Spartacus Stories

Here is a collection of Stories written by many different disabled people about the impact that DLA has on their lives. It also includes stories of fear about the proposed changes to personal independence payment.

Admin: benefitscroungingscum, Lucia and Lucy
to add your story email us at spartacusstories @ g mail . com (without the spaces) (your posts are there, just being scheduled throughout the day) (can you add how you want your 'name' to appear ta)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Who Cares? #spartacusstories #spartacusreport

Not the government.
The One Month Before Heartbreak campaign was set up to highlight the travesty that will result from the Coalition’s so-called benefit reform.  I will admit to not knowing all the specifics, mainly because it is too depressing and anxiety-inducing to examine such bleak material.  But one thing I do know is that if and, more likely, when thousands of genuine benefits claimaints are robbed of the few pounds that facilitate their (usually quite basic) existence, there will be poverty, there will be homelessness, there will be unbearable misery – and there will be death.
My friend Ali Quant, who writes the brilliant Purple Noise blog, recently published an eloquent yet tragic and utterly heart-breaking post on what the consequences of losing her only source of income are likely to be. Well, not consequences, for there is only one course of action that Ali feels appropriate: suicide.  Her decision is not rash or over-the-top: it simply reflects the fact that she would, understandably, rather not live at all than live the life of homeless degradation and despair that she formerly led.
Forgive a statement that sounds like a teenager whinging, but it’s just so unfair.  Ali has oftentimes lived a horrible life, and exists with the side-effects of that every day.  She is ill as a result of trauma – not some layabout that sat down one day and calculated how much she could scrounge from the UK taxpayer.
Why Bother?
I happen to know that Ali has a very high IQ and even had I not been privy to that information, it is clear from her writing, from the way she carries herself in (online) conversation and even from her apparently innate abilities to outshine anyone at Scrabble that she is a very smart woman.  I also happen to know that she hasworked in the past.
This is something I often point out in relation to my own circumstances.  I have an IQ that is frustratingly just short of Mensa-level (and therefore less than Ali’s! ;) ); I spent 19 years in full-time education (the Northern Ireland requirement for same being only 12 years); I worked my fucking arse off in various jobs since the age of 16.  Why, why, would I have done any of that if I had wanted to languish on benefits all my life?  Why would I have incurred thousands and thousands of pounds of student debt, only to willingly lie about all day and fail to intellectually stimulate myself as I would, at least to some degree, in a job?  I am not by nature a lazy person.  As I discussed with Paul this week (blog to follow), when other female children were fantasising about weddings and babies, I was fantasising about my dream job.  I still am, but I can’t have it right now.  Because I, like Ali, am ill.  Not malingering, but ill.  Debilitated.  Incapacitated.  Unable.
The consequences for me if I lose my benefits are not as horrific as those of Ali, but they will still be profound. Given my level of debt and the fact that I already cannot afford to repay it, I would probably have to declare myself bankrupt.  I will still have a roof over my head, thank God, but A or Mum would become solely financially responsible for me.  Have you any idea how utterly pathetic and downtrodden that would cause a person to feel?  Add to that a hefty dose of pre-existing mental illness and the consequences are horribly far-reaching. A complete psychotic break?  A suicide (attempt)?  A complete fall from ‘normal’ depression, itself swathed in a despair unknown to an average human being, into the black depths of indescribable, paralysing suffering? Self-harm, that becomes increasingly more severe and dangerous?
And that’s just how it may affect me.  What about the others?  My mother is a pensioner now, meaning that her income is shockingly low, and although A earns a reasonable salary, it’s not easily enough to cover both of us.  And anyway, why should he have to be financially responsible for me?  He earns his salary; I don’t do any part of his job for him.  Why should I get any of it?  My point is simply that it also isn’t fair on either of them for me to lose my income.  And I suppose one might say, “but why is it therefore fair on the state to be financially responsible for you?”  The answer is that, partly, that I’ve already paid the state quite a bit. Furthermore, it is a long-held principle of this country that we care for our most vulnerable and ill.  Or, at least, it was.
The DLA consultation papers, and related information, can be found here.  I don’t want to read it, but I know from A looking at it that a lot of it is simply bullshit.  One thing I heard him muttering about was that they say there is a “perception” that DLA is simply an out-of-work benefit (which is not true, as anyone who meets the criteria can receive the allowance, including those in full-time employment).  So what?  A “perception” is not a reality.  If this is their problem, why don’t go out and address the fucking “perception”, rather than raping genuinely disabled people of what is rightfully theirs?
Secondly, consider the hideous assessment process.  I know I’ve ranted about this before on similar posts, but aside from the fact that they are shockingly triggering, overwhelming and vile experiences, they are as ill thought out as fuck.  Anyone with a vaguely medical background can assess anyone with any form of ill health or disability.  To note our arena specifically, have you ever heard of a psychiatrist actually running the assessment meeting of a person with some form of mental illness?  No?  Neither have I.  Neither have I heard of an orthopaediatricans or rhuematologists assessing someone claiming for arthritis, nor a gastroenterologist evaluating a person with Chron’s disease or a peptic ulcer.
Thirdly, as I argued in this post (with the properly-sourced figures to back it up), the whole Daily Mail-esque trump card (ie. that the majority of sickness/disability claimants are fraudulent) that the government seem to be playing is simply not true.  DLA in particular has the lowest rate of fraud of any state benefit in the UK, probably because of the ridiculous amount of hoops you have to jump through just to even be consideredfor it.  Benefit crime is certainly a crime, and I welcome prosecution of those people who claim money to which they aren’t entitled, and who give the rest of us a bad name in the process.  But the statistics speak for themselves: benefit fraud is not as widespread as many seem to think it is, and much, much more money is ‘stolen’ from the UK’s economy from tax evasion and white collar crime, investigations into which I don’t recall having heard anything about from the Coalition.  I’m not making a lefty (Yanks read: liberal) point here; these are simply the facts.
Last night A and I were lamenting the sad reality that Ali Quant’s recent blog post highlights.  As the discussion progressed, A had a somewhat irreverent brainwave: why don’t those of us that are probably going to lose our benefits simply commit a crime?  Not a silly crime like shoplifting – you’d get off with a warning for that, especially if you’re a first time ‘offender’.  No, we’re talking murder, GBH, rape – that sort of thing. Something to get you put into the slammer.
Of course, because we are not cunts (well, except me – but I still wouldn’t do any of the above), we are not going to do any of those horrible things.  So, I postulated, we should simply confess to an unsolved serious crime that we didn’t commit.  The cops and the CPS/DPP are unlikely to have the wit to realise the confession is false, and would be glad to get a few more positive results under their belt.  Win all round.
Why do you want to go to prison, Pan?  Well, obviously, I don’t.  But think about it; prisoners have a guaranteed roof over their heads for the duration of their sentence, they get regularly fed, most have TVs in their ‘cells’, they get leisure time with pool tables and video games, they work to earn ‘luxuries’ such as cigarettes, they can gain qualifications, and now they’re getting the vote.  All this is funded by the taxpayer.
It is a sad state of affairs, in my view, when those detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure are afforded the same basic rights that the government are preparing to strip from the infirm and the disabled.
Even if I did find it in myself to read the DLA reform consultation document, I can’t respond to it online as it applies to Great Britain only (the Northern Ireland equivalent is here, and in this case I will be responding via email).  However, if you are on the main land and you feel up to reading the document, please do take the time to make your views known.  Will they listen?  Almost certainly not, but they still need to know that there is a substantial body out there that regards these “reforms” as destructive and life-threatening.  I don’t honestly believe they currently know it fully; after all, we don’t (as yet…see below) have a mobilising force taking this issue to the fore in the way that the protesting students did.  So tell them.  It will be a waste of your time, probably, but tell them anyway.  Put it on record.

