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Monthly Archives: August 2015

So, when did we all become so self-centred? When did we stop caring? When did we lose our humanity?

Our newspapers are full of stories about migrants in dirty, muddy camps in Calais but we do nothing to help. Instead we silently thank the Lord they are in France and not here. There are reports on the television about stowaways in juggernauts suffocating and we do nothing. We say how terrible it is but heave a sigh of relief that this is happening in Austria and not on British motorways. There are pictures of bloated dead bodies floating in the ocean after massively overcrowded refugee boats capsize but we do little but wonder why they can’t just stay in their own countries.

We love looking at pictures and photographs of our scantily clad friends and families sunbathing on their summer holidays on Mediterranean beaches but we look away in horror when the photographs show the half clothed bodies of drowned Syrian children fleeing war and destitution. We all nod knowingly when we learn that other countries are accepting refugees and giving them a home, their countries are bigger than our after all, but we are all outraged if anyone suggests we should be doing our bit, and that we should be taking anyone else in, after all, we’re full.

And, when the stories we are reading are about people from our own country we are no better. We allow the Government to withdraw welfare benefits from sick and disabled people and tell them they should get a job when the available work is limited without batting an eyelid. We read stories about people who have died within six weeks of being declared fit for work but we do nothing. We allow people to be thrown on the scrap heap just because they are unable to work for a living. We listen to politicians saying work will make you better but the available work is limited.

We hear about people who cannot afford to pay for the electricity they need to run fridges to store their insulin due to their welfare benefits being sanctioned. We hear about parents who cannot afford to feed their chronically sick child due to their welfare benefits being cut. We hear about people who are evicted with nowhere else they can go due to their welfare benefits being sanctioned. We shake our heads when when hear about the million people this year alone who have been given three day food packages by the Trussell Trust foodbanks after their welfare benefits were sanctioned or withdrawn. Welfare benefits which were designed to support people who were unable to work due to sickness and disability.

If the dead bodies on the motorway were majestic lions shot by overfed foreign hunters, if the suffocating stowaways were playful puppies in cages during the Chinese dog meat eating festival, if the bloated bodies on the beach were adorable seal pups that had been clubbed to death in Canada there would be public outcry. If the starving children in Great Britain were living in a third world country, if the homeless families in Great Britain were sleeping in the gutters of a third world city, if the workless disabled people in Great Britain were begging and dying on the other side of the world we would be able to salve our consciences by setting up a direct debit or buying a ticket to a benefit concert. As it is when we hear about the human heartbreak all around us we are happy to to push it to the back of our minds, after all, it’s not our problem – or is it?

So, the much anticipated death statistics have finally been released and we now know just how many people have died in this country after having been found fit for work and coming off benefits.

Or do we? The number seems to change every time you read it and seems to depend largely on the source. I’ve seen numbers ranging from just under 3,000 to well over 91,000.

I have just been reading an article in today’s Guardian, my prefered media outlet, which is saying that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 within 14 days of being told they were ‘Fit for Work’ after a Work Capability Assessment. Maybe not as big a number as the 91,000 other sources appear to be quoting yet still totally outrageous. Even if the lowest figure given is accepted as the true figure, this amounts to nine disabled people dying every day, nine disabled people who have been deemed ‘fit for work’ within the previous six weeks, nine disabled people who are no longer with us.

That is nine people too many.

We need to push the Government into responding to this. Exactly how many people have died is not the main issue, the main issue is what is the Government going to do to stop this happening any more. We have to make sure we do  not fall into the trap of arguing about which set of figures are the real ones rather than pushing for long overdue reform .

No matter which figure is the true figure, how can the WCA test and the classification of people as being deemed to be ‘Fit for Work’ be trusted and acceptable? It can’t be. But arguing amongst ourselves about which figures are right and which figures are wrong won’t get us anywhere. We need our elected leaders, Mr Cameron and Mr Duncan Smith, to explain to us how nine deaths EVERY DAY could be seen as being right? Nine deaths every day is indicative of a flawed system that needs to be suspended and reformed. We need to press for answers.

