“Chronically sick and disabled” is not the same as “disabled”…

MP Jeremy Corbyn has tabled an Early Day Motion, which puts forward the idea that what disabled people need to enable them to work is loads of support, not the current threats and coercion.

Now I’m not functioning too well today – hard to see/concentrate, even harder to breathe, but it seems to me that Mr. Corbyn is missing a rather important point, which is that many chronically sick and disabled people (a rather more complex condition** than just “disabled”), are unable to work at all, not even for themselves, no matter what. I include myself in their number.

**Being disabled through illness, as I am, is a world away from being disabled through, say, Continue reading

Journalism, real life – and the gulf between…

Two articles in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine rather got up my nose yesterday, striking me as self-indulgent in the extreme – or just plain odd.

One was an apparently normal, attractive, woman, Hephzibah Anderson, who, after a relationship fizzled (ah, diddums; you’re not alone, babe, it happens to us all), had decided to give up sex, but not dating, for a year. That’s just perverse, and must have Continue reading

The curse of James Purnell…

Listening to Yesterday in Parliament (Radio 4), this morning, to no-one’s surprise James Purnell’s farrago of oppression and persecution of the chronically sick and disabled community was ushered through the Commons with minimum impediment yesterday. The only hope now is that the Lords will have the sense, and the balls, to kill it, or modify substantially (though the Parliament Act means that the Lords can be over-ruled).When the general election rolls around, people, I hope you all remember this day, and demonstrate Continue reading

The disabled population of Britain…

Another dip into my search engine heap yielded this question:-

How much of Britain is disabled?

Well, some years ago, a TV programme aimed at the disabled community put the figure at 1 in 4, which I always felt was on the high side but, since becoming increasingly disabled myself, I’ve come to realise that it only feels high because a lot of disabled people are simply invisible. And a lot are housebound, the group in which, increasingly, I find myself. (And 1 in 4, by the way, is the ratio of people severely disabled by ME/CFS in Britain.) Oops – just re-read that and it’s not too clear. What I meant was 1 in 4 people with ME/CFS are severely disabled by it.

The closest I could get to the percentage of the population that’s disabled, is that 1 in 6 suffer from a “Limiting Long-term Illness” that affects what they are able to do on a daily basis. That’s government-speak for “disabled” (the word seems to be deliberately avoided for some reason).

Many disabled people are gainfully employed but 34% men and 41% women have never worked or are long-term unemployed – and quite possibly unemployable, a fact that James Purnell is too dumb to understand.

So, considering the figure is 1 in 6 now (or, at least when the stats were compiled, based on data from the 2001 census), it seems reasonable that it was actually once 1 in 4. Either way, that represents a hell of a lot of people – 1 in 6 is, in fact, 10.3 million, but that was 8 years ago and, if we’re to believe the claimed growth in the numbers said to be claiming disability benefits, then it seems that the population polled for the 2001 census is getting sicker. Or, if you believe that  tosser David Freud, a lying bunch of frauds but, then, we in the disabled community know full well who the real liar is.

Arthritis and exercise…

I’ve commented elsewhere, and unfavourably, on the current fad for treating arthritis with exercise. I still think it sucks, and what prompted this is that I have raised my exercise levels slightly of late, which has had the effect of causing a substantial increase in my pain levels, culminating in nights which are pretty much sleepless – I am not Continue reading

Putting the boot in…

As I’ve mentioned here several times, because my feet are so badly damaged (by a lightning strike), I have to wear walking boots, as well as thickly-cushioned trekking socks, to be able to walk at all. For some years I’ve been wearing Berghaus Explorer V boots, and a couple of months ago, I bought a new pair.

I wasn’t too impressed to see that they’re been redesigned so that they were more like a trainer with delusions of grandeur. I had no suspicion Continue reading

The disabled and the fat – the underclass of Britain in the 21st century…

You know, I’m awfully tired of people bitching and whining about fat people, and regarding us as if we were on a par with axe murderers or rapists, and disabled people are treated little better. Get some perspective, you whiny bastards!

