Sunday, 23 April 2017

Living In Fear -(A Repost).

In light of the Snap Election, I felt it was necessary to repost one of my blogs from 2014.

I feel it illustrates the damage that is STILL being done to the Mental Health, (and the lives) of people with a disability and illness, as a result of government policy.

Thank you for taking the time to read it.

'Sometimes I wish I wasn’t me. It’s hard to fight when you’re tired of fighting.
Living with a disability is exhausting, frustrating, crushing, painful – and endless. There are so many obstacles in my life that I would never have asked for, and sometimes I feel so angry, hurt and frustrated that I don’t know what to do with myself.

Cerebral Palsy is not a choice. I would give anything to be able to stand and walk unaided, get in and out of the bath without help, stand long enough to cook a meal for my husband and myself. Hell, I’d settle for being able to carry a cup of tea across the room!

All I have ever wanted is a ‘normal’ life – to have a job, and be a Mum. None of those options are open to me – and it’s not my fault.

I wish society and this government understood what it is like every single day. The energy (and willpower) it takes to do even the smallest thing. There are some days when I really don’t have that energy, either physically or mentally, and it’s all I can do to get out of bed.

I know I’m luckier than a lot of people – ‘there is always someone worse off than you’ is something I have always be taught. I live by it, I believe it, and I’ve always done my best to care for and help others,despite what I may be going through privately.

I've been a Disability Rights campaigner, at different levels, (and when able), since I was eight years old. (nearly twenty six years), and I'm watching the cause I love, and passionately believe in, being set backwards.

That’s part of why I’m writing this now – it’s why I’ve written many things. If I can make one person understand what it feels like to live with a disability in a society which still doesn’t accept, respect, and properly care for people like me, then I’ve done my job.

Before the coalition came to power in May 2010, I was coming to terms with things. I was more secure, happy, and confident in myself than I’ve ever been in my life.
I still felt bad about the fact I couldn’t manage a job, (I did work once before my mobility, pain and energy levels got worse). I did voluntary work too.

There was a place in society for me. It’s never been an equal place, but we were getting there slowly. At least disabled people were wanted in society. We weren’t viewed with suspicion, or labelled as ‘scroungers’, leaches accused of bleeding the country dry, or targeted for seemingly contributing (largely) to the country’s deficit.

I want those days back so badly. I did not realise how lucky I was – how lucky we all were. We were people then. We are not now, not in the eyes of the government.
We are living in fear of losing our vital benefits and our independence. Independence (what I am able to have of it), is a precious thing to me. I have fought to hold on to it against all the odds.

When I was 14 years old, I had major orthopaedic surgery in a hospital nearly two hundred miles from my home in Somerset. My bones were broken and reset, muscles were cut, and I had to learn to walk from scratch. My family couldn’t stay with me – they had to go to work, and my sister to school.
There were days of agonising physio, crippling loneliness, and the start of my lifelong battle with clinical depression. Now, all these years later, I realise that I had to go through it to keep myself out of a wheelchair, protect my freedom and independence for as long as I can.

I’m terrified that the government will take that from me if my Disability Living Allowance is withdrawn. I dread not qualifying for Personal Independence Payment – even though I fight the daily pain of Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome on top of everything else!

It won’t count under the‘tick box’ computer programme that they use to decide our lives. I fear the Work Compatibility Assessment so much that I have nightmares about it. Waking up sweating and panicking with knots in my stomach is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so I can’t get the rest I badly need.

I’m not alone. Thousands of disabled and ill people across the country are living with the fear everyday. I jump at the sound of the letter box, just in case it’s my turn.

I don’t trust what they say about dates, regulations and criteria for benefits anymore, because it’s been changed so often, and those changes have been allowed to slip under the radar – and so have the deaths of sick and disabled people who have wrongfully been found ‘fit for work.

A growing number of sick and disabled people are dying prematurely after being found ‘fit for work’. Either their conditions have deteriorated or they have chosen to end their own lives; simply unable to face either the assessment itself or a life of poverty and hardship without benefits.