Why aren’t you reforming the system Mr Cameron? Why aren’t you doing that Mr Duncan Smith? Explain why, we’d all be very interested in knowing. Could it be because there is no legitimate answer you can give.

The current system needs to be scrapped.and consigned to the dustbin of history. And this needs to happen today.

A worthwhile legacy for the nine people who died every day for over two years has to be a system which is fair for all disabled people. A system which helps those disabled people who are well enough and capable of working find suitable employment.  A system where there are training opportunities for disabled people who want to work but lack the skills to do so. A system that supports those disabled people who are in work but need a little extra help. A system that supports those disabled people who are incapable of working due to the restrictions imposed on them by their impairments to live a full and enriching life. A system that doesn’t punish people for not being well enough to work. A system that does not drive people into committing suicide.  A system that enables all disabled people to reach their full potential. What we really need is a system that recognises and values all disabled people as full members of our rich and varied society.

And when will this happen? It can’t happen soon enough.

16% of the population or 5.8 million adults of working age in the UK have some form of disability. The system must ensure that all of these people receive the support they deserve.  No more disabled people can be allowed to be punished just for being too sick to work. No more disabled people can be left living in abject poverty due to an inadequate welfare support network. No more disabled people can be thrown on the scrap heap. No more disabled people must die.

Why is it that non disabled people seem to think I’m a child. I have news for you folks – I’m not. I’m a well educated, 54 year old mother of two adult children,

And I am disabled, not stupid.

For many years I have had to deal with people who seem to think they need to crouch down in front of me in order to have a conversation. Just like you do with young children.

And people who seem to think I’m not capable of knowing my own mind and what I want – the infamous ‘Does she talk sugar’ brigade. Why not ask me? I can talk and, as a friend once said when a waitress asked him this question, I rarely stop talking.

This ‘treating me as a small child’ thing has come to a head recently as, due to a worsening of my condition, I am now in need of carers. Nice, kind ladies who come in every day and help me with washing and dressing and housework and providing me with meals.

This has been fine whilst, due to my  condition, I have been restricted to my bed for the last few months. My ‘ladies’ have come in 3 times every day, two at a time, to get me washed in the morning, fed at lunchtime and ready for sleep at 6pm every evening. No problem really seeing as a nasty infection has meant that my bed has been in the living room for the pst seven months.

But things are changing. The infection is improving and, as a result, I will be able to go upstairs again soon in my lift and use my wheelchair every day.  I will still need help with getting up and going to bed because I need a hoist but I will be able to re-enter the outside world. And this will still necessitate the need for carers to operate the hoist and doing the getting me dressed and undressed stuff. So I spoke to my Social Services provided carers about this so I could start thinking about timings and new shift patterns to accommodate my new-found freedom. I told them I would be quite happy to continue with them coming to get me up at around 9am on weekdays and 9.30am on Saturdays and Sundays. i then told them I would be able to get my own lunch so I would stop needing that visit. Then we came to my bed time visit and this is when the problems started.

My living room, where my bed is currently, is downstairs. My bedroom, where I hope to be returning soon, is upstairs. My TV is in the living room. My adult children, when they are in, sit in the living room to watch TV. As a family we sit in the living room to have our supper when my younger daughter gets home from work. As a result supper tends to happen at around 8- 9pm daily. I would therefore be looking at bedtime being somewhere between 10.30pm and 11pm. Not an unreasonable time for an adult…

How deluded was I. My carers informed me, very clearly, that NO carers would regularly work that late and that I would have to continue going to bed at 6pm. They then told me that occasionally, if I was lucky, this could be extended to being as late as 8.30pm but, in the main, bedtime would be at 6pm. I would not be able to watch TV in the evening. I would not be able to have supper with my family. I would not be able to have friends round for an evening watching Dvds. All this could, of course, continue downstairs as it would in most households but I would be upstairs in my bedroom, in bed, from 6pm. Like a small child.

I am an adult.

