A not so perfect distraction: Disability, Duncan and people like me

I’ve thought sometime about writing this, coming out like this. Yes, I look kinda normal from the outside and, yes, I can occasionally jump up and down in a DJ box or stomp around town in a Wildblood way. There are days I can be okay and there are days I can’t. But, like many, I’m dreading the days of April. Why? Because in the eyes of David Cameron, Ian Duncan Smith and the right wing media, I’m a scrounger. A good for nothing leech draining this nation’s resources. Like so many people living with disability in this country I’m fearful of an brown envelope, of April’s Welfare Reforms and of the impending target lead ATOS assessment that could cut me off from Disability Living Allowance and plunge me and my partner into a world of choices we shouldn’t have to make about the costs of living with disabilities. Which prescriptions and supplements can I do without, how far can I walk without transport, how will I cope without pain relieving private therapies my GP recommends but can’t prescribe?

People like me with disabilities, from mild to severe, physical to mental are frightened. Having a disability has always meant you had to fight. For the right treatment, care plan, medication and support. We often need charitable organisations to stand next to us and yet these lifelines are engaged in a fight of their own, as local council support dwindles and funding dries up. I’m used to fighting, to trying to improve my lot. Thanks to intensive therapy in 2008/9 I became well enough to attend university but just how I will access the support, facilities and understanding I found there for my disability in the world of work or down the Job Centre once I graduate I’m unsure. It’s fine ATOS declaring the disabled fit for work but what work and with what support? Stick my medical record on a CV and future doesn’t look so bright, regardless of equality regulations.

People like me are not the extreme examples of benefit scroungers and deadbeats the right wing press and daytime TV shows like to wheel out. We’re your family, your friends, your neighbours and your colleagues. We are entitled not to be condemned and we are not the reason this countries economic outlook is bleaker than a Dicken’s novel. (DWP’s 2011 figures for fraudulent DLA and IB claims are just 0.5% and 0.3% respectively). When I ask for medical intervention I shouldn’t be told there’s a queue longer than at a Cypriot ATM, that the cuts within the overstretched and underfunded department I’m referred to mean there is not enough specialists, doctors, or support workers to provide the treatment I need to function. Whilst I understand the demands our health service has to cope with they are not joking when they describe mental health services as the pauper of the NHS.

They say treat others as you would treat yourself. Which is kind of my impetuous for writing. Yeah you may have never asked the welfare state for nowt but one day, someone you love will need the support of your country, your benefit system, your NHS. I believe that the majority in this country are better than the divisive hatred being whipped up by the right wing media and the current political rhetoric. Come April we should be fighting for disabled and disadvantaged, not railing against them. Which is why I’m writing this. To express my anger and ultimate sadness at the way this government’s welfare reforms are condemning the disabled and those already living in poverty. The clues in the name Duncan. Disability Living Allowance, allowing the disabled the chance to live and work with support they need, paid for by a much needed benefit. Ask most 2012 paralympians and they’ll tell you the same.

But I’m also writing this to come out. To state I’m one of those. Yep I claim disability benefits, and yep, the current economic situation is all my fault. I am the scrounger in your midst.

For information of forthcoming Benefit Reforms and how to join the campaign supporting people living with disabilities www.disabilityrightsuk.org