It could, so easily, be you…

Social media and some of the people who inhabit it have managed to ruffle my feathers yet again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the friendship, the companionship, the silly jokes, the funny stories, the interesting discussions, the support, even the daft pictures of cats and yesterday’s dinner but there are some people you just want to to shoot.

The winner of today’s ‘Most Annoying Person on Facebook’ award has to be the guy who decided to praise all the cuts that the Government have made to Welfare Benefits and call for Cameron and Co to make even more. When challenged he stated that all benefit claimants were scroungers and should get a job.

Talk about generalisation! Benefit claimants are definitively NOT all workshy scroungers, milking the system. Sure, there must be some who are, not everyone is squeaky clean and people do try to cheat their way to handouts for nothing but these people are very much a tiny minority of claimants. Everyone else, the vast majority are genuine, struggling and trying to cope with the pittance they get.  

The people who are moaning and talking about scroungers and the idle poor have obviously never considered that it could happen to them. We are all just one step away from the queue at the jobcentre or serious illness or injury. For those of us in receipt of welfare benefits, it is not a lifestyle choice, it’s something we would prefer to be able to put behind us. We would all love to be able to spend what we like, buy houses and cars and holidays in the sun but we can’t. We’d all like to do what Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne and Mr Duncan Smith want and work our way out of poverty but we can’t. For so many people it’s just not an option.

Take me for example. Why am not working and earning? Am I lazy? Am I feckless and workshy? No, I’d love to be able to pay my own way in the world. Redundancy, MS and cancer, infected pressure sores, restricted to bed 24/7, surviving on disability benefits, that’s me. No way out in sight. No choice. Lifelong dependency on Social Security payments. No chance of being able to get a job and work my way out of it. I didn’t ask for any of this. My careers teacher at school didn’t suggest this as an option for me. I didn’t go to University and do my degree and my PgDip for this. I didn’t ask to be stuck on minimal benefits for the rest of my life, I didn’t spend 25 years toiling in the workplace for this. No-one knows what is just one step away that could turn their life upside down. Severe illness and disability, redundancy and unemployment could be just around the corner. And benefit cuts could affect anyone and everyone, from the highest to the lowest. Supporters of austerity and welfare savings should consider that a random twist of fate could put them, and their families, in the same position and reliant on help from the State. Rather than pontificating about scroungers why can’t people, like my award winner, start pressing Government for compassion and a little foresight. Surely that would be a better use of their time.

My hope for the future is that the people I see on social media, complaining and criticising, just like my award winner, start thinking about what could happen to them, to all of us before they open their mouths or exercise their typing fingers. There are so many people who are on the edge. So many people for whom there is no way out. So many people who are only one step away. Press for change, not more of the same because there are so many people in this country who can’t take much more. Most people don’t choose to live like this, most people would prefer not to live like this. Give us a chance and consider others before yourself. After all, it could, so easily, be you.

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