Adult social care should provide for adults who want to be treated like adults.

Care agencies should look for, and employ, people who are happy to undertake their caring responsibilities for adults who wish to be treated as adults. There are many people who are unemployed in this country, surely some of them would be happy to be employed as carers who can work later than 6pm. Social Services should be prepared to pay for care for people who want to be treated as adults and go to bed at adult times. I can’t be the only one.

I am a disabled adult aged 54, not  naughty child aged 4. Don’t treat me like one. Provide me with the respect you would give to any other adult. Just because I am now more disabled than I was I have not entered a time machine and returned to my childhood. I am no different from the me I was before I became ill. I have not changed. Respect my adulthood, it has, after all, taken me 54 years to get here.

It’s a new day and the Minister for Work and Pensions has made another pronouncement – let’s save ourselves some money and assess disabled people on what they can do and not whether or not they are fit for work.

Now, at first glance, this looks like it could actually be a workable idea. If a disabled person is restricted in what they can do by their impairment, why not try a system that looks at what they can do rather than writing them off completely.

What’s wrong with that? Most people can do something can’t they? Why not have a benefits system that celebrates and rewards what a person can do and ensures they are not penalised for what they can’t. What’s wrong with that?

It won’t work, that’s what’s wrong with that.

But why won’t it work I hear you ask. Surely, assessing people on what they can do is a great idea. Surely, looking at the restrictions imposed on a disabled person by their impairment is a brilliant way of making use of their talents. Surely this will give disabled people the reassurance they need that their individual circumstances will be taken into account.

It won’t.

It’s a great idea for people whose impairments are static and unchanging. It’s a great idea for someone who has an impairment which remains the same from day to day. It’s a great idea for someone who knows what restrictions they will face from the moment they wake up in the morning until the moment they go to sleep at night. Unfortunately, it’s not great for most disabled people.

Many people have fluctuating conditions. What someone with remitting, relapsing Multiple Sclerosis can do today is unlikely to be what they can do tomorrow. What someone with depression can do today is not the same as they could do yesterday. The level of pain and restriction experienced by someone with arthritis changes with the weather. It’s not possible to predict what a disabled person can and can’t do reliably.

I have a suggestion to make Mr Duncan Smith.

Stop it.

Stop messing around with disabled people’s lives. Stop trying to make disabled people feel worthless. Stop telling disabled people you’re withdrawing what little support we may have. Stop telling the world disabled people are scroungers and liars and thieves. Just stop it.

Why not look, instead, at what you could do to support disabled people and make them feel they are valued and appreciated. Why not encourage employers to look at the roles they have in their workplace that could be done by someone who is restricted to their home for some reason relating to their impairment. Why not help employers adapt workplaces so they are accessible for disabled people. Why not ensure disabled people have the funding they need to buy the equipment which will enable them to work. Why not put more resources into Access to Work rather than cut it. Why not ask disabled people what they need. Why not let disabled people take the lead, you may be surprised by what you find.

Disabled people want to to work. Why not help them, don’t hinder them.

Our lives are in your hands Mr Duncan Smith, don’t let us down.

I am a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I don’t work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am disabled and I am unable to leave my bed so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I receive Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I lie around in my bed all day so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am well educated with a degree and a post-graduate qualification but I don’t go out to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I have two children I don’t go out to work to support so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

My adult children cannot help support me as one is in receipt of Employment Support Allowance because they are disabled and my other child, whilst she is working, has just finished an apprenticeship and so earns barely enough for herself, let alone supporting me.We live in a three bedroom social housing home paid for by Housing Benefit so we must all be Benefits Scroungers.

I have paid Tax and National Insurance for 30 years but I am now too ill to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am not looking for work because I am too ill and disabled so I must be a ‘Benefit Scrounger’.

I need two strangers to strip me, wash me, dress me, change my nappy as I am doubly incontinent, feed me, clean up after me, do my laundry and do some housework every day but I don’t go out to work to pay for it so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I have nurses coming to my house to treat my open, infected bed-sores every day but I don’t pay for this so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

I am allowed to sit in my wheelchair for around 4 hours on one day every week which means I cannot go out to work so I must be a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

This is me – I am a ‘Benefits Scrounger’.

