Monday, 24 November 2008

Thought of the day

Do you remember back in March when this "Socialist" government was patting itself on the back for stealing the Conservatives plan to force the feeble, the mad, and the sick, back to work regardless of what a persons doctor might think of the idea.
I can't help thinking it might be worth reviewing this from time to time now that the "Able Bodied" are losing their jobs as quickly as they did in the late Seventies and early Eighties, (when Thatchers government decided that many of the unemployed were actually "Sick" and got their doctors to sign them off. What a generous act that was, and I'm sure the fact that those treated in that way then vanished from the unemployment figures had nothing to do with it).
I digress, I think it might be worth watching this space to see how often we hear about the phony, work shy, sick people now, and how many of us will actually be offered employment when there are three or four A/B's going for the same job.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Budget: An open letter to James Purnell M.P.

Wow that budget made me so mad again. I'm hoping the Guardian will print this but it might be too much of a personal rant.

At the same time as he was announcing measures to reduce child poverty for 1.7 million children, James Purnell announced that all 2.7 million Incapacity Benefit Claimants will be required “to seek work and have a tough medical assessment”.
Ignoring the fact that every criticism of the administration of this benefit implies criticism of the medical professionals who deem claimants to be unfit for work, Purnell proudly claims to have “shot a Tory Fox” through this action.
Doesn’t Purnell know that Fox Hunting is now illegal? That it is considered cruel and something that amounts to the persecution and bullying of a smaller, weaker, defenceless species.
The Tories are the recognised national experts at such bullying of the weak, the Labour Party was once known for being the opposite of that.
2.7 million votes are not many to lose I guess. Almost a quarter of those are all ready trapped in the Mental Health labyrinth, the least vote catching and the most underfunded and incohesive of both Medical and Social Services. All Incapacity Benefit Claimants, while not begrudging the aid given to others, will have been disappointed at yet another budget that has failed to recognise or seek to alleviate the relative poverty in which many of them live.
I am one such claimant. I am 58 years old and was obliged to give up work four years ago (having refused to do so when urged by Specialists and G.P’s six years earlier). I once had savings but I was obliged to use these up before being able to claim any help beyond the £80 a week invalidity benefit. I also receive Disability Living Allowance but this is totally consumed by running a car, something I am obliged to do because my doctors recommend I should not use public transport. (Being forced to stand in a swaying bus or train carriage could cause me paralysis). The cost of Taxi fares for Hospital appointments etc. would amount to more than the cost of the car.
I also receive a small Occupational Pension which, because I refuse to become homeless, is totally consumed by my mortgage interest. It was not until my savings were exhausted and I had lived solely on benefits for six months that I was able to access help with my mortgage. If I had not been a home owner my rent would have been paid from the moment my savings dropped to a certain level but, because I wish to retain my independence wherever I can, I was obliged to impoverish myself before help, which amounts to approximately 25% of my mortgage interest was available to me. All of this means that I am no longer buying my home, simply “renting” it from the building society. When my mortgage completion date is reached I will be forced to sell and through this act loose my entitled to some of my assistance until any profit I receive is exhausted and I am forced to join on the back of the benefits Que once again. This help with my mortgage interest is under permanent review and is reduced by the equivalent amount every time I receive a small increase in my pension or my other benefits.
I am no longer expected to pay Council Tax, but even with this one clear “benefit”, once I have paid my utility bills I have approximately £11 pound a week for food, toiletries, cleaning products etc.
I am not seeking pity here. Had I not been labelled a trophy “fox” by Mr Purnell you would still be unaware of my existence. Today I feel obliged to make people aware that, while there might be some who “choose” to live on benefits, the majority of us, and I can include here ALL those I have met who live with Mental Illness, do not “choose” to live in this way. Would you “Choose” to live like this?
So how did I end up here? A scavenging fox. Surely a drug user or alcohol abuser. If you will bear with me I will relate my story, which, in common with what is written above, is not untypical.
Possibly because my childhood was spent in poverty I have suffered from depression since I was seventeen years old (possibly younger if you count childhood “unhappiness”). While ever-present my depression worsens about every six years and requires some level of medical intervention. It’s a bit like bi-polar disorder but I don’t experience the manic highs, just the lows. I have never allowed this illness to define me. In spite of it, and sometimes because of it, I worked my way from manual work in my teens, through retail work in my twenties, computer related work for most of my thirties and then a Social Work Qualification, working with Children and Families until, in my late forties the events described below led to the first medical recommendation that I should give up work. Reluctant to do this but unable to continue in Social Work, I trained for, and then became an Adult Education Lecturer until the events below rendered me unemployable.
Definitely because my childhood poverty my spine began to disintegrate ten years ago because of a condition similar to Osteoperosis. Since then I am never out of pain, either in my back or, what is known as “referred pain” in my legs, and sometimes both. An operation carries the risk of paralysis so is considered inadvisable until paralysis occurs “naturally”. Pain killers reduce, but cannot remove the pain. Occasionally another part of the spine crumbles. One day one such event will leave me unable to walk but so far specialists have kept me on my feet by administering steroid injections into the spine. I have learned this week, following my latest relapse, that the risks of injecting are now so great that the option no longer exists and increasing doses of pain killers are my future until such time as paralysis occurs.
In 2002, while still lecturing, I suffered a major relapse. I have never been able to purchase medical insurance because of my depression. Faced with year long waiting lists I used £2.500 of my own savings to get myself back to work in three months, still not much evidence of lead swinging or benefit scrounging is there Mr Purnell.
Although I had fought the extent to which the back pain impacted on my depression for six years, in 1994, following the death of my Father, the two combined to bring me to a standstill. I suffered an extreme Mental Breakdown that led to me compulsorily attending a Psychiatric Day Hospital for 15 months. I now had to listen to recommendations from both Psychiatrists and those involved with my “Back Pain” that I should not consider a return to work. I guessed I was pretty much uninsurable by any employer since then.
As a consequence of my more sedentary lifestyle I have now contracted diabetes and am also treated for Hypertension and High Cholesterol levels.
Here I sit Mr Purnell, not just a benefit scavenging fox but a wounded benefit scavenging fox. Interesting that you chose that imagery, didn’t the Nazi’s include film of hoards of rats in films supporting their de-humanisation of the Jews? The Nazi solution to people like me was the same as that they used with the Jews. I guess leaving us to starve, contract hypothermia, or become so depressed that we kill ourselves is cheaper even than that “final solution”, no wonder the Tories thought of it first. Isn’t it your job to provide an alternative to that sort of thinking?
So we wait Mr Purnell. Wounded foxes. Those least able to avoid the hunt. So conditioned to being victims of the benefit system, that most of us will not even react when you carry out your bullying purge to see if you can catch one or two of us out. Over the past thirty years we have watched various governments remove most of our hospitals, reduce, until they are mostly ineffective, the numbers of Social Workers who help us, and the numbers of social provisions that once offered us Sanctuary. Dehumanised and disenfranchised to such an extent that no one bats an eyelid when you change the rules so that you can lock us up rather than support us in our homes as you do other groups of people in need.
As a life long socialist I find myself feeling like the scapegoated victim of family abuse. I do not want you, or your colleagues to go away but I do want you to stop bullying me. Sadly, I realise that is unlikely to happen so long as you run with the hunt rather than with the foxes.