The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Behind the media images: real people, real lives, real ambitions.


There are some great posts on here and I don't think I can better them- well I am well known for being able to spout ATOS stats until I am blue in the face but I am of the mindset that people have switched off and are trying to protect themselves So, this is why I 'froth'. Not in it's entirety- I have frothed longer than I have known what frothing is- but I hope you will understand better when you have read this.

My name is Diddy, for this at least. I am a wife, mother of four marvellous children, a graduate and almost hold an MA (hope to manage to complete the research portion soon, it's been done by years of part time 3am slog).

My family- well my eldest has Asperger's and because he suddenly becomes aggressive, steals food, and hurts me and the siblings regularly he needs to never be out of earshot and under 24/7 supervision despite being a comp level student with an ambition to become a jewellery designer. The next one has no diagnosis but ADHD, dyspraxia etc all have been mentioned , I cannot get anyone to agree to refer him though- everyone says it is someone else's job. My third child has fairly severe autism- he is verbal but hard to understand and despite being bright is like the loveliest, sweetest toddler- except he is 8. My final child (and he really is, clearly my genes are not worth passing on) is being assessed and slowly watched for ASD, I would place bets on a diagnosis of Asperger's when he is about seven. Currently he is 'just' an extremely anxious, scared self limiting child with severe food issues.

I live with my husband who is a good, bright hard working man- and who has developed mental health problems since the diagnoses were received. He has good medical care but when under stress it tends to pop above the surface: he is under stress, he has exams coming up.

This week is the week I too was diagnosed with depression- it has been ascribed to my carer role but it isn't that at all. I know what triggers it and I think it says a lot about the horrible media campaigns to turn the population into 'good' and 'bad' camps, with working full time being the distinguishing factor.

You see, I am not who they think I am. I am someone with plans and hopes. Dependency was never on the agenda and I do not intend for it to be my future either. This week I watched my husband draw up plans for an office for his business with pride; now, had he not after redundancy gone straight to retrain and set up a business and instead languished on unemployment benefits there would be options for financial help. There are none: it has taken 3 years of graft to get to this point. Oddly when the new Tax Credit rules come in he will not count as working for 2 months- despite a FT course (he studies stage and theatre lighting design, a technology subject with a strong electronics focus- you know, technology: the stuff the Government raves about as the future), and PT work, and coping with his MH issues and a lot of help with the boys. Not because of his hours but because as yet they don't pay minimum wage (they will when he qualifies)- if 7am - 11pm each day is not work I dare not think what is!

In June I will be looking for work as once hubby (I do apologise for the term, it is for wont of an easier one) qualifies he can then share childcare- to say his university is not set up for carers is to put it mildly! Had I been on JSA I would qualify for help with this; if I were under a certain age employers would potentially receive help with my wages, but having been a carer fulfilling a valuable societal role that saves the state pounds every week (compare residential care over a thousand pound per week with £56 PW approx Carer's Allowance...) and nothing: there is no help with the more complex childcare needs, no help with schemes to encourage employers to hire us or finding part time work.

So you could argue then that this reflects a Governmental view that my role is valuable, yes? Certainly the Government likes to trot that one out: we are portrayed as angels, paragons of virtue. This is not true: we are pretty bog standard parents in their usual infinite variety who lost out in the disability lottery. Nothing more or less.

So- why the demonisation then? Recently I saw Carer's Allowance classed as an unemployment benefit explicitly for the first time in the media; there is talk about the 'Economically Inactive'- a group that includes carers, the disabled, students as well as the unemployed and those who are stay at home parents or just don't need to work. I read about how we need to encourage all these people back to work - to what jobs?

It's the same lack of logic that tells people they must work an extra 5 years in their current job until retirement then expresses surprise that there is high youth unemployment when all those jobs cease to be available! Please! if you are going to change the goalposts, at least accept the inevitable outcomes.

Policy in the UK is in a mess. Seriously. On one hand there is no work; on the other we penalise those who do not work. People say it is a consequence of the financial state- but no. Lower expenditure etc might be but the media demonisation? not at all. Compassion is not ruled out by tightened outgoings.

My message? think of the people behind the numbers. 122 jobs lost at a local employer this week: that's not just a further drain on the state and a waste of talent, but 122 families now petrified for the future, and over Christmas too. Real people, real lives.

And of course a carer isn't just £55.60pw approx outgoings (Carer's Allowance is not a passport benefit to others in the way that Income Support for example is) , a carer is someone who has dreams, plans, a need for dignity and self respect too. Every time that article is published about claimants having better and easier lives / people faking disability claims / is ADHD a real disorder?- that steals a little of that dignity. When you re-label working people as unemployed on a random matter of hours without looking at the background to their lives- that steals their pride. When you tell someone in pain that their pain is not enough to get help; or someone that their child's needs cannot be met- it destroys lives.

And crucially for the economy it makes it that bit harder for us to rebuild lives, find ways to work around the stresses and challenges- whether that is retraining or starting a business.

What people need is a ladder out of dependency: training help, job search support, decent support to start up themselves- not the 'I don't know about that sort of sector but I wanted to meet you' I had from the local council start up guru when I went to see them recently.

We, the dependent, want a way out. This Government has a choice of whether they offer that or instead marginalise us into a homogeneous undeserving mass that they can then quietly write off to a life of misery under some myth of laziness, fraud, and (as per IDS this week) rubbish about how extra money would just be spent on drugs and beer- er no. It would have allowed me to put the heating on this morning. It is 3 degrees in my living room and spell checking this will take hours as my fingers are frozen. Cheers for that!

For some reason the state has chosen the second of my options above, but the route to recovery is faster if they choose the first: if I could get my start up business then I could maybe employ someone, for example. Pay more taxes. Yes! I want to pay more taxes! I am, it would seem, the opposite of the only winners in all this: the investment bankers. Strange huh?

Want to do more?

Sign Pats Petition to have the Government STOP and THINK about the impact of cuts on carers and people with disabilities supported by CarersUK, Scope, CarerWatch and Afiya Trust

All we want for Christmas is a fair benefits system, petition by Mind.

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  1. "Policy in the UK is in a mess." - Understatement of this century. Very well argued: ordinary people are suffering - and expected to suffer more - while the official line is to blame the sufferers, rather than the half-baked policies which cause their pain.

  2. A quick reminder to people that you can use to easily find & email your MP :)



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