Thursday, 28 February 2013

Shame

I remember sitting in my bedroom as a teenager, and realising how fortunate I was to have been born into this country. We weren't starving, like they were in Ethiopia. We weren't at war, like they were in some parts of the world. We always had plenty of clean, fresh water available, and always had food on the table. Most people had a roof over their head, and those who didn't had help available. We had councils who helped people, unions that helped workers, there were safety nets in place for nearly every eventuality you could think of. We may be struggling in our every day lives, but we had it made! I realised this as a teen, and my ambition became to help people world wide who weren't so fortunate to have been born into a country like this.

Unfortunately, I no longer believe we are fortunate. I feel shame. Total and utter shame, at what this country is doing.

How much of that remains? When I try and tell certain people about the difficulties of being sick or disabled in this country, I frequently get a response along the lines of "At least you're not starving in Ethiopia". Why is it more acceptable to starve here?

Are people really starving here? YES! 
The government has pretty much gone out of it's way to eliminate any form of income for people who are sick or disabled, and have made it very difficult to get by for those who are simply working class at the minimum wage end of the spectrum. If you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth they see you as scum, and we are to be treated as we deserve! 

Take my own example. I cannot claim Contributions Based Employment & Support Allowance (CB-ESA), because the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) paid my NI (National Insurance) stamp last year. Their type of stamp does not count towards benefits, only towards your pension (should you be unlucky enough to live that long). I cannot claim Income Related ESA, because I am living with someone who earns over £8000pa (the threshold is somewhere around 7000). His outgoings are not taken into account. So, the fact that his outgoings are nearly equal to his income is irrelevant. He cannot afford to support me. As such, I am currently living off hand outs. They won't last forever! There is no point at which I can suddenly claim CB-ESA, as while I'm in this situation the DWP pays my NI, thus cancelling out the possibility indefinitely. It also seems that I will be unlikely to receive DLA; the DWP are putting off giving me a decision month after month. My suspicion is that they are waiting for PIP (Personal Independence Payment); under which I definitely will not qualify. There are no other benefits available to me, no safety net to catch me, nothing. I'm not the only one, there are hundreds, probably thousands of people in this situation across the country. The inevitable is that these people will become homeless, probably starving to death.

DLA was never intended for people to live on. It was intended to be some money that helped disabled people live a normal life contributing to the community. Something those who designed PIP seem to have forgotten, despite it's all encompassing name: "Personal Independence". They have made it virtually impossible for people who are genuinely disabled, to claim. For example, one of the descriptors is that claimants be unable to walk 20m, where it used to be 50m. They have cut down the criteria similarly throughout the assessing process, and have taken out some things under which people used to qualify. They've introduced descriptors, suggesting it is now another tickbox computer based system, similar to that of ESA that assesses people.  So, unless you are wheelchair bound, and almost totally unable to do anything for yourself, you're unlikely to receive PIP. Genuinely disabled people will lose their DLA. For many this means losing their car; that is their ability to get to work. Similarly for some it's losing the money they use for public transport. For some it is money used to bring in respite carers. So many people will be very suddenly thrown into situations where life is totally unmanageable.

And yet suicide is illegal.

It isn't just DLA though, please do understand that. ESA has recently changed, making it more difficult to receive again. More changes are being brought in, in April too. At present, when you apply for ESA, if you are turned down you can appeal. You still receive some money (£70pw - the Assessment Rate) until your reconsideration, appeal, or tribunal are finished. The Assessment Rate is being scrapped. You will no longer be allowed to appeal straight away, but must have a mandatory reconsideration first. To be fair, many decisions are overturned at 'reconsidertion', BUT, the DWP has no time limit on how long their reconsideration's take; so people will be left without money indefinitely. They say that they will be processed as quickly as possible. 

No comment.

What happens when someone has no money? Probably first of all, they go hungry. The government has at least seen fit to open more food banks since they've been in power (that in itself shows us that they knew what they were doing to us); but the housebound and bedbound can't get to food banks! And what of those who have specific dietary requirements (I'm talking Coeliac, etc, not vegetarians)? The next thing that probably happens is being unable to pay the bills. The phone gets cut off, then the electricity and gas. Their landlord may be understanding to start with, but if they're sitting in his property not paying any rent, he's losing money, so at some point they get turfed out of their home. Homeless, starving, and ill or disabled. That's what our government is aiming for!

At the moment, most people can claim a Crisis Loan when they find themselves in that sort of situation (not I, due to the other half's income). So what's the government's next step? They're removing Crisis Loans too!

They're also removing Legal Aid for people going to tribunal over their ESA, DLA, or PIP, decisions. In case you're unaware, there is a long convoluted system involved here. If someone disagrees with the decision made on their application (which they usually do, since the DWP deliberately underestimates people's needs), they can appeal. The appeal goes through reconsideration, at which point it can be changed, but if it is not it goes to Tribunal. If they still disagree with the decision then they can take it to the Upper Tier Tribunal. At this level people really need legal advice, and preferably legal representation, if they want to stand a chance of winning their case (they put people through all of that, just for £90pw). And that legal advice will no longer be available; because the government don't want people to win! They don't want to spend their money on the plebs.

There's more. Much more. The so called "bed room tax" for example. I'm so sick of it. It has now got to the point where I think we'd all be better off in another country. If there was a country open to receiving us, I have no doubt that there would be a mass exodus of sick and disabled people from the UK.

I'm actually kind of surprised that there has been no attempt on the lives of any of the politicians involved with all of this change. Yes, by definition the sick and disabled would be unable to carry out such an act, but we're not the only ones who are totally incensed by it all.

I wonder whether they realise that they are backing everyone in to a corner. It's basically going to be a choice between a life of crime, a life on the streets begging, or suicide. All of which are illegal. I suspect it's the latter that they are waiting for, but I also suspect it's the life of crime that most will turn to.

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