From that, you’ll have gathered that I am one of the aforementioned fat people, and disabled, too, but consider this. Yesterday, I ate a can of Baxter’s tomato soup for lunch, in the evening I had a can of Heinz macaroni cheese, with a spoonful of grated Parmesan tossed in, plus some home-made pickled beetroot, and before going to bed I had one slice of Warburton’s stoneground wholemeal bread with Clover and Sandwich Spread, and that was a Continue reading

Sick & Disabled? You’re screwed…

James Purnell, fuckwit, er, Work & Pensions Secretary, said, on the Today program this morning, that a white paper being published today will create a system where “virtually everyone has to do something in return for their benefits”. Only the most severely disabled will not have to do some kind of work for their money. The plans, if they survive parliament, will come into force in 2010. This is, they say, putting an end to the “money for nothing culture”. Are they insane? My Incapacity Benefit is way below the official poverty level, at £95.90 a week – who would live on that if they really didn’t have to? It is NOT money for nothing – it’s money because I am not able to work and earn my own money – if I was able to, and earn a lot more money, even on the minimum wage, do they seriously think I wouldn’t?

Purnell, revealing how insanely out of touch with the real world he is, said “These reforms will transform peoples’ lives.” Bloody right they will – very much for the worse. Just watch the suicide rate soar. Bankers get billions of of pounds of taxpayers money, and still pay themselves huge bonuses, while the most vulnerable members of society are persecuted. Where’s the justice in that? He also went on to say “…our reforms put the individual, and their needs, at the heart of the welfare system.” No, they won’t. Do not believe for one moment that this is for your benefit. Purnell is motivated by one thing, and one thing only – reducing the Incapacity Benefit bill. Most people forced into work will end up on the dole, and that, for someone with no hope of being able to work, is totally unacceptable.

This is the killer, though:-

“We will give people the support they need and in return we will have higher expectations on people to take up that support. I believe it is wrong to have a welfare system which doesn’t encourage people to prepare for or get back to work. In future virtually everyone will be expected to do something in return for their benefits.”

How is forcing people, too ill or disabled to work, into some sort of make-work scheme – because, let’s face it, that’s all there’s going to be – in any way whatsoever “support”. If we were able to work we wouldn’t be on fucking benefit in the first place – what part of this does this asshole Purnell have trouble understanding?

Disregarding the insanity and immorality of such a policy – not to mention the sheer impossibility of it – where’s the work? We’re deep in recession, there simply aren’t enough jobs for the able-bodied, thousands more jobs are lost every week, so what are the sick and disabled supposed to do, and who, in their right mind, would employ someone, like me, who hasn’t been able to work in any meaningful way since 1982, and at all since 1986?

Let’s not forget, either, that single parents are also going to be forced into non-existent jobs, yet childcare is either ruinously expensive or simply unavailable – how the hell is that going to work?

Let’s consider my situation, because that’s what I know about – I’m sitting here, starting to type this at 09.00, in my jim-jams, waiting to feel well enough to get washed, shaved and dressed, which may happen in the next hour; I’m taking a course of Amoxyl for respiratory and intestinal infections, and I feel like shit – and this is a good day.

I spend a couple of hours each day blogging, but that’s not work, and despite a reasonable typing speed, other factors mean it can take me a couple of hours to type, say, 1,000 words, but one thing I can’t do is go out to work.

On the days I’m able to get out (and, until I get out of bed in the morning, I have no idea what I’m going to be capable of, so making any sort of plans is impossible), I’m not ready to leave home until around 11.00 – anyone expecting me to start work at 08.00 or 09.00 is going to be gravely disappointed. Using public transport is something I only do in exceptional circumstances, like when I have no money for taxis (going to the doctor, 5 minutes away, is a £7 return trip – taxis are ferociously expensive). There are several reasons for this – I’m not able to stand for extended periods, so having to wait for a bus isn’t possible. If I do get a bus – the local service actually stops right outside – it’s fraught with danger. Since its inception the bus route has been extended twice, but the permitted time hasn’t been changed. The result, despite notices exhorting passengers to remain seated until the bus has stopped, is that drivers drive like maniacs, hurtling away from stops when the passengers are barely onboard, never mind seated – using buses is dangerous for those of us who use crutches, as I do, due to a lack of spare hands to hang on with.

