If you haven’t experienced serious illness or longer-term disability you really do need to make the effort, right now, to imagine what that might feel like close up. That’s what I hope to help you do, in this post. Having such a condition challenges everything you had probably taken for granted right up to that point.
[3 Feb 2012: Please Sign Here now if you really don’t want the Welfare Reform Act to become law.]
It’s impossible to overstate the seriousness of the current assault on disability allowances via the Coalition Government’s intended Welfare Reform Act 2011-12. ‘Saving the tax-payers’ money’ (or so it is claimed) is – if the ConDems have their way, which in default they probably will – to be pursued relentlessly even when the ‘saving’ is meagre and the damage inflicted is beyond measure; and that’s before we pause to remember that many of those old enough to have done so (they aren’t still children), have already paid into the general fund which provides for these benefits.
To understand the despair which the ConDems’ proposals have induced in chronically ill and disabled people (and their carers) you have to have some insight into what it’s like to experience incapacity….
So these are the stages some people directly affected will experience:
1. It’s only when you become seriously ill or disabled (unless sadly the condition has been with you from very early on) that you begin to realise ‘mind over matter’ just doesn’t always work. There is no way, however much you will it, that you are going to pop down to the shops, get into work / school, or even perhaps get out of bed. It just ain’t going to happen. It’s not like an attitude problem, like a bad cold when you can, if so minded, force yourself to go and share it with other people.
And for those, especially for instance till-then fit youngish and powerful men, this is a deeply disturbing revelation. Take note, all our hawkish know-all political leaders. Incapacity can be personally humbling. It could, and sometimes does, happen to anyone, and ‘being positive’ / ‘demonstrating will-power’, however assertively, simply Will. Not. Stop. It.
2. The second unpleasant and slowly dawning revelation is that, like it or lump it, you’re dependent on others. You just can’t reach down that saucepan, drive yourself long distances, or carry the kids up the stairs to bed. You have to ask someone else to do it for you.
And alongside that, you’re costing others money they may not have either, and you’re making them upset because you’re ill or otherwise uncomfortable and incapacitated…. You may in fact spend all day working up to ‘looking OK’ for when the kids come home from school, but you’ll probably fool no-one after a bit.
3. Then, gradually, it dawns on you too that you’re not going to actually ‘recover’ in the way most of us expect. You may – if the condition isn’t too entrenched and pernicious – learn to adapt so you cope better, but you will always, for ever, need to take your medication, use physical aids, adjust your life and put up perhaps with the pain, and certainly with the challenges, of your long-term situation.
And your nearest and dearest will also have to get used to it, as you cost them money and effort often well beyond what might reasonably be expected. There’s no ‘get well soon’ date, so you’d better all accept that and just get on with life as best you can.
Disability told as it is
Well, does that put a new light for you on the disability ‘debate’ / ‘rebate to the taxpayer’ proposals?
Of course there are a few people who pull a fast one, but there are many more who wish very much indeed that they could quite simply pull off a fast recovery and return to the world of the unthinking fit and healthy.
However stoic and outwardly positive one appears, being seriously ill or disabled is a deeply exhausting, often cheerless experience which rubs in the hard way that we are all – ALL – dependent on each other.
Proliferating Nasty Parties
David Cameron, George Osborne and their blue Nasty Party colleagues may (sadly astonishingly, in Cameron’s case) think they are above mutual dependency, but only the very wealthy, to a very limited degree, can afford to think that.
And Nick Clegg and his very own yellow, increasingly shameful, Nasty Party must consider very soon, and very fundamentally, where they stand on all this.
It may yet be, as I have said now for almost a year, that the only responsible way out is for remaining decent LibDem MPs to cross the floor to Labour before Cameron, Osborne and their pack achieve degovernance ( a notion I started to develop exactly a year ago now) and thereby their basic objective – to reduce the state to a shard, just enough of its former self perhaps to contain the dissent of those who ‘must’ bear the brunt of these vicious ‘economies’ (which in any case, longer term, are no such thing).
A word to Ed
And, by the way, Mr (Ed) Miliband, none of the above fails to acknowledge the requirement for fiscal prudency. Don’t, ever, think humane policies, properly thought out, will of necessity compromise basic human decency. That thinking is a soulless sham.
You and your advisers, Ed, will only believe that lie if you sham(e)fully also accept the ConDem parameters around ‘responsible spending’.
Can it ever be responsible, say, to spend billions on Trident and yet hardly anything on fellow citizens with incapacity who must somehow navigate their lives against the odds?
Time really isn’t on the side of decency on this one, but there are a few things anyone with half a heart can still do:
> You can sign Pat Onion’s e-Government petition to stop and review the intended cuts to disability allowances; and also perhaps, as Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham asks, sign the e-Government petition to review the related Health Bill situation.
> You can read and act upon @Suey2y (Sue Marsh)’s report, Responsible Reform: Changes to Disability Living Allowance, on the widespread opposition during consultation to many aspects of the proposed Welfare Reform Act.
> And you can put pressure on our elected representatives:
Perhaps you’d like to remind them that the lightning bolts of ill-health and disability can strike anywhere, at any time.
So this really is an example of where we’re ‘all in it together’…. Isn’t it?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
PS: 3 Feb 2012 ~ Addendum from Sue Marsh’s
Withhold Royal Assent from the Welfare Reform Bill
Posted: 03 Feb 2012 06:24 AM PST
We have always said that we will do everything in our power to stop the welfare reform bill.
-We lobbied MPs.
-We lobbied grassroots members of political parties and persuade the Lib Dems to oppose an arbitrary one year time limit to cESA.
-When the bill passed to the House of Lords, we lobbied them – I’m not sure to be honest, whether peers have ever been lobbied by ordinary people in the way that we lobbied over the welfare reform bill.
-We highlighted evidence the Government didn’t want people to know.
-We built relationships with journalists, persuading them to break the silence over Disability Denial
-We made our own media – social media and used it in a way no-one had seen before.
– We held vigils outside parliament
– We blocked Oxford Street
– We produced our own report – Responsible Reform or the Spartacus Report – so that this government can never say they didn’t know the horror of what they were doing and just how little support this bill has.
– We set up a network of “constituency representatives” to lobby MPs and write to local papers.
– We launched “Pam’s Petition”
– We protested outside Atos offices
Now, the bill is all but law. Despite misleading parliament and the public at every stage, despite riding roughshod over democracy, flouting the conventions of both Houses and breaching parliamentary protocol, our ministers are about to get their way and democracy is all but dead.
The final stage, for any bill is “Royal Assent”
Someone, somewhere (when I find out who I’ll give them full credit) has set up this petition, requesting that the Queen refuses this Royal Assent. Not because “we don’t like it” (though we don’t) Not because “it’s mean” (though it is) but because it is dishonest. Parliament has been misled, the public have been misled and democracy has been trampled.
If we are to do everything we can, we must ask the Queen not to pass this bill.
Please sign it. Whether you are ill, disabled, poor or simply disgusted by the total disregard for the law shown by our government, please sign. We only have a day or two and no matter how anachronistic our political process, it is what it is.
The debate on what this all means continues (12 Jan. 12) in the Lords. You can read a blog about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jan/12/welfare-benefits. Very illumintaing commentart from@PatrickJButler and others.