Apr. 6th, 2011

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As I'm sure plenty of you have seen on the news this week, the governments reform of disability benefits. Basically, over the next 2-3 years they're calling in around 10,000 people a week to be "re-assesed"- basically dragging them for an interview, in front of a nurse who knows little about people's situations and gives them a test that even the person who designed it has admitted is not fit for purpose. In trials they apparently found 70% of people are supposedly fit for work- 30% can go to work immediately and will be shoved onto Jobseekers allowance, and a further 40% who can do it "with further help"- basically meaning they have to attend regular classes and have their benefits cut or stopped if they don't.

How does this affect me? Well, as I'm sure many of you know, I suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, and I claim both Incapacity and DLA. I am simply not able to work. I have tried, I've been for interviews, I've done work experience, I've done voluntary work, every time I've cracked under the strain, burst into tears, broken down and been treated badly by other people who do not understand me- there's simply no way I'd be able to easily cope in work or hold down a job. Because I "seem" normal and OK a lot of the time doesn't mean I am. It's impossible to say I haven't tried hard to get into work, because, quite simply I have. Yet this is worrying me a lot- there's plenty of stories of people who have been in the trial areas who have been kicked off of benefits, plenty of which are in my situation, some who are even worse. It's seriously bothering me, if I have that safety net pulled from under me, I seriously don't know how I'd cope. It's worrying me so much I was nearly in tears yesterday, I felt sick and we've booked an appointment with my social worker for the first time in 4 years. And I know I'm not the only one- 3 of my mum's colleagues have close family on Incapacity, and they're all feeling exactly the same.

I am personally sick & tired of reading the Daily Mail attitude to these things. Over the past few years, the right wing media has done an excellent job of demonising people who are disabled and on benefits, all you see are stories printed about "lazy layabouts", "benefit scroungers" and whatever, and the sad thing, people are taken in by it. The belief that anyone on benefits is a lazy scrounger seems to be as commonplace as the belief that Gordon Brown & Labour entirely caused and were responsible for the global financial crisis- just as nonsense, but it's come from the same place and believed by the same people. These people seem to believe that unless you're missing all you're limbs and stuck in a wheelchair, then you're not disabled, and if you can pick up a pen or use a computer then you're "fit for work". I'm a member of a forum that's overrun by these Tory voting Daily Mail reading types, and there's actually a thread on this subject, and I'm personally not prepared to even admit on there that I have Asperger's or claim benefits because I know I'd get nothing but abuse. And sadly, the people in the discussion who have admitted their disabilities have been treated exactly that way- some of them have been as good as laughed at, and I personally find it quite disgusting, some of the things said to people have been really nasty. Sadly it's these sorts of views that have basically led to the government doing things like this to try and appease these vicious people and win votes. Seriously, this sort of attitude actually makes me feel sick.

Another thing I hate is the idea that being on benefits is the easy life. It is not. First, you have to learn to live with your problems- which is not easy. Second, you're stuck on your own at home a lot of the time- which is crap. Thirdly, the money's not brilliant either, I'd earn a hell of a lot more doing even a minimum wage job. The newspapers publish stories about people living "the high life" (then mention they're buying things like DVD players and Flat Screen TVs as if they're expensive luxuries) which isn't true for a second- if they are, then they're on the fiddle and probably have a job on the side. The only reason I can afford to get to meet & cons is because I don't spend much of it elsewhere- I'd rather save it up and go out and about and actually do things than spend it on tons of DVDs, games consoles, games and the like which would only serve to keep me in the house anyway. The Leeds meet at the end of the month and ConFuzzled next month are literally the only things I have to look forward to right now. I'd give anything to be able to trade in my problems and be able to live a normal life. Seriously, if these people had to trade places with someone like me for a few weeks, they'd be thankful they're able to work and live a normal life.

Yes, it's true that there's a lot of fraudelent claimers out there, and a lot of people on benefits for silly reasons, and maybe they do need to be weeded out, but is this seriously the way to go about it? It's causing genuine distress to a lot of people out there, and the result is going to throw a hell of genuine people off benefits, including some of the most vulnerable people in society who cannot easily stick up for or defend themselves. But, hey, surely it's good for the government to go for the easy targets, rather than the people who are really costing the country money, like the bankers, and all the rich tax evaders out there, who are costing us many times more than benefits cheats could ever dream of. The line one of the ministers came out the other day which said "if you are genuine, you have nothing to fear" is complete bullshit.

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June 2012

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