Taxis are out – unless an employer pays. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. If I used taxis for everything I have to do – instead of scrounging lifts – my taxi bill would be around £60 a week. If I had to use them every day, that would probably triple. Who pays, because it’s sure as hell not going to be me.

Then there’s the killer – I am not able to go out to work, not ever, not under any circumstances – it’s physically impossible, and yet I am not what this poxy government would class as severely disabled. No, scratch that – I am severely disabled, and with an illness with only one prognosis, an early and painful death, but I work very hard, at considerable physical cost, at trying to live as normal a life as possible which, to be fair, isn’t very normal, but it’s way better than just giving up and waiting to die. If push comes to shove, though, I’ll simply stop trying, because there will be absolutely no point.

Ok, that’s the practicalities out of the way – what about the morality? It is actually against the law for a disability benefit claimant to undertake any activity that may make them worse – that’s a condition of the benefit claim. How, then, will making the sick and disabled work for their poverty-level benefits not make them worse? It’d certainly make me a hell of a lot worse.

And what work would we do? Breaking rocks? Picking oakum? What? Any job worth having already has an incumbent, not to mention a queue of able-bodied workers, many with families, who want that job and who in any sane society would take precedence. Sweeping the streets, then? Nope, someone already does that. Whatever jobs the sick & disabled are capable of doing (my skills are considerable, but out of date and physically impossible, for the most part) – and they, realistically, are few – someone is already doing them, and the growing roster of the unemployed has first dibs.

Then there’s pay. If I were able to work, the minimum wage would get me about £240 a week for a full-time job, before deductions. No fucking way am I going to do that – even if I could – for £95.90 a week in Incapacity Benefit (the government’s avowed aim is that almost no-one gets benefits for nothing), and to expect me to do so is insane and utterly immoral.

DLA mobility, by the way, is payable whether you work or not, it’s money for transportation.

Of course, many people unable to work because of illness or disability do have the ability to do a job – but no-one will employ them because they have poor sick leave records, which was, initially, the case with me – before I developed ME and was signed off permanently, I’d never worked a full year in my life, and in my final working year, 1981, I had 6 months sick leave for the second year in succession because of my COPD. I was unemployable, which angered me at the time but, with hindsight, I wouldn’t have employed someone like me, no matter how good they were. And I was very good at my job, which was why I survived for so long, but there are limits.

A GP, interviewed on Radio 2 a short while ago, said that the government’s pernicious scheme was a good thing, as it would enable sick and disabled people who wanted to work to do so. Maybe, but how will it work? And how many such people are there, really?

Wanting to work if someone will have you is one thing, being able to work effectively is something else – I’d love to work for an employer who would pay me, say, £12,000 a year for working 3 hours a day (my travel costs would be the same for a few hours or a whole day), allow me to take off the entire flu season – a time when I simply will not, on medical advice, use public transport (did I mention that my immune system sucks?) – and allow me, perhaps, another month or two sick leave over what remains of the year. A ludicrous idea, obviously, and but that’s the only way I’d be able to work,

Will the government bribe employers to take on these people? Possibly, but that would be highly unethical while there is a single unemployed person available who can do that job without bribery. And wouldn’t such bribery, whether in cash or tax breaks, simply ramp up the costs they claim to want to reduce?

Of course, I think we all know who the first victims of this scheme are going to be – the mentally ill, because (a) they’re a soft target, and (b) they are at least physically able to work – and that’s all that will matter to the DWP storm troopers. That their mental health will be wrecked, possibly beyond all hope of recovery, will count for nothing.

These are just proposals right now, and have to go through the parliamentary process (though Labour have sidestepped this system in the past, and may well do so again – cast you mind back, and remember, over the past 11 years, how many new laws have been announced while parliament wasn’t in session – there are a few). But let’s assume they’ll put this abortion of a bill to parliament, then that’s when it can be killed in the Commons. I urge all of you to write to your MP, expressing your displeasure at these proposals, and urging him/her to vote against this appalling bill. Do it now.

Oh, and it goes without saying that Jeremy Vine, twat extraordinaire, is going to give us all a kicking during his show today. You think it’ll be a balanced debate? Don’t know why you’d think that – Vine is the BBC’s Daily Mail equivalent.