Who cares?

As established, not the government.  Probably not the reactionary media and the majority of those that follow it either.
But these people are not all people.
In light of Ali’s tragic post (above), the wonderful Phil Groom had an idea.  An idea borne out of the fact thathe cares about people with disabilities and illness, an idea borne out of the fact he is so full of generosity and love.
The 200 People Campaign
Phil proposed* that he ‘recruit’ 200 individuals that would be willing to give £5 each, resulting in payment of about £12,000 pa.  Initially the proposition was to give this all to one person upon the probable loss of benefits, but proving that there’s more than one good person in the world, a lively discussion broke out during which it was agreed any monies raised should actually go to a central fund.  If someone had their benefits cut they could, for example, rely on the fund to get them through the appeals process, though that said, the specific qualifications for it have not yet been worked out.  One thing this will not be is a second income to those that retain their benefits; it will exist only to help those that the DWP/SSA have erroneously decreed are unworthy of financial help**.
Although this is big ask of people, it is do-able – it’s quite within reach if we get the word out.  We can do this. We can do for society’s most vulnerable what this supposedly caring government will not do.  And you can too.
Please see Phil’s post on the issue – linked above, and below in the links section too – or, if you are a Facebook user, why not request membership* of the group set up for the campaign?  Why not write your own blog post or Facebook/Twitter message to raise awareness?  Why not publicly pledge your intention to give £5 to help those that will have their lives devastated by these cuts?  Or, if you cannot afford that, why not at least join us in solidarity?
As Karita so perfectly put it, if David Cameron wants a ‘Big Society’, let’s give him one.


Blog Posts on the 200 People and One Month Before Heartbreak Campaigns
Other Blogs and Sites Against Benefit Cuts
In the News
DLA Reform Consultation Documentation
My Previous Posts on Benefit Cuts
Please contact me or leave a comment below with any more links that you think are relevant to this post and I will add them as soon as possible.
* Please note that you may encounter a request for a password to Phil’s post.  There are a number of reasons for this that are discussed in the post itself and in its comments.  Please contact Phil for access.  The Facebook group is presently a ‘closed’ one for the same reasons.
** It is also been agreed that the proposed fund will, for the meantime, be restricted to those with mental health difficulties.  This is because mental illness is so un-obvious and stigmatised, and also because, regrettable as it is, we are simply unlikely to have the resources to help everyone that this government is screwing with.

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