I’m no mathmatician. Strictly arts student all the way. Ask me to translate Latin or tell you the significant events of the council of Nicea, and i’m all yours. Ask me to add two and four, and there’s no guarantee I’ll make it make 6.
Mathmatically challenged as I am, I begin to fear I’m not the only one. I’ve got to be honest and say that when Ian Duncan Smith suggests that more than 100 people every day are “coming off sickness benefits” (Daily Mail phrasing – and no, I’m not going to link them!), I smell a rather large, election sized rat.
Perhaps it’s a linguistic problem instead, as I rather suspect the headline should have read that more than 100 people per day are being forced off sickness benefits each day. If, for a second, we can forget the morality (if we can – personally I can’t) of forcing severely sick and disabled people to undertake greulling, uncaring and often irrelevent assessments in order to receive any level of support, it seems the government still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the Employment and Support Allowance process is, to put it politely, utterly unfit for purpose.
The current system, for most applicants for Employment and Support allowance, involves a “medical assessment”. Now, this might be ok if those involved were effective medical practionioners, but enough people have come forward now to make it fairly clear that they are often harsh, uncaring, pay no attention to what they’re being told, and are often simply not qualified enough to make a medical assessment of whether someone is, in fact, fit to work.
These assessments are often uverturned on appeal – which is a good indication of how badly they are carried out. In the meantime though, the prospect of having benefits stopped – of being forced into looking for work when one is not mentally or physically capable of doing so – of facing up to harsh handling and mass incompetence when one is already feeling vulnerable – means many simply give up trying.
The truth is, there aren’t more than 100 people a day “coming off” sick benefits. There are, I would suggest, more than 100 people a day worn out and battered by a system designed to target the most vulnerable, who simply give up trying.
I grew up as a young carer – my mother became severely disabled when I was around 14. And at no point, ever, did I think she wasn’t worth the struggle. My mum is made of awesome – an incredible lady. And no, she can’t work. Even on her best days, which are unpredictable for her, no employer would take her. And yet she gives more to people than almost anyone I know. She hated giving up work. There is no disabled person I know who woudn’t rather be working than on benefits.
I have a little boy, too. He’s going to be three next week, which is, frankly, terrifying. And I fear for him. Because he seems to be growing into a world where it’s ok to victimise the other, the different, the disadvantaged.. It’s ok to target the weak. It’s ok to re-programme ourselves again and again, until we don’t see people, but “benefit scroungers”, or “system abusers”. And that’s not what I want for my boy. He’s already a little boy with a heart full of love – and it scares me that one day, he may begin to believe these lies.
We need to stop this. This is election week in the UK – please don’t stand silent, as this is a chance to actually make a difference. Your MP has to listen to you – and right now, they’ll be very keen to do it. Ask them what’s going on. Challenge them.
After all, that’s what makes us human.