Yes, you can appeal the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision, but, due to a backlog at the DWP, as well as changes to legal aid (and who can qualify for it), it will take ages, and for many, life will become even more impossible – and even if it isn’t, it will feel it.

I’m lucky to have my husband and his pension to rely on so my situation is nowhere near as dire as it will be for some who have been let down by inhumane system. Even so, I am actually considering signing of Disability Living Allowance, because I simply cannot live with the fear any longer.

I will have to close my bank account and be completely reliant on my husband financially – just like I’m reliant on him for so many other things already. I’ll hate that, because I already feel like a burden, even though he assures me I’m not.

My precious independence will be gone – but at least I’ll be able to sleep again, and I will not have to fear being judged and told I am not worth supporting.

The ‘scrounger rhetoric’ and negative media coverage has attacked what self esteem I have been able to get for myself. I used to feel proud. I was a wife, daughter, sister, writer and disability rights campaigner. My benefits were secure and I all I had to worry about was finding the energy to get through the day.

Now, my old demon of not being able to work is back, and compounded, because the ‘aspiring’ ‘achieving’ nation (and its government) hates benefit claimants – no matter how justified we are. They do not seem to care about the affect their policies are having upon vulnerable people in society. It doesn’t seem to matter as long as people like us aren’t taking ‘honest, hardworking taxpayers money’. We work hard just to get through the day!

Fighting for myself and others is now more important than ever before. We are fighting for our lives, against Bedroom Tax, the Housing Benefit cap, the closure of the Independent Living Fund, cuts in social care and so many other vital services.

Why is it that the cuts have to come down hardest on those that need the most help? How can you call this a fair society when we are struggling, largely unseen and uncared for when the rich bankers (the very people who caused this mess) get bonuses and tax breaks!

Disabled and vulnerable people should not be used as scapegoats. It makes me sick to my stomach that we are being punished simply for being too ill or disabled to work, no matter how much we might want to! Blame the people who are really at fault – the tax avoiders, the bankers and our governments for letting this happen.

I will spend everyday, for the rest of my life, fighting against this if I have to – but I shouldn’t have to. None of us should!

The Bedroom Tax will fall disproportionately upon sick and disabled people. Whilst there have been exemptions made for families with disabled children, those that need overnight carers, people with adult children serving in the forces who still need a room at home, and a few other things, disabled adults are still not exempt.

I am one of the lucky ones, because this particular punishment for being on benefits (that’s essentially what many of these policies are) will not impact on me. I am so thankful for that, because I do not think I could stand having to leave my home. I can only imagine what thousands of others like me are going through. They know they have to pay up or move out of a home they may have lived in, loved, and felt safe in for years.
Where do they go? There is a national shortage of social housing as a whole – not just the one and bedroom accommodation that many people will need to downsize. Homelessness is bound to rise as people cannot afford to stay (a claimant loses 14% of Housing Benefit for the first spare bedroom, and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms) but have nowhere to go.

Each council will offer a ‘Discretionary Housing Payment’ to try and help those they consider to be the most in need. Personally I would like to know who will make that decision and how? It is important to realise that the pot of money allocated to help those hit by Bedroom Tax, is nowhere near the amount needed. People who need help will suffer even more than they already are. I also feel that these Discretionary Housing Payments have been severely under-publicised.

I’ll say it once again. It is not fair to make the weakest and most vulnerable in society pay for the mistakes and greed of the rich.

Stripping disabled people of our rights, independence and self respect is the coldest and most callous of things any government can do and I have to pinch myself sometimes to even believe that it’s happening in a so called compassionate, caring society.

I just wish it would stop. What this government has done to us is psychological torture. We are told we are worthless, scrounging, and lazy, day in and day out. On top of that the fear of the Work Compatibility Assessment is hanging over us like the sword of Damocles!

It is not fair for anyone to live like this, and I keep thinking ‘please, somebody stop them, before anybody else feels like they cannot carry on’ – but nobody does. I just want a chance to live as normal a life as I can. I’m not asking for much, just to keep what independence I have and to get my self respect back. Haven’t I been through enough already? Haven't all of us?! If I was face to face with you right now, I would ask you only one question – How would you feel if this was happening to you'?


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