so impossible to quantify from rigid ATOS type critera. It just makes me sad that people like you have not been given a chance, when you have so much to give. All the best to you.