I feel that I can’t sit back and allow this total abuse of disabled people happen without standing up and making my voice heard. It makes me feel so upset angry and dishearten that my future and the future of disabled people in the UK are going to be effected so much by the loss of benefits proposed by the government. I may not be the best with words and struggle with the written language due to my own disabilities but I just wanted to say in my own way just what effect this is going to have on me.
I have always tried to work and I tried really hard at school to get qualifications but the school felt that I did not have the ability to take GSCE’s so I left school with no grades or exams. I didn’t want to give up and I went to college and after 3 years I came away with 4 A levels, it was very hard for me as I couldn’t understand the teachers and I wasn’t fully aware of my hearing loss at the time and I just thought it was I just didn’t understand, as most my teachers where foreign. I never thought to myself that I needed to claim benefit at the time and being disabled was just a part of dealing with growing up and having to manage. I was ill quite a lot within my first job but my employer was very good and allowed me time to adjust sometimes. I was working for the same company for 8 years I had many managers within this time somewhere more help than others. I had a number of times that my disability came in direct cause of me getting a disciplinary but I just had to face it and try and carry on working. Throughout all this time I never claimed any benefit and I was struggling massively with paying bills. Considering this was from 1992 to 2000 most people where doing well off at the time if I remember rightly. In 2000 I suffered a break down as I couldn’t manage my bills and I ended up selling my home to pay of my debit and moved to a smaller flat.
By now my disability was really effecting my ability to work and I could no longer do the job I was trained to do as my hearing was becoming too much of a problem and I was also losing my speech also. I really tried to keep my voice going and in short bursts it was ok and understandable but I was getting massive amounts of sore throats and work found it too much for me and let me go. I then went on to work for a charity for 3 years and they were even less understanding than the company I worked before. I worked there for 3 years and my health got even worse while there and I could just not keep up a full time job to keep myself supported. I was signed off by doctor having another break down and total exhaustion in 2003. I was out of work for the first time with very little help.
It took me ages to find out that I could have claim benefit all this time which could have save me and my home as I have again fallen behind in mortgage payments and my home was getting re-processed. I thought I would be save as I had mortgage protection and as I have lost my job because of my health I went to claim only to find out because I am disabled and my break down was linked to my disability I was unable to claim. This was a very sad time for me I lost my home a job a loved and had nothing. I went to seek help from a residential college in Nottingham to see if I could get back into work. They felt due to the nature of my disabilities and the complex needs it’s very hard to get employers to see beyond those disabilities. They helped me claim DLA I got turned down 3 times before an appeal on my last case that caused me to break my leg leaving me wheelchair for 2 years and a metal plate in my leg finally convince DWP that I was unable to walk unaided safely and without help I would end up breaking my leg again. The college where so impressed with my ability to fight and try and find a job they gave me an outstanding achievement award and offered me a job funded by DWP. I really enjoyed my job and I was doing what I enjoyed the most working with people and computers in a way that I was able to manage. I now had both fall DLA and working part time with Tax credits. For the first time I felt that I could achieve things again. I went back to the doctors to see what I could do to help myself and start to achieve more as I now felt confidant I could become a teacher or something within the college. I had my ears tested again and got new digital hearing aids that then helped me to manage my own voice as I could now hear what I was saying. My speech improved and I was learning more how to understand people and built up a great relationship with the students I worked for and the staff at the college.
I really thought I had everything I could dream off, I even had a girlfriend and we were making plans to move in together.. This was all before funding from DWP stopped and I was made redundant. This has become the start of what I see is the downhill battle I have had since. The college tried so desperately to find me another job within the college I could do but I just wasn’t able to manage and they had no funding from the government to keep me. They kept me on for 9 months while I was desperate to find another job. It was clear from speaking to employers that my wheelchair was a problem and I tried a number of times to tone down my disability just to see if I could get an interview. The ones I did I managed to get interviews but the moment they saw me they realized I had cerebral palsy and I just didn’t fit the picture they had in mind. A year ago I managed to find one charity who gave me a job but they feel disappointed that I did not mention I was a wheelchair user and that if they have known before maybe would have considered employing me. I realize now that I didn’t understand just how hard this current job is doing it out of my wheelchair but I carry on fighting and with my DLA that helps with providing me a car it helps me so much as I have now had to go part time and money is tight but I just about cope. It hurts me to see I am on the same wages I was on when I left college in 1992 and I have to be so careful on what I spend my money on. I have to spend quite a lot on clothes as I still dribble a lot and with having to crawl around at home on the floor as the council cannot provide me with a flat that is wheelchair accessible due to their own cut backs I don’t get much time to enjoy life that much now. I spend most my time at home in bed recovering from work. To lose my DLA would mean I wouldn’t be able to have a car and another expense I just cannot afford.. I work less hours now than I did at the college because this company are unable to make the adjustments that the college where able to and I just can’t see me able to work enough to support myself but this government seem to think I have too. There are many days I question if I can work at all. It’s nice to work but I am doing a job I am struggling very much too do just to keep this government happy and they still are not happy and want to remove more benefits off me.
I lay awake at night worried sick on how I going to cope and just wait for that day the letter comes through the door saying either I have go for reassessment for my DLA or lose my benefit all together. Its so unfair I try my best and this just is not good enough for them. I loss a job a liked had to move again away from friends in nottingham, I lost my girlfriend but yet they want more it's just so wrong
Originally published with audio version available here
Originally posted as part of the One Month Before Heartbreak Campaign Jan, 2011