So, after five solid years of Conservative spin and lies, our beloved and newly elected Premier is at it again – and this time without the restraining hand of even the Lib Dems to hold him back.

In March, whilst the coalition was still in power, Mr Cameron stated that: “We’ve actually improved the money that goes to the most severely disabled people in our country. We’ve replaced one benefit, DLA, with a new benefit, PIP.”

Now that we have Conservatives only in power, on 3rd June David Cameron’s spokesperson was saying: “The prime minister pointed out that we have actually increased disability payments” and “money towards those [the most severely disabled] has increased.”

Not having noticed any difference in the pitiful amount of money reaching my bank account – I am a severely disabled woman with Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer, restricted to my bed 24/7 and in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance – I decided to do a quick investigation to find out how much I should be getting if, as Mr Cameron says, disability benefits for the most severely disabled people have increased.

Five minutes frenzied typing on Google and the information I was looking for was staring me in the face: Mr Cameron has indeed replaced one benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with another benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), that is EXACTLY THE SAME. Let us examine the figures:

PIP and DLA both have two components – Care and Mobility.

In 2015/16 these benefits are paid at the following rates:

DLA Care Component: High rate – £82.30; Middle rate –  £55.10
PIP Care Component: Enhanced rate – £82.30; Standard rate –  £55.10

DLA Mobility Component: High rate – £57.45; Low rate – £21.80

PIP Mobility Component: Enhanced rate – £57.45; Standard rate – £21.80.

I would love to know how replacing DLA with PIP has “improved the money that goes to the most severely disabled people.” if the amounts paid have not changed or improved at all. Even my very rusty grade B ‘O’ Level Maths skills cannot work out how the amount now paid is better in any way.

We are now being told that when we are presented with the new budget in July, far from Benefits for ‘severely disabled people’ being protected, it is likely that PIP, DLA and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), another disability related benefit, are likely to be reduced in the cuts demanded by Mr Osbourne and that another benefit, Industrial Injuries Benefit, is like to be cut completely. How does this protect disabled people? We are being punished for being born disabled, becoming disabled through disease or being injured and disabled either in or out of the workplace.

Mr Cameron needs to address this and provide us with answers, not wishy, washy rhetoric. Disabled people in Britain need to know – how are we being protected? Tell us because we can’t see it no matter how hard we look.

Here we go again. Politicians thinking they know better that medical professionals. Disabled people being depicted as scroungers.

Mr Ian Duncan Smith, Mr ‘Work is good for you’, wants more disabled people to work instead of receiving benefits.

Well IDS, funnily enough, many of us want to work too. But we can’t.

I would love to work and use the qualifications I have worked long and hard to obtain – I have a degree and a Post Graduate diploma – but, due to my disability (cancer and MS) I am restricted, by my specialists’ to my bed most of the time. I am allowed to get up once a week for 3 or 4 hours unless I have to go to a hospital appointment when I also get wheelchair time.

Find me a job where I can take my bed and pay for my bed to be transported to the workplace daily and I’ll do it.

What many of us need are decently paid jobs we can do from our beds at home.

I am currently doing some data entry work for a survey consultancy. I get 50p for each survey entered onto the spreadsheet – each survey takes about 15 to 20 minutes – I’m therefore earning £2 per hour…. I’m sure there must be many office based roles that could be done, successfully, from home using the technological improvements we’ve had over many years.

Come on employers, readjust your workplaces – does everyone need to come to the office? Do all the roles in your business have to be done by people who have to travel to work? How many roles could be undertaken by people working from home and using video conferencing for meetings? Why not have a rethink about job roles and give those of us who really want to work but who cannot either leave their homes or their beds a chance.

We live in the 21st century with all the advantages that brings but many job roles are still stuck in the 20th century. Move forward and modernise. Give us a chance. There is no reason why workers ave to be physically present every day.