I have the most extraordinary, caring friendsi n the world. We all come from different backgrounds, don’t always have the opportunity to meet but we are always there for each other. This is because our paths have crossed due to disability or illness having come into our lives. The caring journey has changed us all and we are there for each other. As the condems encourage us to become more selfish and throw so much ammunition in cuts and fights for services our way we must remember that.The cuts are Ideological. They are designed to punish and force many people with disabilities and living with long term health conditions into work they are not fit for. A hundred years ago we might have been gainfully employed picking hoakum in the workhouse the modern equivalent of this is having to jump through the administrative hoops of having to qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the tasks you have to perform to remain in the support group or be fit deemed fit for work.
Earlier this week I had to visit a job centre with a friend who had been sanctioned for being late for an appointment. She had been ill and not informed her advisor and found her benefit docked by £40 that is almost half of the money she is given to live on. While I was waiting in an jobcentre in the West Of Scotland I met another mum and her teenage son. It was evident he had learning difficulties and felt very uncomfortable in his surroundings. My friends have all been there being an advocate for their child. We started chatting and she explained that her son has been placed in the work related activity group (wrag) by ATOS. He has to apply for forty jobs a week to prevent him being sanctioned. She has been helping him complete the log book. If she hadn’t been, his benefit may have been stopped too. I told her about my boys and if she minded if I shared this on my blog. She said. “Aye hen this is the only way people will know.” When her son went over to speak to his advisor who was very human. They asked about a job in a huge multi national online corporation they had applied for. The advisor explained 1000s of people had applied for these jobs and that he should set up a twitter account to apply for future jobs. He replied he was trying to set up a twitter account. The advisor was being human and gently said he must do this to keep up his targets for job applications. All around other people were going through this same process. It felt to me I was in the middle of a modern day Kafka novel in which the state quietly waging war on its own citizens forcing them in situations where everything becomes a struggle and we don’t have the energy or audacity to fight on. Surviving is enough. I was speaking to a good friend who rightly reminded me how terrible that I could overhear this and I would normally agree but how else do we find out what is happening to people? The system has become so dehumanized that talking about everyone’s private affairs is acceptable if they are nothing more than a claimant. Burdens on the states don’t have rights.
In Ian Duncan Smith’s Disabled people are being classified by organizations like ATOS who subject people to disability assessments. Untrained individuals with no access to folk’s medical records make huge decisions which will have a huge impact on lives. David Barr’s son David a young man who lived with a severe mental health condition took his own life after being found fit to work by ATOS. Despite being under close medical supervision, taking anti psychotics they deemed him fit for work. He appealed with no success. His dad spoke so movingly about his son how this was the last straw and how he had just given up on life. He blamed ATOS. After Dave’s death his father asked ATOS why they had made a decision without accessing his son’s medical records. They admitted they had made a mistake and changed his record POST MORTEM to say he was not fit for work no apology was given to the family. Changing a record after a death why because they are aware they have blood on their hands. When people have to do horrible things to people they have to be dehumanized become a small cog in the apparatus and that is what we are seeing more increasingly in the way the DWP and ATOS operate.A bit like drone operators actually pressing buttons that might kill someone 1000s of miles away with as little effort of playing a video game. Cutting people’s benefit is seen as nothing more than a mundane task. Thinking of its impact is something that can be put aside. Very little is heard of people’s stories so I applaud Dave’s dad and the journalists that cover the stories.
Hearing these two stories I thought immediately of my own sons and their future. In a few years will I have to accompany them to such salt mines of despair? Adult services are dire. In the West Of Scotland where I live terrible things are being carried out in the name of Personalisation. It is a language and culture blogger Mark Neary calls “Carers Speak”. Councils can call day centres not fit for purpose and even “ghettos” and offer a tailor made service. In reality especially in Glasgow City Council this means people spending their days wandering shopping malls and respite and other essential services being slashed. What will happen to them in a few years are something I don’t like to think about. Some friends are going through this at the moment and I see the impact it is having on their own health and wellbeing. As carers we hope to choose our battles but often some are forced upon it and it is a dirty war where both sides have had to dig trenches. Unfortunately the other side has more resources and the experience of how to wear people down and they have no qualms about doing it. Today is a day where we remember those who died fighting for us and I remember all victims of war but my thoughts go to my friend’s children with a promise that if I can help I will. Let’s not let the powers that be quietly silence us but support each other. Let there not be other people’s battles but all our battles. One day the battlefield will come to YOUR door and you will need to know who is there for you. Writing this I have had to pretend I am a narrator because if I thought of it personally I would weep and despair. Feeling sad is a human behaviour and is what sets us aside from being a drone operator.