Persecution of the sick and disabled continues…

Unemployed people, it has been announced, should do a 9 to 5 day looking for work or undertake community service style duties such as digging gardens under moves to tackle the hardcore of joblessness, the author of a Government-commissioned report, Professor Paul Gregg, said (and I have no idea at all who this clown is, other than he’s from Bristol University, or how he’s qualified to make such pronouncements).

Gregg, severely out of touch with life on benefits and, it seems, with the real world in general, said that virtually everyone on benefits – and that includes the chronically sick and disabled, on Incapacity Benefit, whom Gregg specifically targets – should be required to take steps towards finding a job and should face having their benefits stopped for up to four weeks if they repeatedly refuse to co-operate with attempts to find them work, it was suggested.

Rarely have I read such egregious bullshit in my life. What planet this bugger’s brain is on, I really have no idea.

Unsurprisingly, Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said he “strongly welcomed” the report, adding: “The direction of travel is the right way.,” and “The approach that virtually everyone should be doing something in return for benefits is the right one.”

What the hell is wrong with this government? If you were to substitute “black people” for “Incapacity Benefit claimants” these people would be in court so fast their feet wouldn’t touch. I just hope that there is somebody out there with the financial resources to drag these bastards into the court of human rights, because this is a massive infringement of our basic rights to food, shelter (if our benefits are stopped how do we pay our way?), and the fundamental right not to be persecuted. Because this is nothing less than persecution of the sick and disabled, a minority group almost incapable of defending itself because there is no umbrella organisation. (OK, parents with young children were also mentioned, but they, at least, are physically capable of work – we are not.)

Mark that “virtually everyone” and ask yourself who that excludes, and I think, in practice, that will be nobody at all. And to think I voted for these assholes. Never again. Just what do they expect people to live on if their benefits are stopped for 4 weeks? Are we expected to starve, and not pay any of our bills? And, of course, we’d never get the lost benefits back, so there would be no way of making good any arrears in rent or utilities, or the money we’d probably have to borrow just to eat – assuming we have anyone to borrow from…

Most days – and I can only write about myself – I’m doing well if I’m out of bed before 8.30, and I would have no idea how well I’m going to be able to function at that time. Going to work would be quite impossible unless the start time was around midday, and even then the journey to wherever it might be would exhaust me so much that, once there, I would be able to do nothing beyond husband my physical resources for the journey home. As for digging gardens, in your dreams, sunshine!

Consider this, too “Unemployed people should do a 9 to 5 day looking for work…” What bloody work? Unemployment is rising daily, the country is in recession, there is no work to look for. Mark my words, this is not a way to get people back into work – that is a flat-out lie – it’s yet another ruse by this most despicable of governments to cut the benefits bill, by targeting the most vulnerable.

How these pricks can sleep at night, let alone consider themselves socialists, is utterly beyond me, and the least I can wish for is that the family of each and every one of them is visited by some long-running, disabling illness that would give them a taste of what we have to go through. Mind you, does anyone really think that any relative of an MP or minister would ever be hauled up before the DWP inquisitors? I sure as hell don’t.

Angry, me? Bloody right!

See also this post.

Rolling Along update…

Rolling along described my search for an affordable rollator – a wheeled walker, what I call a Racing Zimmer – and it’s just occurred to me that an update is long overdue.

I’ll be honest, once I’d bought the thing, I suspected there might be a psychological barrier to my using it, and so it proved. It sat, unloved, in a corner for months. Anyway, eventually, I bit the bullet and gave it a test trundle and I had to ask myself, what’s the point of these things?

OK, the four-wheelers have a seat, which is useful, but I found I simply wasn’t getting the support I felt I needed. After all, the things are designed to roll, and I felt that if I leaned too heavily on it, it would just roll away from me, rather than supporting me. I also felt I just wasn’t getting the degree of support I needed – certainly not as much as from crutches (and I need a new pair of those).

There’s also the problem that I intended to use it in conjunction with my car – but now I don’t drive, and it would just be too much hassle dragging the thing on and off public transport.

Sadly, then, it’s been pensioned off, at least for now, though I suspect as I get older and more infirm, it’ll be of more use than it currently is. In the meantime, I’ll stick to crutches and retreat to my wheelchair on bad days.