How not to treat people
Westminster are intent on demonising and de-humanising some of the most vulnerable members of our society through their relentless
austerity programme, and the portrayal of these people through the state media. The prospect of Westminster’s £12b further cuts to be made to the welfare system will be merciless. The resultant rise of food banks due to cuts is something that Westminster should hang their heads in shame for, but they won’t. I read last week that the EU Council of Europe in Strasbourg has deemed the UK’s pensions, jobseekers allowance and incapacity benefit payments as ‘manifestly inadequate’, failing to reach the EU benchmark figures. WM won’t openly admit that fact, but it is yet another reason why it would probably suit WM just fine if they succeed in removing the UK from EU membership in 2016, they would no longer be held under the microscope by the EU for their unfair treatment of these individuals. It’s much easier to continue to stereotype some users of food banks as people who don’t really need them. The sad reality is that many more people who would benefit from them aren’t accessing them because of the stigma.
The assumption by WM and supporters of austerity that most people on benefits are just ‘wasters’ or ‘scroungers’, immigrants ‘milking the UK’ for money infuriates me. Seriously, who thinks the life of Reilly can be lived on that amount of money? It’s much easier to abuse people if they can be stereotyped, much easier to strip them of their dignity and human rights if they don’t consider the emotional, physical or psychological barriers that they face: the hunger and deprivation they experience. Another reason WM would be just fine about leaving the EU, they make no bones about wanting to strip us of the protection of the Human Rights Act. Stereotyping makes it much easier for many to feel these cuts are ‘justified’, no need to worry about the reality for these people. One of these people is very close to my heart. A kind, decent human being, who like many who are currently being denigrated and vilified, is
deserving of far more respect and dignity than he has been shown.After working hard for years, something happened in his life which absolutely crushed him. One single event started his decline, and over a period of a couple of years, he was left with nothing. He tried to help himself, but when this failed, he self medicated with alcohol. His GP told him he was a ‘lost cause’ – who needs that, he already hated himself enough. These two words prevented him attempting to get any further help for the next twenty years. Three years ago something changed. His health had been bad for years, but over a period of a few months he declined dramatically. He was convinced he was dying of cancer. Till the day I die I will never forget the look on his face as he sobbed uncontrollably, and told me how scared he was but that he trusted me and agreed to let me help. He dared to go back to a GP, fortunately a new caring one, and he stopped drinking. He attends hospital now and is trying to turn his life round as best he can. It wasn’t cancer, but he has multiple serious, incurable conditions, which will only continue to decline. He received, as so many have, a letter telling him he was no longer on incapacity benefit and calling him for an interview and medical assessment for ESA. He was 6 ½ stone at this time and seriously ill. He trusted that any doctor could see how ill he was, but it wasn’t a doctor, it was a physiotherapist who assessed him. He was deemed ‘fit to work’. The whole assessment process was madness. He felt he might as well have been given a death sentence. It broke my heart watching him sobbing, wishing he was dead. We received confirmation a month after the assessment that his uncontrolled seizures were due to brain damage, but despite evidence from various Consultants and Surgeons, they refused to consider these conditions at his appeal because they weren’t diagnosed at the initial assessment date, despite the DWP having been informed at the initial assessment that he suffered from uncontrolled seizures. At the appeal hearing, he had an advocate as well as myself, neither of us were allowed to speak, so a man who struggles to recall dates or events was grilled for half an hour, as they tried to run rings round him. What is the point of being allowed an advocate who is effectively gagged? No thanks to this heartless system, but he won his appeal. For 18 months. He had to go through the system again: but we were better prepared this time. He has, at least this time, been spared a further medical. Common sense should tell the DWP that incurable conditions are, well, incurable?! Why persist in inflicting repeated indignity and stress on people who they know will not get any better? The current system is designed to torment and torture individuals, removing what dignity they may by some miracle have still managed to cling on to. It’s just plain wrong, and downright inhuman.He asks for no sympathy, he knows some of his conditions came about because of his own actions, but he’s trying to do everything he can to help now. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of people in glass houses throwing stones – the ‘holier than thou’ brigade as I call them – most of whom wouldn’t bear close analysis of their own lives, they’re never as squeaky clean as they’d like you to think. Ss I always say, we are all only one catastrophe away from the fate of being unemployed, homeless or ill – we should remember that. We wouldn’t want to be treated the same way by others in our time of need, would we?
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pictures from hdtimelapse.net and Louise Farquharson